Scenes from life
“Free the child’s potential and you will transform him into the world.” Maria Montessori
Throughout Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the transfer of knowledge and the master–disciple relationship were fundamental both in Europe and in the Islamic world. In 19th-century Europe, the desire to democratise education and to disseminate knowledge relating to geography, civic education and other relevant subjects resulted in teachers having to teach numerous pupils and to find ways of keeping them focused, disciplined and calm. Class photographs soon became an important ritual of ordered class life, marking the journey through childhood to adulthood. Meanwhile, in the Arab and Ottoman world at the time, modern trends in European teaching methods soon joined those that had existed in the region for centuries. Europeans who came into contact with traditional Qur’anic schools were fascinated, and many recorded what they saw in art and photography.

Qur'anic board

19th century

National Museum of Anthropology, Madrid, Spain

Wood; pigments, ink

Memorising the Qur’an and rendering its message in writing were still important steps in the education of a 19th-century Muslim child. The child who owned this board would not only have copied the Qur’anic verses but also recited them, with the aim of successfully committing them to memory.

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