Elementary Education and Motivation in Islam: Perspectives of Medieval Muslim Scholars, 750–1400 CE

by Eeqbal Hassim


Motivation––both the act of motivating and the psychological state of being motivated––plays an important role in the education of children. This is a notion that a considerable number of medieval Muslim scholars addressed in their writings, albeit to varying degrees and through a variety of approaches (from literary to legal, and philosophical to psycho-spiritual).

Although medieval Muslim scholars expressed notable ideas about motivation in elementary education, there has been limited research on how their views developed in context. Despite past and present Muslim scholars emphasizing the importance of elementary education as a platform for adult learning and proper conduct, this field has received sparse attention in works on the history, theory, and practice of Muslim education. How medieval Muslim scholars viewed elementary education in general is one of the neglected areas of Muslim history.

This book provides a fresh, original insight into the theory, practice, and rhythms of elementary education in medieval Muslim societies over the course of six centuries. It expands our understanding of the history of Muslim education as well as Islam’s intellectual and social history. Its interdisciplinary approach to examining elementary education in medieval Muslim societies is of great importance to scholars of various fields of Islamic studies. It contributes to our wider understanding of Muslim education because it fills a gap in our appreciation of the theories and practices of elementary education in medieval Muslim societies, especially the question of how children were motivated to learn and how their motivation was understood by scholars and their teachers. For the first time, the ideas and practices of medieval Muslim elementary education are linked to their socio-historical context. This book has paved the way to discussing how prevalent social, religious, cultural, linguistic, economic, and political factors in medieval Muslim societies impacted the theory and practice of elementary education.

In this pioneering look at motivation in medieval Muslim elementary education, Eeqbal Hassim shows that the Muslim scholars’ ideas on the topic were mainly resistant to change. This finding correlates with limited progress in elementary educational practice and the faithful transmission of knowledge in medieval Islamic scholarship. Despite developments in the scholarly approaches to elementary education in line with scientific advancements in the medieval Muslim world, these did not have a significant impact on the essence of the Muslim scholars’ views.

This book observes a high level of consistency between the Muslim scholarly literature and historical accounts on elementary education from 750 to 1400 CE. This observation points to the lack of a need to change the style of motivating and disciplining children that had worked for centuries in medieval Muslim education. There are also shades of idealistic thinking in medieval Muslim educational literature illuminated. The scholars who wrote on elementary education focused on ideals and expectations that were anomalous to educational practice as portrayed in some historical anecdotes. Accordingly, this book argues that this idealism and the centuries-old traditions in elementary education and motivation simply reflect the faith and zeal of a civilization that carried out the task of educating children with the obedience of God in mind.

This is an important book for all Islamic studies collections, particularly in the areas of history, education, psychology, and Arabic literature.


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