Before the advent of the Muslims in India, they had already developed a system of education suited to their genius. By the eleventh century AD. , The institutions of higher learning in the Muslim countries, called Madrasahs, had developed into centers of learning with a distinct religious bias. In India, these Madrasahs were founded by Sultans, nobles, and their influential ladies. The main objective of this education was to train such ulama or scholar who would become eligible for the civil service as well as performing duties as judge or qadhi.
Iltutmish was the first to establish a madrasah at Delhi, naming it “Madrasah-e-Muizzi”, after the name of Muizzuddin Muhammad Ghori. Balban, the Chief Minister of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud, founded “Madrasah Nasiriyya” after the name of his master. Minhajus Siraj, the author of “Tabaqat Nasiri”, was appointed its principal. Gradually many madrasahs came into being. In Muhammad Tughlag’s period there were 1000 madrasahs only in Delhi. Sultan Firoz Shah founded “Madrasah Firoz Shahi” on the southern side of the Hauz Khaz in Delhi. There were many Madrasahs in small and big, rural and urban areas. However, the important scholars were only in the madrasah of important centers.
The grants, which were given to ulama in the form of Madad-e-Ma’ash (financial support) lead to the foundation of many madrasahs. The education was given in Sufi centers also. This trend of education continued during the Khilji Dynasty. Though Alauddin himself was uneducated and it was proved as a threat to the future of his dynasty. However, Delhi continued to project as an important center of knowledge, scholars and writers. Due to the influence of Hz. Nizamuddin, there was demand for religious and mystic teachers as well.
The minister of Alauddin Khilji, Shamsul Malik patronized the knowledge. During this period there was a tremendous progress in fiqh, theology, lexicography and exegetic writing during this period. The study of Greco-Arab medicine was also given special attention. The most important physician of this period was Badruddin Dimashqi and Juwaini.
From the time of Iltutmish to the reign of Sikandar Lodhi the curriculum of the madrasahs followed a set pattern. According to Barani, the main subjects taught at the Madrasah Firoz Shahi were tafsir, hadith and fiqh. In ma’qulat, Sharhi Shamsiah and Sharhi Shafia were included. Besides these subjects, grammar, literature, logic, mysticism and scholasticism were also taught.
Sultan Sikandar Lodhi brought some changes in the system of education. Apart from religious educations, rational educations were also included. Under him the progress of philosophy took place. The students used to copy themselves since the books were rare. Learned men from Arabia, Persia and Central Asia were invited to take charge of education in India. The tendency that started in the time of Sikandar Lodhi found its culmination in the reign of Akbar. He introduced reforms in the curriculum of primary schools and included the logic, arithmetic, moral, mensuration, geometry, astronomy, agriculture, physiognomy, and public administration, in the course of study. In studying Sanskrit, students ought to learn the Bayakaran, Niyai, Vedanta and Patanjal.
The system of education was then under the control of ulama who were in favor of Akbar’s curriculum. However, Hakim Fathullah Sirazi and his followers claimed a significant role in this system. Fathullah Sirazi was a philosopher, mathematician and scientist. His system was in later period developed by Mullah Nizamuddin. The curriculum of Mullah was known as “Dars Nizami”. The salient feature of the curriculum is to relate religious education with the Greek philosophy. For the practitioners of medicine, syllabus was different. They began their education with Arabic literature, grammar and philosophy, and then they start study “Canon fi al-Tibb” and “Kitab al-Shifa” of Ibn Sina. For the accountants and secretaries a separate curriculum was prepared at the end of Akbar’s reign.