University of Al-Karaouine

University of Al-Karaouine

Infobox University
name = University of Al-Karaouine
native_name = 'جامعة القرويين"
Jāma`at al-Qarawīīn

image_size = 220px
caption = Interior of the Al Karaouine Mosque and University
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established = 859
type = Islamic
affiliation = Sunni
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city = Fes
country = Morocco
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campus = Urban
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The University of Al-Karaouine or Al-Qarawiyyin (Lang-ar|جامعة القرويين) (other transliterations of the name include Qarawiyin, Kairouyine, Kairaouine, Qairawiyin, Qaraouyine, Quaraouiyine, Quarawin, and Qaraouiyn) is a university located in Fes, Morocco. Founded in 859,cite book |last=Esposito |first=John |authorlink=John L. Esposito |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=The Oxford Dictionary of Islam |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |date= |year=2003 |month= |publisher=Oxford University Press |location= |language= |isbn=0-1951-2559-2 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages=328 |chapter= |chapterurl= |quote= ] the university is one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the Muslim world and is considered the oldest continuously operating institution of higher learning in the world by the "Guinness Book of World Records". ["The Guinness Book Of Records", Published 1998, ISBN 0-5535-7895-2, P.242 ]

Al Karaouine University played a leading role in the cultural and academic relations between the Islamic world and Europe in the middle ages. One of the greatest non-Muslim alumnus of the university was the Jewish philosopher and theologian Maimonides (1135-1204), who studied under Abdul Arab Ibn Muwashah. The cartographer Mohammed al-Idrisi (d. 1166), whose maps aided European exploration in the Renaissance is said to have lived in Fes for some time, suggesting that he may have worked or studied at Al Karaouine. The university has produced numerous scholars who have strongly influenced the intellectual and academic history of the Muslim world. Among these are Ibn Rushayd al-Sabti (d. 1321), Mohammed Ibn al-Hajj al-Abdari al-Fasi (d. 1336), Abu Imran al-Fasi (d. 1015), a leading theorist of the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, and Leo Africanus, a renowned traveler and writer.


The University of Al-Karaouine is part of a mosque, founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant named Mohammed Al-Fihri. The Al-Fihri family had migrated from Kairouan (hence the name of the university), Tunisia to Fes in the early 9th century, joining a community of other migrants from Kairouan who had settled in a western district of the city. Fatima and her sister Mariam, both of whom were well educated, inherited a large amount of money from their father. Fatima vowed to spend her entire inheritance on the construction of a mosque suitable for her community. [see R. Saoud article on ] .

In addition to a place for worship, the mosque soon developed into a place for religious instruction and political discussion, gradually extending its education to a broad range of subjects, particularly the natural sciences. In 1957, King Mohammed V introduced mathematics, physics, chemistry and foreign languages. [ [,9171,871798,00.html "Renaissance in Fez"] - Time magazine (Monday, Oct. 24, 1960)]

The university gained the patronage of politically powerful sultans. It compiled a large selection of manuscripts that were kept at a library founded by the Marinid Sultan Abu Inan Faris in 1349. Among the most precious manuscripts currently housed in the university library are volumes from the famous "Al-Muwatta" of Malik written on gazelle parchment, the "Sirat Ibn Ishaq", a copy of the Qur'an given to the university by Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur in 1602, and the original copy of Ibn Khaldun's book "Al-'Ibar". [see R. Saoud article on, ] Among the subjects taught, alongside the Qur'an and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), are grammar, rhetoric, logic, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, history, geography and music.

Al-Karaouine played, in medieval times, a leading role in the cultural exchange and transfer of knowledge between Muslims and Europeans. Pioneer scholars such as Ibn Maimun (Maimonides), (1135-1204), Al-Idrissi (d.1166 AD), Ibn al-Arabi (1165-1240 AD), Ibn Khaldun (1332-1395 AD), Ibn al-Khatib, Al-Bitruji (Alpetragius), Ibn Hirzihim, and Al-Wazzan were all connected with the university either as students or lecturers. Among Christian scholars visiting Al-Karaouine were the Belgian Nicolas Cleynaerts and the Dutch Golius. [see R. Saoud article on, ] . History reports on Lyautey, the French general who led the French "civilising Mission" in Morocco by calling al-Karaouine "the Dark House".

Architecture of the mosque

Successive dynasties expanded the Al Karaouine mosque until it became the largest in North Africa, with a capacity of more than 20,000 worshipers. Compared with the great mosques of Isfahan or Istanbul, the design is austere. The columns and arches are plain white; the floors are covered in reed mats, not lush carpets. Yet the seemingly endless forest of arches creates a sense of infinite majesty and intimate privacy, while the simplicity of the design compliments the finely decorated niches, pulpit and outer courtyard, with its superb tiles, plasterwork, woodcarvings and paintings.

The present form of the mosque is the result of a long historical evolution over the course of more than 1,000 years. Originally the mosque was about 30 meters long with a courtyard and four transverse aisles. The first expansion was undertaken in 956, by Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba, Abd-ar-Rahman III. The prayer hall was extended and the minaret was relocated, taking on a square form that served as a model for countless North African minarets. At this time it became a tradition that other mosques of Fes would make the call to prayer only after they heard Al Karaouine.

The most extensive reconstruction was carried out in 1135 under the patronage of the Almoravid ruler sultan Ali Ibn Yusuf who ordered the extension of the mosque from 18 to 21 aisles, expanding the structure to more than 3,000 square meters. Some accounts suggest that Ali Ibn Yusuf employed two Andalusian architects who also built the central aisle of the Great Mosque of Tlemcen, Algeria, in 1136. The mosque acquired its present, Córdoban appearance at this time, featuring horseshoe arches and ijmiz frames decorated with beautiful geometrical and floral Andalusian art, bordered with Kufic calligraphy.

In the 16th century, the Saadis restored the mosque, adding two patios to the northern and southern ends of the courtyard.

See also

* List of oldest universities in continuous operation
*Al-Azhar University
*Islamic architecture
*List of universities in Morocco

External links

*UNESCO Fez 2007 []
* [ Voice of America Article]

References and notes

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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