Who went to a madrassa?
If you had done well at your maktab (elementary school), your parents might decide to send you on to a madrassa (high school and college) when you were about fourteen years old. That’s the same age as most kids today when they start high school. (But Ibn Khaldun and Al-Ghazali actually both started at twelve.)
What is a maktab?
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Generally boys went to madrassas rather than girls, and only if their parents could afford to send them. Some boys could walk to a madrassa, and some had to go to a bigger town where they had a school. Those boys slept in dormitories at the madrassa, or rented rooms nearby. But there may have been some girls, too, as the story of Layla and Majnun shows.
Layla and Majnun
Medieval Islamic women
When did the first madrassas open?
The earliest madrassas were probably built beginning about 850 AD, replacing earlier Roman and Sassanian schools. Like maktabs, madrassas were usually next to a mosque.
What is a mosque?
Roman high schools
What did you learn at a madrassa?
At the madrassa, boys learned more about Islam, but they also studied non-religious subjects like algebra, astronomy, medicine, history, poetry, and law.
Islamic science and math
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Medicine in medieval Islam
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Scholars, research, and study
Madrassas were also centers for research and study for adults, like universities today. They were open to anybody who wanted to visit and learn, if the visitors knew enough to be able to understand what they heard.
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