First university in the Islamic world.
Al-Qarawiyyin was built as a mosque in Fez in 859. The building was enlarged in the tenth century and later under the respective rules of the Almoravid, Almohad, Marinid, Saʿdi, and Alawiite dynasties. Its architecture expresses the Arab-Hispanic art that makes the Qarawiyyin one of the most prestigious monuments in Fez and in North Africa.
Since the twelfth century, most of the Moroccan ulama (Islamic clergy) received their religious teaching at the Qarawiyyin. Students came from all regions of Morocco and from the Arab world.
Under the Alawite dynasty, the Qarawiyyin was subject to a series of reforms regulating its organization and programs of teaching. The sultan Abd al-Rahman (1822–1859) reorganized the teaching there by dahir. This reorganization was oriented toward communicating to students religious disciplines guided by conformism to Islam. Among topics taught were Qurʾanic exegesis, astronomy, dialectics, mysticism, lexicography, philology, geography, medicine, and divination.
The teaching was free of charge, and the student could join the university at any time of the year. However, each student had to spend five years in the university to receive an ijaza given by his teacher if the student showed regularity and attended courses successfully.
In the nineteenth century, the teachers constituted a body of ulama that gave allegiance to the sultan and were consulted by him on different matters. They enjoyed high status in Fez, and qadis (judges) were recruited from among them. After the French takeover, the Sultan Mulay Youssef signed a dahir (on 19 May 1914) creating a council charged with the task of improving the university's methods of teaching, its administration, and the status of its teachers. In 1918, the university became affiliated with the Ministry of Justice and was led by le Conseil de Direction.
The most important change occurred after two dahirs were promulgated by Muhammed V on 1 April 1931 and 10 May 1933. The teaching became organized in cycles: elementary, secondary, and higher. Higher education in Qarawiyyin had two sections: one specialized in religious law, hadith (legends and traditions surrounding the Prophet), and interpretation of the Qurʾan; the second specialized in literature, Arabic language, history, and geography. Exams, hours of teaching, holidays, and the status of teachers were also regulated. In 1947, the Qarawiyyin became a state university.
After independence, the Qarawiyyin became affiliated with the Ministry of National Education, having as objectives to teach religious knowledge and to promote scientific research in this field. Three other institutions became linked to the Qarawiyyin: the Faculty of Arabic Language in Marrakech, Faculty of Theology in Tetuan, and Dar al-Hadith alHasaniyya in Rabat.
see also youssef, mulay.