According to Guinness World Records and UNESCO, the University of al-Karaouine or al-Quaraouivine, also known as al-Qarawiyyin, is the oldest university in the world. This university, founded in 859 AD, has nurtured a number of notable scholars and intellectuals who have had a significant impact on the Muslim world’s intellectual and academic communities since then. Its reputed graduates include Abu Abullah Al-Sati, Abu Al-Abbas al-Zwawi, Ibn Rashid Al-Sabti (d.721 AH/1321 CE), Ibn Al-Haj Al-Fasi (d.737 AH/1336 CE), and Abu Madhab Al-Fasi, who led his age in the study of the “Maliki” school of thought. Additionally, a large number of notable intellectuals and historians attended the institution. Averroes, Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides), Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Ibn Khaldun, and Ibn Hazm were all students at the renowned school.
The madrasa of Al-Qarawiyyin was established in 859 AD by Fatima al-Fihri, a refugee of color. Fatima al-Fihri, a rich merchant’s daughter from Kairouan, Tunisia, went to Fez, Morocco, in the early ninth century. A considerable inheritance was left to Fatima and her sister Mariam after their father died. Fatima pledged that she would donate all of her fortune to the building of the mosque that was appropriate for her community. So it was erected in Fez, Morocco: Al-Qarawiyyin.
As a place of prayer and study, the mosque serves a dual purpose in the Muslim world. All disciplines, from religious building to political debate to scientific sciences, were taught at Al-Qarawiyyin, just like any other mosque. Cultural and scholarly interchange between Muslims and Europeans benefited greatly from Al-Qarawiyyin’s in the Middle Ages. In the 14th century, there were some 8,000 students from the Maghreb and Egypt who came to study there.
Al-Qarawiyyin is regarded as one of the Muslim world’s most important spiritual and educational institutions. During the colonial era, Al-Qarawiyyin adopted an attitude of resistance and defiance against the French conquerors. Furthermore, Al-Qarawiyyin had a reputation for its financial independence, since the endowments of Al-Qarawi were seen as an economic support reserve for Morocco during French colonial authority.
French colonialism put Al-Qarawiyahn through difficulties, as wealthy Moroccans sent their children to new, Western-style schools. In 1963, after Morocco’s independence, Al-Qarawiyyin was converted from a madrasa to a public university under the jurisdiction of the minister of education.
The University of al-Qarawiyyin is regarded as one of history’s most prominent institutions and one of the world’s most recognized universities for its historic setting, which includes a mosque and a library. At least 30,000 volumes and manuscripts are housed at the library, which was selected as one of the world’s top 100 places by Time Magazine in 2018. Today, the University of al-curriculum Qarawiyyin’s focuses on Islamic theological and legal studies, although non-Islamic subjects are also available to students.