Research Group 5a "Knowledge and Society"
Second Research Seminar


Date & Time: October 30, 1999 14:30-

Place: The University of Tokyo, Institute of Oriental Culture


We were fortunate to have AKUTSU Masayuki of Keio University Graduate School as a presenter at the second research seminar of the Knowledge and Society group. The title of his presentation was "The Transmission of Knowledge and the Interrelationship of the Branches of Knowledge in Islam: Focus on the Madrasa of Aleppo".

Mr.Akutsu began the report with critiques on the previous studies on Madrasa, and then contrasted them with his own views, working towards an understanding of the relationship between knowledge and society. He focused on the synchronism between two processes: firstly, the spread of Madrasa, and secondly, the establishment of Sunni hegemony, which the speaker defined as "socio-political reintegration". Previous research in this area was reviewed according to how it stresses the ideological relationships between these two processes. On the one hand, there is research which does not recognize any interrelation between the two processes, such as that done by Makdisi. On the other hand, there are researchers such as Talas, who accept that the Madrasa may have had an ideological basis, viewing Sunni Madrasas as means to offset Shi'ism. But the latter group has not produced sufficient explanations as to why an educational institution like the Madrasa could assume an ideological aspect.

Mr. Akutsu also focused on the sectarian strife in Zangid Aleppo. He chose this topic specifically because he saw modern research as lacking in its understanding of sectarian strife, which is deeply related to power struggles. Mr. Akutsu said that although the conflicts had been caused by the Madrasa, there has been no attempt made in modern research to deepen understanding of these conflicts in the context of education and knowlege. In this way, his presentation examined, from the perspective of education, the relationships between the educational institution of the Madrasa, and politics and society.

Mr. Akutsu analyzed the curricula of the Madrasa by considering what subjects were taught there, and how they were being taught. He began by outlining the educational backgrounds of the founding professors of Aleppo's three Madrasas, all of which were founded in the 12th century. These men are assumed to have learned their various disciplines such as Qur'anic science, Hadith science, jurisprudence and adab unsystematically, through repeated study under various teachers.

Based on this analysis, Mr. Akutsu criticized both Makdisi's theory that Madrasa education specialized in jurisprudence, and Leiser's theory which claims, assuming the Madrasa education did in fact specialize in jurisprudence, that the purpose of the Madrasa in Egypt was the Islamization of society. It was shown that since educational methods and disciplines have not changed since before the advent of the Madrasa, it is not possible to see an ideological basis for the Madrasa when it is viewed merely as an educational institution.

To back up this theory, Mr. Akutsu mentioned that when Ibn Khallikan was enrolled as a student of the Madrasa, he simultaneously had been studying other subjects elsewhere. The report also brought up the existence of Madrasa library stocks which include many texts which predate the emergence of the Madrasa, as well as the fact that al-Kasani, respected professor of the Aleppo Madrasa, did not make a great contribution to the field of jurisprudence (Y. Meron ).

Mr. Akutsu then shifted his focus to the traditional discipline classifications in Islam. That is, while introducing Ibn Khaldun's classifications of disciplines, he pointed out the relative meaninglessness of applying modern discipline classifications to Islamic sciences. He even argued the equation "Jurisprudence = Qur'anic science & Hadith" science is possible. Here Mr.Akutsu criticized Makdisi again that he employed theoretical characteristics to explain reality.

How then, did Mr. Akutsu handle the original question of explaining the relationship between ideology and Madrasa? Based on the above reasoning, he pointed out the futility of studying the Madrasa as an indivisible entity, and that analysis of each individual alim or 'ulama household is necessary. He concludes that the basis of ideology is found in the survival strategies of individual families, which came to rival one another for Madrasa professorships inspite of their traditional belief that education must not be a means to acquire worldly fruits.

One of the points brought up during the discussion following was that there may be an important correlatioin between the ulama's use of lakab and the spread of the Madrasa.This question is of particular interest since it brings up another dimention of the relationship between ideology and the Madrasa.

This research seminar offered important insight into studies related to knowledge and society in Islamic society. For further study, comparative analyses of the texts in various branches of science which were actually used in Madrasa education may yield a deeper understanding of the subtle relationship between knowledge and society.