in category Education

Which texts did the Ottomans use to teach Arabic language in their madrassas?

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Given how English is the language of the dominant academic community today, likewise Arabic was the language of the dominant academic community then and, for ideas to gain circulation and scholarly attention, they had to be expressed in Arabic.  The core texts the Ottoman madrasas used for teaching morphology and grammar were those of Ibn al-Hajib's (d. 646/1249) "Shafiya" for morphology and "Kafiya" for grammar.  Hamza Karamali in his monograph "The Madrasa Curriculum in Context" explains how the commentaries for both texts were advanced, theoretical, and difficult to understand, preparing students to use the commentaries and glosses of other sciences, particularly exegetical works on the Qur'an and hadiths, which painstakingly picked apart Arabic expressions using the analytical methods of these two sciences in order to precisely discern the intent of the author.  The most important teaching text he found in the science of rhetoric was that of Taftazani's (d. 792/1389) "Mukhtasar al-Ma'ani" which taught precise analysis of figurative expressions (ilm al-bayan) and the subtle connotations of word order and selection (ilm al-ma'ani).  This theoretical training was complemented by the study of eloquent expressions in ancient Arabic poetry, for which a popular book was Abu Tammam's (d. 231/845) "Diwan al-hamasa" which comprised a careful selection of the most eloquent snippets of pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabic poetry.

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