SOCIETY IN MOSQUES
in the mosque, and by the respect they enjoyed. He daydreamed that some day he himself would achieve such learning and status. In the same autobiographical passage, Ab¨ Shåma boasts of having been, indeed, an unusually diligent child.75 The childhood memories of Qu†b al-Dn al-Óasan b. Abd Allåh (d. 588/1192), who grew up to be the supervisor of the waqf endowments (mutawall al-awqåf ) of the great mosque of Aleppo, were not as rosy. He and his brother studied Qurån together in the congregational mosque, but while his brother had a ne memory and mastered the Qurån by heart easily, he agonized for days, trying to commit to memory s¨rat al-qalam (only nineteen verses long).76 A child with a poor memory must have had a hard time indeed: in medieval miniatures of kuttåb the teacher is usually pictured with a big beard and an intimidating rod.77 Moreover, the curriculum of kuttåb—whether held in mosques, private homes, or special buildings—included very little besides the study of the Qurån by heart (talqn). Perhaps, as suggested by Avner Giladi, this was the result of parents’ concern with providing the child (whose chances of survival past childhood were uncertain) rst, and as quickly as possible, with the basic knowledge that might protect him from the res of hell in the afterlife—the words of the Qurån.78 Some scholars thought this basic curriculum insufcient: the twelfth century writer al-Shayzar suggested a much wider range of subjects for elementary education: Arabic, arithmetic, poetry (only proper poetry: untainted with eroticism or Sh inclinations) and ªadth. In his opinion, as presented (and applauded) by Ibn Khald¨n, Qurånic studies should follow the study of other subjects, so that the child will
75 Ab¨ Shåma, Taråjim, 37–38. He also tells that while pregnant with him, his mother dreamt that she was calling the faithful to prayer from the top of the minaret. She hurried to an oneirologist, who told her that she would bear a son famous in learning and piety. 76 Ibn al-Adm, Bughya, 5:2430–31. Ibn al-Adm himself admits to having studied texts by heart for the pocket money and presents his father promised him (Yåq¨t, Mujam al-Udabå 5:2085). For the value of memorizing in medieval Islamic culture, see Chamberlain, Knowledge, 145–147. 77 Baer, “Muslim Teaching,” 76–77. 78 Giladi, “Individualism,” 105–106. The home schooling of the elite must have been richer: Saladin, for example, had his sons and maml¨ks listen to the recitation of ªadth and memorize the theological treatise of Qu†b al-Dn al-Nsåb¨r by heart, “so that it became xed in their minds from infancy.” (Ibn Shaddåd, Srat al-Sul†ån, 57, 60; trans. in Richards, Rare and Excellent, 18, 20). For much more about the Qurånic school, see Lev, Charity, 85–94.