Mir Arab Madrassah

Bukhara, Uzbekistan | C.1536

Photo Credit: Jae Kim

From within an architectural monument in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, the Mir Arab Madrassah has served as a prestigious educational center since its construction in the early 16th century. The Madrassah was funded by the classical poet, Ubaydullahan, and built by Sheikh Abdulla.

The school earned its name from the Sheikh, whose real name was Mir Arab. Although Mir Arab was instrumental in the building of the Madrassah, he passed away in 1536. His son-in-law, Sheikh Zakariya, took over construction. Since its completion, Mir Arab Madrassah has been considered exemplary of religious schools in Central Asia.

The monumental structure occupies a total area of approximately 3,517 square meters (37,856 sq ft), and is crowned by a 5-domed headpiece. Inside, it contains a large dining room, a mosque, and a burial ground. According to legend, the Madrassah was intentionally laid deep, fortified with rock, and designed so that it could help drain snow and rain water from the city.

Soviets closed the school in 1920, and the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan suspended operations. Following negotiations with the USSR, the Central Asian Religious Administration was able to reclaim the Madrassah and reopen in 1945. As one of the only Islamic educational schools in the USSR, the Madrassah has educated many prominent religious leaders in the former Soviet republic.

Today, the Madrassah continues to provide religious education. In 2017, the school celebrated a grand re-opening when it extended enrollment to Muslims from outside of Uzbekistan for the first time. Students can enroll in a 4 year-program and are taught religious and general subjects as well as the Arabic, English, Russian, and Persian languages.

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