Knowledge during the Abbasid Time

By: Arman, Saad, Almin

Learning Circles

In large cities many kids aged between 5 and 10 would attend elementary schools called Kuttab. Here, they learned to read and write, and also memorize the Qur'an and the Hadith. Kids that had the drive to learn were open to come to school. Some students could continue to learn as apprentices, while others went on to get a higher education. Those who could read and write were hired to compose documents for officials and judges. They were also needed to copy various books and manuscripts of the Qur'an. Students that wanted to study higher subjects learned science, logic, medicine, and philosophy with scholars in these fields.

The Mass Production of Paper

The Chinese had been using Paper since the eighth-century. The knowledge of paper production had spread across the globe. In 794-5, the first paper mill in Baghdad was founded. Enough paper was now available that government clerks were able to replace papyrus and parchment with paper. With paper, knowledge had started to spread across the country. Paper was durable and easy to produce and transport, and its availability had a remarkable influence on the circulation of knowledge and information. Paper made it possible for many mani scripts and books to be produced. Paper had played an important role during the time period.

Bayt al-Hikma and Libraries

Bayt al-Hikma was the house wisdom that was founded by the caliph al-Ma'mun, but there were also others. Students took notes, often in margins of books, and participated in scholarly debates. Eventually they received a permit to teach from their teachers and became scholars in their own right. These institutions of learning and study circles show the high value that placed on education and knowledge. Later, special colleges called madrasas were established. They became widespread during the eleventh century. Scholars paid close attention to the ethical aspect in their engagement with knowledge. They regarded learning as an important means of serving fellow human beings as part of Allahs creations.


The first well known philosopher in the Muslim history was Ya'qub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi. Al-Kindi was born in Kufa, and for a period of time, his father was govenor in Basra. Al-Kindi was educated in Baghdad. By his early thirties, he became a court scholar and was reowned as a polymath, a person who has knowledge of many subjects. Al-Kindi was also influenced by the philosopher Plotinus.


Al-Farabi is an important philosopher who was known as Alpharabius in medieval Europe. He avoided courtly and luxury life style, dedicating himself to his work. Later in life, thought he accepted an invitation from the Hamdandid ruler Sayf al Dawla and lived in Aleppo. It is said that before the patronage under the rule led to new creativity in literature. He is well known for his huge commentaries and detailed explanations of Aristole’s works. His most famous philosophical works, al Madina al-Fadilla, is modeled on Platos Republic. He is well known in not only in the Muslim world but everywhere. His works are still being studied today.


An innovative mathematician, named Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi, was a famous mathematician and scientist of the early Abbasid period. The word "algorithm" comes from al-Khwarizmis name which was translated into Latin as "Algoritmi". His contribution of mathematics is extensive. Our everyday calculations of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing are linked to him. He introduced the place value system, used in India, whereby the value of a number depended on its position. He wrote and introduced work on how to preform calculations using Indian numbers and the place value system. Over time his methods became standard across the globe. His works are used in many classes today, most importantly Algebra.

Ikhwan al-Safa

Many thinkers and writes emerged during the time when the Abbasid caliphate was weakening. One main group was called Ikhwan al-Safa. Scholars believe that they were active during the ninth and tenth centuries in Basra and Baghdad. They composed one of the best known works of philosophy and religion. This work contains fifty-two essays dealing with subjects such as mathematics, music, logic, astronomy, and natural sciences. The essays draw from Babylonian, Indian, Persian, and Greek traditions. In their works, the Ikhwan pay respect to Hazrat Imam Ali. They also praise the Ahl al-Bayt, and mention the event of Ghadir Khumm. In the last epistle, they make reference to Prophet Muhammad as 'the city of knowledge' and Hazrat Imam Ali as 'it's gate'.