Al Quaraouiyine University, a living story

HISTORICAL SITE Considered one of the leading historical sites in the city and the kingdom, Al Quaraouiyine University is both a faculty specializing in Islamic and scientific studies, and a religious space, housing the biggest mosque in Fes.

The foundation of the building, ordered by Fatima Alfihrya (surname Oum Al Banine), a female Kairouan (Tunisan) saint, during the Idrissides period (789 - 985), or more precisely when Emir Yahya ben Mouhammed reigned following the death of his brother Ali.

Following her parents’ deaths, Fatima inherited a large sum of money which she wanted to use for a religious work to obtain God’s blessing.

Construction started during the month of Ramadan in 859 on open land located in the what was then the north end of the city.

Fatima insisted that all materials, including the stones and the sand, used in the building were extracted directly from building site. Even the water was pulled from an excavated well in the centre of the court, which still exists today. Oum Al Banine fasted during while the mosque was under construction and thanked God upon its completion.

At the beginning, Al Quaraouiyine housed only a mosque. But during the Almoravides reign (1040 - 1147) a university was added to teach various science programs including theology, law, philosophie, mathematics, astrology/astronomy, languages. Considered as one of the best universities in the world, it has hosted the biggest names in Sufism, philosophy and science, including Abou Madyane, Avenpace, Al Idrissi Maïmonide, Ibn Khaldoun and Pope Sylvestre II.

Fatima Al Fihriya has also left her footprint in the story, since she was the one behind the construct of such a building, a rarity in Islam. She has left behind a monument, an architectural jewel and religious space, but not knowing that the Al Quaraouiyine University would become the world’s oldest university still in use and the second most important mosque in the Arab world, welcoming up to 22,700 religious believers, second only to Al Azhar in Cairo.