A l - Q a r a w i y y i n

[compiled by Mutma'inaa]


A view from the courtyard of the Qarawiyyin

  The city of Fez was founded in 808 A.D. by the great Moroccan ruler Moulay Idris II. When he was about to begin construction he lifted his hands to the heavens and prayed for the city and its inhabitants with the following words:

"Almighty God, make of it a house of knowledge and of legal science, so that in it Your Book may always be read and Your laws always observed. Let its inhabitants hold fast to the Book [the Holy Qur'an] and the Sunnah [the practice of the Prophet Muhammad], as long as You shall preserve it."

The supplication of its founder was realised years later, with the building of one of most beautiful places of worship and learning; Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University. One of the greatest Spiritual and Educational capitals of the World. The Qarawiyyin was (and is) a place for the Islamic community, a place for prayer, meditation, religious instruction, political discussion, and education.
As a place of renown, it attracted great names of Muslim scholarship, either as students, or teachers, or both. Among the many scholars who studied and taught there were Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Al-Khatib, Al-Bitruji, Ibn Harazim, Ibn Maymoun, and Ibn Wazzan. Students came from all over Morocco to study, as well as the rest of North Africa, Andalusia and even the Sahara.
At Al-Qarawiyyin, alongside classes on the Qur'an and Fiqh, were courses on grammar, rhetoric, logic, Medicine, elements of mathematics and astronomy, and possibly history, geography and elements of chemistry.

Thus, as can be seen, apart from a masjid, Al-Qarawiyyin includes one of the World's Oldest universities. It is one of many examples of the early learning Institutions from History.
The mosque is surrounded by madrasas, included a number of separate libraries, living quarters for students, and (as was mentioned earlier), was a major intellectual center in the Mediterranean. Its prestigious academic reputation may have transcended religious divisions (ie Islam), if, as a popular tradition suggests, Gerbert of Auvergne (930-1003), who would become Pope Sylvester II and who is credited with introducing the use of zero and Arabic numerals to Europe, was once a student at al-Qarawiyyin.

The Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque (also known as Jami'a al Karawiyin) and School of Fez was built in 859 A.D. and is located near the Suq al-'Attarin, or Spice Market of Fez al-Bali (The Old City of Fez), Morocco. It is one of many examples of the early learning Institutions from History.

The Almoravid ruler, Sultan 'Ali ben Yusuf expanded the mosque to its present size between 1134 and 1143. The courtyard's blue and white tile floor, marble ablutions fountain, and the two fountain pavilions, which recall the Court of the Lions at the Alhambra, were added by the Sa'did Sultan 'Abdallah ibn al-Shaikh (r. 1606-23).

The masjid itself is the largest in Africa and was founded as a private oratory in 857 by Fatima bint Mohammed Bin Feheri, the daughter of a wealthy Qayrawani immigrant from Tunisia.
  Being a large building, when you walk around the old city, you get a feeling that it's never ending. Every now and then, you discover a port to a mosque, just to realize that it's the same mosque over and over again. The most vital parts of the old city are making up a circle around the mosque, called Kairaouine. This is based upon old Muslim patterns where the jama', the main mosque is the center of town.

The Building

The general architecture of the masjid is based on the Analusian (Islamic Spain) style. Though it is a beautiful mix of varying traditions. The 10th century square stone minaret (commissioned and funded by 'Abd al-Rahman III, the first Umayyad caliph of al-Andalus), and by the carved stucco, wood, and glazed tile (zilij) ornamental style derived from the Alhambra. However, al-Qarawiyyin's T-shaped plan, created by an elevated central aisle perpendicular to an aisle fronting the qibla wall, belongs to North African mosque tradition. Stuccoed brick, with stone and tile revetment, and carved cedar wood are the primary materials used for the structure and ornament of the mosque proper.

Morocco was linked to Analusia in many ways, economically, politicaly and so on. This was heightened when the Muslims (and Jews, and others) were expelled and forced out of Andalusia in the years prior to 1492. Thus, the Iberian Peninsula brought an influx of refugees into the surrounding countries, and hence the architecture of the buildings therein. It is a classic example of architecture of Northen-Africa and Spain.


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