DAVID S. POWERS: If a legal system is going to survive over time, it needs some kind of institution by which to perpetuate itself. In the 11th century, Muslim rulers created such a new institution, and they gave it the name Madrasa, which means a place of study. A Madrasa was a law school in which professors taught Islamic law to students. The curriculum of the law schools included what are called the Islamic sciences. Students would study first the Quran and its interpretation, Hadith. In addition, they studied Arabic language and grammar, mathematics, astronomy, theology, and other subjects.
The method of instruction was oral in nature. A professor would read aloud to his students one of the great legal texts of the past, or his own legal text. And the students would transcribe the professor's lecture word for word, so that at the end of the process, each student would have his own copy of the text that was being dictated. At the end of this process, the professor would test the student to make sure that he had mastered the subject. And if the student had mastered the subject, the professor would award the student a kind of diploma, in which he would give him permission to transmit this text to future generations of students of Islamic law.
The Madrasas were supported economically by an important legal institution known as the [NON-ENGLISH]. A [NON-ENGLISH] is a pious endowment. The Muslim rulers who created the Madrasas, or law schools, would dedicate revenue producing properties, either in the cities or its surrounding countryside, to the interests of the Madrasa institution. They would take shops or mills or caravansarai, and declare that these properties henceforth could not be bought, sold, or transmitted by means of inheritance. The revenues generated by these properties were used to pay the salaries of the professors in the law schools, to pay stipends for the students who studied there, to provide them with a food allowance, and to pay for the people who maintained the institution.
It's interesting that the Islamic Madrasa appears in the Muslim world in the middle of the 11th century, after which it becomes a very common phenomenon. And that in Europe, the college Oxford, Cambridge, Padua, and others, appears 100 or 150 years later. Just after the crusades, which bring Europeans to the Middle East. And some scholars have suggested that there may be some influence of the Islamic Madrasa onto the European college.
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What is Islamic law? Explore the history as David S. Powers explains the origins, concepts, and misconceptions of Islamic law.
This video is part 5 of 7 in the What is Islamic Law? series.