Ashab us-Suffah – The First University Of Islam

If you entered a place and saw one group engaged in supplications and invocations to Allah, and another group engaged in the study of religious knowledge and sciences, which one would you choose to sit next to?


If you entered a place and saw one group engaged in supplications and invocations to Allah, and another group engaged in the study of religious knowledge and sciences, which one would you choose to sit next to?

Our Noble Prophet (pbuh) once encountered such a situation and made a choice. Such an account was recently mentioned by Professor Dr. Mustafa Baktir who spoke at a recent IFSC seminar in Istanbul. He related the following from a report originally given by Abdullah b.Amr (ra):

“One day, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) left his home and traveled to the nearby masjid. Upon entering he saw two different groups of men sat amidst the mosque. One of them was a group reciting from the Qur’an and making supplications. The other was a group of people of knowledge and learning. Rasulullah (pbuh) stated that both of the groups were doing good and righteous things. But then he stated that 'I had only been sent as a teacher' and proceeded to sit down next to the people of knowledge and learning."


Prof Dr. Mustafa Baktir, who is from Erciyes University, provided a broad analysis of the institute of Islamic knowledge known as the “Ashab-i Suffe” during the previous IFSC “Living With The Sunnah” weekend seminar:

“The first thing the Prophet did when he came to Medina was to start the construction of the Al Masjid an-Nabawi. Inside this mosque there was a school which would eventually become the source of light for the entire Islamic world. For this Masjid was not merely a place of prayer. It was a place where the Qur’an and the Sunnah was taught and learned. It was here that a fundamental foundation for the eventual ‘Mosque-School-Tariqah’ education system of Islam was established. Such a system has been regarded in the history of Islamic education as of high importance.

“The Masjid was divided into three sections: The place of prayer and worship, the “Suffah” which operated as a school and as a guest-house, and the private area of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The ‘Suffah’ (which evokes the idea of ‘shade’) and Masjid was next to the homes designated for the poor companions of the Prophet (pbuh) who did not have immediate families.”

Prof. Baktir explained that an important group of the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) came from this school of “Suffah” and that this school contributed a large portion of what has reached us today with respect to Islamic knowledge. He continued to state that:

“The school of Suffah, whose students periodically varied from between 100 and 400 consisted mostly of Companions who used to sleep in the school overnight. One of such people was Abdullah bin Omer who, despite having a home in Medina, chose to stay in the Suffah purely for the sake of learning and education. In this Masjid, the Companions of the Suffah were learning Islamic knowledge whilst under the personal supervision of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and upon sufficient maturation they were sent to different places to teach Islam, as when required. The graves of most of the Companions who were taught in this medrese are to be found outside the city of Medina. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught the people who came from the harsh desert in this school and they soon became great examples and teachers for the whole world”.


Professor Dr. Mustafa Baktir expressed what caused him to take a close interest in the Prophet’s “Ashab-i Suffah” by stating:

“Since the home of the Prophet (pbuh) was adjacent to the mosque, he visited it frequently. He would often ask if his students had any requests or needs and he did not simply come in the daytime or evening. Even during the night he would come and pay attention to them and correct any deficiencies, misunderstandings and other issues that he found in his students.

“The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), who produced this assembly and gathering of knowledge (that manifested goodness for every hour of the day), declared the following:

“If somebody comes to my Masjid with the purpose of teaching from knowledge that is good or learning what is good – such a person will be at the station and rank of performing Jihad for the sake of Allah”.

Professor Dr. Mustafa Baktir also said that our current modern mosques have almost completely lost such an educational function or dimension, “In our days, our mosques are used only for praying the five daily prayers and outside these times they are left idle and their doors are closed and locked. We must take back our mosques and organise them and arrange them in a manner befitting that of the Age Of Happiness”.