Oorspronkelijk verschenen in het tijdschrift Islamic Quarterly 18 (1974), 3-7.
ALTHOUGH it is beyond dispute that the first Christian universities
exhibited many striking features in common with the Muslim centres
of learning which arose in the tenth and eleventh centuries, there
has hitherto been a lack of documentary evidence to show that
these resemblances were anything more than a series of coincidences,
inevitably produced by the relationship between teacher and taught
in any country. This is in spite of the fact that Arabic textbooks
in Latin translation were widely used in the new Christian centres
These resemblances are, however, sufficiently remarkable. Features
of institutions of higher learning to be found among the Muslims
which are later to be found in Christian Europe include the organization
of foreign students into ‘nations’"1"
the wearing of distinctive dress by teachers, the practice of
imparting free instruction without exacting payment from pupils,
and the granting to students, who had successfully completed a
course of study, of a licence to teach (known in Arabic as ijaza;
in Europe as licentia docendi, the earliest form of degree)
It would be reasonable to suppose that these early methods of
university organization were introduced to Christian Europe by
Christian scholars returning to Paris, Oxford, and elsewhere,
scholars such as Adelard of Bath, Robert of Ketton, Michael Scot,
etc., but they have unfortunately left no written record concerned
with the organization of Arab learning."3"
Their writings are concerned rather with the substance of that
learning, the form of Latin translations of Arabic works of science
and philosophy which they had studied.
The late Professor Alfred Guillaume suggested that the beginnings
of answer to the problem of the connection between Eastern and
Western versities might be found if the origin of the scholastic
use of the term lo.ccalareus’ or ‘baccalaureus’
could be explained satisfactorily."4"
This term the sense of a holder of the lowest
university degree first appears in the thirteenth century in the
University of Paris in the system of degrees established in 1231
by the bull Parens scientiarum of Pope Gregory IX,"5"
although the word was probably used colloquially
earlier than this. Guillaume’s dry observation that the
etymology of this word given in the Oxford English Dictionary
‘can hardly be said to explain [this term] satisfactorily’
(it seeks to derive the word from vacca ‘cow’) is
echoed by many European authorities."6"
Guillaume went on to suggest that the origin
of the term ‘baccalareus’ should be sought in an Arabic
phrase used in an Islamic academic context, and proposed the phrase
‘bi-haqq al-riwaya’ (= ‘the right to teach
on the authority of another’) as being one that gave a suitable
meaning and a tolerable assonance with the Latin term. He admitted,
however, that he had never seen this phrase used in any Arabic
It is now possible to show that a virtually identical phrase was
not only used in Arabic, but was a technical term (with the above
meaning) used over a period of at least six centuries in precisely
the kind of document which supports Guillaume’s hypothesis,
viz, the ijaza, or diploma conferring the right to teach.
In a manuscripts"7"
containing the text of the Siqt al-Zand of Ab al-Alã’
al-Ma'arri we find on fol. 250v an ijaza carrying the
date A.H. 542 (= A.D. 1147)"8"
and containing the phrase bi-haqq riwayatihi. Its full text is
of the Kitab Sibawayh copied by Zayd ibn al-Hasan ibn Zayd al-Kindi
in A.H. 595 (== A.D. 1198) preserved in the Bibliothque
Nationale in Paris contains an ijaza in which the phrase
bi-haqq riwayati occurs. The text of this ijaza
reads as follows:
containing a copy of Ma'alim al-sunan of Hamd al-Khattabi from
the Feyzullah Library contains an ijaza, bearing the
date A.H. 56 (= A.D. 1160), which twice uses the phrase bi-haqq
riwayatihi. The relevant passage reads:
Manuscript 591 of the Ghazi-Husrav Bey Library in Sarajevo, which
contains twenty different items of a miscellaneous nature,"15"
includes an ijaza "16"
issued to Ibn Himmãt al-Dimashqi on
the 10th of Ramadan 1134 (=A.D. 1721), by the Egyptian faqih
Ibn al-Mayyit. The phrase bi-haqq riwayatihi occurs on fol. 105v
of this manuscript."17"
The relevant passage reads as follows:
The phraseology used in these ijazat suggests that Guillaume’s
proposal may well indicate the true origin of the puzzling noun
baccalareus in the Arabic adverbial phrase bi-haqq al-riwaya,
and it is worthy of note that Rashdall,"19"
while stating that the etymology of the word
is doubtful, thought it likely that it was first used as a slang
term; this is precisely the way in which the Arabic bi-haqq al-riwaya
might have been used colloquially by scholars, for want of an
immediately convenient Latin equivalent, in the same way that
European merchants adopted Arabic terms such as ‘tare’
(from tarh), ‘tariff’ (from ta'rif), ‘mohatra’
(from mukhatara), ‘cheque’ (from sakk), ‘arsenal’
(from dar al-sina'a), etc., without troubling to think of suitable
European renderings of these useful words.
The intermediate stages by which ‘bi-haqq al-riwaya’
could have been transformed into ‘baccalareus’ cannot
be determined with absolute certainty, but we suggest that the
following considerations may illustrate the manner of this progression.
In the first syllable of baccalareus the change from bi-haqq to
bacc with loss of ‘h’ can be paralleled in other Arabic
borrowings into medieval Latin."20"
The unassimilated ‘1’ in the
second syllable of the word can be paralleled in many Latin borrowings
from Arabic in literary sources ;"21"
if, however, in accordance with Rashdall’s
suggestion baccalareus arose from a colloquial usage, we would
have to assume the likelihood of Spain being the area in which
it was first used, and that the assimilation of the lam
of the article to a following ‘sun’ letter did not
occur in the spoken Arabic of Spain. In regard to ‘riwaya’
meta-thesis may well have occurred. Thus the following progression
could be envisaged: bi-haqq al-riwaya > b-haqq lra
> baccalure [? a] > baccalareus.
The study of ijazat by European scholars has been neglected,"22"
and it may well be that further research
into this class of document will throw more light on the relationship
between the early institutions of higher learning in Islam and
those of medieval Christian Europe.
1) See P. Kibre, The Nations in the Mediaeval
Universties (Cambridge, Mass., 1948).
2) Cf. A. Guillaume, Philosophy and Theology'
in The Legacy of islam, 1st edition, ed. T. Arnold and A. Guillaume
(Oxford 1931), pp. 244-5
3) Ibid., p. 244
4) Ibid., p. 244, footnote 1. In the second edition
of The Legacy of Islam, ed. J. Schacht and C. E. Bosworth (Oxford,
5) See L. Halphen, A travers l’histoire
dv Moyen Age (Paris, 1950), p. 304; H. Grundmann, Vom Ursprung
der Universjtãt im Mittelalter [Berichte uber die Verhandlungen
der Schsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Phil.-hist.
Kl., Bd. 103, Heft 2 (Berlin, 1957)], p. 55 Encyclopaedia Britannica
(11th edition, 1910), s.v. Bachelor.
6) In the sense that they confine themselves
to recording that the word is medieval Latin and do not venture
beyond this; see, e.g., Brockhaus Enzyklopadie, vol. a (Wiesbaden,
1967), s.v. Bakka-laureus; Der Grosse Duden, vol. 5 (Fremdwörterbuch)
[Mannheim, 1960], s.v. Bakkalaureat; Nouveau Larousse Universel,
vol. i (Paris, 1948), s.v. Bacca-lauréat; Encyclopaedia
Britannica (1970), s.v. Bachelor, etc. The Spanish Enciclopedia
del Idioma, vol. i (Madrid, 5958), s.v. Bacalario, proposes the
otherwise discounted suggestion that the origin of the term is
to be sought in the compound vacca (= berry) + laureus (= laurel);
this is repeated in Enciclopedia
Universal Ilustrada Europeo-Americana, vol. 7, S.v.Bacalaria.
7) Cambridge University Library MS. QQ 115. For
a description of this valuable manuscript see W. Wright, Facsimiles
of Manuscripts and Inscriptions (Oriental Series), London, 1875—83,
in the album of the Palaeographical Society, Plate XXXV, where
it is stated that the manuscript was written in A.H. 475 (= A.D.
1082—3). In his Handlist of the Muhammadan Manuscripts
in the University Library, Cambridge (Cambridge, 1900), p. 19,
E. G. Browne gives an inaccurate notice of this manuscript. He
was apparently unaware of Wright’s earlier work.
8) i.e. at a period ‘ou, ni dans les faits
ni dans las mots, il n’est encore question d’Universités
[occiden. tales]’ in the words of L. Halphen, op. cit.,
9) See Plate No. 1 This passage is reproduced
by Stern in the course of his detailed description of this manuscript.
See S. M. Stern 'Some Noteworthy Manuscripts of the Poems of Abdul
Ala al-Ma'arri in Oriens, vii (1954), p. 328 N.B. Stern omits
in error the phrase al-ajal al-imam at the begining of the passage.
10) Ms. Laleli 1765 (Istanbul). For details of
this manuscript see O. Rescher, 'Mitteilungen aus Stambuler Bibliotheken
in ZDMG 64 (1910), p. 519; Stern, op. cit, 336 where the message
cited here ins reproduced.
11) See Plate No. II
12) MS. B.N. 5068, fol. 1. See G. Vajda, Certificates
de Lecture et de Transmission dans les Manuscrits Arabes de la
B.N. de Paris (Paris, 1956), p. 48. The passage given here is
quoted by S. al-Munajjid, Ijazat al-Sama fi al-Makhtutat al-Qadima
in RIMA, i (1955), pp. 245f. who however reads wasbain as wtsain.
13) MS. No. 543. The text of this ijaza
was published by H. Ritter in his article ‘Autographs in
Turkish Libraries’ in Oriens, Vi (1953), pp. 84—6.
14) See Plate No. III
15) For a full description of this manuscript
and its contents see K. Dobraca, Fifris al-Makhtutat al-Arabiyya
wa-l-Turkiyya wa-l-Farisiyya, vol. i (Sarajevo, 1963), pp. 374-80
16) The full text of this document, together
with an English translation, has been published by the present
writers in Le Muséon, lxxxvii (1974), pp. 445-65.
17) Attention may also be drawn at this point
to the term al-majlis al-amm (= a general gathering for study)
which is used in the Sarajevo manuscript (fol. 106r). This phrase
shows some resemblance to the original name of the European University,
the studium generale, and the meaning of Arabic phrase is identical
with Rashdall's definition of studium generale: 'a place where
students from all parts are recieved'. See H. Rashdall, The Universities
of Europe in th eMiddle Ages, ed. F.M. Powicke and A.B. Emden,
vol. i (Oxford, 1942), p.6. See also H. Wieruszowski, The Medieval
Universities: Masters, Students, Learning (Princeton 1966), p.
16 and A.B. Cobham, The Medieval Universities (London, 1975),
18) See Plate No. IV.
19) See Rashdall, op. cit., pp. 207—8.
20) See J. D. Latham, ‘Arabic into Medieval
Latin’ in Journal of Semitic Studies, xvii (5972), p. 38,
Additional note (ii). We are indebted to Dr. Latham for a number
of valuable suggestions in regard to this paragraph, which he
has kindly discussed with one of the present writers.
21) See ibid., p. 38, Additional note (i); cf.
such Medieval examples as althemen from ath-thaman (p. 53), ,
alszarar from as-si’r (p. 52).
22) See C. Vajda, The Encyclopaedia of Islam
(2nd edition), s.v. Idjaza. See also al-Munajjid, op. cit.,