The Sunnite Madrasa vs. the Shiite Dar al-Ilms: A Discussion on the Book of Naqd [1]

Leonardo Capezzone, Translated by Farideh Mahdavi Damghani

The historical resources of the fifth century have broadly referred to the measures taken by Saljouqids to destroy The Dar al-Ilm of Abu Nasr Shapour (the Shiite Vizier of Buids), The Dar al-Ilm of Sharif Razi and The Dar al-Ilm of Sharif Murtada in Baghdad, The Dar al-Kutub of Azod al-Dowlah Bouyah in Shiraz and The Library of Sahib Ibn-i Abbad (the Shiite Vizier of Buids) in Ray. This has resulted in a bad fame for Seljuqs –who pretended to be Muslims and following the Abbasid Caliphate and the Shafiie denomination. At the same time, the historians and researchers in the field of civilization and culture have referred to the considerable role of Seljuqs in the development of Madrasa (and consequently the development of the history of educational institutes in the Islamic civilization). Therefore, it is believed that these Sunnite rulers played a considerable and even the major role on the one hand against the Shiite scientific centers (Dar al-Ilms and Dar al-Kutubs of Buids and Fatimids of Egypt) and on the other hand for the compensation of the damages occurred to the science and scientists. However, a review on the book of Naqd reveals that its author avoids from referring to the name of the burned-down libraries, Dar al-Ilms and Dar al-Kutubs as much as possible; instead, he refers to the Shiite founders of these scientific centers, smartly, through emphasizing their social and philanthropist services and their appropriate policies in governing the country and the people; to this end, Abd al-Jalil primarily refers to constructing bridges, streams, canals, and hospitals and arranging debate sessions and … rather than establishing Dar al-Ilms and libraries specifically used by the scholars and the residents in the caliphs courts. He also appreciates the vast attempt made by the Seljuqs in the establishment of schools and the role of the Shiite viziers to this end and in equipping and supporting the schools (through mortmain, endowments, charities and …). He tries to show that the schools of the age of the Seljuqs were the natural and historical extension (rather than altercation) of the preceding Dar al-Ilms, Dar al-Kutubs and Dar al-Hikmahs. Hence, he proudly refers to the vast number of the Shiite viziers and delegates (by mentioning their names and positions) in the Seljuqs courts and their numerous schools and cultural mortmain at this age. He provides ample samples for their services to their people and for their obedience of the Seljuqs cultural policies. Therefore, he perfectly ignores the well-known quarrel existing between the Shiites and Sunnites in his historical analysis. Among the reasons and proofs which question the famous quarrel between the Madrasas and Dar al-Ilms and lends support to the analysis of Abd al-Jalil Razi (in the book of Naqd), one can refer to the existence of the Sunnite Dar al-Ilms, such as the Dar al-Ilm of Ibn-i Siwar in Basra at the age of Buids and the Dar al-Ilm of Maristani in Baghdad after Buids and also the numerous Shiite schools in Qom and Ray at the age of Seljuqs. Furthermore, Abd al-Jalil appreciates turning the scientific centers and libraries into mortmain and open-to-public centers at the age of Seljuqs –which was a positive step in education– and also the attempt by the Seljuqs to collect the books of the preceding Dar al-Ilms and duplicate them. In this way, he implicitly shows that the scientific inheritance of the age of Buids is still maintained and the wise Seljuqs viziers and clerks could save them and transfer them as mortmain to the libraries of the following schools.

[1] This article is a translation of an article in French language titled as: MADRASA SUNNITE VERSUS DAR AL-'ILM CHIITE? (En marge du Kitab al-Naqd, sur les politiquesculturelles et les imageshistoriographiques entre les poquesbouyide et seldjoukide)