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Title:The transmission of knowledge in medieval Cairo: a social history of Islamic education
Author:Berkey, Jonathan PorterISNI
Series:Princeton studies on the Near East
City of publisher:Princeton, NJ
Publisher:Princeton University Press
Geographic term:Egypt
Islamic history
Islamic education
Middle Ages
Abstract:The author interprets the social and cultural consequences of Islam's regard for knowledge, showing how education in the Middle Ages played a central part in the religious experience of nearly all Muslims. Focusing on Cairo, Egypt, which under Mamluk rule (1250-1517) was a vital intellectual centre with a complex social system, the author describes the transmission of religious knowledge there as a highly personal process, one dependent on the relationships between individual scholars and students. The great variety of institutional structures, he argues, supported educational efforts without ever becoming essential to them. By not being locked into formal channels, religious education was never exclusively for the elite but was open to all. The author explores the varying educational opportunities offered to the full run of the Muslim population - including Mamluks, women, and the 'common people'. Drawing on medieval chronicles, biographical dictionaries, and treatises on education, as well as the deeds of endowment that established many of Cairo's schools, he explains how education drew groups of outsiders into the cultural centre and forged a common Muslim cultural identity.