The University brings out all abilities,

including incapability.

–Anton Chekov

An image of the central courtyard of

University of Al-Karaouine.

 

University of Al-Karaouine is considered as the oldest continuously operating, degree granting university in the world. Both UNESCO and Guiness World Records have declared it the oldest academic institution in the world. Located in Fes, Morocco, this university originally was a mosque founded in 859 by Fatima al -Fihri, a woman. It developed into one of the leading universities for natural sciences.

The architecture of the academy is simple yet beautifully designed, decorated with Andalusian art bordered with Kufic calligraphy. The university library is home to numbers of precious manuscripts including historic copies of the Qu’ran.

Over the centuries, the university became a key spiritual and educational center in the muslim world. In the beginning, the madrasa focused on religious instruction and Qu’ran memorization, but later expanded into Arabic, music, Sufism, medicine and astronomy.

While it is ironic to see that the admission requirements include that the students must be both Muslim and male, it’s a woman laid down foundations. However, The University of Al-Karaouine reminds us that it is not Oxford or Cambridge that first set the stage for university learning, but a mosque’s madrasa that, over 1,000 years ago, set those gears in motion.