International Congress, "Knowledge and Education in Classical Islam: Historical Foundations & Contemporary Impact" (Göttingen, 1 - 5 October 2011)

The international conference “Knowledge and Education in Classical Islam: Historical Foundations – Current Impact” was organized and convened by Professor Dr. Sebastian Günther, Director of the Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Göttingen, in close collaboration with Professor Dr. Ali Shaban, Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Translation and Director of the Islamic Studies in Foreign Languages Program at the Al-Azhar University, Cairo.
More than one hundred renowned scholars from Europe, North America, and the Middle participated with papers, pre-organized panels, and thematic discussions and thus contributed to the success of this academic event. In addition, a number of particularly talented graduate students and junior scholars from different parts of the world also participated, as well as a number of international guests.

The conference had two major objectives:

On the one hand, the origins, ideals, theories, practices, and institutions of learning and teaching in the classical period of Islam (7th to 13th century), their interdependence with non-Muslim education, as well as their reception and transformation up to the present had been scrutinized in their historical dimensions by a unique forum of international experts.
On the other hand, both the challenges and opportunities that arise from “classical” Islamic concepts of knowledge, knowledge acquisition, and education were highlighted and critically analyzed, as they directly relate to contemporary Islamic societies and communities as well as an Islamic education in an increasingly multicultural Europe.
In this regard, the 2011 “Knowledge and Education in Classical Islam” conference at Göttingen offered a unique opportunity for the academic exchange of ideas and collaboration on topics of utmost importance not only for the “history” of education in Islam but for the development of “contemporary” societies and communities as well. In this regard, the active participation of distinguished scholars from both the Orient and the Occident fully corresponded to the trajectories and aims of contemporary inter- and transdisciplinary research in Arabic and Islamic studies and Education studies.

Topics of the Conference:

  • Quranic Pedagogy
    The Foundational Impact of the Quran on Islamic Education

  • Prophetic Traditions and Education
    Hadith and its Transmission as Pedagogical Framework

  • Knowledge Transformed
    Ancient Arabian and Iranian Wisdom and Islamic Learning; Greek and Syriac into Arabic: Reception & Creative Advancement of Ancient Knowledge.

  • Informal & Formal Learning
    Oral and Written Instruction in Early Islam; Basic and Higher Learning in Classical Times; Educational Institutions & the Curriculum

  • Concepts of Knowledge & Philosophies of Education
    Concepts and Classifications of Knowledge; Educational Theories; Conventions and Innovations in Classical Islamic Teaching and Learning

  • The Power of Knowledge
    Political Dimensions of Muslim Scholarship; Learning and Leadership

  • Education from the Perspective of Specific Scholarly Disciplines
    Religious Disciplines, Law, Exegesis, Historiography, Philosophical Disciplines, Natural Sciences, etc.

  • Education and Belles-Lettres
    Education and Entertainment: The Concept of Adab

  • Learning of the Mystics
    Sufi Theories of Learning; Learning as Part of the Mystical Journey

  • The Material Foundations of Learning
    Religious Endowments as Centers of Learning; Financial Foundations of the Muslim Educational System

  • Learning and Art
    The Visual Arts as Part of the Muslim Educational Canon; Visual Means of Learning; Islamic Learning and Music

  • Women Contributions to Islamic Education
    Women as scholars, scribes, and spirituals guides; education in the private sphere

  • Interrelations between Muslim and Non-Muslim Learning in Classical Times
    Educational Discourse and Interfaith Dialogue in Classical Times

  • Specifics of Learning among Muslim Minorities
    Continuities and Discontinuities of Muslim Learning

  • Regional Particulars of Learning in Classical Islam
    Mapping the Empire: Muslim Travelers; Knowledge and Learning in Al-Andalus

  • Ethics and Virtues of Classical Islamic Learning
    Ethics of Islamic Education; the Influence of “Great Authorities” on Learning

  • Islamic Learning and Muslim Identity
    The Identity-building Role of Islamic Sciences; Images of Educators and Tutors

  • The Reception of Classical Islamic Learning in Later Times
    Spiritual vs. Rationalist Islamic Learning

  • Conventional and Unconventional Forms of Learning
    Magic and Alchemy as Forms of Learning?; Vocational Training in Classical Times

  • What makes Classical Islamic Education “Islamic” ?
    Distinct Features and Novel Approaches of Classical Islamic Education

  • The Impact of Classical Islamic Learning on Contemporary Societies
    The Implications of Classical Learning in the Modern World; Theoretical and Methodological Challenges of Research on Classical Islamic Education.

The symposium organizers gratefully acknowledge financial assistance provided by the following organizations:

Bundesland Niedersachen / The Federal State of Lower Saxony

Niedersachsen logo sehr klein

Göttinger Graduierten-Kolleg "Gottesbilder, Götterbilder, Weltbilder"/ The Distinguished Graduate Program "Images of the Divine and of the World"

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The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)


Federal Foreign Office

Olms Verlag, Hildesheim

Olms verlag sehr klein

Brill Academic Publishers, Leiden

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Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden


Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft