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By Mesut Idriz1

The meaning of education in its totality in the context of Islam is inherent in the connotations of the terms tarbiyyah, talīm and ta`dīb taken together. What each of these terms conveys concerning man and his society and environment in relation to God is related to the others, and together they represent the scope of education in Islam, both
formal and non-formal’.2

The students (talaba, tullāb, sing. tālib) in the Muslim world throughout history were systematically trained by their professors in different fields of studies and were able to select their professors as they pleased. The students studied many years under the professors and when they completed their studies proficiently, then traditionally they obtained a licence to teach, so-called ijāzah, either by one professor or more than one.
The study of ijāzah tradition, its history and its impact is somehow neglected by both Muslim and non-Muslim researchers and academics alike. In this paper, we will try to re-examine this tradition by defining and analyzing it as well as comparing it with similar forms of its practice in other parts of the world. Hoping that this study will offer new methods for the todays practices and discussions towards betterment of educational

1 The author is currently Assist. Prof. Dr. of Muslim History and Civilization at the Department of History
& Civilization, International Islamic University Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
2  S. M. N. al-Attas, Aims and Objectives of Islamic Education, ed. by S. M. N. al-Attas (Jeddah: King
Abdulaziz University, 1979) Appendix B, pp. 157-158.

i) The Meaning of Ijāzah

Ijāzah is an Arabic term derived from the root-verbajaza’ which means, as Ibn Manzūr, famous Arabic lexicographer, states in his Lisān al-Arab3 with reference to the etymological origin, that to lean upon” as on a cushion. Al-Nawawī, in his al-Taqrīb wa al-Taysīr li-Marifati Sunan al-Bashīr al-Nazīr, says that this verb used to refer to the water which irrigated the fields or satisfied the thirst.4 Finally, al-Fayrūzabādī, in his al- Qāmūs al-Muhīt, in this regard says to give permission, or licence or authorization.5

Technically,  according  to  Ibn  Manzūr,  thus  the  noun  ijāzah  refers  to  the authorities on whom a student relies to support his claim to knowledge in a particular science. For al-Nawawī, the student asks a professor to give him an ijāzah, that is, to satisfy his thirst for knowledge, and for al-Fayrūzabādī, with regard to education, it refers to giving permission to teach.

The term ‘ijāzah’ in Islamic pedagogy signifies generally a licence to teach, and more specifically refers to a certificate issued by a professor in an institution of higher learning to a student who has attended a course of lectures to the professor’s satisfaction, and who is deemed henceforth qualified to transmit the same subject to his own students.6

Thus, the ijāzah was issued by the grantor (al-mujīz, i.e. ālim or professor) who gives licence to transmit from him all what he narrated. Generally, this ijāzah contains of: the title of books or compilations and the subjects as well, for the transmission of which a licence is issued. This transmission from the grantor could be either in general or in detail. The chain of transmitters went back until it ended up either with the author of the
book, or the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or others.7

3 See Ibn Manzūr, Lisān al-Arab, vol. 1, under “ajaza (Beirut: 1970), p.25.
4 M. Abu Zakariya Al-Nawawī, Al-Taqrīb wa al-Taysīr li-Marifati Sunan al-Bashīr al-Nazīr, (n.p. & n.d.)
5  Al-Fayrūzabādī, Al-Qāmūs  al-Muhīt, ed. by M. Naim al-Araqsusi, 3rd  edition,   (Beirut: Muesset al- Risalah, 1993) p.652.
6  R.Y. Ebied and M.J.L. Young, An Early Eighteenth-Century Ijazah Issued in Damietta, in Le Muséon -
Revue D’études Orientales, vol.: 87, (1974), p.445.
7   Muhammad  A.  Gunaymah,  Tarīkh  al-Jāmi‛āt  al-Islamiyyah  al-Kubrā,  (Tetuwan,  1953),  p.  219; Muhammad Bakir al-Majlisī, Bishār al-Anwār, 2nd edition, vol.: 102, (Beirut: Muassasat al-Wafa, 1983),
p. 166. And see also Agha Buzruk al-Tahranis al-Dhariah ila Tasanif al-Shiah, quoted in both Abdullah
Fayyad, Tarikh al-Tarbiya, (Baghdad: Matbaah Asad, 1972), pp. 233-234, and Mahmud al-Mar’ashi, Al- Musalsalat fi al-Ijazat, vol:1, (Qum: Hafidh, 1416 A.H.-1995 A.D.), p. 9.

ii) The Tradition of Ijāzah in the Muslim World and Its Significance

In Muslim tradition the authoritative character of the transmission derives ultimately from the  Prophet, chosen by God to receive the  revelation, the  religious knowledge (ilm) necessary for salvation, transmitted to him through the agency of the Archangel Gabriel (Jibl). This knowledge the Prophet passed on orally to his Companions (ashāb, sahābah, pl. of sāhib), and they to their Successors (tābiūn), and they to their successors (tābiul-tābiūn), and so on, down through the centuries to the
ulamā (sing. ālim, scholar). Such was the transmission of hadīth accounts relating to the deeds, words and attitudes of the Prophet, called his Sunnah. The vehicle of this transmission was the spoken word, recited, read aloud, as was the Recitation’ itself, the Qur’ān.

The ijāzah was granted in two ways: orally and written. But, historically the oral way of practice precedes the written one.8 Before it came to have this broader meaning, the  ijāzah  was  simply  one  of  eight  methods  of  validly  transmitting  hadīths,  being classified lower in the scale of reliability than direct transmission by word of mouth.9 The muhaddiths are the first to use this term for the sake of science. Because they are the earliest Muslims who gave importance to writing down knowledge. Later on this method was used for the other sciences.10
Thus, the  first  technical  terms  related  to  ijāzah  were  derived  from the  verb samiah, to hear. The derivative term sama was used in hadīth literature and came to mean the certification of audition (ijāzat as-sama). This certification was appended to a book, or other writings, certifying that the owner, and perhaps others along with him who were then also named, studied the materials under his direction. The master could also authorize the person(s) named to transmit the contents on his authority as author of the book, or as one who was duly authorized to make the authorization.

8  Abdullah Fayd, Al-Ijāzah al-‘ilmiyyah inda al-Muslimīn, (Baghdad, 1967), p.21; and Muhammad A. Gunaymah, Tārīkh al-Jamiāt al-Islamiyyah al-Kubrā, (Tetuwan, 1953), p. 223.
9 Mahmud Al-Mar’ashi, Al-Musalsalāt fi al-Ijāzāt, vol:1-2, (Qum: Hafidh, 1416 A.H.-1995 A.D.), pp.6-7;
and I. Goldziher and S. A. Bonabakker, “idjaza”, Encyclopaedia Of Islam, 2nd ed.
10 Muhammad A. Gunaymah, p. 220.

The ijāzah to transmit hadīth included the authorization permitting others to do the same: authority and authorization were both transmissible. Next to the licence to transmit hadīth, other types of licences developed, like the licence to teach law, al-ijāzah lit-tadrīs. With the  development of fiqh  (jurisprudence), the  licence  was  no  longer primarily for the preservation of hadīth for posterity, but it developed further into a
licence to instruct, to teach.11

These licences to teach (ijāzah, i.e. written) were first issued in Baghdad as early as third century of the Hijrah (9th century CE). And soon, in the fourth century, became a universally used educational procedure in all the lands of Islam. This passed afterwards to other subjects, and thus the master would grant a recognized certificate to those students who satisfactorily passed the prescribed course of study under him. During the early period, the ijāzah (licence) was usually written upon the fly-leaf of the book studied.12

a. The Examinations

The ijāzah was issued after an oral examination satisfying the examining scholar as to the competence of the candidate. At first a simple process, the examination developed into a sophisticated disputation in which the candidate for the licence defended a thesis or series of theses. When the candidate had proved his proficiency in disputation he was given the ijāzah (licence) to teach law (tadrīs). The origin and development of this ijāzah follows a line running parallel to that of the development of the science of fiqh,  jurisprudence,  from  the  science  of  hadīth.  And  also  the  exam  took  place  on particular books that had been studied by the candidate. For example, Ibrahīm b. Makram al-Shīrāzī was granted an ijāzah to teach law and issue fatwās, legal opinions, by two professors, and he was also examined by other professors on particular books and, as a
result, was licences to teach those books.13

11 Abī Abdullah Muhammad Al-Majārī, Barnāmij al-Majārī, ed. by Muhammad Abu al-Ajfān, (Beirut: Dar al-Garb al-Islāmī, 1982), p. 53.
12 Ahmad Shalaby, History of Muslim education, (Karachi: Indus Publication, 1979), pp.147-148.
13 Al-Sakhāwī, Al-dawal-lāmi li-ahl al-qarn al-tāsi quoted in G. Makdisi, pp.151-152.

b. The Age of Students for Granting Ijāzah

The ijāzah was granted usually to students at an advanced age, in their thirties, forties or even later, with exception of some who received it at an early age. The great Syrian jurisconsult al-Awzaī was said to have first issued legal opinions at the age of thirteen. The eponym of the Shāfi‛ī School of law studied under the great jurisconsult of Mecca, Muslim b. Khālid, who licensed Shāfi‛ī when he was fifteen years of age. Tajud- Din al-Subkī was licensed to teach law and issue fatwās at the age of eighteen, and there are some other cases similar to them. In fact, they were excellent skilled disputants with a retentive memory.14

In all these and other such cases the ages cited are understood to be out of the ordinary. Since the authorization was personal in character, it depended on the professor issuing it. In addition, some masters were not free with their authorizations. For instance, the jurisconsult Abu Ishāq Ibrāhīm b. Yahyā al-Dimashqī made it very difficult for the students to obtain a licence, and he often sent a candidate away, declaring him unqualified.15    The same is reported of Uthman b. Sa‛īd Uthmān Abū ‛Umar,16  and there are other similar cases. However, some students declared themselves that they were not competent and qualified to obtain a licence. Since it was a great responsibility for

them, they avoided it, as in the case of Ibn Hubaysh who said: “By God, I am not competent to obtain a licence (ijāzah)………17

c. The Ijāzah: Personal Act of Authorization

The authority and competence resided in the ālim, the learned man of religion, specifically in the jurisconsult, faqīh. When the master-jurisconsult granted the ijāzah to teach law, he acted in his capacity as the legitimate and competent authority in the field

14  Ibn al-‘Imād al-Hanbalī, Shadharāt adh-Dhahab fi Akhbār man dhahab; Ibn Hajar al-Asqalanī, Al- Durar al-Kāminah fī ayān al-mia al-thāminah; and An-Nu‛aymī, Al-Dāris fi tārikh al-Madāris, all quoted in G. Makdisi, p.149,
15  Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalanī, Al-Durar al-Kāminah fī ayān al-miah al-thāminah, quoted in G.   Makdisi, p.150.
16 Ibrahim Ali Al-‘Aksh, Al-Tarbiyah wa al-Talīm fi al-Andalus, (Amman: Dar al-Fayhā & Dar Ammār,
1986), pp.156-157.
17 Al-Muqrī, Nafh al-Tayyib quoted in Ibrahim Ali Al-‘Aksh, p. 156-157.

of law, it was as an individual, not as part of a group of master-jurisconsults acting as a faculty. Throughout its history down to modern times, the ijāzah remained a personal act of authorization, from authorizing ālim  to the newly authorized one. The sovereign power had no part in the process: neither caliph, nor sultan, nor amīr, nor qādī, nor anyone else, could grant such an ijāzah. There being no church in Islam, no ecclesiastical hierarchy, no university, that is to say, no guild of masters, no one but the individual master-jurisconsult granted the ijāzah. However, no one could legally force him to do so, or to refrain from doing so. The line of religious authority rested, not with sovereign power, but rather with the religious scholars, the ulamā. Moreover, the institutions in which the ulamā taught were creations completely independent of the sovereign as such, and in no need of his sanction to come into existence. Indeed the sovereign had no say in the matter of the ijāzah even when he was the founder of the institution. Muslim
education, like Islamic law, is basically individualistic, personalist.18

d. Types of Ijāzah

As for the types of ijāzah there are six types, and they are as follows19:

1.  The Specific ijāzah: Here the ijāzah is granted by a certain person to another certain person. The four essential parts of this most prestigious type of ijāzah are: the specific mention of the professor’s name, his student’s name, the subject matter and use of the term ajaztu, lisenced.
2.  The Non-specific ijāzah: Here the professors name as well as that of the student are mentioned, the subject matter is, however, dropped. Thus, the professor would say that he gave his student the permission to transmit that which the student has studied with him without specifying any book or subject-matter.

18 G. Makdisi, p. 271.
19  For details see Hisham Nashabi, The Ijaza: Academic Certification in Muslim Education; and Ibrahim Ali Al-Aksh, Al-Tarbiya wa al-Ta’lim fi al-Andalus, pp.151-153. In this reference, the types of 3-4 I have not quoted, because both are considered very weak ijāzahs and refuted by many scholars, like Ibn al-
Zubayr in his Silat al-Silah, and al-wardī.

3.   The General ijāzah: Here the professor’s name is mentioned, but his students as a group,  without  specific  mention  of  their  names,  are  given  a  general  permission  to transmit knowledge received from him in a specific subject.

4.   The ijāzah on a particular book: This type of ijāzah is very specific; the professor attests that a particular student has studied with him a particular book, or that he has memorized a specific text. Only when the student gives evidence to that effect, he is granted this type of ijāzah.

5.  The ijāzah by correspondence: This type of ijāzah is specific to hath literature. It is used when an ālim writes down a text and sends it to one or more of his students accompanied by a letter-ijāzah permitting them to transmit to other students the information that the professor wrote down.

6. The honorific ijāzah:  These ijāzahs  are often restricted to ulamā,  and are often exchanged among them as a sign of mutual respect and appreciation.

One may find variants of each one of these types of ijāzahs. A general characteristic common to all ijāzahs, however, is that they are, as we cited earlier, all personal rather than institutional. This, indeed, is the most outstanding characteristic of certification in Muslim education.

e. The significance of Ijāzah

The value of ijāzahs to the modern student of Islamic civilization and others is great. The most important significance of ijāzahs can be reduced to five point, which are as follows:

1. They contain a considerable amount of detailed biographical information. The biography of the scholars who transmitted words, attitudes and accounts related to the deeds of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as well as scholars is narrated with the mention of their names, genealogies, titles and works, in addition to those of their professors who authorized them, and so on. This can be considered as a great source for Islamic bibliographies.

2. They contain a lot of valuable historical information about the scholars, their scientific activities, practices, views and thoughts.

3.  They  give  much  information  about  the  cities  that  were  centres  of  learning  and scholarship at particular periods.

4. They reveal the books mostly studied in the cultivation of particular subjects.

5.  Finally,  a  picture  can  be  obtained  from them  about  the  development of  Islamic academic life and its underlying currents of ideas.

iii) The Genres of Ijāzah

As it is mentioned earlier in relation to the types of ijāzah, there is an ijāzah called specific ijāzah. In this type, there are genres of ijāzahs in the fields of, primarily hadīth, and then other fields such as calligraphy, tarīqah (religious order), Sufism, poetry, literature, medical sciences and Islamic sciences. After the development of hadīth ijāzahs in early Muslim history, all other genres of ijāzah came into existence.

The ijāzah on calligraphy with all its various types were granted by the professors to their students for being qualified as a calligrapher or copyist and clerk in the government offices.  For  this  genre  of  ijāzahs,  some  examples  can  be  found  in  al- Muradis Silk al-Durar fī Ayān al-Thānī Ashar20 and in Uğur Dermans Hattat Icâzetnâmeleri.21 Many students were interested in the mastery of the Islamic calligraphy
and obtaining an ijāzah because of the importance of calligraphy in both the government offices and copying the books, when the printing machine did not exist.
As for the tarīqah and Sufi genre of ijāzahs, it is very wide among the spiritual masters (shaykhs) to grant to their disciples (murīd) either a spiritual authority (to become the successor of that master) or permission to teach the books dealing with Sufism. To cite an example for granting a spiritual authority, the ijāzah of Shaykh Abbās Afandī granted fiz Umar Afandī in the tarīqah of Ummī Sinān, a branch of Naqshibandiyyah,

20 He is Abū al-Fadl Muhammad b. Ab. Muhammad al-Murādī.
21 See Ugur Derman, Hattat Icazetnameleri, paper presented in Turk Tarih Kongresi (Turkish Historical
Conference) (25-29 September 1970), Ankara, Turk Tarih Kurumu; and idem., Hattat Icazetnameleri, in
Hattat Imza ve Şecereleri, vol. 2, (Ankara: Turk Tarih Kurumu, 1973), pp. 716-727.

in 1321 A.H., in Skopje (Turkish Uskub).22  And here is an example for permission to teach a book dealing with Sufism, the ijāzah of Shaykh Nizamuddin Awli granted by his spiritual master Shaykh Faridud-Din Gani-Shakar who confers spiritual authority to him and accords permission to teach Tamhidāt of Abu Shakūr Samī, which deals with the fundamentals of faith.23

As for the ijāzah in the field of poetry, the ijāzah granted by Ali b. Muhammad b. Mahfūz al-Alawī to his son Siddīq b. Ali in 691 A.H. is an example for permission to teach a poetical work by ‛Umar b. al-Fad. It is as follows:

My son, Siddīq ibn Ali, the learned, righteous and enthusiastic student - may God inspire him to follow the right and true path, and protect him from associating with those who deserve condemnation to torment - has studied this poetical work of Umar ibn al-Farid under me except one poem which begins: Sa’iq al-Azan Tatwī al-Bid Tay, and so I have certificated him to recite it after me as I do this after Shaykh Fakhrud-Dīn al-Irāqī.24

As  for  the  medical  sciences,  in  the  Muslim  world  the  importance  of  the  medical profession was  so  well  realised that  from the  beginning of the  tenth  century A.D., physicians had to pass an examination and obtain a certification without which they would not be allowed to practice this profession. For this genre of ijāzahs, we are able to find some examples in Ibn Abī Usaybi‛ahs Tabaqat al-Atibbā.25

iv) The Structure and Content of the Ijāzahs

In this section will be provided a general schema for ijāzahs which will include the common characteristics of ijāzahs granted in the Muslim world. With minor exceptions, almost all of them more or less conform to this schema.

22  The Ijāzah [unpublished ijāzah of Hafiz Umar Afandi granted by Shaykh Abbās Afandī, in the year
1321A.H./1901A.D. ( Personal collection, Husamettin Vardar, Skopje, Macedonia )].
23  Khaliq Ahmad Nizami, Some Aspects of Religion and Politics in India During the thirteenth century, (India: Idarah i Adabiyat i Delli, n.d.), pp.349-350.
24  Ahmad Shalaby, History of Muslim education, p. 148, it is taken from the manuscript of the private
possession of Professor A. J. Arberry.
25  Ibn Abi ‛Usaybiah, Uyūn al-Anba’ fī Tabaqāt al-Atibbā, ed. Nizar Riza, (Beirut: Dar Maktabat al- Hayat, 1965).

1. The ijāzah invariably starts with the basmalah  (the formula in the name of God the Beneficent, the Merciful), and then continues with the praise to God (hamdalah) and the praise to the Prophet and his Companions (salwalah).
2. The praise of knowledge and its importance: Here are mentioned usually those verses of the Qur’ān and hadīths of the Prophet which are related to the significance of knowledge, such as the following Qur’anic verse: “Say: Are those equal those who know and those who do not know? It is those who are endued with understanding that receive admonition26; and  the  hadīth  such  as:  If  anyone  travels  on  a  road  in  search  of knowledge, Allah will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise”.27

3. The importance of isnād (chain of transmission): Here usually sayings of the great early scholars with regard to isnād are mentioned, such as the saying of Abdullah b. Mubārak: The isnād (chain of transmission) is part of faith (religion)”28.

4. The names of both the student and his professors: Here the grantor of the ijāzah mentions the name of the student to whom the ijāzah  is being granted. The moral qualities as well as the academic achievement of the student are described. Besides, the grantor avails himself of this opportunity to express his gratitude to his own professors, thus mentioning his own academic lineage.

5. The titles of both the books and the subjects on which ijāzah was granted are mentioned.
6. The chain of transmitters (silsilah) usually goes back to God, except if the ijāzah is on a particular book, then it goes back to the author of that book. However, for the hadīth books, it goes back to the person who collected the hadīths and wrote down, because the hadīths in that book with the different transmitters goes back to the Prophet. Moreover, mentioning in the ijāzah the name of all transmitters who lived during the period from the Prophet to the person who collected hadīths was something very difficult, as the chain of transmission becomes very long and requires great time and writing space. Thus only some of the names were mentioned.

26 Az-Zumar: 9, (translation of Yusuf Ali).
27 Abi Dawud, Sunan Abī Dawūd, no: 3634.
28 See Muslim, Sahih Muslim, (Muqaddimah; the section of introduction), p.5.

7. Then the grantor proceeds to give advice to the student as to how he should use his knowledge, treat his future students, exercise his function as a scholar (‛ālim) in his society as well as asks his student not to forget him and requests from him to pray for the Gods forgiveness.

8. Finally, the ijāzah normally ends with a prayer, date of issue, and professor’s ratification of the ijāzah either by seal or signature, or both. Yet the institution where the teaching has taken place is rarely mentioned. Only if it is granted in an official ceremony, then the place of ceremony is mentioned. Hence, the place can be verified. Besides this, by verifying the name of professor who granted the ijāzah and the date, also the place can be verified. In this way, geographical situation of the sciences can be described, i.e. where, when, how and which kind of subjects were studied, so the position of that place or district, in terms of political and social relations, comes into light and its role in history can be known.

v) Main Differences Between Ijāzah and Certificate or Diploma

The ijāzah tradition, as it was mentioned earlier, developed in Muslim world at least as early as the 3rd  century A.H. (9th  century C.E.). Some two-and-half centuries later, in the second half of the twelfth century, it made its appearance in the Latin West. It was a license to teach, so-called licentia docendi, the same as the ijāzah. According to George Makdisi, there is not even a single evident showing that education in antiquity, whether in Greece or Rome, did produce the licence to teach. Nor was the licence produced by Eastern Christian Byzantine education, which was a direct continuation of
classical education. Nor was it produced by Western Christian Latin education. It first appeared in the Christian West in the second half of the twelfth century, as one of a number of institutions without indigenous antecedents.29  But Daniel Haneberg, in his
work  on  Islamic  education,  makes  the  following  statement  pertaining  to  ijāzah:  I

29 George Makdisi, The Rise of Colleges, pp. 272.

suppose that  our licentiate  stems from this  Muslim institution30  Therefore, there is possibility that the origin of licentia docendi was from ijāzah.

In addition, the stages of development of both ijāzah and licentia docendi, according to George Makdisi, are quite identical in nature, and he describes them as follows:

From initial training in the literary arts, to embarking on the long course of study leading to the mastership, passing through the ranks of scholar (mutafaqqih) and fellow (faqih), representing the undergraduate and graduate levels, assisting the master as ordinary repetitor (mu’id) or extraordinary docent (mufid), including the work of building up repertories of disputed questions (masail khilafiya, quaestiones disputatae), the student practice of quizzing one another (mudhakara, collatio), disputing for practice with fellow students, or with masters in class (munazara, disputatio), disputation based on the confrontation of conflicting opinions (khilaf, sic et non), and the mastery of dialectic (jadal, dialectica), and finally obtaining the licence to teach (ijaza lit-tadris, licentia docendi),  and  incepting  by  giving  the  inaugural  lesson  or  lecture  (dars  iftitahi, inceptio).31

There is only one difference that the development of ijāzah in Islam took place more than a century before any part of licentia docendi began in the Christian Europe. This was the early form of certificate in the West. But throughout the history, the term licentia docendi was altered according to the systems of universities into certificate, diploma, degree, etc. Like the case in France, the licence had traditionally been the first degree in France; training for the licence was the central concern of the French system of higher education. However, with the reform of French university diplomas, begun in 1973 and completed in 1976, the position of the licence was altered.32 Whereas the term ijāzah, in Muslim educational life, remained almost same since it was developed in the early time up today with exception of some areas.

30 D. Haneberg, Abhandlung über das Schul- und Lehrwesen der Muhamedaner im Mittelalter, (Munich
1850), quoted in G. Makdisi, p.275.
31 George Makdisi, The Rise of Colleges, pp.276.
32 See Carol Green, Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates” in The International Encyclopedia of Higher
Education, vol:4, (D -F), (San Fransisco, Washington & London: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1978), p. 1234.

Now, we can proceed to present the main differences between the ijāzah and todays certificate or diploma, as a practice. As far as the differences are concerned, it can be reduced into three main differences, and they are as follows:33

a. Firstly, a unique feature of Muslim education is that Muslim educational institutions were never concerned with the granting of academic certificate. This is essentially the responsibility of the professor concerned, who, upon the termination of teaching a particular subject would certify some of his students, depending on their performance, to apply, teach or transmit the material taught to them to other seekers of knowledge. Neither the seal, nor the approval of the institution where the professor taught were ever solicited. This, in fact, means that ijāzah in Muslim educational practice engaged the responsibility of the professor only. And as long as the professor was conscious of this responsibility, the quality of education and academic standards were in Muslim culture maintained.

In contrast to this situation, educational institutions in West, assume fully the responsibility of certification and the granting of academic titles and degrees. The professor’s responsibility in this regard is relegated to a secondary position. This practice creates  a  problem when  universities assume  a  large  size  and  large  classes  make  it practically impossible for the professor to know his students well enough as to engage his direct responsibility in their certification. Thus, the rich intellectual contact between professors and students is often lost. Only at the graduate level the professor-student relation is maintained.
b.  Secondly,  in  the  ijāzah,  in  addition  to  the  subjects  that  have  been  studied,  are mentioned the title of books as well as the chain of transmitters (silsilah) of the book, which goes back to its author. Whereas the diploma or certification mentions only the subjects which have been studied and not the books studied, nor their authors, nor the chain of transmitters for the books.

33 See my both articles: “The Ijāzah Tradition in the 19th 20th Century Balkans, Al-Shajarah Journal of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC), vol.: 5, No. 2 (2000), Kuala Lumpur, pp. 233-236; and “İslâm Eğitim Yaşamında İcazet Geleneği”, Değerler Eğitim Dergisi (Journal of Values Education), [Translated into Turkish by Ibrahim Kapaklikaya], vol. 1 (July), 2003, Istanbul, pp.

c. Thirdly, the difference in shape. Generally ijāzahs are granted in the form of a booklet which sometimes they contain twenty pages and more. But certificates and diplomas are granted in the form of a scroll which they contain one page only.


The ijāzah tradition, as mentioned earlier, has a long history and was developed by the Muslims at least as early as the 3rd century A.H. (9th century A.D). It is an original tradition developed by Muslims under the influence of Islamic sciences such as hadīth and  Qur’ānic  exegesis.  In  the  4th   century  A.H.,  it  became  a  universally  applied educational procedure in all the Muslim lands, and even had some significant impacts on the educational life of the Christian Europe, as it has been shown in the chapter one. The ijāzah tradition continued for centuries up to the beginning of 20th  century, and even survives today in some non-formalinstitutions of the Muslim world such as Persia and Arabia.
The various ijāzahs across the Muslim world show the religious, cultural and educational unity of the Muslims in the past, in spite of their geographical differences, as in each part of these Muslim lands, the tradition of ijāzah was more or less same with some minor differences in practice. Besides, there was a linguistic unity as well, for almost all the ijāzahs were written in Arabic, which was the lingua franca in the Islamic world. Even the term ijāzah has remained the same in almost all over the Muslim world, but the term licentia docendi which was the early form of certificate in the Christian Europe, in contrast to the Muslim world, it was altered throughout the history according to the systems of universities into certificate, diploma, degree, etc.

The ijazahs reflect the Muslim world-view and ethical values as well. They were not mere documents showing the students’ qualifications, rather, as we saw, they contained  praise  to  God,  His  Prophet  and  knowledge,  and  statements  about  the importance of knowledge and of ethical values such as humility, love and respect for knowledge and scholars.
All the ijāzahs contain chain of transmitters for the subjects, showing the source of knowledge ending up with the scholars of the past. Sometimes, especially in the subjects of Qur’ān and hadīth, this chain went as back as to the Prophet or the Almighty Allah. This openly shows the great influence of the hadīth methodology upon the ijāzah tradition. In addition, it had an important consequence: the professor was more important than the institute, for it was the former who granted the ijāzah, in contrast to the Western practice. However, this did not mean that the procedure and the requirement for ijāzah- granting were arbitrary; rather as the documents of ijāzah and the historical information show, the professors were conscious of their duties and responsibility, and the quality of education and academic standards were maintained to a great extent. Moreover, the information on the transmitters and the knowledge they transmitted is a valuable source for the modern researcher as well.