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Origins of the word Maktab – Part 4

Jan 27, 2022

في لسان العرب تأتي الكتاتيب من جمع كلمة الكتاب وهي موضوع تعليم الكتاب. بينما قال المبرد: المكتب موضع التعليم، والمكتب المعلم.
In Lisaanul Arab (a classical Arabic dictionary) it is mentioned that the word Kataateeb is a plural of Kuttaab which is a place of study of the Book (Qur’aan). Whereas Mubarrad (the great Arabic grammarian) has said that a Maktab is the place of education and a Muktib is the teacher.

In contemporary Arabic “Maktab” is a desk, while the word “Kuttab” is used for Qur’aanic schools in the Arab world. However, the word “Maktab” is more widespread amongst non-Arab Muslim countries. Maktab also refers to primary schools in many Muslim countries.

Maktabs throughout Islamic history
Maktabs were found all over the Muslim world by the end of 8th Century due to the desire of Muslims to learn the Qur’aan. Even at present, it has exhibited remarkable durability and continues to be an important means of religious instruction in Muslim countries.

Some anecdotes
Prisoners of War from the battle of Badr earned freedom by teaching ten Muslim children how to read and write. One of those children was Zaid Bin Thabit RA (compiler of the Qur’aan).

Umar Bin Khattab RA returned to Madinah from the conquest of Jerusalem. The children ran very far to welcome him on Thursday. So he made Friday as a day of rest for the children i.e. a weekend. Before this event, children studied seven days a week.

Ghiyath Bin Shabeeb Rahimahullah narrated that when he was a child and was studying in a Kuttab in Qayrowin (Tunisia), Sufyaan Bin Wahab Radhiallahu Anhu the companion of the Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam used to pass our Kuttab and he used to give salaam to us and he was wearing a turban the end of which was behind his back.

Finances of Maktabs
Rulers and wealthy well-wishers used to oversee the needs of the Maktab such as salaries and any needs of students. These well-wishers used to buy fruit for the teachers and honour them by perfuming them on their heads with scented oils to encourage and motivate them to be devoted to teaching.

Hashim Bin Masroor Tameemi Rahimahullah was a famous well-wisher of Maktabs in Tunisia. He used to visit the Maktabs and see to their needs.

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