Institutions of Learning and Education in Islam: between the Cultural Accommodation of Change, Religious Orthodoxy and the Politics of Cultural Islamisation

  • Bassam Tibi


Throughout Islamic history the conflict between the Enlightenment, that is, recognition of the primacy of reason vis-à-vis the sacred, and religious orthodoxy has revolved around a fight over the control of the institutions of learning. In medieval Islam the cultural borrowing from the Greek legacy contributed to the rise of Islamic rationalism. The Islamic fiqh-orthodoxy, though, succeeded in undermining the spread of this innovation in Islam. The great achievements of Islamic rational philosophers such as al-Kindi, Avicenna or Averroës, were thus being prevented from inclusion into the teaching of the madrasa, that is, the Islamic institution of learning. In cultural sociology, scholars are aware of the fact that new ideas and worldviews need to be institutionalised by establishing the related new knowledge in the system of education. Otherwise the new thinking will fail to have a social impact.1 This is exactly what happened in medieval Islam: Islamic rationalism was denied this needed institutionalisation and hence the lack of its impact on society becomes clear.


Muslim Country Muslim World Eleventh Century High Institution Muslim Society 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bassam Tibi
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of GöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Cornell UniversityUSA

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