The main subjects which were taught in a Maktab were:
At elementary level:
1. Reading the Qur’aan and its related sciences such as Tajweed and Tafseer in a simple manner.
2. Fiqh of the most essential worship that is repeatedly performed such as Tahaarah, Salaat and Fasting, etc.
The second phase:
To learn basic Arabic grammar, memorisation of poetry and various Islamic and linguistic sciences in verse form, literature related to Ahkaam (Shariah rulings) and Aadaab (etiquettes) of Deen, society and Akhlaaq (character).
An important Lesson
What we have learnt this week is that the Maktab did not originate and was not formulated in this era by the Ulama and scholars of this century. The various Makatib which were set up in the initial days of Islam in Makkah and then its continuation in Madinah, is a clear indication that the Maktab originated from the Master ﷺ himself in the Golden Era where he ﷺ was the first teacher and the Sahabah RA were the first students.
When doing a rough comparison then we find that our manner of Taleem is exactly the same as it was in the early days of Islam. The Sahabah RA would learn the Holy Qur’aan directly from the Holy Prophet ﷺ, both Naazirah (where the student recites by looking inside the Qur’aan) and Hifz (memorisation of the Qur’aan) were taught. This manner of teaching the Holy Qur’aan is so significant and important, that the Holy Prophet ﷺ himself initiated it. In other words, the foundation of our whole Deen is based upon this Taleem. This is why the Prophet ﷺ formally established these Maktabs and sent senior Sahabah RA to teach at these places.
This is, in brief, an account of how the first Maktabs of Islam were established during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet ﷺ. If you study and ponder over the history of Muslims who came after the Prophet ﷺ, you will undoubtedly find numerous examples and incidents which will clearly testify that this method of Taleem i.e. establishment of Maktabs, has remained the most vital and effective way of retaining and preserving our Deen in its original pristine state. This is also the reason why the children of those people who established Maktabs maintained their Islamic identity. A community which fails to do this will retain its Islamic identity only with difficulty, if at all.