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), and
- Khanqah (theological training)
Maktabs had an age of admission around four years, which was marked by a rite of entry. Early training focused on the R’s of learning – reading, recitation, writing, and arithmetic.
Several hours were spent on developing the art of writing. 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 (which were languages also taught elsewhere in the contemporary Islamic world). Noted scholar Abul Fazl informs us that 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.
Khanqahs can be likened 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.
Education of women: Muslim rulers at the imperial capitals at Delhi and Agra did not do anything remarkable for the promotion of the education of women.
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.
Art: In the course of time, the arts themselves came to be influenced by the tastes, ideas, and interests of the patrons, namely, Muslim rulers in Medieval India. 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.