The first dar al-hadith madrasa was reportedly opened by Nur al-din Zangi in 1169 in Damascus to teach the study of hadith. It is no coincidence that both Nizamiyya madrasas and this first dar al-hadith in the Islamic world were opened when the Saljukids and Zangids were fighting an ideological war with the Famitids and other Shiite movements of the 12th century.
A darülhadis madrasa was opened in the late 14th century in Iznik by Murad I and the number of darülhadis madrasas multiplied as the Ottoman Empire expanded in the 15th and 16th centuries. In the 16th century, Sultan Suleiman built his famous Süleymaniye complex, which will become the Ottoman world's highest madrasa. Attached to this madrasa was a darülhadis, which served as something close to a graduate institution, in which the highest-paid professors were assigned to teach hadith. In the 17th century, a staggering one hundred and thirty-five darülhadis madrasas were reported by Evliya Çelebi only in Eyüp, Galata, and Üsküdar. It is difficult to claim that all of these darülhadis madrasas served as specialized institutions. Some were opened in remote Anatolian towns and their professors were paid only twenty piasters daily, a sum smaller than what professors are paid in most midsize madrasas. The curriculum for these smaller darulhadis madrasas was teaching a select compilation of forty hadith and nothing beyond that.
Recently a scholar suggested that in the multiplication of darülhadis madrasas in the 17th-century Ottoman Empire, Kadızadelis had a role. By emphasizing the tradition and sunnah of the Prophet against the innovations of the Sufis and other groups, Kadızadelis inadvertently helped the multiplication of these institutions.
This paper will investigate the role of the darülhadis madrasas in the Ottoman Empire in the period before 1700. By scrutinizing the curriculum and the books assigned to the students it will examine if these madrasas were different than any other madrasa in the Ottoman system. It will also present some preliminary conclusions as to if darülhadis madrasas acted as agents of Ottoman Sunnitization in the 16th and 17th centuries.