Education during the Medieval Period is centred on the Quran. Without the ability to read and write, it would have been impossible to study the Quran, the Hadith, and other sciences. The Prophet Mohammed exhorts all people of faith to acquire knowledge.
However, unlike the previous systems of learning, there was no requirement for the strictness associated with Vedic schools nor renunciation (rejection) of the world. The Islamic system of education is open to all followers of the faith irrespective of one’s status.
Education was imparted in three ways:
- Maktab (for elementary education)
- Madrasa (for higher learning and generally attached to a mosque)
- Khanqah (theological training)
Maktabs had an age of admission around four years, which was marked by a religious ceremony. Early training focused on the R’s of learning – reading, recitation, writing, and arithmetic. The study of the Quran would start from around age seven.
Madrasas included a comprehensive study of the Quran and its commentary by established theologians alongside practical subjects like agriculture, accountancy, astrology, astronomy history, geography, mathematics, Islamic law and jurisprudence and statecraft i.e., the art of administration) and languages such as Arabic and Persian. Akbar enabled the study of Sanskrit and Upanishads for Hindu students who wished to learn at the Madrasa. The education was based upon the political, social and economic needs of the community at large. Students had the freedom to choose subjects according to one’s interests and their aims in life.
Post-madrasa training could be followed up by engaging the services of a learned teacher (for example, Abdul Qadir Badaoni, Abul Fazl, Faizi). Madrasas provided facilities for residence for both, students and teachers. In this regard, they were similar to Buddhist Viharas and temple colleges of South India from after the 7th century CE. Khanqahs can be linked to monasteries of Medieval Europe and they were often linked to the tombs of celebrated, much loved, and respected saints. These came to be regarded as Dargahs.
In the course of time, the arts themselves came to be influenced by the tast.es, ideas, and interests of the patrons, namely, Muslim rulers in Medieval India.
During the Medieval Period, education suffered a setback due to changed political circumstances. Educational work was carried out in the villages and towns by private individuals and institutions. The mediums of instruction were Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian. Education, however, was made available to only a small section of people e.g., the elite and the ulema, the Brahmins, and a few upper caste groups. The education of girls was perceived as being a personal matter to be decided by their fathers or guardians. Women from the Muslim nobility were permitted to receive education in their homes at the hands of teachers who were presented with expensive gifts. Since, only a relatively small number of people belonging to the upper strata of society, it is reasonable to assume that the education of girls and women during the Medieval period was bleak.