The Prophet Muhammad said "it is the duty of every Muslim man and woman to seek education," and under his influence, the Arabs were encouraged to pursue knowledge for its own sake. Fulfilling the duty to pursue knowledge gave Muslims a head-start in education. Among the early elementary educational institutions were the mosque schools which were founded by the Prophet himself; he sat in the mosque surrounded by a haiqa (circle) of listeners, intent on his instructions. Muhammad also sent teachers to the various tribes to instruct their members in the Qur'an.
The formal pursuit of knowledge had existed in one form or another since the time of the Greeks. The Arabs translated and preserved not only the teachings of the Greeks but those of the Indians and the Persians as well. More importantly, they used these basic teachings as a starting point from which to launch a mass revolution in education beginning during the Abbasid dynasty (750-1258 A.D.).
During the Abbasid period, thousands of mosque schools were established throughout the Arab empire and the subjects of study were increased to include hadith (the science of tradition), fiqh (ju-risprudence), philology, poetry, rhetoric and others. In tenth century Baghdad alone there were an estimated  3,000 mosques. Fourteenth century Alexandria had some 12,000 mosques, all of which played an important role in education.
In the mosque school, the teacher sat on a cushion and leaned against a column or wall as his students sat around him listening and taking notes. Only Muslirns were allowed to attend the Qur 'an or hadiih sessions, but non-Muslims could attend all other subjects. There was no age limit, nor were there any restrictions on women attending classes.
Historians such as Ibn Khallikan reported that women also taught classes in which men took lessons. Few westerners recognize the extent to which Arab women contributed to the social, economic and political life of the empire. Arab women excelled in medicine, mysticism, poetry, teaching, and oratory and even took active roles in military conllicts. Current misconceptions are based on false stereotypes of Arab life and culture popularized by some journalists and "Orientalists."
In the mosque schools, rich and poor alike attended classes freely. Classes were held at specific times and announced in advance by the teacher.
  Students could attend several classes a day, sometimes traveling from one mosque to another. Teachers were respected by their students and there were formal, if unwritten, rules of behavior. laughmg, talking, joking or disrespectful behavior of any kind were not permitted.

Different teachers used various methods of instruction. Some preferred to teach from a text first and then to answer questions. Others allowed student assistants to read or elaborate upon the instructor's theories while the teachers themselves remained available to comment or answer questions. Still others taught without the benefit of texts.
In 1066 A.D., Nizam al-Mulk, a Seljuk vizier, founded the Nizamiyya Madrasa in Baghdad which became the forerunner of secondary/college level education in the Arab empire. Madrasas had existed long before Nizam al-Mulk, but his contribution was the popularization of this type of school. The madrasa gave rise to various universities in the Arab empire and became the prototype of several early European universities. Founded in 969 A.D., AI-Azhar University in Cairo preceded other universities in Europe by two centuries. Today it attracts students from all over the world.
The madrasas, which literally mean "places for learning," were the beginning of departmentalized schools where education was available to all. The physical construction of the madrasas provided student dormitories. Each madrasa, depending on its location, had a specific curriculum. The subjects taught were the religious sciences (.e.g, the study of the Qur'an, hadith, jurisprudence and grammar) and the intellectual sciences (e.g. mathematics, astronomy, music and physics). As these schools began to attract distinguished teachers and specialists from all corners of the Arab empire, the number of disciplines increased. Teachers received substantial salaries and scholarships and pensions were available for students. Funds for operation of the madrasas came from both the government and private contributions. Since the government played an important role in promoting these institutions, the subject matter, choice of teachers and allocation of funds were closely supervised and regulated.

The development of the madrasa evolved from the various elementary and secondary schools which were prevalent in the Abbasid empire: the mosque school and other traditional institutions;

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