Mosque-University of al-Qarawiyyin

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The Mosque-Jame' (university) of al-Qarawiyyin (جامعة القرويين), is a university located in Fez, Morocco. Originally it was founded as a mosque-madrasa by Fatima al-Fihri in 857–859 CE (244-247 Hijri) and subsequently became one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the Islamic Golden Age.

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It is the oldest and longest continuously operating institute of higher-learning functioning as a degree (certification) issuing center for learning. And It was incorporated into Morocco's modern state university system in 1963 CE and officially renamed "University of al Quaraouiyine" two years later.

The mosque building itself is also a significant complex of historical Moroccan and Islamic architecture that features elements from many different periods of Moroccan history. al-Qarawiyyin Mosque was founded in the 9th century ce, but its present form is the result of a long historical evolution over the course of more than 1,000 years. Successive dynasties expanded the mosque until it became the largest in Africa, with a capacity of 22,000 worshipers. The present-day mosque covers an extensive area of about half a hectare. Broadly speaking, it consists of a large hypostyle interior space for prayers (the prayer hall), a courtyard with fountains (the sahn), a minaret at the courtyard's western end, and a number of annexes around the mosque itself.

Exterior Architecture

circa 859 CE

The courtyard, sahn (صَحْن), is rectangular, surrounded by the prayer hall on three sides and by a gallery to the north. The floor is paved with typical Moroccan mosaic tiles (zellij) and at the center is a fountain. From outside the mosque, the courtyard is accessed by the main northern gate, called Bab al-Ward, whose vestibule is covered by a Marinid-era white dome which is fluted on the outside and covered in painted and carved stucco on the inside. Opposite this gate, situated on the mihrab axis, is the central entrance to the interior prayer hall, guarded by a carved and painted wooden screen called the anaza which also acted as a symbolic "outdoor" or "summer" mihrab for prayers taking place in the courtyard.

circa 859 CE

The 'Anaza (العنزه), the entrance from the courtyard to the prayer hall (leading to the central nave of the mihrab), was installed in 1289 CE and acted as a symbolic "outdoor" or "summer" mihrab for prayers in the courtyard. The stucco decoration on the entrance arch itself, however, dates from much later. It was reportedly built where the minaret of the 9th or 10th century mosque once stood. The stucco decoration of the central archway at the courtyard entrance to the prayer hall (i.e. the arch inside which the Marinid-era anaza stands) also dates from the Alaouite period; an inscription at the top of the arch gives the year 1864–1865 CE (1281 Hijri).


circa 859 CE

Prayer Hall
The interior hypostyle prayer hall takes up most of the mosque's area. Like the interior of most traditional mosques in Moroccan architecture, it is a relatively austere space with mostly plain walls, wooden roofs, and rows upon rows of arches. The main area, south of the courtyard, is a vast space divided into ten transverse aisles by rows of arches running parallel to the southern wall.

The southern wall of this hall also marks the qibla. The central axis of the prayer hall, perpendicular to the qibla wall, is marked by a central nave running between two extra lines of arches along this axis, perpendicular to the other arches. This nave leads towards the mihrab: a niche in the qibla wall which symbolizes the direction of prayer, and in front of which the imam usually leads prayers and delivers sermons. This overall layout (a hypostyle hall with a central nave emphasized against the others) is a familiar layout for North African mosques generally.

circa 859 CE

The mihrab, which dates from the Almoravid (12th-century CE) expansion, is decorated with carved and painted stucco, as well as several windows of coloured glass. The mihrab niche itself is a small alcove which is covered by a small dome of muqarnas (stalactite or honeycomb-like sculpting).

International Women's Day

Fatima al-Fihriya

Fatima bint Muhammad al-Fihriya al-Qurashiyya, known in shorter form as Fatima al-Fihriya or Fatima al-Fihri, was an Arab woman who is credited with founding the al-Qarawiyyin Mosque in 857–859 CE in Fez, Morocco. She is also known as Umm al-Banīn ("Mother of the Children"). al-Fihriya died around 880 CE.

The al-Qarawiyyin Mosque subsequently developed into a teaching institution, which became the modern University of al-Qarawiyyin in 1963 CE. Her story is told by Ibn Abi Zar' (d. between 1310 and 1320 CE) in The Garden of Pages (Rawd al-Qirtas) as founder of the mosque.

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