Education has played a central role in Islam since early times, owing in part to the centrality of scripture and its study in the Islamic tradition. Before the modern era, education would begin at a young age with study of Arabic and the Quran. Some students would then proceed to training in tafsir (Quranic exegesis) and fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), which was seen as particularly important. For the first few centuries of Islam, educational settings were entirely informal, but beginning in the 11th and 12th centuries, the ruling elites began to establish institutions of higher religious learning known as madrasas in an effort to secure support and cooperation of the ulema (religious scholars).
Madrasas soon multiplied throughout the Islamic world, which helped to spread Islamic learning beyond urban centers and to unite diverse Islamic communities in a shared cultural project. Madrasas were devoted principally to study of Islamic law, but they also offered other subjects such as theology, medicine, and mathematics. Muslims historically distinguished disciplines inherited from pre-Islamic civilizations, such as philosophy and medicine, which they called "sciences of the ancients" or "rational sciences", from Islamic religious sciences. Sciences of the former type flourished for several centuries, and their transmission formed part of the educational framework in classical and medieval Islam. In some cases, they were supported by institutions such as the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, but more often they were transmitted informally from teacher to student. While formal studies in madrasas were open only to men, women of prominent urban families were commonly educated in private settings and many of them received and later issued ijazas (diplomas) in hadith studies, calligraphy and poetry recitation. Working women learned religious texts and practical skills primarily from each other, though they also received some instruction together with men in mosques and private homes.
Modern Education in Islam:
In general, minority religious groups often have more education than a country’s majority religious group, even more so when a large part of that minority are immigrants. This trend applies to Islam: Muslims in North America and Europe have more formal years of formal education than Christians. Furthermore, Christians have more formal years of education in many majority Muslim countries, such as in sub-Saharan Africa. However, global averages of education are far lower for Muslims than Jews, Chirstians, Buddhists and people unaffiliated with a religion. However, younger Muslims have made much larger gains in education than any of these other groups.
There is a perception of a large gender gap in majority Islam countries, but this is not always the case. In fact, the quality of female education is more closely related to economic factors than religious factors. And, although the gender gap in education is real, it has been continuing to shrink in recent years. Women in all religious groups have made much larger educational gains in recent generations than men.