Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Oldest University in the World: Fatima al-Fihri & Al-Karaouine Madressah, Morocco

Daughter of Mohammed al-Fihri, Fatima al-Fihri, also called Umm al Banine, ‘Mother of the Boys’, is known for creating the oldest academic degree-granting university in existence today, the University of Qarawiyyin

Fatima and her family were among several families who moved from Tunisia to Morocco during the reign of the Moroccan King Idriss II. After her husband and her brothers died, she and her sister Mariam inherited a large fortune. Both women wanted to devote their money to pious work that would benefit the community in order to receive the blessing of God. To this end, Fatima built the Al Qarawiyyin mosque, while Mariam built the Al-Andalus mosque. From the 10th to the 12th century, the Al Qarawiyyin mosque developed into a university which became an important centre of education and one of the first Islamic and most prestigious universities in the world. 

Under the reign of King Idriss 1st, called Moulay Idrîss, son of Abdullah (nicknamed Al-Kâmil), Founder of Morocco's kingdom, several Arab families of the region of Ifriqia and Andalusia came for exile in Morocco. King Moulay Idriss warmly hosted them. Among the Arab exiled who left for Morocco, was a pious woman native of Kairouan called « Fatima Bent Mohammed El Fehri » nicknamed Oum Al Banine (mother of two sons). 

It is in the reign of King Idriss II that this pious woman went to her family in Adoua of Quaraouiyine. When her husband and her brothers died, she inherited a huge fortune that she wanted to devote it to pious work to deserve the blessing of God.

Fatima managed to reach her target by building a mosque. She bought a bare land, near her house in Adoua of Quaraouiyine, containing gypsum with some trees belonging to a man from Houara.  She laid the foundations of this work the first Saturday of Ramadan, in the year 245 of the Hegira. The walls were built with materials from a quarry in the same field which provided also the land, the stones and sands, in such a manner as this sacred mosque was totally built with materials of its own soil. Water was provided by a well also dug in the same place.

The meticulous way she built this mosque proceeds from the sincere will of a woman keen, in a first place, to deserve the blessing of God, through an act of charity where only devotion and loyalty of God was the rule.

The Saint woman fast all the time even during works and when they were completed, she made actions of grace to God as a token of her gratitude towards his majesty who highly supported her to crown the building of this Mosque.

The historian Ibn Khaldoun said, in this connection, that by building this valorous monument, this pious woman gave to the sovereigns of the epoch a rich lesson in terms of devotion and fair charity. For centuries, the Al Quaraouiyine Mosque’s architecture evolved.

It became, from the 10th century to the 12th century, an important centre of education and one of the first Islamic and most prestigious universities in the world. 

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