Islamic Scholarship & Learning in Central Asia

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Islamic Scholarship & Learning in Central Asia during Abbasid Period

The educational institutions in Central Asia were graded and comprised elementary schools during the Abbasid Period. The educational system was further enlarged and elaborated. Elementary schools for senior students and institutions for advanced students. The formal education of the children usually begins at the age of six when they were admitted to elementary schools. The elementary schools were generally attached to the mosques. At the elementary stage boys and girls read tighter. The curricula for the elementary schools included reading, writing, grammar, traditions and arithmetic. After completing education in the mosque school, a student could seek admission to an educational institution meant for senior students. The syllabus of studies at such institutions included theology, jurisprudence, lexicography, and literature. In the institutions for advanced studies the curricula included astronomy, geometry, philosophy, music, medicine, and other studies. The Abbasid Caliph, Al-Ma'mun, set up an academy known as Bait ul Hikma which served as an institution of higher learning. Under the Seljuks, Minister Nizam-al-Mulk set up a University at Baghdad known as Nizamiyah. It was residential institution and scholars like Imam Ghazali taught at this university. Later the Abbasid Caliph Mutansir set up another University at Bagdad known as the Mustansiriyah. Numerous colleges were set up in various parts of the country. Some of the colleges in Khurasan and Persia were: Sadiyya, Bahaqiyya, Astrabadiyya, and Isfaranayya. One of the carvings on the Portals of these universities was that the world supported by four things: learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the religious and the valour of the brave.

As an adjunct to the process of education, the Muslims set up libraries. There were libraries attached to all educational institution. The Nizamiah university had four lakh books. The library at Ray had for hundred camel loads of books. Bukhara was one of the leading centres of learning, culture, and art in the Muslim world. Some of the greatest historians, scientists, and geographers in the history of Islamic culture were natives of the Central Asia who came to be known for their work during Abbasid rule in central Asia.

Furthermore scientists who were citizens of the Khilafah such as al-Khorezmi, Beruni, Farabi, Abu Ali ibn Sina brought fame to the area all over the world, generating respect across the world, and many scientific achievements of the period made a great impact on the European science. Al-Biruni (from Central Asia, 10th–11th centuries) is best known for his work of history, Chronology of Ancient Nations. He also wrote treatises on astronomy, geography, mathematics, and pharmacology.

Jabir Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) developed an early scientific method in his Book of Optics (1021). The most important development of the scientific method was the use of experiments to distinguish between competing scientific theories set within a generally empirical orientation, which began among Muslim scientists. Ibn al-Haytham is also regarded as the father of optics, especially for his empirical proof of the intromission theory of light.

Algebra was also pioneered by Persian Scientist Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī during this time in his landmark text, Kitab al-Jabr wa-l-Muqabala, from which the term algebra is derived. He is thus considered to be the father of algebra. The terms algorism and algorithm are also derived from the name of al-Khwarizmi, who was responsible for introducing the Arabic numerals and Hindu-Arabic numeral system beyond the Indian Subcontinent.

Medicine was advanced particularly during the Abbasids' reign in Central Asia. During the ninth century, Baghdad contained over 800 doctors, and great discoveries in the understanding of anatomy and diseases were made. The clinical distinction between measles and smallpox was discovered during this time in Central Asia. Famous Persian scientist Ibn Sina produced thesis and works that summarized the vast amount of knowledge that scientists had accumulated, and is often known as the father of modern medicine for his encyclopaedias, The Canan of Medicine and the Book of Healing. Some of his great works are: “Kitab Shifa al Nafs” (The book the healing of the soul); “Kitab al Najat al Nafs” (the book of the salvation of the soul); “Kitab al Isharat wal Tanbhihat” (The book of the hints and the Warnings).

Towards the end of 9th century, in Samarkand Al-Maturidi, a contemporary of Al Ash’ari established a school of Rational Theology or Kalam, which sought to effect a compromise between orthodoxy and Mutazilism.

In the 10th Century Abu Nasr Muhammad Al Farabi produced a book Aara Ahl al Madinah al Fadila. (the Opinins of the Virtuous City), and Al Siyasat al Madaniyya (Political Regimes’) he produced the concept of “Virtuous City” and “First Chief”.

Imam al Ghazali produced his classical work Ihya Ulum ul Din towards the end of 11th century.

Abul Barkat Al Baghdadi was an eminent philosopher of the twelfth century. His principal book is Kitab ul Mutahar (The Book of that which has been established by personal reflections). He held that the space is three-dimensional and infinite. He defined time as the measure of being. He held that there is no distinction between intellect and soul.

During Middle Ages the Muslims were the most advanced people in the world. While in Europe even the kings could not read and write, in the Muslim countries even the common man could read and write. According to Imam Abu Hanifah, the eminent jurist, the purpose of education in Islam is the acquisition of Taqwa. Taqwa means the right conduct.

“Education means the understanding of what makes or mars a soul, the acquisition of power and the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, between good and bad in regard to this and the next world, and the acquisition of the right and proper capacity to choose the right conduct to that the misguided intellect of man may not lead him astray.” Indeed no purpose of education could be nobler than that.


  • The Abbasid Revolution: S. Shabban
  • Cambridge History of Islam
  • History of Arabs: Philips K Hitti.
  • History of Islamic Peoples: Brokelmann
  • History of Caliphs: Sayyuti
  • A Study of Islamic History: K.Ali
  • History of Islam: Prof.Masudiul Hasan
  • Short History of Saracens: Amir Ali
  • Arab Conquest of Central Asia: A.R.Gibb