Schooling at the time of Prophet Muhammad

by Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah

Educational System 

In the time of the Holy Prophet  


■ Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah 

1 



Educational System 



In the time of the Holy Prophet (;&&) 



Dr. Muhammad Hamidullah 



Presented by: 
drmhamidullah.com 

facebook.com/Dr.Muhammad.Hamidullah 



Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




Close investigation of the social conditions of Arabia, 
especially of Makka, just before Islam, leads inevitably to 
the conclusion that the Arabs of that time were gifted with extra 
ordinary talents. This alone was responsible for the fact that 
when the Islamic teachings polished them, the Arabs astonished 
the world with their originality and potentiality, and when their 
energies were concentrated and strengthened by the religion of 
unity and action, Islam, they defied the whole world and were 
able to wage war simultaneously against the then two world 
powers of Ctesiphon (Iran) and Byzantium. 

The internecine feuds of the days of the Jahiliyah 
(ignorance) formed in Arabs adventurous characters of 
remarkable endurance and other high qualities which achieved 
conquests even to the envy of Napoleon. 1 The developed system 
of periodical fairs and well-organized escorts of caravans 
brought the whole of the Arabian Peninsula into an economic 
federation, infusing in the Arab mind the consciousness of unity 



1 Memorial de Sainte Helens, XII, 153. 

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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




which paved the way for political unity under Islam. Again, the 
highly developed constitution of the City State of Makka was 
responsible for training men to conduct the affairs of a world 
empire. 2 

The fact is that it was due to the literary talents of pre- 
Islamic Arabia that during the first centuries of Islam the Arabs 
were able to produce in Arabic such a rich and marvellous 
harvest in letters and sciences. To polish these talents, to awaken 
their latent qualities, and to exploit them usefully, this however 
goes to the credit of Islam. 

What better background can there be for the educational 

system of the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Xsfe) than a 
description of the literary conditions in the country at the dawn 
of Islam? 

❖ Education in Pre-Islamic Arabia 

Unfortunately we do not possess sufficient records regarding 
educational matters in the Jahiliyah. This is due partly to the fact 
that the art of writing was not much in vogue there in those days, 
and partly to the wanton destruction of millions of literary 
monuments by Halaku and others in Baghdad, Cordova and 
elsewhere before the invention of the printing press. In spite of 
this, a reconstructed picture by the help of what little and scanty 
material came down to posterity in the 14th century of the Hijrah 
is sufficient to astonish us and exact tribute of admiration for the 



2 "The City State of Makka" Islamic Culture . Vol. XII, No. 3. 

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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




race which took pride in illiteracy. 3 

Let us take their language first. It was once considered that a 
language grows rich in vocabulary, expressions and idioms in the 
days of its golden age; and that its previous conditions are 
nothing more than a mirror of unimaginative and simple ideas 
not much superior to animal life. Judging from this criterion the 
Arabic language at the dawn of Islam, we are bewildered at the 
refinement of the language, richness of vocabulary, fixedness of 
grammatical rules and fastness of poetical literature of a high 
standard, so much so that it is the diction of the Jahiliyah and not 
of the literary golden age of Islam which is considered as the 
classical and standard diction. If we compare two authors of 
some modern language, German, Russian, French or English, 
one author of today and one from ten centuries ago, their 
language will be so different that these writers of the same 
language would not be able to understand each other. Yet the 
vocabulary and the grammar of the language of Imra ul Qais is 
exactly the same as that of Shawqiy and Hafiz of modern Egypt. 
The Qur'an and the records of the utterances of the Prophet and 
his companions (hadith) written in the language of Jahiliyah, 
uninfluenced by the later culture of the Arab empire and 
intelligible to the Beduins of pre-Islamic Arabia, is not the less 
intelligible to the student of modern Arabic. Already at that time 
the Arabic language was so rich that it can compare favourably 
with the developed languages of modern Europe. I need not 
dilate on the details which are known to every Arabist; I simply 
want to emphasize that the wonderful language of the pre- 
Islamic Arabs could not obviously have reached this stage of 


3 

A tradition runs owj>o^^c6o^ 4^1 4^1131 ^Lj by Ibn Abdul Barr, p. 35. 

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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




maturity and extensiveness without great literary activities and 
talents of the people who spoke it. 

Apart from the very large number of poems ascribed to the 
Jahiliyah, we possess verbatim records of a good many orations, 
sermons, proverbs, anecdotes, oracles, arbitral awards and other 
prose monuments. They will convince any reader of their 
rhetoric, minute observation, wit and fine taste. 

Even the very word Arab is significant as it means "one who 
speaks clearly" as opposed to all the non- Arabs Ajam or dumb. 

These are inferences and observations of the present writer. 
There are direct notices also in history. 

As for schools, who would believe that there were regular 
veritable schools attended by boys as well as by girls? Yet Ibn 
Qutaibah assures us in his 'Uyunul-Akhbar iv, 103 (cf. Amthal 
of al-Maidaniy ii, 60) that Zilmah, the notorious harlot of the 
tribe of Hudhail, when in her childhood, attended school and 
used to amuse herself with pens and inkpots. The fact is 
interesting inasmuch as it shows that, at least in the tribe of 
Hudhail, who were kinsmen of the Quraish and lived not far 
from Makka, children of both sexes used to go to schools, 
however crude and primitive in form these might have been. 

Again, in the words of an enthusiast, the fair of Ukaz was 
nothing less than the annual gathering of a Pan-Arab Literary 
Congress. It has caught the imagination of historians and other 
Arab writers from very early days and Professor Ahmad 
Amin of the University of Egypt contributed an interesting 
article on the subject to the journal of his college. Here I have no 



Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




space for the details except to refer to this Institution which has 
played such a conspicuous part in standardizing the Arabic 
language. 

Ghailan ibn Salamah of the tribe of Thaqif is reputed 4 to 
have been used to hold once a week a literary gathering where 
poems were recited and literary discussions and criticisms took 
place. On other days of the week he presided over the tribunal 
and administered justice and did other things. This is sure 
testimony of the high literary taste of his co-citizens of Taif in 
the Jahiliyah. 

The literary activity of the city of Makka at that time seems 
to be of still higher standard. The seven Mu'allaqat were hung in 
the Ka'ba, the sanctuary of this city, and it was this approval 
which has immortalized those seven poems in the Arabic 
literature. 

Waraqah ibn Nawfal was a Makkan. He translated in the 
Jahiliyah the Old and the New Testaments into Arabic. 

Apparently, it was the people of Makka who first made 
Arabic a written language. 5 And perhaps it is owing to this fact 
that even the uncouth privates of the army of this city were to a 
considerable extent literate. 6 

Story writing and fiction, that important branch of prose 
literature, was much cultivated in Makka as also in other parts of 



4 A^SwV^A^n by Al-Marzuqiy, II,pp. 70-80 ^ijU-Jl^bS'by Ibn Qutaibah in loco. 

5 by Ibn Nadim, p. 7 Cf. Fragment of ^I^Il^bS' by Qadamah published in 

Oxford. 

6 See infra. 

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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




Arabia, and during the nights of full moon people assembled in 
their family clubs or the municipal hall, where professionals 
and others recited extempore night tales (mas a ma rah). 7 

Literary taste does not seem to have been cultivated by 
pagan Arabs only. We possess the diwans (collection of poems) 
of Samaw'al ibn Adiya and other Jewish and Christian poets of 
the Jahiliyah. The Jews of Madinah are reputed to have 
established a Baitul Midras (home of learning) which survived 
down to Islamic times and was a centre of literary and 
religionistic activities. 

The large vocabulary for utensils of writing in the pre- 
Islamic Arabic is another proof in point. The Qur'an alone has 
used the following words: 

qalam=pen; nun=inkpot; raqq and qirtas=parchment and 
paper; marqum, mastur, mustatar, maktub, takhuttuhu, 
tumla, yumli=derivations of verbs meaning to write; 
kitab=amanuensis; midad=ink; kutub, suhuf, asfar, 
zubur — books; etc. 

In short, it must have been these and similar solid 
foundations on which the high and lofty buildings of art and 
letters could rise later in Islamic times to the pride of humanity. 

❖ Pre-Hijrah Islam 

Islam began, as is commonly known, when the Prophet 
Muhammad (XsiSO received his first revelation in his 40th year. 
There are no records to show that he ever studied the art of 



7 Cf. my article, The City State of Makka. 

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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




reading and writing in his youth, and generally he is believed to 
have remained unlettered all through his life. Yet how interesting 
and inspiring it is to note that the very first revelation he received 
from God was a command to him and his followers to read 
(iqra') eulogising the pen and ascribing to it all human 
knowledge: 

"Read in the name of thy Lord, Who created, Created 
man from a clot. Read, and it is thy Lord, Most 
Bountiful Who taught by the pen, Taught man that 
which he knew not" (96: 1-4). 

The Pen has been declared in a tradition ascribed to the 
Prophet 8 to have been the first of God's creation. 

We can conveniently adhere to the traditional division of the 
pre and post-Hijrah periods in detailing the life of the Prophet 
which coincide with the periods in which he did or did not wield 
any temporal authority as the head of a State. 

It is significant that almost all the verses of the Qur'an in 
praise of or in connection with learning and writing belong to the 
Makkan period, while the Madinite verses lay greater emphasis 
on action and performance. 

For instance: 

"Are those who know equal with those who know not" 
(96: 4-1). 

"And the knowledge ye have been vouchsafed but 
little" (17: 85). 



8 Tirrnidhi, 44-88, Abu Dawud, 39 : 16; Ib n Hanbal, V. p. 315, Tayalisy 877. 

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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 



<4. 



"Fear Allah alone the erudite among His bondmen" 
(35: 28). 

"And say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge" 
(20: 114). 

"Ye were taught that which ye knew not yourselves nor 
did your fathers (knew) it" (6: 92). 

"And if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea, 
with seven more seas (added to it), were ink, the words 
of Allah could not be exhausted" (31: 27). 

"By the Mount (Tur) and by a Scripture inscribed on 
parchment unrolled" (52: 1-3). 

"(By) the inkpot and by the pen and that which ye write 
herewith" (63: 1). 

"Had We sent down unto thee actual writing upon 
paper" (6: 7). 

"Ask the people of remembrance if ye know not" 
(16: 43). 

These are all Makkan verses. 

The purpose of raising a prophet in a nation is nothing but to 
teach, and hence no wonder if the Prophet remarked: "I have 
been raised up as a teacher (mua'llim)" (Ibn Abdul Barr, ^l. 

p.25). 

This is testified to by the Qur'an in the following terms: 

"(Abraham and Ishmael prayed): Our Lord! And raise 
up in their midst a messenger from among them who 
shall recite unto them Thy revelations and shall instruct 



Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




them in Scripture and in Wisdom and shall make them 
grow. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Mighty, Wise" 
(2: 129). 

"He it is Who hath sent among the unlettered ones a 
messenger of their own, to recite unto them His 
revelations and to make them grow, and to teach them 
the Scripture and Wisdom, though heretofore they were 
in error manifest" (62: 2). 

"Allah verily hath shown grace to the believers by 
sending unto them amessenger of their own who 
reciteth unto them His revelations, and causeth them to 
grow, and teacheth them the Scripture and Wisdom, 
though heretofore they were in error manifest" 
(3: 164). 

In fact preaching and teaching are the same thing, especially 
for one who made no distinction between Church and State and 
whose ideal was: 

"Our Lord! Give us good in this world and good in 
Hereafter, and guard us from the doom of Fire" 
(2: 201). 

And as early as the 2nd covenant of Aqabah, about two 
years before the Hijrah, when a dozen Madinites embraced 
Islam, they asked the Prophet to send along with them a teacher 
who could teach them the Quran and instruct them in Islam and 
the 

religious rites. Naturally, teaching at this stage meant only the 
explanation of the rudiments of the faith and the rituals 



Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




connected therewith. 

The most important thing connected with the Makkan period 
is that already at this early date the Prophet had scribes who took 
down regularly whatever was revealed to him and whose copies 
multiplied rapidly. We know, for instance, that when Umar 
embraced Islam, he had come across a copy of some of the Suras 
of the Qur'an in the house of his sister, who apparently could 
read. 

Lastly, I may refer in this connection to the story of Moses, 
mentioned again, in a Makkan Sura (Kahf ) who set out in quest 
of knowledge and had many thrilling experiences. The moral of 
the story is that no man, however learned he may be, knows 
everything, and that one must travel abroad in order to gain 
further knowledge and learning. In connection with travels in 
quest of knowledge, I may also refer to some traditions. 9 

❖ Post-Hijrah Islam 

Instead of a chronological arrangement of the data available 
regarding to Madinite period, we may conveniently divide the 
material under several heads such as administration of schools, 
examinations, boarding and lodging of resident students, 
arrangements to teach writing and reading, teaching of foreign 
languages, course and syllabus of general studies, women's 
education, education in provinces, inspection of provincial 
schools, and miscellaneous. 

To begin with, as we have just remarked, the Holy Prophet 



9 ^JjJL'UjJu P. 46. 



Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




had sent a teacher to Madinah even before he himself migrated 
to that place. Immediately after the Hijrah, we see him, in spite 
of enormous preoccupations in connection with defensive and 
pre- cautionary measures, finding time to supervise the work of 
eradicating illiteracy from Madinah. 

To this end he appointed Said ibn al-As to teach reading and 
writing; and he is reputed to write a good hand. 10 The Holy 
Prophet was so much interested in this matter that a year and a 
half after his migration, when two score and more Makkans were 
taken prisoners by him after the victory of Badr, he asked those 
among them who were literate, that each one of them should 
teach ten children of Madinah how to write. 11 Ubadah ibn al- 
Samit says that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah 
be upon him) appointed him a teacher in the school of Suffah 
(Madinah) for classes in writing and in Quranic studies. 12 

Suffah, literally an appurtenance of a house, was an 
enclosure connected with the Mosque of the Prophet in Madinah. 
This was set apart for the lodging of newcomers and those of the 
local people who were too poor to have a house of their own. 
This 

was a regular residential school where reading, writing, Muslim 
law, memorising of chapters of the Qur'an, tajwid (how to recite 
the Qur'an correctly), and other Islamic sciences were taught 
under the direct supervision of the Prophet, who took pains to 



ulx^l by Ibn Abdul Barr, p. 393. by Abdul Hai al-Kattaniy, 1, 48 (citing 
Abu Dawud). 

11 Kattaniy, op. cit. i. p.48, Ibn Hanbal 1, p. 247, Ibn Sa'd, 21, p. 14; ujtfl^ by 
Al-Suhailiy. II, p. 92. 

12 Kattaniy, I, p. 48, citing Abu Dawud and others. 

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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




see to the daily requirements of the boarders. The students also 
earned their living by working in their spare hours. 14 

The school of Suffah provided instruction not only for the 
boarders but also day- scholars and casual visitors attended it in 
large numbers. The number of the boarders in Suffah varied 
from time to time and a record shows that at one time there 
were seventy living in the Suffah. 15 

Besides the local population, batches of students from far- 
off tribes used to come and stay there for a while and complete 
their course before returning to their country. 16 

Often the Prophet asked some of his trained companions to 
accompany the tribal delegations on their return journey in order 
to organize education in their country and then return to 
Madinah 17 

In the early years of Hijrah, it seems to have been the policy 
of the Prophet to ask all those people who embraced Islam from 
among the people living outside Madinah, to migrate to the 
proximity of the metropolis, 18 where sometimes he allotted them 



13 And share with them his daily bread. 

14 Bukhari, Battle of Bir Ma'unah. 

15 Ibn Hanbal III, 375. 

16 Bukhari, pSl^l^j by Tabari, XI, p, 50: jjU-^^ij concerning verse 9 : 122. 

"And the believers shall not all go out to fight. Of every troop of them a party 
only shall go forth, that they (who are left behind) may gain sound 
knowledge in religion and that may warn their folk when they return to 
them so that they may beware (9: 122). Ibn Abdul Barr, pJuJI pp. 20, 21. 

17 Kattaniy 1, 43 ff. 

18 Wensinck 4x~Jl J3 £ ^bJi* s, v. 3 

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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




crown lands for colonisation. 19 The military and religious reasons 
which might have actuated this decision are obvious. Ibn Sa'd 20 
records, that once the Prophet sent a teacher, as usual, to a tribe 
recently converted to Islam. The teacher, according to the 
general instructions, asked the tribesmen to leave their homes 
and migrate to Madinah. 

And he added: 'whoso does not migrate, his Islam is no 
Islam and he will be treated as an unbeliever.' A delegation of 
the tribe set out for Madinah, waited on the Prophet and was 
enlightened. The Prophet explained to them that if they found 
difficulty in leaving their country on account of landed and other 
vested interests. It was not at all incumbent upon them to come 
over to Madinah. They would nevertheless be treated just as 
those who had embraced Islam and had migrated to Islamic 
territory. 

The despatch of teachers was a regular feature of the 
educational policy of the Prophet all through his life in Madinah. 
In the case of Bi'r Ma'unah, he had despatched 70 of his best 
Qur'an-knowers obviously because they had to deal with a vast 
country and a very large tribe. 

The arrival of batches of students was not the less frequent. 
As said above, the Prophet personally took interest in the school 
and boarding house of Suffah where they were generally lodged. 

Suffah was not the only school in Madinah. Ibn Hanbal 21 
records that at a certain time, a batch of 70 students attended the 

19 Abu Dawud, ii, p. 32; and others. 
oULL> ff. 

21 III, 137. 



Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




lectures of a certain teacher in Madinah, and worked there till 
morning. There were at least nine mosques in Madinah even in 
the time of the Prophet, 22 and no doubt each one of them served 
simultaneously as a school. The people inhabiting the locality 
sent their children to these local mosques. Quba is not far from 
Madinah. The people sometimes went there and personally 
supervised the school in the mosque of that places. 23 There are 
general dicta of the Prophet regarding those who studied in the 
mosque schools. 24 He also enjoined upon people to learn from 
their neighbours. 

An interesting episode has been recorded by Abdullah Ibn 
Amr ibn al-As, that one day the Prophet found, when he 
entered his mosque, two groups of people, one of them was 
engaged in prayer and devotional service to God, and the other in 
learning 

and teaching Fiqh. Thereupon the Prophet remarked that both the 
groups were doing praiseworthy things, yet the one excelled the 
other. As for the first, it prayed to God Who may or may not give 
them what they asked for at His will. As for the other, it learned 
and taught the ignorant. And in fact he (the Prophet) himself was 
raised up as a teacher (mu'allim) and the Prophet took his seat 
with this latter group. 

In this connection I may also refer to the famous and oft- 
quoted tradition that a learned man is far harder on Satan than 

Abu Dawud ff, J^ J ^l^l^^jUJI^ L? ^£. II, 468. 

23 IbnAbdul Barr. ^\ p. 97. 

24 Ibid., p. 14. 

25 Kattani, op. cit. I, 41. 

26 IbnAbdul Barr. ^UJI p. 25; and others. 

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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




one thousand devout ascetics together. 

The Prophet also taught personally. Umar and many other 
prominent companions regularly attended these classes and 
learnt the Qur'an, etc. Sometimes the Prophet inspected the study 
circle in has mosque and if he found any incongruity, he at once 
took steps to put it right. So, al-Tirmidhi 28 mentions that once the 
Prophet heard a discussion in his mosque for and against 
predestination. He came out of his room and he was so angry 
that, in the words of the narrator, the juice of pomegranate 
seemed to have been poured over his cheeks and forehead. Then 
he forbade discussion in such matters and remarked that many a 
former nation went astray on account of that question. 

Again, it was the decided policy of the Prophet, that only the 
most learned in the Qur'an and in the Sunnah should conduct the 
religious service 29 which implied the chieftainship of the place, 
tribe or town, and so people vied with each other in learning and 
passing the tests of government schools. 

These attempts did not prove futile, and literacy spread so 
rapidly that very soon after the Hijrah the Qur'an could prescribe 
compulsory records in documents and attestation of at least two 
persons for every transaction on credit, however small. In the 
words of the Qur'an the aim of written documents was as 
follows: 

"This is more equitable in the sight of Allah, and more 
sure for testimony and the best way of avoiding doubt 

27 Suyuti op cit. s.v. ^ and <uB citing Bukhari and Dailami. 

28 JjU^ in loco. 

29 Muslim ibn al'Hajjaj in loco. 

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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 



<4. 



between you." 30 

Obviously this could not have been enforced without a large 
diffusion of literacy 31 among the inhabitants of the Muslim State. 
The writing down of the wahy (revelations), political treaties and 
conventions, state correspondence, enlistment of militia, 32 
permanent representation, especially in Makka, to inform the 
central government of what was going on in other countries and 
states, census 33 and many more such things were in those days 
directly connected with and necessitated the expansion of 
literacy. More than 200 letters of the Prophet have come down to 
us in history 34 and many more must have been lost since the 
Prophet ruled over a country of over a million square miles in 
area for a whole decade. 

The Prophet was the first to introduce seals in Arabia. 35 His 
care for legibility may be gathered from his obiter dicta, that you 
must dry the ink on the paper with the use of dust before folding 
it, 36 that you must not omit the three curves of the letter (^) and 

not dash it with a single stroke of (<j-) 37 as it shows carelessness 

and laziness; that you must put the pen, during the intervals of 
writing, on your ear since this is more of a reminder to one who 



0 Quran, 2: 282. 



31 There were also professional scribes for the use of the public. Kattani, vol. 
I, pp. 275-77. 

32 Kattani, vol. 1, p. 221, citing Muslim. 

33 Bukhari, pp. 56 ; 181 (1). 

34 Cf. my "Corpus des Traites et lettres diplomatiques de l'lslam al'epoques 
Prophete et des Khalifes Orthodoxes". 

35 Kattani, I, p 177; Baladhuri, 

36 Kattani, I, p. 129. 

37 Ibid., p.l25ff. 



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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




dictates (^Ju^ll /il). 

Already in the time of the Prophet, specialisation have 
developed considerably and the Prophet encouraged it. So, he 
has said that whoever wants to learn the Qur'an must go to such 
and such a person, and whoever wants to learn tajwid, and the 
mathematics of dividing a heritage and law must have recourse 
to such and such persons. 39 

There are several traditions forbidding teachers to accept 
any remuneration, 40 which shows that it was a custom of long 
standing to reward the teacher. Ubadah ibn al-Samit relates that 
he taught the Qur'an and the art of writing in Suffah and one of 
the pupils presented him with a bow. The Prophet, however, 
commanded him not to accept the same. 41 

As the head of the State, the Prophet required the services of 
those who knew foreign languages. Zaid ibn Thabit, the chief 
amanuensis of the Prophet, is reputed to have learnt Persian, 
Greek, Ethiopian, and Aramaic. 42 And at the express instance of 
the Prophet, he learnt the Hebrew script in some weeks. 43 It was 
he who wrote letters addressed to Jews and it was he who read 
out to the Prophet letters received from them. 

The question of the course and syllabus is difficult to 



™ Kattani. 

39 Ibn Sa'd and others, in loco. 

40 Suyuti s.v. ^Lk citing Tabarani; Bukhari, 37, p. 16, Abu Dawud 
33:36 

41 Abu Dawud II, p. 129, also cited by Shibli ^lo^-, II, P. 88. 

42 Kattani, I,p. 202, citing Ibn Abd Rabbibi jo^ill j£c and others. 

43 Kattani, I, p. 203; citing Bukhari and others. 

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Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 



<4. 



pronounce upon with exactitude. From the scanty material at our 
disposal we come to the conclusion that no uniform course was 
followed everywhere. The teacher rather than the course was the 
main factor. Still we can glean this much of information that 
besides the all-embracing Qur'an and the Sunnah, the Prophet 
enjoined instruction in shooting (of arrows, 44 ) swimming 45 
mathematics of dividing a heritage in the Qur'anic proportions, 46 
the rudiments of medicine, 47 astronomy, 48 genealogy 49 and the 
practical phonetics necessary in reciting the Qur'an. 50 Again, the 
teacher was to be treated with respect. 51 

The Arabs of Makka laid great stress on purity of language 
and on desert life free from the vices of the cosmopolitan Makka. 
So, they used to send their newborn babies to various tribes in 
the interior of the country for several years. The Prophet himself 
had undergone this useful training and remembered it in his later 
life. It is said that the practice has not been discontinued to this 
day among the aristocracy of Makka. Again, as commerce was 
the main profession of the Makkans, young men were 
apprenticed to leaders of caravans. 

Some distinction was made even in those early days 



Suyuti op. cit. S. v. I^Ji^ citing j***^! <3jcw« $1 tcs ^Ju^ 

Ibid., S. v. \ 3 ^lc citing 
46 Ibid., s.v. I^Jlsu citing J>\^ 4u jiaS>b and others; Ibn Abdul Barr pA*JI p. 80; Abu 
Dawud 18: 1; Ibn Majah, p. 23: 1. 

47 



48 



Suyuti, s.v. citing Malik. 
Ibid., Ij^Juu citing Ibn Saniy. 



49 Ibid., s.v. pSjL^Jl^ l^Juu citing Malik, Tirmidhi, Tabari, Baihaqi. 

50 Ibid., s.v. |»>scJl y>\ i y 3 ^o citing Dailami. 

51 Ibid., Ij^Jlso citing Tabarani. 



Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 



<4. 



between the education of children and that of adults. Shooting 
and swimming were expressly enjoined upon children (sibyan). 
Again, the Prophet said that boys of seven should be taught how 
to take part in religious service, and should be compelled at ten if 
they disregarded it. 52 

Girls were treated separately. The Prophet set apart a special 
day when he lectured to women exclusively and replied to their 
questions. 53 Spinning was regarded by him as their special 
occupation. 54 A tradition records that he asked a lady to teach the 
art of writing to one of his wives. 55 His wife 'Aishah was so 
gifted in Fiqh and Muslim sciences besides letters, poetry and 
medicine 56 that the Prophet is said to have remarked that she 
mastered half of the human sciences. The Qur'an had also 
specially enjoined upon the wives of the Prophet to teach 
others. 57 An interesting tradition says: 

"Who possesses a slave girl and teaches her and teaches 
her well and trains her and trains her well, and then 
liberates her to marry her as a regular wife, he shall 
have double merit. 



„58 



Gradually the Muslim State, which at first consisted only of 
a part of the city of Madinah, extended far and wide in the 



52 Suyuti., op. cit. s.v. I>Jlc citing Ibn Hanbal, Tirmidhi, Baghawi. 

53 Bukhari jjull 

54 Suyuti, s.v. I^Jlc (J)*)1 l^Sjj J> ^^Jl^ ^6 ) citing Abu Nairn, Ibn Minda. 

55 Kattani, op. cit, I, pp. 49-55; citing Abu Dawud and Qadi 'Iyad. 
Shibli (Ji iS\ II, p. 407; etc. 

57 Quran. 33:34. 

58 Ibn Abdul Barr pJbJI p. 46. 



Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




Arabian Peninsula, and not only nomadic tribes but also settled 
Arabs of towns and cities embraced Islam in large numbers. The 
conversion to the new faith necessitated a very extensive 
educational service embracing the million square miles under the 
Muslim sway in the time of the Prophet. Teachers were sent 
from Madinah to important centres and the provincial governors 
are made responsible for the organization and control of local 
schools. 

The long document 59 exhaustively enumerating the duties of 
Amr ibn Hazm as governor of Yaman has fortunately been 
preserved by historians in toto. It contains express instructions 
for the diffusion of knowledge of Muslim sciences, the Qur'an, 
Hadith and Fiqh. There is an interesting sentence which throws a 
flood of light on the distinction between religious and secular 
education. It runs: "And persuade 60 people to take to religious 
lore." 

Daily ablutions, weekly baths, congregational services, 
yearly fasting and the pilgrimage to the Ka'ba were also to be 
taught by the governor-teacher. 

To enhance the standard of provincial education, the Prophet 
appointed at least in Yaman an inspector-general of education, 
who was a touring officer in the various districts and provinces 
and looked after the schools and other educational institutions. 61 
Finally we may refer to the theoretical aspect of education as 



3V Ibn Hisham , p. 961-62; Tabari, Annales, p. 1727-29 1,248-49, Suyuti. 

60 Suyuti, s.v. Ij^Jl^ Q^~jo X? 1>«J^ :<J»*J! (j*j*>- r*i«li i>^*> ^5 citing I° n Saad, 
Baihaqi, Ibn Hanbal. 

61 Regarding governor of Makka, etc., cf. Kattani, 143 ff. 

m 



Educational System in the time of the Holy Prophet ( Afc) 




emphasized in the Qur'an and the tradition. 

The Qur'an is full, from the beginning to the end, of most 
unequivocal and vehement denunciation of unimaginative 
imitation, enjoining original thinking and personal 
investigations. No other religious Book in the world has laid 
such stress on the study of nature, the sun, the moon, the tide, the 
approaching night, the glittering stars, the dawning day, plants 
and animal life, presenting them all in testimony of the 
laws of nature and the power of the Creator. According to the 
Qur'an, knowledge is unending and the whole universe is made 
subservient to man, the Agent of God in this world. Again one 
must abide by the truth and not be prejudiced by narrow 
notions of hereditary customs and beliefs. 63 

In the Hadith also learning has been praised lavishly and 
learned people have been declared to be the best of men 64 and 
even the inheritors and successors of prophets. 65 Lastly, I shall 
refer to an oft-quoted tradition. 66 Though not universally 
acknowledged to be genuine in its present form of wording, yet 
its sense is quite in consonance with the general teaching of the 

62 



63 



Ibn Abdul Barr. pLJI julbJl ^ referring to <&! 6* p^ 5 ^* js A 0 *' s**&) 
Cf. Abu Dawud pp. 24 : 1, 3 ; Tirtnidhi, pp. 39, 2. 19. ^U^I^ujlLj ff 31. 4^a1« 
^jWlff 17. 

64 ^jJI J Alh\j^^\ ^ ^ Bukhari, 3 :10, 13 : 96 : 10— &\ <uj1* ff 17 _ 

4^a1« ff 23-Ibn Abdul Barr, pJuJI pp. 16-17 ( q 3 ^jc^J\ 3 *U1*JI j-bJI^-) 
^JjJlff. 25,31. 

65 ^LJ^!%fLJbJ! (Bukhari, 3: 10; Tirmidhi, 39: 9; Ibn Abdul Barr, p. 21). 

66 pi « JS" Jic 2^J> Jl*JI oJL jls ^3^1 ^ jlS^ pJuJI IjjiU (Ibn Abdul Barr, 

JUll, Baihaqi. jU^lo^ A Ibn Ediy, J^VSJQ Ibn Abdul Barr, Jl*J( p. 84; 

rm 


<4. 


Qur'an and the tradition. I mean the command: Seek knowledge 
even if it be in China since the seeking of knowledge is 
obligatory upon every Muslim, man and woman." 



("O God I ask Thee for useful learning, righteous livelihood 
and actions accepted by Thee") 


Such was the prayer of the Prophet (fyt&). 






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