Ranking of the Ottoman Madrasas

Following the conquest of Istanbul, Mehmed the Conqueror initiated a campaign of construction. A new era in Ottoman education began with the establishment of the Fatih madrasas and the hierarchical structure of the madrasas was reorganized.

+ Click to read the full article
- Click to close

See the link below to the full article if you need to obtain PDF reading softwareThis short article is taken from the full article which is available here as a PDF file

Following the conquest of Istanbul, Mehmed the Conqueror initiated a campaign of construction so as to give the city a new character. He also encouraged those around him to participate in this effort. As a result of these efforts numerous Byzantine buildings were transformed into mosques, madrasas and dervish lodges. In order to transform the new capital into a centre of learning (dar al-ilm) he had a mosque complex (külliye), which was later to take his name, constructed on the crest of one of the hills of Istanbul. Within the complex he had madrasas built which could be considered as expressions of his centralized approach and policies in the areas of scholarship-science and education.

According to the charter prepared for the madrasas in the Fatih Mosque Complex, the Samâniye madrasas were composed of eight higher madrasas surrounding the Fatih Mosque and of eight smaller madrasas behind these known as "Tetimme". Thus there were a total of sixteen madrasas on both sides of the mosque. In addition to these, a "Dar al-talim" (primary school) was constructed on the side facing the western door. Furthermore, from the charter we learn that this complex was conceived as a total educational centre of the highest quality and that in this light institutions such as a hospital, a library and a soup kitchen were established to provide food, drink, shelter and medical treatment.[1] In certain contemporary studies undertaken up until quite recently it has been argued that the Samâniye madrasas constructed under Mehmed II's orders resembled European universities and that Ali Kuscu, Vizier Mahmûd Pasha and Molla Hüsrev developed a curriculum. However, the most recent research on the subject has attempted to correct this mistaken impression about the Fatih madrasas and their resemblance to a modern university and the claims put forth about their supposed curricula.

A new era in Ottoman education was initiated with the establishment of the Fatih madrasas and the hierarchical structure of the madrasas was reorganized. Indeed, it has been generally accepted in historical studies of the madrasa since Uzuncarsili that, based on information provided by Âlî, the academic levels of the madrasas were determined during the reign of Mehmed II according to the salaries paid to the teacher heading the institution and in terms of the basic required textbook in use at the school.[2] Based on the information provided by Âlî, it seems that there had been a number of traditions and customary rules (generally referred to as Kanûn) governing education since the time of Bâyezîd I, that a number of these continued to be implemented until the reign of Mehmed the Conqueror and that they were then collated and restructured within a single framework during that period.[3]

When we examine the charters of the madrasas from the period prior to Mehmed II we observe that by and large it is religious studies that are emphasized. By contrast, in the charter of the Fatih madrasas we encounter for the first time the requirement that teachers to be appointed to the madrasas must include both those who are knowledgeable both in religious studies and in the "rational" sciences, which included logic, philosophy and mathematics. Further, the charter indicates in literary language that the foundation of the madrasas rested on the rules of hikmet (wisdom, frequently used to refer to philosophy) and that they were established based on the rules of geometry, thus differentiating them from earlier madrasas. In our opinion, this is where one may find the influence of Ali Kuscu. The influence of Ali Kuscu, who came from Samarkand where he was associated with Ulugh Bey and scientific circles largely concerned with mathematics and astronomy, can be seen in the requirement of the charter, which set the framework for these madrasas, that the rational sciences are to be taught along with religious studies. It is possible to observe this influence after the period of Mehmed II up until the time of the Süleymâniye madrasas.

In the Fatih Teskilât Kanûnnâmesi (legal code), we find in the section regarding the appointments of the teachers that the madrasas were ranked based on a hierarchy determined by the daily fees paid to the teachers. They began wit