In this article we will discuss about the position of education under the Sultans of India during medieval age.
Education has occupied an important position in society since earliest times. Both the Hindu rulers and public showed great interest in education. With the coming of the Muslims the educational system of India suffered a set-back and the Muslim rulers introduced far reaching changes in the educational system in India. Some of the Muslim rulers even destroyed Hindu education and established Madrasas and Maktabs.
In these Madrasas and Maktabs no distinction was made between religious and secular education.
As Pickthall writes “the mosque was the university of Islam in the great days, and it deserved the name of university, since it welcomed to its presents, all the knowledge of the age from every quarter. It was this unity and exaltation of all learning which gave to the old Muslim writers that peculiar quality which every reader of them must have noticed, the calm serenity of orbed minds.”
Prof. A.L. Srivastava has also pointed out that the education in medieval India was so much dominated by theological considerations that secular subjects, upon which depended the economic, social and political well-being of the people, were practically ignored. There was hardly any arrangement for teaching of the subjects of Indian interest such as Indian History, philosophy, Sanskrit, language and literature….
This was probably due to the fact that the State wanted a certain type of men, and the ulama who were controlling the education, were interested in the creation of orthodox Muslims and maintaining supremacy of Islam. Thus the objectives of the two wore identical and they co-operated in the implementation of the scheme.
It may be noted that while the Madrasas were the centres of higher learning, the Madrasas provided primary and lower secondary education. The finances for the Madrasas was usually provided by the State or by some rich nobles.
The primary education was mainly in private hands. These Madrasas and maktabs were mainly set up on the pattern of the educational institutions prevailing in Persia and Central Asia and soon became great centres of Muslim learning’s.
The first Madrasa is said to have been set up by Shihabuddin Mohammad Ghori at Ajmer. Iltutmish who consolidated the Sultanate of Delhi also set up a Madrasa at Delhi and named it after Mohammad Ghori. Balban another ruler of the Sultanate period also gave patronage to men of learning.
Amir Husain and Amir Khusrau were the luminaries of his Court. Balban also encouraged jurists, physicians, astronomers and mathematicians.
Ala-ud-din Khilji the next Sultan also founded a Madrasa attached to Hauz-i-Khas and continued to patronize men of learning. Muhammad Tughlaq also established a Madrasa in Delhi in 1346 and attached a Mosque to it.
In the times of Feroz Tughlak, higher education made great advance, he was a great lover of learning and patron of scholars and is said to have endowed 30 Madrasas in different parts of his kingdom. Usually large estates were assigned to these Madrasas to meet their expenses.
Feroz Tughlak also made liberal land grants for the upkeep of educational institutions. He encouraged men of learning and gave stipends to poor students to enable them to pursue their studies. Feroz Tughlak even converted karkhanas (workshops) into institutions of vocational training where the captives of war were taught different arts and crafts so that they could become independent and useful citizens.
As regards the curriculum of the Madrasas, they usually followed the same pattern. More emphasis was laid on theological education. According to Barani, a contemporary writer, the subjects taught at Madrasa-i-Ferozeshahi at Delhi were Tafsir (exegesis), Hadis (traditions) and Fiqh (jurisprudence). In addition, subjects like grammar, literature, logic, mysticism and scholasticism were also taught.
As regards the method of teaching very little is known. Probably the traditional method of teaching through books and making students memories important works was in vogue. As there were no printing press, books were written by hands and special persons were engaged for this purpose.
Libraries must have been attached to these institutions but the contemporary records do not provide us any information on this point.
The medium of instruction was Persian and the study of the Arabic was compulsory for the Muslims. Corporal punishments were inflicted on students. The admission to Madrasa was given only to a small section of people and the non-Muslims were usually denied admissions.
As Prof. N. N. Law says:
“The education of the majority of the population was not regarded as a responsibility of the State, and it was only towards the end of the period during Sikandar Lodi’s that the Hindus connected with the courts of Muslim rulers, commenced to study Persian literature.”
In fact the Hindus could not derive any benefit from this system of education based on Quran and Arabic literature. Prof. Keay has rightly said that “We cannot, of course, always rely on the statement of historians, many of whom were court favorites, and anxious to show in the height the activities of their patrons. It seems that colleges which were called into being by royal patrons, and existed by the subsidies which they allowed, easily came to naught if patronage was not continued by their successors, or in times of distress, like Timur’s invasion. And a college does not necessarily mean a large institution. It may mean no more than a class attached to a mosque with a single teacher-in-charge.”
With the disintegration of the Tughlak empire, some of the provincial capitals also grew into seats of learning. For example, at Jaunpur Ibrahim played an important role in spreading science and learning among the Muslims and earned the title of ‘Shiraz of India’ from ‘Ferishta’.
Ibrahim was a great patron of learning and constructed number of schools and colleges in his empire. During his reign a number of scholars from different parts of the country flocked to Jaunpur to receive higher education. Jaunpur retained this reputation of educational centre for a long time.
In the Bahmani kingdom of the Deccan also several colleges and schools were founded Sultan Muhammad Shah opened various educational centres in his kingdom and patronized scholars. Bahmani rulers provided huge funds for the education of orphans and provided many facilities to the teachers.
In 1470 A. D. Khawaja Mohammad Gawan, the Wazir of Bahmani kingdom built a Madrasa at Bidar and appointed Ibrahim Multani, a great scholar and saint as its Principal. The Madrasa also had a big library which contained more than three thousand books.
In Bijapur, Adil Shah, patronized scholars from Persia and Turkistan. Qutab Shah of Golconda also established a number of institutions of primary and higher education. In Bengal, Sultan Hassan Shah set up a college in the memory of the famous saint Qutbul Alam.
In addition, he also established a number of Madrasas throughout his empire. In these Madrasas prominent Arabic scholars were engaged to teach theology, law and literature.