University of al-Qarawiyyin

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University of al-Qarawiyyin
Jāmi`at al-Qarawīīn
(جامعة القرويين)
Var 132.jpg
Interior of al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and university; note the similarity of the architecture to the Alhambra (الحمراء)
Established Mosque 859[1]
Type Madrasa or University (859 to 1963)
State university since 1963[2][3][4]
Religious affiliation Sunni
Location Fes, Morocco
Campus Urban

The University of al-Qarawiyyin or al-Karaouine (Arabic: جامعة القرويين‎) is a university located in Fes, Morocco. The al-Qarawiyyin mosque-university was founded by Fatima al-Fihri in 859 with an associated school, or madrasa, which subsequently became one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the historic Muslim world. It was incorporated into Morocco's modern state university system in 1963. It is the oldest existing and continually operating educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records[5] and is sometimes referred to as the oldest university.[6]

Education at al-Qarawiyyin University concentrates on the Islamic religious and legal sciences with a heavy emphasis on, and particular strengths in classical Arabic grammar/linguistics and Maliki law, although a few lessons on other non-Islamic subjects such as French, English, and even IT are also offered to students. Teaching is delivered in the traditional method, in which students are seated in a semi-circle (halqa) around a sheikh, who prompts them to read sections of a particular text, asks them questions on particular points of grammar, law, or interpretation, and explains difficult points. Students from all over Morocco and Islamic West Africa attend the Qarawiyyin, although a few might come from as far afield as Muslim Central Asia. Even Spanish Muslim converts frequently attend the institution, largely attracted by the fact that the sheikhs of the Qarawiyyin, and Islamic scholarship in Morocco in general, are heirs to the rich religious and scholarly heritage of Muslim al-Andalus.

Most students at the Qarawiyyin range from between the ages of 13 and 30, and study towards high school-level diplomas and university-level bachelor's degrees, although Muslim males with a sufficiently high level of Arabic are also able to attend lecture circles on an informal basis, given the traditional category of visitors 'in search of [religious and legal] knowledge' (zuwwaar li'l-talab fii 'ilm). In addition to being Muslim and male, prospective students of the Qarawiyyin are required to have memorized the Qur'an in full as well as several other shorter medieval Islamic texts on grammar and Maliki law, and in general to have a very good command of Classical Arabic.

Background[edit]

Successive dynasties expanded the al-Qarawiyyin mosque until it became the largest in Africa, with a capacity of 22,000 worshipers.[7] Compared with the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul or the Jameh Mosque in Isfahan, 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 complements 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-Qarawiyyin. In the minaret of al-Qarawiyyin mosque there is a special room, the Dar al-Muwaqqit, where the times of prayer are established.

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. The mosque acquired its present 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.

Status as oldest university of the world[edit]

According to Guinness World Records, al-Qarawiyyin is the oldest existing educational institution in the world.[8] It has also been officially recognized by UNESCO as the world's oldest university.[9]

History[edit]

Madrasa[edit]

Al-Qarawiyyin was founded with an associated school, or madrasa,[1][10][11][12] – described in some sources as a university[12][13][14][15][16][17][page needed][18][19] – 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 mosque), 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.[20] the adjacent madrassah is also the oldest madrassah in history.[21]

In addition to a place for worship, the mosque soon developed into a place for religious instruction.

Al-Qarawiyyin gained the patronage of politically powerful sultans.[when?] 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 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 by Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur in 1602, and the original copy of Ibn Khaldun's book Al-'Ibar.[22] Among the subjects taught, alongside the Qur'an and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), are grammar, rhetoric, logic, medicine, mathematics, astronomy.

The twelfth century cartographer Mohammed al-Idrisi, 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-Qarawiyyin. The madrasa 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, Leo Africanus, a renowned traveler and writer. Pioneer scholars such as 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 madrasa either as students or lecturers. Among Christian scholars visiting al-Qarawiyyin were the Belgian Nicolas Cleynaerts and the Dutchman Golius.[22]

State University[edit]

At the time Morocco became a French protectorate in 1912, Al-Qarawiyyin had witnessed a decline as a religious center of learning from its medieval prime.[2] However, it had retained some significance as an educational venue for the sultan's administration.[2] The student body was rigidly divided along social strata; ethnicity (Arab or Berber), social status, personal wealth and the geographic background (rural or urban) determined the group membership of the students who were segregated on the teaching facility as well as in their personal quarters.[2] The French administration implemented a number of structural reforms between 1914 and 1947, but did not modernize the contents of teaching likewise which were still dominated by the traditional worldviews of the ulama.[2] At the same time, the student numbers at Al-Qarawiyyin dwindled to a total of 300 in 1922 as the Moroccan elite began to send its children instead to the new-found Western-style colleges and institutes elsewhere in the country.[2]

In 1947, Al-Qarawiyyin was integrated into the state educational system,[23] but it was only by royal decree after independence, in 1963, that the madrasa was finally transformed into a university under the supervision of the ministry of education.[2][3][4] The old mosque school was shut down and the new campus established at former French Army barracks.[2] While the dean took its seat at Fez, four faculties were founded in and outside the city: a faculty of Islamic law in Fez, a faculty of Arab studies in Marrakech and a faculty of theology in Tétouan, plus one near Agadir in 1979. Modern curricula and textbooks were introduced and the professional training of the teachers improved.[2][3] Following the reforms, al-Qarawiyyin was officially renamed "University of al-Qarawiyyin" in 1965.[2]

In 1975, the General Studies were transferred to the newly founded Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University; al-Qarawiyyin kept the Islamic and theological courses of studies.[citation needed]

In 1988, after a hiatus of almost three decades, the teaching of traditional Islamic education at the madrasa of al-Qarawiyyin was resumed by king Hassan II in what has been interpreted as a move to bolster conservative support for the monarchy.[2]

Historians of the university, encyclopedias and dictionaries of the Middle Ages consider that the university (from Latin universitas) was an institution unique to Christian Europe, that the first universities were all located in Western Europe with Paris and Bologna often cited as the earliest examples,[24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31][32]

These sources therefore consider that al-Qarawiyyin was founded[1][11] and run[4][23] as a madrasah (Arabic: مدرسة‎) or a mosque school until after World War II. They consider institutions like al-Qarawiyyin to be higher schools of Islamic law where other subjects were only of secondary importance.[33][34][35] They also consider that the University was only adopted outside the West, including into the Islamic world, in the course of modernization programmes since the beginning of the 19th century.[36][37][38][39][40] They date the transformation of the madrasa of Al-Qarawiyyin into a university to its modern reorganization in 1963.[2][3][4] In the wake of these reforms, al-Qarawiyyin was officially renamed "University of al-Qarawiyyin" two years later.[2]

In contrast according to UNESCO[9] and a number of other sources, al-Qarawiyyin is considered to have been a university since its founding and therefore that it is the oldest university in the world.[12][14][15][16][page needed][19] According to Yahya Pallavicini, the university model did not spread in Europe until the 12th century, and was found throughout the Muslim world from the founding of al-Qarawiyyin in the 9th century until at least European colonialism.[41][author missing]

Famous alumni[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Petersen, Andrew: Dictionary of Islamic Architecture, Routledge, 1996, ISBN 978-0-415-06084-4, p. 87 (entry "Fez"):

    The Qarawiyyin Mosque, founded in 859, is the most famous mosque of Morocco and attracted continuous investment by Muslim rulers.

  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Lulat, Y. G.-M.: A History Of African Higher Education From Antiquity To The Present: A Critical Synthesis, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005, ISBN 978-0-313-32061-3, pp. 154–157
  3. ^ a b c d Park, Thomas K.; Boum, Aomar: Historical Dictionary of Morocco, 2nd ed., Scarecrow Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-8108-5341-6, p. 348

    al-qarawiyin is the oldest university in Morocco. It was founded as a mosque in Fès in the middle of the ninth century. It has been a destination for students and scholars of Islamic sciences and Arabic studies throughout the history of Morocco. There were also other religious schools like the madras of ibn yusuf and other schools in the sus. This system of basic education called al-ta'lim al-aSil was funded by the sultans of Morocco and many famous traditional families. After independence, al-qarawiyin maintained its reputation, but it seemed important to transform it into a university that would prepare graduates for a modern country while maintaining an emphasis on Islamic studies. Hence, al-qarawiyin university was founded in February 1963 and, while the dean's residence was kept in Fès, the new university initially had four colleges located in major regions of the country known for their religious influences and madrasas. These colleges were kuliyat al-shari's in Fès, kuliyat uSul al-din in Tétouan, kuliyat al-lugha al-'arabiya in Marrakech (all founded in 1963), and kuliyat al-shari'a in Ait Melloul near Agadir, which was founded in 1979.

  4. ^ a b c d Belhachmi, Zakia: "Gender, Education, and Feminist Knowledge in al-Maghrib (North Africa) – 1950–70", Journal of Middle Eastern and North African Intellectual and Cultural Studies, Vol. 2–3, 2003, pp. 55–82 (65):

    The Adjustments of Original Institutions of the Higher Learning: the Madrasah. Significantly, the institutional adjustments of the madrasahs affected both the structure and the content of these institutions. In terms of structure, the adjustments were twofold: the reorganization of the available original madaris, and the creation of new institutions. This resulted in two different types of Islamic teaching institutions in al-Maghrib. The first type was derived from the fusion of old madaris with new universities. For example, Morocco transformed Al-Qarawiyin (859 A.D.) into a university under the supervision of the ministry of education in 1963.

  5. ^ Oldest University
  6. ^ Verger, Jacques: "Patterns", in: Ridder-Symoens, Hilde de (ed.): A History of the University in Europe. Vol. I: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-521-54113-8, pp. 35–76 (35)
  7. ^ Fauzi M. Najjar (April 1958). "The Karaouine at Fez". The Muslim World: Volume 48, issue 2. Wiley. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "Oldest university". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Medina of Fez". UNESCO. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  10. ^ Meri, Josef W. (ed.): Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, A–K, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-96691-7, p. 257 (entry "Fez")
  11. ^ a b Lulat, Y. G.-M.: A History Of African Higher Education From Antiquity To The Present: A Critical Synthesis Studies in Higher Education, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005, ISBN 978-0-313-32061-3, p. 70:

    As for the nature of its curriculum, it was typical of other major madrasahs such as al-Azhar and al-Qarawiyyin, though many of the texts used at the institution came from Muslim Spain...Al-Qarawiyyin began its life as a small mosque constructed in 859 C.E. by means of an endowment bequeathed by a wealthy woman of much piety, Fatima bint Muhammed al-Fahri.

  12. ^ a b c Esposito, John (2003). The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford University Press. p. 328. ISBN 0-1951-2559-2. 
  13. ^ "Qarawiyin". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 9 August 2012. "The Qarawīyīn Mosque is the centre of a university that was founded in AD 859" 
  14. ^ a b Joseph, S, and Najmabadi, A. Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Economics, education, mobility, and space. Brill, 2003, p. 314.
  15. ^ a b Swartley, Keith. Encountering the World of Islam. Authentic, 2005, p. 74.
  16. ^ a b Illustrated Dictionary of the Muslim World, Publisher: Marshall Cavendish, 2010 [1] p.161
  17. ^ Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson, Publisher: Allen Lane 2011 - ISBN 978-1-84614-273-4
  18. ^ The marketisation of higher education and the student as consumer by Mike Molesworth & Richard Scullion, Publisher: Taylor & Francis 2010 [2] p.26
  19. ^ a b "The Kairaouine Mosque". Rough Guides. Retrieved 9 August 2012. "and vies with Cairo's Al-Azhar for the title of world's oldest university" 
  20. ^ see R. Saoud article on http://muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=447.
  21. ^ http://archive.thedailystar.net/forum/2007/july/madrasa.htm
  22. ^ a b see R. Saoud article on http://muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?ArticleID=447,
  23. ^ a b Shillington, Kevin: Encyclopedia of African History, Vol. 2, Fitzroy Dearborn, 2005, ISBN 978-1-57958-245-6, p. 1025:

    Higher education has always been an integral part of Morocco, going back to the ninth century when the Karaouine Mosque was established. The mosque school, known today as Al Qayrawaniyan University, became part of the state university system in 1947.

  24. ^ Ferruolo, Stephen C.: The Origins of the University: The Schools of Paris and Their Critics, 1100–1215, Stanford University Press, 1985, ISBN 978-0-8047-1266-8, p. 5
  25. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: "University", 2012, retrieved 26 July 2012)
  26. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: "University", 2012, retrieved 26 July 2012
  27. ^ Pace, Edward: "Universities", The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, Robert Appleton Company, New York, 1912, retrieved 27 July 2012)
  28. ^ Brill's New Pauly: "University", Brill, 2012)
  29. ^ Lexikon des Mittelalters: "Universität. Die Anfänge", Vol. 8, Cols 1249–1250, Metzler, Stuttgart, [1977]–1999
  30. ^ Vauchez, André; Dobson, Richard Barrie; Lapidge, Michael (eds.): Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Vol. 1, Routledge, 2000, ISBN 978-1-57958-282-1, p. 1484 (entry "university")
  31. ^ Verger, Jacques: "Patterns", in: Ridder-Symoens, Hilde de (ed.): A History of the University in Europe. Vol. I: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-521-54113-8, pp. 35–76 (35)
  32. ^ Makdisi, George: "Madrasa and University in the Middle Ages", Studia Islamica, No. 32 (1970), pp. 255–264
  33. ^ Pedersen, J.; Rahman, Munibur; Hillenbrand, R.: "Madrasa", in Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edition, Brill, 2010:

    Madrasa, in modern usage, the name of an institution of learning where the Islamic sciences are taught, i.e. a college for higher studies, as opposed to an elementary school of traditional type (kuttab); in mediaeval usage, essentially a college of law in which the other Islamic sciences, including literary and philosophical ones, were ancillary subjects only.

  34. ^ Meri, Josef W. (ed.): Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, A–K, Routledge, ISBN 978-0-415-96691-7, p. 457 (entry "madrasa"):

    A madrasa is a college of Islamic law. The madrasa was an educational institution in which Islamic law (fiqh) was taught according to one or more Sunni rites: Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanafi, or Hanbali. It was supported by an endowment or charitable trust (waqf) that provided for at least one chair for one professor of law, income for other faculty or staff, scholarships for students, and funds for the maintenance of the building. Madrasas contained lodgings for the professor and some of his students. Subjects other than law were frequently taught in madrasas, and even Sufi seances were held in them, but there could be no madrasa without law as technically the major subject.

  35. ^ Makdisi, George: "Madrasa and University in the Middle Ages", Studia Islamica, No. 32 (1970), pp. 255–264 (255f.):

    In studying an institution which is foreign and remote in point of time, as is the case of the medieval madrasa, one runs the double risk of attributing to it characteristics borrowed from one's own institutions and one's own times. Thus gratuitous transfers may be made from one culture to the other, and the time factor may be ignored or dismissed as being without significance. One cannot therefore be too careful in attempting a comparative study of these two institutions: the madrasa and the university. But in spite of the pitfalls inherent in such a study, albeit sketchy, the results which may be obtained are well worth the risks involved. In any case, one cannot avoid making comparisons when certain unwarranted statements have already been made and seem to be currently accepted without question. The most unwarranted of these statements is the one which makes of the "madrasa" a "university".

  36. ^ George Makdisi: "Madrasa and University in the Middle Ages", Studia Islamica, No. 32 (1970), pp. 255-264 (264):

    Thus the university, as a form of social organization, was peculiar to medieval Europe. Later, it was exported to all parts of the world, including the Muslim East; and it has remained with us down to the present day. But back in the Middle Ages, outside of Europe, there was nothing anything quite like it anywhere.

  37. ^ Rüegg, Walter: "Foreword. The University as a European Institution", in: Ridder-Symoens, Hilde de (ed.): A History of the University in Europe. Vol. I: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2, pp. XIX–XX:

    The university is a European institution; indeed, it is the European institution par excellence. There are various reasons for this assertion. As a community of teachers and taught, accorded certain rights, such as administrative autonomy and the determination and realization of curricula (courses of study) and of the objectives of research as well as the award of publicly recognized degrees, it is a creation of medieval Europe, which was the Europe of papal Christianity...

    No other European institution has spread over the entire world in the way in which the traditional form of the European university has done. The degrees awarded by European universities – the bachelor's degree, the licentiate, the master's degree, and the doctorate – have been adopted in the most diverse societies throughout the world. The four medieval faculties of artes – variously called philosophy, letters, arts, arts and sciences, and humanities –, law, medicine, and theology have survived and have been supplemented by numerous disciplines, particularly the social sciences and technological studies, but they remain none the less at the heart of universities throughout the world.

    Even the name of the universitas, which in the Middle Ages was applied to corporate bodies of the most diverse sorts and was accordingly applied to the corporate organization of teachers and students, has in the course of centuries been given a more particular focus: the university, as a universitas litterarum, has since the eighteenth century been the intellectual institution which cultivates and transmits the entire corpus of methodically studied intellectual disciplines.

  38. ^ Verger, Jacques: "Patterns", in: Ridder-Symoens, Hilde de (ed.): A History of the University in Europe. Vol. I: Universities in the Middle Ages, Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 978-0-521-54113-8, pp. 35–76 (35):

    No one today would dispute the fact that universities, in the sense in which the term is now generally understood, were a creation of the Middle Ages, appearing for the first time between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It is no doubt true that other civilizations, prior to, or wholly alien to, the medieval West, such as the Roman Empire, Byzantium, Islam, or China, were familiar with forms of higher education which a number of historians, for the sake of convenience, have sometimes described as universities.Yet a closer look makes it plain that the institutional reality was altogether different and, no matter what has been said on the subject, there is no real link such as would justify us in associating them with medieval universities in the West. Until there is definite proof to the contrary, these latter must be regarded as the sole source of the model which gradually spread through the whole of Europe and then to the whole world. We are therefore concerned with what is indisputably an original institution, which can only be defined in terms of a historical analysis of its emergence and its mode of operation in concrete circumstances.

  39. ^ Sanz, Nuria; Bergan, Sjur (eds.): The Heritage of European Universities, Council of Europe, 2002, ISBN 978-92-871-4960-2, p. 119:

    In many respects, if there is any institution that Europe can most justifiably claim as one of its inventions, it is the university. As proof thereof and without wishing here to recount the whole history of the birth of universities, it will suffice to describe briefly how the invention of universities took the form of a polycentric process of specifically European origin.

  40. ^ Makdisi, George: "Madrasa and University in the Middle Ages", Studia Islamica, No. 32 (1970), pp. 255–264 (264):

    Thus the university, as a form of social organization, was peculiar to medieval Europe. Later, it was exported to all parts of the world, including the Muslim East; and it has remained with us down to the present day. But back in the Middle Ages, outside of Europe, there was nothing anything quite like it anywhere.

  41. ^ Aslan, Ednan, ed. (2009), Islamic Education in Europe, Wiener islamisch-religionspädagogische Studien 1, Böhlau Verlag Wien, pp. 220–221, ISBN 9783205783107, "The Muslim community maintained, favoured, and organized the institutions for higher education that became the new centres for the diffusion of Islamic knowledge. These centres were places where teachers and students of that time would meet and also where all intellectuals would gather and take part in extremely important scientific debates. It is not a coincidence that around the 9th century the first university in the world, the Qarawiyyin University in Fez, was established in the Muslim world followed by az-Zaytuna in Tunis and Al-Azhar in Cairo. The university model, that in the West was widespread starting only from the 12th century, had an extraordinary fortune and was spread throughout the Muslim world at least until the colonial period." 

Coordinates: 34°3′52″N 4°58′24″W / 34.06444°N 4.97333°W / 34.06444; -4.97333