The Dar al-Ilm, founded by the Fatimids, is considered a precursor of the modern university

Mosque of al Hakim
Mosque of al-Hakim
(Image :Archnet)

The Fatimid period (909-1171) was the golden age of Ismaili thought and literature, when the Ismaili Imams ruled over vast areas of the Muslim world as Caliphs, making important contributions to the Islamic civilization. The Fatimids promoted learning and scholarship, founding many institutions of learning such as the Dar al-Ilm and the Al-Azhar.

The Dar al-Ilm (House of Knowledge), sometimes called Dar al-Hikma, was founded by the Fatimid Caliph-Imam al-Hakim bi Amr Allah (r. 996-1021) in March 1005,  in a section of the Fatimid palace in Cairo. A variety of religious and non-religious subjects were taught here, including the Qur’an, hadith, logic, medicine, astronomy, and mathematics. The Dar al-Ilm, considered a precursor of the modern university, was equipped with a vast large library which was described by the historian Ibn Abi Tayyi’ as a “Wonder of the world.”*

The culture of unhindered scientific thought attracted the finest minds of the age to the Fatimid court, regardless of their religious persuasions: astronomers like Ali b. Yunus; physicians like al-Tamimi and Ibn Ridwan; mathematicians and engineers like Ibn Haytham who was known in Europe by the Latin name Alhazen. Ibn Haytham’s greatest contribution was in the field optics, for which he is called the “father of optics.” The foundation of contemporary advances in the study of light, optics, and ophthalmology are based upon his observations and findings.

Access to education was made available to the public and many Fatimid da’is received part of their training at this major institution of learning which served the Ismaili da’wa (mission) until the downfall of the Fatimid dynasty. Imam al-Hakim made the education of Ismailis, including women, and the Fatimid da’is a priority. Caliph-Imam al-Hakim established various study sessions (majalis) in Cairo, where he also completed the construction of the Friday mosque that still bears his name. Construction of the Mosque of al Hakim was begun by Caliph-Imam al-‘Aziz in 990 and completed by Imam al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah in 1013.

References:
*Shafique N. Virani The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation, New York: Oxford University Press, 2007
Philip Jodidio,  Under the Eaves of Architecture. The Aga Khan: Builder and Patron. Prestel, 2007
Heinz Halm, The Fatimids and their Traditions of Learning, I.B. Taurus, London, 1997

Research by Nimira Dewji


subscribe ismailimailBe the First to Know – Join Ismailimail

Get breaking news related to the Ismaili Imamat, the world wide Ismaili Muslim community and all their creativity, endeavors and successes.

Inspired? Share the story

Want to inspire? Send your stories to us at Ismailimail@gmail.com

Subscribe and join 20,000 + other individuals – Subscribe now!


Earlier & Related from the Ismailimail Archives

Masyaf This month in history: The Syrian fortress of Masyaf was captured - In 1090, the Persian Ismailis acquired the castle of Alamut situated in a remote and…
Mantes carpet Carpets derived their names from artists in Europe in whose paintings they appeared - Carpets were probably first made by nomadic peoples to cover the earthen floor in their…
incense-burner Metalwares were often used to display wealth, power or scholarly life - Metalwares, used in households for a  variety of functions including at meals and banquets, were…
Ivanow This month in history: Ivanow came into contact with Ismailis for the first time - “They [Ismailis] with amazing care and devotion kept through ages burning that Light, mentioned in…
album-prince-dara-shikoh The style and quality of illumination added value to the book as a treasured object - The arts of the book is among the major form of Islamic artistic expression, which…
Diwan Nizari Quhistani Today in history: Nizari Quhistani, one of the most distinguished Persian poets, set off on a two-year journey - On February 4, 1280, Nizari Quhistan (1247-1320), one of the most distinguished poets of thirteenth-century Persia…
Imam Hasan Ali Shah Aga Khan I This month in history: Imam Hasan Ali Shah Aga Khan I established his residence in Bombay (now Mumbai) - Imam Hasan Ali Shah succeeded to the Imamat in 1817 at the age of 13 in…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s