The Madrasa

The Madrasa was an important place of learning that developed later than many of the other Islamic architectures, which is to say, after the first period of rapid expansion following Mohammed’s death.  The madrasa was less influenced by Byzantium than the minaret, mosque and mausoleum.

The earliest madrasas are recorded in written sources in the early 10th century in eastern Iran (Hillenbrand 173).

Key features of the architecture of the Madrasa were the following:

  • four – iwan plan
  • niched facades
  • fairly regular roofline
  • courtyard
  • burial space (funeral purpose)
  • dorm-like living spaces where traveling scholars could stay (educational purpose/ communal living)
  • they were often connected to a mosque or a court (spiritual purpose/ state sanctioned and/or funded)

“Whoever enters our mosque to learn good or to teach, he is like a warrior in the way of God”(Hillenbrand 173).

Earlier madrasas had dominant iwans; later madrasas had rooflines that were not so broken up.

Often, there would be two stories of niched facades, behind which were cells for student accommodation.

Virtually all madrasas had a courtyard where students and teachers could gather to discuss ideas:

Sometimes madrasas were housed within mosques.

Most madrasa, unless housed in mosques, have disappeared, as they were not cared for with the same care as mosques.

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