List of the oldest madrasahs in continuous operation in the Muslim world

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This is a list of madrasahs of the Muslim world which have been operating continuously since their founding.

Madrasahs before 1500[edit]

Year Current Location Name Other notes
859 Morocco Fes, Morocco Madrasah of Al-Karaouine Founded by Fatima al-Fihri, originally as a mosque. 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. 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),[6] 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 Dutchman Golius. Among the subjects taught, alongside the Qur'an and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), are grammar, rhetoric, logic, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, history, geography and music. However, only a degree in Islamic religious law, the Sharia, was ever granted, which is true for any madrasah.[1] This madrasah is considered the oldest continuously-operating degree-granting madrasah in the world.[2]
970-972 Egypt Cairo, Egypt Al-Azhar Madrasah Founded by the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt, this madrasa served as a center for Arabic literature and Sunni Islamic learning.The Encyclopedia of Islam calls it at most a "religious university", but more often a madrasa and center of higher learning.[3] The transition to an actual university took place in the 1950s, a development termed as "from madrasa to university".[4] The college (Jami'ah) had faculties in Islamic law and jurisprudence, Arabic grammar, Islamic astronomy, Islamic philosophy, and logic.This madrasah is considered by some the world’s second oldest surviving degree-granting institute.[citation needed] Its foundation as a university dates to 1961 when many modern secular faculties were added, such as medicine, engineering and agriculture.

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Makdisi, George (April–June 1989), "Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West", Journal of the American Oriental Society 109 (2): 175–182 [176], doi:10.2307/604423 :

    There was no other doctorate in any other field, no license to teach a field, except that of the religious law. To obtain a doctorate, one had to study in a guild school of law.

  2. ^ The Guinness Book Of Records, Published 1998, ISBN 0-553-57895-2, p. 242
  3. ^ Jomier, J. "al- Azhar (al-Ḏj̲āmiʿ al-Azhar)." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010, retrieved 20 March 2010:

    This great mosque, the 'brilliant one'...is one of the principal mosques of present-day Cairo. This seat of learning...regained all its activity—Sunnī from now on—during the reign of Sultan Baybars...Al-Azhar at the beginning of the 19th century could well have been called a religious university; what it was not was a complete university giving instruction in those modern disciplines essential to the awakening of the country.

  4. ^ Skovgaard-Petersen, Jakob. "al-Azhar, modern period." Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Edited by: Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas and Everett Rowson. Brill, 2010, retrieved 20 March 2010:

    Al-Azhar, the historic centre of higher Islamic learning in Cairo, has undergone significant change since the late 19th century, with new regulations and reforms resulting in an expanded role for the university. 1. From madrasa to university

See also[edit]