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“There Are ‘ulamā’, and Then There Are ‘ulamā’ ”: MinorReligious Institutions And Minor Religious Functionariesin Medieval Cairo

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Chapter Summary

If much pre-modern Islamic social history is perforce the history of the ulamā, then it comes as no surprise that one particularly well-developed sub-field concerns the history of religious education and the institutions that supported them. First, the education took place in a wide variety of institutions. Some were specifically called madrasas, but others were known by a variety of terms associated with Sufi activities, especially khanqah. While the establishment of each institution devoted to Islamic education, whether a madrasa or anything else, was an act of individual charity, collectively the flourishing of institutions of education had a political dimension. Finally, for all the importance of the madrasas and other institutions established in the medieval period to support the transmission of 'ilm, education itself remained fundamentally informal, particularly in the mechanisms through which the 'ulamā' measured the quality of education and regulated access to 'ulamā' status.

Keywords: Islamic education; medieval cairo; minor religious functionaries; ulamā



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