Islamic Studies Education
by
Francis Robinson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0020

Introduction

Knowledge is central to Muslim societies. Through time there has been no more important activity than seeking knowledge: “Seek ye knowledge” goes the saying attributed to the Prophet, “even if it be in China.” By the same token there was no one more worthy of respect than the ʿalim (plural ʿulamaʾ) the person who had knowledge (ʿilm) and transmitted it. The knowledge concerned was: knowledge of the Qurʾan, God's revelation to humankind through the Prophet Muhammad, the Hadith, Tradition, the sayings and doings of the Prophet as transmitted by his companions, and all the skills that were needed to make this knowledge socially useful, primarily in the form of law, but in other forms as well. As time went on, this knowledge came to be bound up in distinctive disciplines and represented by great books. These books with commentaries would be transmitted orally by the ʿulamaʾ. When a pupil demonstrated that he (or sometimes she) had full command of a book, he was given an ijaza, a permission to teach it, indeed, authority over it. From the 11th century there developed formal institutions, or madrasas, in which teaching took place. But it should be understood that these were never schools or colleges in the European sense. The transmission of Islamic learning remained an informal, person-to-person activity, which could take place inside a madrasa or a mosque but could equally take place on a river bank or under a tree. What was crucial was the person-to-person relationship of teacher and pupil. At the same time as this essentially legal education developed by the ʿulamaʾ there also grew up the mystical education developed by the Sufis. This was knowledge of how to internalize the formal knowledge taught by the ʿalim: that is, knowledge of how to know God in one's heart. Different Sufis developed different techniques for doing this and their successors developed different orders or brotherhoods. The roles of the ʿalim and the Sufi are often separated for didactic purposes, but they were in effect two sides of the same coin, and most ʿulamaʾ were also Sufis, but not necessarily vice versa. Down to the eighteenth century the systems of ʿulamaʾ for transmitting knowledge, often bound up with those of Sufis, came to be spread throughout the Muslim world from West Africa through Central, South and Southeast Asia. Over the period there were also some more distinct forms or targets for education—slaves, women, the very young and the people at large. In the 19th century the Muslim world came to be overwhelmed by the West so that by 1920 only Afghanistan, North Yemen and central Arabia were outside Western control, and the Turks and Iranians were under very considerable pressure. The outcome of Western hegemony was a bifurcation of educational practice in most Muslim societies. On the one hand, either as an independent Muslim society striving to resist Western power or as one subject to Western power, some Muslims became divorced from their traditional education and came to be educated in Western-style schools and colleges, and learned subjects defined by Western definitions of knowledge. On the other hand, and often in the poorer parts of Muslim societies, the traditional forms of education associated with the madrasa were maintained. Only in rare cases has there been some form of unification of the different educational traditions. The issue of the so-called modernization of madrasas is one of considerable debate.

General Overviews

An overview of the transmission of knowledge in the Muslim world is provided by Robinson 1996. Rosenthal 2007 explores the importance of knowledge to the classical Muslim world. Hodgson 1974 describes the way in which distinctive intellectual traditions came to be formed. Azra 2004 sets out the role of the transmitters of knowledge in fashioning a Muslim world connected by knowledge. Esposito1995 offers a good overview of modern education. Hefner and Zaman 2007 address issues relating to madrasa education in the modern world. The essays in Grandin and Gaborieau 1997 examine first of all the classical models for the transmission of knowledge and then the responses among transmitters to the challenges of the modern era across the Muslim world from West Africa to Central Asia, as well as to China and Indonesia.'

  • Azra, Azyumardi. The Origins of Islamic Reformism in Southeast Asia: Networks of Malay-Indonesian and Middle Eastern ʿUlamaʾ in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. London: Allen & Unwin, 2004.

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    This is an excellent exposition of our current state of understanding of the knowledge networks created by teaching across the Muslim world.

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  • Esposito, John L. “Education.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Vol. 1. Edited by John L. Esposito, 406–428. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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    This long entry covers: religious education, educational institutions, educational methods, educational reform, and the Islamization of knowledge. With useful bibliographies, it is a good starting point for exploring the modern dimensions of the subject.

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  • Grandin, Nicole, and Marc Gaborieau. Madrasa: La Transmission du Savoir dans le Monde Musulman. Paris: Editions Arguments, 1997.

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    A strong collection of essays in both English and French. Examines the transmission of knowledge both in its classical formations and in the major societies of the modern Muslim world.

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  • Hefner, Robert W., and Muhammad Qasim Zaman. Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

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    First-class survey by leading scholars in the field of madrasa education and its operations in a wide range of regional contexts.

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  • Hodgson, Marshal, G.S. The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization, The Expansion of Islam in the Middle Periods. Vol. 2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974.

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    Much of the content of this volume in Hodgson's great three-volume work sets out the intellectual and political context in which Muslim traditions regarding knowledge and its transmission came to be consolidated.

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  • Robinson, Francis. “Knowledge, Its Transmission and the Making of Muslim Societies.” In The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World. Edited by Francis Robinson, 208–249. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    Straightforward overview of knowledge and its transmission in the Muslim world to the present.

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  • Rosenthal, Franz. Knowledge Triumphant: The Concept of Knowledge in Medieval Islam. Boston: Brill, 2007.

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    The classic exposition of the importance of knowledge in medieval Islam; it is deeply rooted in the sources.

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Reference Works

These fall into two categories: encyclopedias (Gibb, et al. 1960–2004; Esposito1995), and online resources (Education in the Muslim World; Yoginder Sikand).

Journals

Comparative Education Review 1857– and International Review of Education1955–, devoted specifically to educational matters, carry articles on education in the Muslim world from time to time and on occasion produce a special number. The remaining journals include articles as they operate from their disciplinary or regional focus.

The Classical Period to c. 1800

Education has been at the heart of fashioning Muslim societies wherever they have come to be formed. This section examines how the classical forms of knowledge and the systems for its transmission came to be developed in the central Islamic lands in the period up to the 13th century. It considers how these forms came to be spread throughout the Muslim world up to the 18th century and the role of the connections of ʿulamaʾ and Sufis in making this happen. Consideration is not confined to the typical recipient, an adolescent male, but is also given to women, children, and the people at large, as well as the more specialized forms of education and training that might be given to slaves.

The Fields of Knowledge

Classically Islamic knowledge was divided into two broad fields: the transmitted or traditional sciences, all of which owed their existence to God's revelation to man through Muhammad; and the rational sciences, all of which were derived from man's capacity to think and were often referred to as “Greek,” “foreign,” or “ancient” sciences. The great 14th-century historian and scholar Ibn Khaldun, provides an Olympian discussion of these subjects in Ibn Khaldun 1967; Makdisi 1981 does the same from the position of 20th-century scholarship. The roles of poetry, rhetoric, and effective communication were highly valued in the pre-Islamic Arab world and were no less highly valued in the Islamic world. Makdisi 1990 shows how these skills were developed and came to be interwoven with the two main areas of knowledge. The knowledge and these skills shaped all the great scholars of the classical period: Makdisi 1997 displays them at work in the life and work of one scholar of 11th-century Baghdad. Subtelny and Khalidov 1995 demonstrates how these fields of knowledge were expressed in reading lists in Timurid Samarqand. Nasr 1987 examines the fields of knowledge and the books taught in the madrasas of “pre-modern” Iran. Robinson 2001 compares the fields of knowledge and the changing emphases in them in the madrasa curriculums of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires.

  • Ibn Khaldun, ʾAbd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad. The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History. Translated by Franz Rosenthal, 2d ed. London: Routledge Kegan Paul, 1967.

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    As part of his overall introduction to world history, Ibn Khaldun discusses and comments upon the classical Islamic curriculum.

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  • Makdisi, George. The Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in Islam and the West. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1981.

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    In the context of an overall study of the rise of Islamic institutions of learning, Makdisi discusses the fields of knowledge, the organization of learning, and its methodology.

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  • Makdisi, George. The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West with Special Reference to Scholasticism. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1990.

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    An outstanding study of the humane dimensions of learning.

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  • Makdisi, George. Ibn ʾAqil: Religion and Culture in Classical Islam. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997.

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    An outstanding study of a leading 11th-century scholar as a jurist, a theologian, and a humanist.

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  • Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. “Traditional Texts Used in the Persian Madrasahs.” In Traditional Islam in the Modern World. Edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, 165–182. London: Kegan Paul, 1987.

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    Drawing on the work of the early 20th-century Iranian scholar, Seyyed Hasan Taqizadeh, Nasr presents and discusses the fields of knowledge and books taught in Iran up to the 19th century.

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  • Robinson, Francis. “Ottomans-Safawids-Mughals: Shared Knowledge and Connective Systems.” In The ʾUlama of Farangi Mahall and Islamic Culture in South Asia. Edited by Francis Robinson, 211–251. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001.

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    Sets out the fields of knowledge as taught in these three great empires and the changing emphasis put on different fields through time.

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  • Subtelny, Maria Eva, and Anas B. Khalidov. “The Curriculum of Islamic Higher Learning in Timurid Iran in the Light of the Sunni Revival under Shah-Rukh.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 115 (1995): 210–236.

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    Examines the emphases in the field of knowledge taught in pre-Safavid Iran and argues that the emphasis on the traditions and on jurisprudence confirms the conservative nature of the Sunni revival under Shah Rukh.

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The Transmission of Knowledge

The transmission of knowledge, that is of the Qurʾan and Hadith, and of the skills to make them socially useful, was arguably the central activity of a Muslim society. The working of this knowledge in societies, as they were reproduced generation by generation, was the way in which they became Muslim. Ibn Khaldun and Makdisi under The Fields of Knowledge, and Robinson under General Overviews all in various ways address issues related to the transmission of knowledge. One key issue was that transmission was oral and person-to-person, an issue particularly well dealt with by Berkey 1992 and Pedersen 1984. Al-Zarnuji 1947, an important 12th-century study on how to learn and on the etiquette surrounding the process, makes the personal nature of transmission abundantly clear, as does Melchert 2004 on the etiquette of the halqa, or teaching circle. Particularly important in the process of transmission was the ijaza, or licence to teach a book, which a teacher formally gave a pupil when he had satisfactorily mastered it. Stewart 2004 examines these licenses in the Mamluk period and gives excellent examples of them. One of the features of the ijaza was that it would include all the names of the scholars who had transmitted the book going back to the original author; moreover, as it developed, a scholar might include all the books that he had taught a pupil on the same ijaza. Arberry1951 analyses one such ijaza given by al-Sakhawi in 15th-century Mecca. Travel in search of knowledge was an enormously important aspect of the scholarly life, as Makdisi under The Fields of Knowledge and Azra under General Overviews demonstrates. Sartain 1975 explores the life of Ibn Suyuti (1445–1505), as student, teacher, and famed scholar of his era whose works have continued to be studied from West Africa to Indonesia. Eickelmann 1985 examines the classical system of transmission as it persisted in Morocco into the 20th century and the nature of the changes brought about by modern developments.

  • Arberry, A.J. Sakhawiana: A Study Based on the Chester Beatty Ms. Arab 773. London: Emery Walker Limited, 1951.

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    Provides excellent examples of the chains of authoritative transmission reaching from the past through Al-Sakhawi into 15th-century Mecca and the particular books that this scholar's circle studied with him.

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  • Berkey, Jonathan Porter. The Transmission of Knowledge in Medieval Cairo: A Social History of Islamic Education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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    Excellent overview of everything to do with the transmission of knowledge in Mamluk Cairo.

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  • Eickelmann, Dale F. Knowledge and Power in Morocco: The Education of a Twentieth-Century Notable. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

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    Outstanding work on the great change that has taken place in concepts of knowledge and education in the Muslim world in the modern period. It examines the meaning of the shift from knowledge “which is mnemonically possessed to material that can only be consulted in books.” Although located in Morocco, its implications are for the Muslim world as a whole.

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  • Melchert, Christopher. “The Etiquette of Learning in the Early Islamic Study Circle.” In Law and Education in Medieval Islam: Studies in Memory of Professor George Makdisi. Edited by Joseph E. Lowry, Devin J. Stewart, and Shawkat M. Toorawa, 33–44. Chippenham: E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 2004.

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    Read along with Al-Zarnuji, above, this is a good introduction to the context of learning.

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  • Pedersen, Johannes. The Arabic Book. Translated by Geoffrey French. Edited by Geoffrey French and Robert Hillenbrand. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

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    Makes clear the oral, person-to-person nature of the transmission of knowledge.

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  • Sartain, E.M. Jalal al-din al-Suyuti, 2 vols. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

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    Excellent study of this ambitious and successful scholar and the world of scholarly competition he inhabited.

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  • Stewart, Devin. “The Doctorate of Islamic Law in Mamluk Egypt and Syria.” In Law and Education in Medieval Islam: Studies in Memory of Professor George Makdisi. Edited by Joseph E. Lowry, Devin J. Stewart, and Shawkat M. Toorawa, 45–90. Chippenham: E.J.W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 2004.

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    Excellent on the ijaza with good examples. Also has a helpful discussion of the extent to which Makdisi's claim, that the ijaza represented the degrees that were to emerge in medieval European universities, is justified.

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  • Al-Zarnuji, Burhan al-Din. Taʿlim al-mutaʿallim, tariq al-taʿallum Translated by G.E. von Grunebaum and Theodora M. Abel (Instruction of the Student. The Method of Learning). New York: Iranian Institute and School of Asiatic Studies, 1947.

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    This is essential reading for anyone who wishes to savour the world and the values of Muslim learning and teaching communities in the classical era. Among other things, it reminds the pupil of the importance of not witnessing a crucifixion in progress on their way to their lesson if they want to be able to concentrate.

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Madrasas and Education

The term “madrasa” is derived from the second form of the verb darrasa, which used without a complement means “to teach law,” giving rise to the term dars, meaning a lecture on law, and mudarris, meaning a teacher of law. A madrasa was a school or college in which law was the main subject; it was the environment, but by no means the only environment, in which students learned how to make God's guidance to man socially effective. Madrasa foundations began in Khurasan, and from the 11th century spread westward, the foundation of the Nizamiyya madras in Baghdad in 1067 being a notable point. In the 12th and 13th centuries they spread throughout the medieval Muslim world and, as Berkey suggests, became the characteristic institution of the urban landscape. Once it was thought that the spread of madrasas was closely associated with the “Sunni Revival,” which ended the period of Shiʿa dominance in Egypt and Iran. Makdisi undermined this view, arguing that the spread was closely associated with the institutionalization of the teaching of the law. This argument has foundered, to some degree at least, on the realization that madrasas had no corporate existence and that the person-to-person nature of teaching and authority meant that although a madrasa might be helpful, it was not essential to the transmission of knowledge. Madrasas were founded for many reasons other than education. Perceptions, too, have doubtless been clouded by a tendency to read back into the past contemporary understandings of madrasas/schools/colleges as institutions. Bulliet 1994 offers an overview of the rise of the madrasa. His picture is fleshed out by Arjomand 1999, alongside an important specific instance presented by Subtelny 1991. Makdisi 1981 is the classic work on the rise of madrasas from the 11th century. Berkey 1992 and Ephrat 2000 demonstrate how the transmission of knowledge and madrasa institutions do not precisely coincide and how madrasas sometimes have social functions at a considerable remove from teaching and learning. Chamberlain 1994 explains how the pursuit of knowledge related to the purposes of elites in 12th- and 13th-century Damascus and how madrasas as institutions had less to do with education and more to do with the control of property, the control of people, and the struggle for power and influence.

The Spread of Education beyond the Central Islamic Lands

The transmission of Islamic learning was established wherever Muslim power came to be established. The Ottoman Empire developed a rigidly hierarchical madrasa system and was the only part of the Islamic world to do so. Nevertheless, despite the firm state control of the system, and of progression through it, the person-to-person nature of the transmission of knowledge remained; it was only by grant of an ijaza from a teacher that a student could progress. In the Mughal empire there was no such hierarchy. The spread of learning was dependent on the work, usually of families of ʿulamaʾ, who may or may not have been patronized by the state or a noble patron. In Africa the work of scholars and teachers, again often as families, was responsible for the spread of Islamic knowledge through much of the West and the Sub-Saharan region. Scholarly contact between Morocco and Mali, and Cairo and West Africa, was strong. Timbuktu in the 15th and 16th centuries was a great university city, the libraries of which, extant to this day, are testament to the scholarly effort of the time and the knowledge networks of its scholars. From the seventeenth century the Malay-Indonesia world displayed growing scholarly activity with notable contacts in the Hijaz and later in Cairo. Many of the same books were used in teaching from Timbuktu through to Indonesia. Azra 2004 is the classic study of Muslim knowledge networks in the postclassical period from Indonesia to West Africa. Inalcik 1973 gives a straightforward analysis of the Ottoman madrasa system. Robinson 1997 illustrates not only the spread of learning in Mughal South Asia but also the continuing scholarly connections with Iran and West Asia. Sanneh 1989 studies the work of one scholarly family in spreading knowledge in the Senegambia of West Africa. Excellent essays in Reese 2004 demonstrate the transmission of learning in Africa more generally. Saad 1983 sets before us the great university city of Timbuktu, arguably a real rival of the leading European university cities of its time. Hunwick 2008 reveals the riches held in the city's libraries. Riddell 2001 and van Bruinessen 1994 address the world of books and learning in Southeast Asia.

Spiritual Education

Spiritual training was another aspect of education. It was the process of internalizing one's religious understanding, the process of becoming Sufi – called tasawwuf. This aspect is often treated separately; but in reality it was one of the two main sides of the fully-developed pious Muslims. It was widely accepted that the best scholars were those with spiritual understanding. Equally, it was also understood that the starting point for the Sufi was the faithful following of Sharia as interpreted by scholars. Overviews of Sufism are offered by Ernst 1997 and Schimmel 1975. Ernst 2004 explores, among other things, the textual formation of the oral teachings of India's Chishti order and the processes of teaching in one specific environment. Addas 1993 traces the spiritual growth of the great Ibn ʿArabi, using the Sufi's writings, but at the same time indicating the substantial extent of his training in formal Islamic knowledge. Metcalf 1982 gives a strong sense of how Sufi understandings might be intertwined with formal madrasa training. Lawrence 1992 and Renard 1986 introduce the letters of Nizamuddin Awliya and Ibn Abbad of Ronda to their disciples—marvellous examples of wise and gentle Sufi teaching at work.

  • Addas, Claude. Quest for Red Sulphur: The Life of Ibn ʿArabi. Translated by Peter Kingsley. Cambridge, UK: Islamic Texts Society, 1993.

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    Arguably, Ibn ʿArabi (1165–1240) has been the most influential Sufi in Islamic history. This book, which is based on all of Ibn ʿArabi's writings, makes the life and spiritual development of this remarkable man more accessible than ever.

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  • Ernst, Carl, W. Ruzbihan Baqli: Mysticism and the Rhetoric of Sainthood in Persian Sufism. London: Routledge/Curzon, 1996.

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    This is the first book devoted to the mystical experiences of the outstanding Iranian Sufi, Ruzbihan Baqli (1128–1209). Ernst uses the saint's diary and two hagiographies by his great grandsons to analyse the structure of mystical experience: this is what Sufis learned and understood.

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  • Ernst, Carl, W. The Shambhala Guide to Sufism. Boston and London: Shambhala, 1997.

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    Outstanding introduction to Sufism both in its classical formations and in the modern era.

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  • Ernst, Carl W. Eternal Garden: Mysticism, History and Politics in a South Asian Sufi Center. 2d ed. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    This considerable work of scholarship makes available the world of teaching and of practice in the major Sufi center of Khuldabad, thus bringing alive the work of Chishti Sufis in India's medieval Deccan.

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  • Lawrence, Bruce, B. Nizam Ad-Din Awliya: Morals for the Heart. New York: Paulist Press, 1992.

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    This contains the conversations of the major Indian saint, Nizamuddin Awliya, as recorded by his disciple, the poet Amir Khusro. Was subsequently edited by the saint. It captures the distinctive spirit of Nizamuddin Awliya and emphasizes his taste for poetry and music.

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  • Metcalf, Barbara Daly. Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900 Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982.

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    Although this study covers the 19th century, it nevertheless provides excellent examples of the important relationship between spiritual and formal Islamic understandings in education.

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  • Renard, John, trans. Letters on the Sufi Path by Muhammad Ibn Abbad of Ronda. New York: Paulist Press, 1986.

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    A leader of the Shadhiliyya Sufi order, Ibn Abbad (1332–1390) taught a path to God that blended the esoteric traditions of the past with the popular lay movements of his time. These letters were written from the small Moroccan town of Sale to friends in Fez between 1365 and 1375 and demonstrate the way Ibn Abbad responded to the concrete problems of his followers.

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  • Schimmel, Annemarie. Mystical Dimensions of Islam. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975.

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    This remains the best and most comprehensive introduction to Sufism.

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The Early Education of Children

The need to save the child's soul directed the early education of children. The child was regarded as being “on loan” to the parents. It was both to the benefit of the parents in the hereafter, as well as that of the child's teachers, if the child grew up aware of proper conduct and protected from evil influences. The moment when the child began to know the difference between right and wrong (usually between the ages of six and seven) was the time for schooling to begin. At this stage, the training of character and the learning of good manners were emphasized, but the importance of satisfying the child's desire to play was also recognized. Throughout much of the Muslim world elementary education was limited to learning the tenets of the faith, the Qurʾan, and traditions about the early Islamic community and its popular figures. The opportunity of youth to instill essential knowledge led parents to favor this limited curriculum. A common feature of elementary education was the beating of pupils; the autobiographies of Muslims are full of memories of such experiences. It was understood that teachers should seek the father's permission before beating a child. This said, both state action to check such practices and the reservations of major thinkers indicate that there was serious doubt about the wisdom of corporal punishment. Giladi 1992 offers the classic overview of approaches to childhood and education in the classical era. Jackson 2004 discusses the range of issues, including corporal punishment, which might rise in teaching in an elementary school. Sanneh 1975 conveys the experience of being taught in general but also of corporal punishment in particular in a West African elementary school. Lakhnavi, et al. 2007 offers a classic tale of young students' revenge on their brutal teacher. Lutfullah 2007 describes his own experience at the beginning of the 19th century, which mirrors the experience described in Lakhnavi, et al. 2007 to a remarkable extent.

  • Gil'adi, Avner. Children of Islam: Concepts of Childhood in Medieval Muslim Society London: Macmillan, 1992.

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    Drawing in particular on al-Ghazali, Gil'adi explores approaches to childhood and education in the classical era.

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  • Jackson, Sherman A. “Discipline and Duty in a Medieval Muslim Elementary School: Ibn Hajar al-Haytami's Taqrir al-maqal.” In Law and Education in Medieval Islam: Studies in Memory of George Makdisi. Edited by Joseph E. Lowry, Devin J. Steward, and Shawkat M. Toorawa, 18–32. Chippenham: E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 2004.

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    The leading jurist, Ibn Hajar (b. 1504), advises a man who is just about to become a teacher in an elementary school on all issues from student attendance and corporal punishment to accepting unsolicited gifts and dealing with unenrolled auditors.

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  • Lakhnavi, Ghalib, Abdullah Bilgrami, Hamid Dabashi, and Musharraf Ali Farooqi. The Adventures of Amir Hamza. Translated by Musharraf Ali Farooqi. New York: Random House, 2007.

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    Amir Hamza was one of the most favored works of the storytelling tradition. One of its greatest set pieces was the hilarious revenge of the hero and his sidekick on the Mulla who taught them: a revenge that must have caught the imagination and found resonance with many an audience.

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  • Lutfullah. Seamless Boundaries: Lutfullah's Narrative Beyond East and West. Edited by Mushirul Hasan, annot., introd. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    Lutfullah describes his physical abuse at the hands of his teacher, and his subsequent revenge; a story with interesting similarities to an adventure of Amir Hamza.

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  • Sanneh, L. O. “The Islamic Education of an African Child: Stresses and Tensions.” In Conflict and Harmony in Education in Tropical Africa. Edited by Godfrey N. Brown and Mervyn Hiskett. London: Allen & Unwin, 1975.

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    Although dealing with the 20th-century experience of the author, the description repeats many of the practices and concerns of the classical period.

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Slave Education

Many states in the premodern era either depended on slaves or indeed were ruled by them. Classic examples were the Mamluk regimes of Egypt and North India and the Safavid and Ottoman empires. In consequence considerable attention was given to the education and training of slaves. Egypt's Mamluks were usually imported youths. Converted to Islam, most were given intense training as cavalry according to a code which valued courage and generosity as well as the skills of war. For the Safavids slaves, recruited from the Caucasus, were essential to the power and success of central government. They were educated in the royal household addressing as well as military skills the madrasa curriculum and the civilized arts. Arguably the greatest system for educating slaves was the Palace School founded by Mehmed II soon after his conquest of Constantinople. For four hundred years this School, in fact the apex of a cluster of schools where slaves were trained, was at the heart of the imperial system. The slaves were recruited through a levy on Christian subjects. The School usually had eight to nine hundred pupils, who were divided on arrival into the handsome and intelligent who went into the Sultan's service, and the remainder who went into the Janissaries, which was the crack force of the Imperial Army. The subjects taught were even more diverse than those in the Safavid household. The Sultan took a considerable interest in progress, attending formal debates among the pupils and the many competitions in the military arts. The object was to produce Muslims who were cultivated and courteous warrior statesmen. Ayalon 1979 examines the Mamluk military system. Babaie, et al. 2004 explores the workings of the Safavid Royal Household and the subsequent roles performed by those trained. Miller 1941 provides a thorough and fascinating analysis of the Ottoman Palace School.

Popular Education

Such was the value given to the transmission of knowledge that in some environments effort was made to reach all Muslims. One way was by the various forms of outreach adopted by the educated elite. Madrasas in late medieval Cairo arranged for the recitation of the Qurʾan so it might be heard in the street. Lower-level madrasa employees were given the right to audit classes for budding ʿulamaʾ. Some madrasas and khanqahs had employees who specifically taught the Qurʾan or writing to the general public, or the recitation from memory of classic works from the traditional sciences or stories about the founders of the Muslim community. Arrangements also existed in Mamluk Cairo for the mass transmission of Hadith. In other places, for instance 18th and early 19th-century Lucknow, popular transmission of knowledge might take place through majlis held by the Shiʿa during Muharram and maulud lectures given by Sunni ʿulamaʾ in the days of Rabiʾ al-Awwal leading up to the Prophet's birthday. Popular preaching and storytelling formed another dimension of popular education. Some popular preachers attracted large audiences. Storytellers might stand in the street and recite from memory everything from passages of the Qurʾan, Hadith or stories relating to the early pious Muslims through to Tales from the Arabian Nights or The Adventures of Amir Hamza. Berkey 1992 tells of the popular outreach work of the ʿulamaʾ, madrasas, and khanqahs in Cairo. Shonan 1993 portrays the popular culture of Cairo into which these messages would be received. Berkey 2001 examines popular preaching and storytelling in general in the Middle East. Sharar 1975 offers insights into popular transmission in the city of Lucknow in north India. Lakhnavi 2007 offers one of the favorite subjects of storytellers from West Asia to Indonesia. Lyons, et al. 2008 gives us the even more influential Arabian Nights.

  • Berkey, Jonathan Porter. The Transmission of Knowledge in Medieval Cairo: A Social History of Islamic Education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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    This has a good section on how the ʿulamaʾ tried to take their knowledge to the general public in Cairo.

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  • Berkey, Jonathan Porter. Popular Preaching and Religious Authority in the Medieval Islamic Near East. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 2001.

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    Pioneering study of popular preaching and storytelling in the medieval period, which also deals with the anxiety these practices caused among the ʿulamaʾ.

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  • Lakhnavi, Ghalib, Abdullah Bilgrami, Hamid Dabashi, and Musharraf Ali Farooqi. The Adventures of Amir Hamza. Translated by Musharraf Ali Farooqi. New York: Random House, 2007.

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    One of the great works of the storytelling tradition, told in various ways from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. A good introduction to stories and characters that Muslims shared across this huge region.

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  • Lyons, Malcolm C., trans., Ursula Lyons, trans., and Robert Irwin, introd. The Arabian Nights, 3 Vols. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2008.

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    The most recent translation of this classic of the storytelling tradition expertly introduced by Robert Irwin.

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  • Mushrifuddin, Shaykh, W. M. The Gulistan of Saʿdi. Bethesda MD: Ibex, 2008.

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    This remarkable collection of didactic stories was used in schools, but the stories themselves and the aphorisms they contained were enjoyed widely in society.

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  • Sharar, Abdul Halim, E.S. Harcourt, and Fakhir Husain. Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture. London: Elek Books, 1975.

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    A wide-ranging survey of the popular culture of 18th- and early 19th-century Lucknow, which covers aspects of popular preaching and storytelling.

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  • Shonan, Boaz. Popular Culture in Medieval Cairo. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

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    A stimulating evocation of the world of medieval Cairo in which knowledge of all kinds was transmitted to the people at large. It contains, among other things, a discussion of the interaction between “popular” culture and “high” culture.

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Women and Education

Through the premodern Muslim world there were women who were engaged in the business of learning as far as legal and social restrictions (and the latter could be most restricting) would permit. Certainly there was some prejudice against educating women, but on the other hand ʿulamaʾ were often keen to educate their daughters. It was hard to deny the example of the women of the Prophet's family. One way in which women became involved with education was the patronage of learning. Several of the thirteen major buildings endowed by women in Safavid Isfahan were madrasas. Women learned by sitting at the feet of learned women, or at those of their male relatives; in the Fatimid and Ottoman worlds, with their husband's permission, they might even attend the halqa of a scholar. Of course, women not only taught, as we have just noted, but they also played a major role in transmitting Hadith, as in Fatimid Cairo, or they might be major enablers of women's learning, as was Nana Asmaʾu (b.1793–d.1863), daughter of ʿUsman dan Fodio, the creator of Nigeria's Sokoto Caliphate. In the Timurid, Ottoman, and Mughal royal families and also among the peoples of the Sahara, women could play a major role in educating young boys as well as girls. There were some remarkably learned women, among them Bija Munajjima, the mathematician of Timurid Herat, Gulbadan Begum and Zeb al-Nisa of the Mughal royal family, and the remarkable Nana Asmaʾu. Berkey 1992 has an excellent chapter on women and education in Fatimid Cairo. Berkey 1992 and Blake 1998 illustrate women's patronage of learning. Berkey 1992, Szuppe 1998, Boyd 1989 and Lydon 2004 illustrate women's engagement in teaching. Peirce 1993, Lal 2005, Soucek 1998, Krynicki 2005, and Boyd 1989 illustrate women's learning in the framework of early modern royal families.

  • Berkey, Jonathan Porter. The Transmission of Knowledge in Medieval Cairo: A Social History of Islamic Education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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    There is an excellent chapter on education, pages 161–181.

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  • Blake, Stephen P. “Contributors to the Urban Landscape: Women Builders in Safavid Isfahan and Mughal Shahjahanabad.” In Women in the Medieval Islamic World: Power, Patronage, and Piety. Edited by Gavin R.G. Hambly, 407–428. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998.

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    Exemplifies women's endowment of madrasas in the context of their wider patronage of the built environment in these two great early modern Muslim cities.

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  • Boyd, Jean. The Caliph's Sister: Nana Asmaʾu 1793–1865, Teacher, Poet and Islamic Leader. London: Routledge, 1989.

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    Excellent account of not only the wide-ranging scholarship of this African princess but also the system she developed for spreading education among village women.

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  • Krynicki, Annie Krieger. Captive Princess: Zebunissa, Daughter of Aurangzeb Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    This daughter of Aurangzeb was deeply learned, a poet, and also a rebel. This is the first book-length attempt to study her life.

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  • Lal, Ruby. Domesticity and Power in the Early Mughal World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Although not dealing specifically with education, this book analyses the activities of early Mughal women, foremost among them being Gulbadan Begum, who left us her record of the court. It demonstrates just how much the Mughal empire was just as much a project of the Mughal women as of its men. The implication here is that their role was supported by significant levels of education and cultural achievement.

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  • Lydon, Ghislaine. “Inkwells of the Sahara: Reflections on the Production of Islamic Knowledge in Bilad Shinqit.” In The Transmission of Learning in Islamic Africa. Edited by Scott S. Reese, 39–71. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.

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    Among other things, this article illustrates the role of women in elementary education in the Sahara.

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  • Peirce, Leslie P. The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

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    Illustrates how senior women of the Ottoman harem taught young women how to speak and read and how there also existed within it an institution that mirrored the Palace School, see Slave Education.

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  • Soucek, Priscilla P. “Timurid Women: A Cultural Perspective.” In Women in the Medieval Islamic World: Power, Patronage, and Piety. Edited by Gavin R. Hambly, 199–226. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998.

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    Demonstrates, among other things, the way in which the Timurids delegated the early education of princes to women.

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  • Szuppe, Maria. “The ‘Jewels of Wonder’: Learned Ladies and Princes Politicians in the Provinces of Early Safavid Iran.” In Women in the Medieval Islamic World: Power, Patronage, and Piety. Edited by GavinGavin R. Hambly, 325–348. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1998.

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    This article draws on a collection of biographies specifically devoted to poetesses and learned women. Through an analysis of twenty lives in demonstrates how deeply Persian literary culture had been able to penetrate by the early 16th century.

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Literacy

We have noted the high value placed on the pursuit of knowledge in Muslim societies up to the 18th century. This led initially to a certain kind of literacy that was confined to scholars, ruling families, and the nobles of their courts. But as we move toward the early modern period, there was more than religion driving the spread of literacy: the growth of trade and increasing intensification of international trade from the 16th century as well as the expansion of bureaucratic and legal cultures. Arguably these developments are also expressed in the growing practice of letter-writing among middling folk and the keeping of diaries. Demand, as well as values derived from religion, was leading to growing numbers of literate people. Hanna 2003 explores the living literate middle-class culture that existed in Egypt from the 16th to the 18th century: a culture dependent on the building of schools, availability of cheap paper, and the proliferation of books. Hanna 2007 steps back to assess the levels of literacy achieved in the Muslim world between 1300 and 1800 and the factors that promoted it.

  • Hanna, Nelly. In Praise of Books: A Cultural History of Cairo's Middle Class, Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003.

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    An outstanding study of the literate middle class of early modern Egypt, dealing with everything from libraries, best-sellers, and book prices to the spread of reading and reading habits.

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  • Hanna, Nelly. “Literacy and the ‘Great Divide’ in the Islamic World, 1300–1800.” Journal of Global History 2 (2007): 175–193.

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    Using a flexible measure of literacy that might embrace everything from the high skills of the scholar to the rudimentary skills a boy might acquire in kuttab and deploy in a bazaar, Hanna assesses the levels achieved in the Muslim world by the 18th century and the driving forces behind that achievement.

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The Modern Period: 19th Century to the Present

From the 19th century, much education in Muslim societies came to be shaped directly or indirectly by the overwhelming power of Western states and the new knowledge that supported it. The state itself came to be interested in promoting education at all levels: and for this reason this section focuses primarily on education in states region by region. In the majority of Muslim societies that experienced colonial rule, the colonial power (in the main Britain, France, Russia, and the Netherlands) introduced Western systems of education teaching “Western” knowledge. In some societies, the colonial state might take this down to the elementary level; in others, state-sponsored Western education might be reserved for the secondary and higher levels, while indigenous systems would be supported at the local level. Where Western education was favored, more often than not European languages became the medium of instruction with sometimes fateful outcomes for the societies concerned. In those societies, notably the Ottoman Empire and Iran, which succeeded for the most part in resisting formal European rule, the aim was to absorb and teach Western knowledge to the extent that their states could be made strong enough to keep foreigners out. Of course, in the colonial period not all the drives for the development of Western education came from the colonial state; local elites concerned about keeping their hold on power could play a role, as did Christian missionaries eager to use education as a route to conversion. Independence in the middle of the 20th century saw drives to expand education so as to move in the direction of mass literacy. Toward the end of the 20th century there were substantial attempts to increase the proportion of the population moving through higher education, which in at least one society (Iran) came to match the proportions moving through higher education in some of the major Western societies. Throughout the period madrasa education was responding to a greater or lesser extent to the challenges presented by “Western” knowledge and Western styles of instruction, adopting from the West what was thought to be useful or that which might improve their position in the market. Some madrasas made a point of operating without state support, others depended on it, wholly or in part. On occasion madrasa education expanded to make up for the failings of state provision. By the 21st century it had come to be associated in some areas, often though not always incorrectly, with forms of Islamic militancy.

West Africa

Education, the spreading of ʿilm, was from the very beginning at the heart of the Muslim presence in West Africa; and it remains so. Colonial rule, primarily under the British and French, brought Western knowledge and Western systems for transmitting knowledge to sit beside Muslim and indigenous ones. Neither the British nor the French were particularly effective in bringing education to the population at large, although the latter with their “mission civilisatrice” did rather better. It was left to the governments of West African states after independence to institute policies leading toward mass primary and secondary education. In this context Islam and Islamic education emerged as a source of resistance both to colonial power and in the postcolonial era to Western secular dominance. At the same time, Islam continued to spread among the peoples of the region. A feature, in particular from the 1980s, was the expansion of Islamic education, at times funded from outside. In some areas this education has come to embrace aspects of modern Western education. In Nigeria, moreover, mass Islamic education has also led to the emergence of female ʿulamaʾ. Kitchen 1962 surveys the limited achievements of the colonial powers by the early 1960s. The essays in Brown and Hiskett 1975 are concerned primarily with Islamic education and the interface with Western systems up to the 1970s. Sanneh 1997 emphasizes the centrality of Muslim education for fashioning identity in West Africa, thus making Islam an important dimension of the identity of Muslim West Africans. Ozigo and Ocho 1981 surveys the general development of education in northern Nigeria up to the introduction of mass primary education. Loimeier 1997 offers background to the Islamic revival in northern Nigeria. Umar 2004 considers the impact of mass Islamic education there up to the 21st century. Brenner 2001 considers the role of madrasa education in Mali in both the colonial and postcolonial periods, noting its continuing relationship to identity and its role in shaping modern Mali. Launay1992 examines education as part of his larger study of one town in the Ivory Coast, noting reforming and other influences at work in shaping Dyula lives.

  • Brenner, Louis. Controlling Knowledge: Religion, Power, and Schooling in a West African Muslim Society. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

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    Examines madrasas in Mali from the colonial period through to the present; and in the process, analyses the role and changing concept of “school.”

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  • Brown, Godfrey N., and Mervyn Hiskett. Conflict and Harmony in Education in Tropical Africa. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1975.

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    Studies of the interactions between Islamic and colonial education systems in tropical Africa with the benefit of hindsight: that is, roughly fifteen years after independence.

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  • Kitchen, Helen, ed. The Educated African: A Country-by-Country Survey of Educational Development in Africa. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962.

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    Contains much factual material on the state of education in African states as the colonial powers were leaving.

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  • Launay, Robert. Beyond the Stream: Islam and Society in a West African Town Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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    An anthropologist studies Islam, and with it Islamic education, in one community: that of the relatively large Ivory Coast town of Koko.

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  • Loimeier, Roman. Islamic Reform and Political Change in Northern Nigeria. Evanston Il.: Northwestern University Press, 1997.

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    In the context of an overview of Islamic reform in northern Nigeria from the 19th century to the present, examines its presence in Islamic education, noting in particular the impact of the Izala reform movement.

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  • Ozigi, A.O., and L. Ocho. Education in Northern Nigeria. London: Allen & Unwin, 1981.

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    Looks at the expansion of education in this powerful Islamic region after independence.

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  • Sanneh, Lamin. The Crown and the Turban: Muslims and West African Pluralism Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997.

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    An important study of the role of education in establishing Muslim identity in West Africa, considering among other things the role of the Qurʾan school and the significance of Arabic language.

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  • Umar, Muhammad S. “Mass Islamic Education and Emergence of Female ʿulamaʾ in Northern Nigeria: Background, Trends, and Consequences.” In The Transmission of Learning in Islamic Africa. Edited by Scott S. Reese. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.

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    Considers, among other things, the emergence of significant numbers of female ʿulamaʾ, and the possible consequences of this development, in the context of mass Islamic education and the Izala reform movement.

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Egypt and North Africa

This section pays some attention to North Africa but focuses primarily on Egypt, which had great influence on developments in the Maghreb and elsewhere in the Arab world. Early moves at acquiring “Western” knowledge and building Western-style institutions were primarily a function of the self-strengthening activities of the state, most notably in Egypt. Missionaries, too, played a role, particularly in the 19th century. The introduction of Western knowledge and Western systems of learning meant that a generation of Egyptians and North Africans during their lifetimes made the journey from instruction involving oral transmission (and the tricks of memory that went with it) and the person-to-person magic of corporeally embodied and transmitted knowledge, to the cold, clinical knowledge found in books. With the change was lost much of the surrounding etiquette of learning, not the least of which was the respect traditionally offered to the teacher. The period witnessed changes in the life of one great old institution, al-Azhgar, and the emergence of a great new one, Cairo University. It is important to note the emergence of mass education in the second half of the 20th century and its impact on the Islamic revival. Al-Tahtawi 2004 takes us on his visit to Paris as part of a delegation exploring the new knowledge and systems of Europe with the aim of introducing them in Egypt. Heyworth-Dunne 1968 surveys the overall work of educational development in 19th- century Egypt, and Mitchell 1988 considers its particular role in strengthening the state. Eickelmann under Transmission of Knowledge and Amin 1978 consider the move from traditional Islam to Western knowledge and systems of learning and what it meant. Eccel 1984 examines the passage of al-Azhar through the challenges of the 20th century. Reid 1990 examines the rise of Cairo University to become the model for the Islamic world. Kitchen1962 surveys the achievements of the French in the Maghreb by the mid-20th century. Stora 2001 makes clear how little the French had done to educate the Algerians, as opposed to the French settlers. Starret 1998 illustrates the relationship between the introduction of mass education and the Islamic revival in Egypt.

  • Amin, Ahmad, and Issa J. Boullata. My Life: The Autobiography of an Egyptian Scholar, Writer, and Cultural Leader. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 197Issa J. Boullata. My Life: The Autobiography of an Egyptian Scholar, Writer, and Cultural Leader. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 19788.

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    The often moving record of a life in education from the traditional kuttab to the modern university told by one of Egypt's leading writers and intellectuals of the second quarter of the 20th century.

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  • Eccel, A. Chris. Egypt, Islam and Social Change: Al-Azhar in Conflict and Accommodation. Berlin: K. Schwarz, 1984.

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    Fundamental work in English on al-Azhar, whose influence reaches beyond the Arab world to the wider Islamic world.

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  • Heyworth-Dunne, James. An Introduction to the History of Education in Modern Egypt London: Cass, 1968.

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    Classic work on the development of educational institutions in 19th-century Egypt.

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  • Kitchen, Helen, ed. The Educated African: A Country-by-Country Survey of Educational Development in Africa. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1962.

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    Contains much factual material on the state of education in African states as the colonial powers were leaving.

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  • Mitchell, Timothy. Colonising Egypt. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

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    Mitchell views education from a perspective in part influenced by Foucault and interprets its development in 19th-century Egypt as part of a process of disciplining subjects as citizens of a modern state.

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  • Reid, Donald M. Cairo University and the Making of Modern Egypt Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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    Classic study of the development of the first modern university of the Arab world, which has educated many of the leading figures of 20th-century Egypt.

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  • Starrett, Gregory. Putting Islam to Work: Education, Politics, and Religious Transformation in Egypt. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

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    An important example of a new wave of research that considers the impact of mass education on religious understandings in Muslim societies and the political changes that might flow from these.

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  • Stora, Benjamin. Algeria 1830–2000: A Short History. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.

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    The small part of this book devoted to education makes clear the divisive nature of French policies.

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  • al-Tahtawi, Rifaʿa Rafiʿ, and Daniel L. Newman. An Imam in Paris: Account of a Stay in France by an Egyptian Cleric (1826–1831). London: Saqi Books, 2004.

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    Tahtawi, a student of al-Azhar, was a member of a forty-four-person delegation of students sent by Muhammad Ali, the ruler of Egypt, to Paris. This book is his highly intelligent account of his engagement with post-Enlightenment European civilization, an account that had great influence on its Arab readership in the 19th century.

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West Asia

Here we focus on the Ottoman Empire, which until World War I embraced most of West Asia, and subsequently on the Turkish Republic. From the Tanzimat period to the present, education has been at the heart of the struggle over the direction society should take. It was at this time that the Ottoman Empire developed a network of modern public education institutions, teaching mostly Western knowledge in a Western fashion. Although initially the focus was on secondary education, from the 1870s Qurʾan schools began to be replaced by state-run elementary schools. This said, religion was not lost sight of; the aim was to create a loyal citizenry through the inculcation of religion and moral values alongside loyalty to the state. The rise of the Kemalist republic saw an almost complete banishment of religion from public space. All but eight madrasas were closed and religion was removed from the curriculum of state-run schools. In the late 1940s and early 1950s two developments forced the Turkish state to change course: the first was the realization that with no state provision, private religious teaching was emerging outside state control, and second the introduction of multiparty democracy that led to the demand for religious instruction in schools. The state, therefore, developed schools (Imam-Hatip schools) at all levels, which included religious education alongside secular subjects. By 1985–1986 one in ten students in state-run institutions went to schools of this type. Alongside the attempts of the Ottoman Empire and its Kemalist successor both to produce a vision of progress along Western and eventually wholly secular lines, there also grew from the late 19th-century an alternative vision, that of the Naqshbandi Sufi Said Bediuzzaman Nursi (b.1879–d.1960). Fortna 2000 and Somel 2001 deal with Ottoman policies toward education and state-strengthening. The essays edited by Tapper 1991 deal with several aspects of education in the third quarter of the 20th century, but in particular the introduction of the Imam-Hatip schools. Vahide 2005 shows how Said Bediuzzaman Nursi developed a different trajectory for Ottoman and Turkish society from that espoused by the elite. The essays in Yavuz and Esposito 2003 demonstrate how this was institutionalized in the Gulen movement, which among other things developed a private Islamic education network, which spread widely in Turkey but also into fifty other countries. Yavuz 2003 spells out the implications of these developments for modern Turkish society and politics, a book which makes interesting comparison with Starret for Egypt. White 2003 gives us glimpses of the meaning of education in the context of the Umraniye neighborhood of Istanbul. Ozdalga 1998 illustrates what the struggles in Turkey over the veil and government institutions meant for women, teachers, and pupils.

Iran

In the first half of the 19th century all education in Iran was in the hands of the ʿulamaʾ. Elementary education was given in maktabs, or local schools, secondary and more advanced education was offered in madrasas. Slowly a state-funded system was developed, teaching secular subjects to supply bureaucrats for the expanding state machine. By the end of the Qajar dynasty (1925) there were approximately 3,300 government schools with an enrollment of about 110,000 students. There were several specialized institutions of higher learning of which the Dar al-Funun, founded in 1851, was the first. Under the Pahlavis (1925–1979) there was a major government-led expansion of secular education, the French system being used as a model. By 1978 roughly 75 percent of those eligible by age aget were enrolled in elementary schools and 50 percent in secondary schools. In 1934 Tehran University, Iran's first modern university, was founded, followed in the second half of the century by universities, colleges, and vocational institutions (including an impressive number of medical universities) all over Iran. The outcomes of this development were: 1) by the 1970s products of the secular system vastly outnumbered those from the madrasas, and 2) universities themselves had begun to recruit large numbers of students from traditional, rural (and thus religious) backgrounds. The consequence was the different worldviews that came to compete for power in pre- and post-Revolutionary Iran, among them those of the secular and often Western-educated elite, those of the ʿulamaʾ, and those of the religious-minded (often followers of Ali Shariʿati 1933–1977) who had attended universities and colleges as opposed to madrasas. The Revolution saw a thorough desecularization of elementary and secondary education, which involved both the replacement of textbooks and the purging of schoolteachers. There are no secure figures for school attendance, since the Revolution, but the proportions of the age cohort are reckoned to be similar to those before the Revolution. From 1980–1983 higher education saw a closure of all institutions, while students and teachers thought to be insufficiently Islamic were purged. In the period 1977–1997 higher education saw a massive expansion, the numbers of students enrolled rising from 156,000 to 625,000. By 2008 there were 3,500,000 enrolled. Over the period 1977 to 2003 the proportions of women students increased from 40 percent to 60 percent. During the 1980s women's literacy rates doubled, which led to a new determination to remedy their political, economic, and cultural disadvantages and their important role in the reform movement from the 1990s onward. Menashri 1992 sets out the development of Iran's educational system: from the departure of the first two Iranian students to Europe in 1811 to the changes introduced after the Revolution. The author remains alert to the struggle for control of education between the ʿulamaʾ and the secular elite in control of the state. Fischer and Abedi 1990 has a useful series of vignettes of engagement in education in pre-Revolutionary Iran from the village to the university. Ahmad 1984 in a report written for a conference on the Aim of Iranian Education (29 November 1961 and 17 January 1962) uses a Marxist analysis to explain how the alliance between Iranian elites and Western imperialism has led to a form of education that is hollowing out Iran from within. Both Akhavi 1980 and Fischer 1980 analyze the competition for power between the ʿulamaʾ and the secular elite, the latter focusing in particular on the madrasa and its decline under the Pahlavis. Mottahedeh 1986 focuses on the life, training, and ideas of a mulla in the context both of the inheritance of Shiʿa scholarship and of the economic and constitutional changes that preceded the Revolution. Brumberg 2001, in the context of a much wider discussion of the struggle for reform in Iran, offers useful information about the changes in education brought about by the Revolution. Education in Iran, with its associated links, is a useful access point to basic information about Iranian education since the 19th century.

Russia and Central Asia

During the 19th century, Russia extended its rule over Muslims from Kazan close to Moscow and the Crimea on the Black Sea to embrace the Caucasus and the Central Asian Khanates of Khiva, Bukhara, and Kokand. In 1897, when the first imperial census was taken, it was noted that Russia ruled 14 million Muslims. This said, it is important to remember that they were in no way a community; they were divided by geography, language, and vastly different historical and contemporary experiences. In the first half of the century, Bukhara was seen as the prime seat of Islamic learning to which Muslims would travel from all over Russia. But as ideas of Islamic reform began to filter through Russia's Muslim populations, they began to seek ideas and stimulus from farther afield: Deoband in India, Istanbul, Beirut, Cairo, and Mecca. The major strand of new educational ideas, however, came not from those who went abroad but from an interaction between traditionally educated Muslims and enlightenment ideas in Russian society. These ideas were first articulated by Ismail Bey Gasprinski (1851–1914).The ideas were given the name usul-i jadid or “new method”; the proponents came to be called Jadids and the phenomenon Jadidism. At heart it was a new method of education, which drew much from modern Russian systems and was to replace traditional maktabs and madrasas, in the process bringing about total renewal of society. In the late 19th century, these ideas percolated through Muslim Russia, and by the early 20th century were beginning to become established in Bukhara and the old Central Asian heartland. The Russian Revolution saw the Jadids transforming themselves for a moment into Muslim National Communists. But then, as the Soviet regime established itself, almost all Islamic institutions and expressions of the faith came to be suppressed. Islam was forced underground, frequently sustained by Sufi networks, and reemerged only after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Zelkina 2000 explains why Islamization and Islamic education came to the North Caucasus in the early 19th century in a Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi Sufi framework. Frank 2001 examines the working of Islamic institutions in just one district of the Volga/Ural region from 1780 to 1910. Khalid 1998 provides an outstanding overview of Jadidism. Carrere d'Encausse 2009 explores what happened when in the early 20th century Jadidism reached Bukhara, the sanctuary of “traditional” Islamic education. Lazzerini 1973 explores the life of Gasprinski, the leading Jadidist, and Bennigsen and Lemercier-Quelquejay 1964 set out the rapid growth of the Turkish language press, which was the key vehicle for Jadid ideas and debate. Hetmanek 1965 shows what happened to Islam and its institutions after the Russian Revolution, and Ro'i 2000 examines the same process in depth up to the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

South Asia

Most Muslims in colonial South Asia were educated in government schools. Nevertheless, there came to exist alongside the government system Muslim educational traditions paid for and run by Muslims themselves. The first was madrasa education, which had its roots deep in the Islamic past. The consolidation of British rule in the early 19th century led to the removal of the grants that previous Muslim regimes had made to support Islamic education. From now on madrasas were to survive only if the Muslim public was willing to support them. Farangi Mahall represented a balance in the curriculum between the revealed and the rational subjects that went back to the heart of the Mughal period. The 19th century, however, saw a host of madrasas being founded as ʿulamaʾ proposed different answers to the challenges set by British rule. There were Barelvi madrasas, Ahl-i Hadith madrasas, the Nadwat ul-ʿUlamaʾ, but most importantly there was the Deoband madrasa, which taught a curriculum in which the revealed sciences were emphasized in opposition to the rational sciences and encouraged only a restrained pursuit of Sufism. By its centenary in 1967, Deoband claimed to have 8,934 madrasas affiliated to it in South Asia and abroad. Most of the Deobandi ʿulamaʾ were powerful supporters of Indian nationalism. The second was a Western-style education promoted by Sayyid Ahmad Khan (b.1817–d.1898), but in Muslim-controlled circumstances in which Muslims could send their boys, and later their girls, to be taught with confidence that their values would be respected. The heart of the process was Sayyid Ahmad's Aligarh College founded in 1877. The All-India Muslim Educational Conference, founded in 1886, was designed to carry the Aligarh message throughout British India. It was men from the Aligarh movement who founded the All-India Muslim League and drove the subsequent movement for Pakistan. In both the secular and the madrasa traditions women have also strived to achieve education. If this process can be charted from the late 19th century in the case of Muslim women seeking “modern” education, from the 1950s there was the emergence of women's madrasas, which have spread all over South Asia. They represent interesting possibilities for women's religious authority in a world of largely patriarchal control. Robinson 2001 introduces Farangi Mahall, the curriculum and the nature of teaching, learning and being in this environment that reaches back to the 17th century. Metcalf 1982 analyzes the range of Muslim responses to the challenges of British rule, setting before us in particular the moderate reformed Islamic tradition of Deoband. Thanawi and Metcalf 1990 translates part of an important book in the Deobandi reforming tradition; it is particularly important for demonstrating the means by which the individual human conscience was to be fashioned as the guarantor of the maintenance of a Muslim society in a world where Muslims were powerless. Lelyveld 1977 analyzes the values of the Muslim elite and how they came to be reflected in anglicized form in Aligarh College. Khan 2001 examines the organization designed to spread these values throughout India. Hasan 2006 tells the history of the Jamia Millia Islamia, which was founded as a nationalist gesture in opposition to Aligarh. Minault 1998 studies the early development of women's education. Winkelmann 2005 examines the working of one women's madrasa in the Nizamuddin Auliya area of Delhi.

  • Hasan, Mushirul, and Rakshanda Jalil. Partners in Freedom: Jamia Millia Islamia Delhi: Niyogi Books, 2006.

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    This book by the current vice-chancellor of the Jamia details its history from its foundation in October 1920, as part of a nationalist protest against the progovernment position of the management of Aligarh. Very heavily illustrated, it makes clear the close association between the university and Indian nationalism before independence, and the Congress Party after independence.

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  • Khan, Abdul Rashid. The All-India Muslim Educational Conference: Its Contribution to the Cultural Development of Indian Muslims 1886–1947. Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    Based on the archives of the Educational Conference this book provides an overview of Aligarh's modern educational project.

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  • Lelyveld, David S. Aligarh's First Generation: Muslim Solidarity in British India Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977.

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    Classic work on the foundation of MAO College, Aligarh, the standard bearer of the Islamic modernist cause in education. Particularly good on the Muslim elite culture out of which it was formed.

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  • Metcalf, Barbara Daly. Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860–1900 Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982. []

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    In the context of the different expressions of Muslim revival in British India, Metcalf offers a useful chapter on the Aligarh modernist strand of development and some outstanding insights into the Deoband School, the most influential expression of Islamic reform. Details how the School shaped the individual, in particular the individual human conscience.

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  • Minault, Gail. Secluded Scholars: Women's Education and Muslim Social Reform in Colonial India. Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    Classic study of the development of women's education, for the most part in modernist form.

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  • Robinson, Francis. The ʿUlamaʾ of Farangi Mahall and Islamic Culture in South Asia. Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001.

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    A study of the main teaching tradition founded under the Mughals. Its Dars-i Nizami curriculum was used in madrasas throughout India. The book offers a sense of this madrasa world, its curriculum, and its values.

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  • Thanawi, Ashraf ʿAli and Barbara Daly Metcalf. Perfecting Women: Maulana Ashraf ʿAli Thanawi's Bihishti Zewar: A Partial Translation with Commentary. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

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    Said to be the most widely published book in Muslim India after the Qurʾan. Bihishti Zewar instructs women on how to be effective in the reforming tradition of a Muslim household. That said, its general provisions could equally apply to men, especially in the advice given on regular reflection and the fashioning of the reforming conscience.

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  • Winkelmann, Mareike Jule. From Behind the Curtain: A Study of a Girls' Madrasa in India. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005.

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    From the 1950s, women's madrasas began to be founded in South Asia. This is the first full-scale study of such a madrasa. The institution is in the Nizamuddin district of Delhi and falls generally in the traditions of the Tablighi Jamaʿat.

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Southeast Asia

The Muslims of Southeast Asia are scattered through a wide range of environments whose differing contexts and histories have tended to dictate both educational outcomes and their wider social and political significance. We shall focus primarily on the Muslim majority states of Indonesia and Malaysia but make some reference to Buddhist Thailand, where in the Patani region Muslims form nearly 90 percent of the population. Arguably the most important fact about the growth of education in the 19th and 20th centuries is the Islamic network of traditional scholarship that tied scholars in Indonesia and Malaysia into the Hadhramaut, the Hijaz, and Cairo. This meant that, as scholars developed indigenous systems of education (in pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) and madrasas) in response to colonial rule, they were profoundly influenced for or against contemporary movements of Islamic reform. In Indonesia and Malaysia these responses were reflected in the reforming Muhammadiya and the Kaum Muda and the schools they established, and the Nahdat ul-Ulama and the Kaum Tua, which mostly favored all that was familiar and unchanging. Dutch colonial policy in Indonesia oscillated between an elitist policy—training Dutch-speaking Indonesians for the colonial bureaucracy—and a wider-reaching policy that envisioned education as a contribution to general welfare. But the impact was small. In 1930–1931 only 1.6 million Indonesians were in vernacular primary schools, or roughly 8 percent of those eligible by age. In Malaysia during much of British rule, government-sponsored education from the secondary level was in English, thus substantially limiting those able to attend. In these circumstances it was not surprising that indigenous and Islamic systems of education became profoundly intertwined with the growth of nationalism, giving an Islamic dimension to national identity, especially in Indonesia. The poverty of investment in education under colonial rule meant that it became a major priority for both states once independence was achieved. A measure of the achievement of government-led programs since independence is that by the early 21st century, Malaysia had achieved a youth literacy rate between ages fifteen and twenty-five of 97 percent, which equals the adult literacy rate of Spain; Indonesia had achieved a youth literacy rate of 98 percent, which equals the adult literacy rate of Italy. Such levels of literacy have had major ramifications for religious change and perhaps the conduct of politics. Laffan 2003 sets out the world of ideas and connections from Cairo, the Hijaz and the Hadhramaut to Malaysia and Indonesia, in which indigenously driven programs of education developed. Roff 1967 places educational development in Malaysia in both this context and that of British imperialism and explains its relationship to the emergence of nationalism. Hashim 1996 surveys this educational development in the preindependence period and then devotes considerable attention to the development of a post-independence national system. Noer 1973 examines the emergence of the Muhammadiyah reformist strand of education in Indonesia, and the Nahdat ul-Ulama traditionalist strand that developed in response, and relates them to the politics of the nationalist period. Dhofier 1999 examines the indigenous pesantren tradition in Indonesia and explains its workings. Peacock 1978 explores the way in which individuals were psychologically formed as “puritans” in the Muhammadiyah tradition, not just through their formal education but through all aspects of their upbringing. Country Studies offers an overview of investment in education in Indonesia since independence. Madmarn 1999 demonstrates the nature of Islamic education in Thailand's Patani province, a long-standing center of Islamic scholarship.

In the West

Since the 19th century, Muslim communities have come to be established in the major societies of the West in growing numbers. Since World War II Muslims have migrated in increasing numbers to join these communities: the reasons ranging from a search for economic betterment to flight from political persecution. Although reliable statistics are scarce, their numbers are purported to be well in excess of 40 million. For Muslims the process of settlement has raised the issue of how can (and how should) they create Muslim spaces in their Western host countries. In particular, there has been the issue of how to transmit Islamic knowledge and values in these new environments. Should Muslims set up an alternative school system that would isolate them from their host populations, or should they send their children to the state-sponsored educational systems of their host societies and risk being absorbed and transformed by their host cultures; or should they, perhaps, adopt some midway course, taking advantage of state-sponsored systems while making sure that some supplementary form of Islamic education is provided in community center and home? On the other hand, for the host societies there have been issues concerning the extent to which separate religion-based education should be permitted, which has crystallized in Britain in the debate about Faith schools and multiculturalism. Over the past twenty-five years, views in the British establishment have swung from favoring the multicultural approach to increasingly supporting one inclusive system as being much less divisive. Nevertheless, in various societies, in particular France and Britain, this has raised the issue concerning the extent to which religious symbols, in particular forms of veiling for women, should be permitted in the state-run system. Muslim communities and their Western host societies are engaged in a continuing debate, which in all likelihood will go on for years to come, about how in terms of education they can combine their preferences and systems in an agreeable way. The essays in Haddad 2002 create the context of Muslim settlement in ten Western host societies and address issues of education in those contexts. The essays in Haddad, et al. 2009 address problems of Muslims and education in the United States, bearing in mind the heightened concern of Americans in the aftermath of the 9/11 bombings. Barazangi 1998 addresses three overarching issues: 1) how to achieve a balance between the belief systems of individuals and the universal schooling system of the United States; 2) how to build a bridge between “teaching religion” and “teaching a religion”; and 3) how to develop a discourse on Islamic education in which women have traditionally been perceived as lacking the privilege to interpret Islam. Ansari 2004 addresses Muslim education in Britain, and changing government policies toward it, in the context of the overall development of British Muslim communities. Abbas 2005 examines the different educational performances of South Asians (the largest ethnic Muslim groups) in Britain, taking into account social class, ethnicity, the schools themselves, and issues of cultural, social, and economic capital. Halstead 2005 considers a range of British Muslim parents' concerns about British education provision covering four interlinked issues: the poor academic performance of Muslim children; the failure of schools to eradicate institutional racism and Islamophobic bullying; the lack of support for children's Islamic identity; and the inadequacy of the spiritual and moral education that the schools provide. Dwyer and Meyer 1996 examines the response of host societies to attempts to establish Islamic schools in Britain, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Ramadan 2004 explains why the best way forward for Muslims in the West is to join state-sponsored educational systems and to develop their own complementary systems for “modern” Islamic education, which will engage children brought up in the West.

  • Abbas, Tahir. The Education of British South Asian Muslims: Ethnicity, Capital, and Class Structure. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.

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    Abbas, a sociologist, considers the reasons for the different educational performances of children from Britain's largest Muslim ethnic groups, Pakistanis, Indians, and Bangladeshis.

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  • Ansari, Humayun. The Infidel Within: Muslims in Britain since 1800. London: C. Hurst, 2004.

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    The leading historian of Britain's Muslim communities considers education in the context of these communities' development and changing British policy.

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  • Barazangi, Nimat Hafez, ed. “The Equilibrium: Issues of Islamic Education in the United States.” Religion and Education 25 (Winter 1998): 1–116.

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    These essays address issues of balance in education between the belief systems of individuals and the requirements of a state-sponsored system of education. They pay particular attention to issues relating to Muslim women.

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  • Dwyer, Claire, and Astrid Meyer. “The Establishment of Islamic Schools, Controversial Phenomenon in Three European Countries.” In Muslims in the Margin: Political Responses to the Presence of Islam in Western Europe. Edited by W.A.R. Shadid and P.S. van Koningsveld. Kampen, Netherlands: Kok Pharos, 1996.

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    The authors compare the way Britain, the Netherlands, and Belgium address the issue of Islamic schools.

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  • Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck ed. Muslims in the West: From Sojourners to Citizens New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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    The essays in this collection are an excellent introduction to issues relating to Muslim communities and education in ten Western societies.

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  • Haddad, Yvonne Yazbeck, Farid Senzai, and Jane I. Smith. Educating the Muslims of America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    These essays address the wide range of issues that surround Muslim education in the United States.

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  • Halstead, Mark. “Muslims in the UK and Education.” In Muslims in the UK: Policies for Engaged Citizens. By Tufyal Choudhury; EU Accession Monitoring Program. Budapest, Hungary; New York: Open Society Institute, EU Monitoring and Advocacy Program, 2005.

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    This article considers the various concerns of Muslim parents about British state-sponsored education. Makes policy recommendations.

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  • Ramadan, Tariq. Western Muslims and the Future of Islam in the West. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    This major thinker about the future of Islam and Muslim communities in the West considers the overall directions for Muslim education in the context of his overall vision for the future of Islam in the West.

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Madrasas

Several sections for the modern period, cited above, have covered aspects of madrasa education over the past two hundred years. This section focuses in particular on madrasa education since the 1980s. During this period, arguably beginning with the Iranian revolution, and peaking in the years after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, there has been growing concern about madrasas as the creators of a worldview generally opposed to the West (and in some cases actively so). This concern has come to focus on madrasas in the three main South Asian states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh in general and on those in Pakistan in particular, where the numbers of madrasas grew from 137 in 1947 to over 8000 in the 1990s, and where some increasingly became involved in jihadi politics. The process began with the oil-price revolution of the 1970s and the movement of Saudi and Gulf funds to support madrasas; it was was supported from 1977 by the Islamization policies of General Zia ul-Haq. In 1979 the Russian invasion of Afghanistan led to madrasas on the Northwest Frontier receiving large numbers of refugees and their militarization as they became embroiled in the Pushtun and Western war against the Russian invader. Once the Russians were defeated, Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence agency, the ISI, was able to fashion the madrasa veterans of the Russian war into the Taliban (Students), a force which would conquer Kabul and give Pakistan the strategic depth it sought in Central Asia. In this context the Taliban regime came to shelter Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda central command, which was concerned to fight a worldwide battle against what it viewed as Western imperialism. Large numbers from elsewhere in the Muslim world came to madrasas and to camps in Pakistan and the Northwest Frontier region to be trained to play a role in the war against the West. There were notable assaults on New York, Washington, Madrid, London, and Bali but also on people and government installations in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. There are two further points to note: 1) the term madrasa has come to be applied to all institutions engaged in the transmission of Islamic knowledge; but in Pakistan, for instance, the term “madrasa” might just refer to education up to secondary level; Dar ul-ʿUlum would be used to describe an institution of higher secondary education; and Jamiʿa one of college-level education; 2) over the past ten years madrasas have been much talked up by governments and by the press on the grounds of breeding hostility to the West. What contemporary scholarship reveals is that in the vast majority of cases they do no such thing; most provide a basic education either for those who have no state provision or for those who do not trust what the state offers. Hefner and Zaman 2007 looks at madrasa-style education in countries from Mali and Morocco in the West to Indonesia in the southeast; Noor, et al. 2008 looks at madrasas in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and China. Riaz 2008 examines modern madrasas in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, showing how they fit into their particular social, economic, and political contexts and considers how they have changed and how they might change in the future. Sikand 2005 offers the first overview of madrasas in many parts of India and speaks with the authority of someone who has visited the institutions he writes about. Ali 2009, written by a former madrasa student (but also an alumnus both of Pakistan's leading independent school (“public” school in English parlance) and of Tufts, Yale, and MIT) offers a thoughtful overview of Pakistan's madrasa system and the issues it faces. Haroon 2008 explains how Deobandi madrasas came to be founded in the Northwest Frontier from the early 20th century and how they became militarized in the jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and became a major political presence in the province. Bano 2007 examines one Deobandi madrasa in Pakistan, demonstrating through an ethnographic account the integrity of its methods, its socioeconomic relevance, and the misguided assumption that it produces bigoted individuals. Rashid 2008 provides the overall regional/geopolitical context in which some madrasas, Islamic movements, and the Taliban have come to be embroiled in the turbulent politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and central Asia.

  • Ali, Saleem H. Islam and Education: Conflict and Conformity in Pakistan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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    This is the first book-length study of modern madrasas in Pakistan. It addresses their growth, a specific case study, their funding, the extent to which they might be connected with violence and how they might be considered in the context of modernity.

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  • Bano, Masooda. “Beyond Politics: the Reality of a Deobandi Madrasa in Pakistan.” Journal of Islamic Studies 18 (2007): 43–68.

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    This ethnographic account demonstrates that madrasa education has an integrity of its own, and a specific socioeconomic relevance. The community, moreover, does not offer blind support to its leadership but bases it on calculations of that leadership's efficiency and personal commitment.

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  • Haroon, Sana. “The Rise of Deobandi Islam in the North-West Frontier Province and its Implications in Colonial India and Pakistan 1914–1996.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 18 (January 2008): 47–70.

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    This explains how from the colonial period onward, Deobandis and their madrasas came to be established on the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan. She then explains how they were changed by the jihad against the Russians and have come to be so politically involved.

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  • Hefner, Robert W., and Muhammad Qasim Zaman eds. Schooling Islam: The Culture and Politics of Modern Muslim Education. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

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    Considers madrasa-style education in a range of contexts. Among them: education and Muslim identity, the minority situation in India, issues of authority in South Asian Deobandi institutions, their vanishing role in Morocco, the vigorous Gulen movement in Turkey, their relation to national ideals in Indonesia, their role as an institution of change in Mali, and their role in a British context.

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  • Noor, Farish A., Yoginder Sikand, and Martin van Bruinessen eds. The Madrasa in Asia: Political Activism and Transnational Linkages. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2008.

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    The essays in this collection cover madrasas in India, Pakistan, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

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  • Rashid, Ahmed. Descent into Chaos: How the War against Islamic Extremism is Being Lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. London: Allen Lane, 2008.

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    Rashid creates the regional and geopolitical context in which madrasas and Islamic movements have become matters of profound concern to both Western and local governments.

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  • Sikand, Yoginder. Bastions of the Believers: Madrasas and Islamic Education in India. New Delhi: Penguin Books, 2005.

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    Overview of madrasas in contemporary South Asia. Author's personal knowledge of the subject matter comes through clearly. Also detailed are the different missions of madrasas according to the particular Islamic group they belong to, as well as the growing presence of women's madrasas. As HHH H

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