The Guinness World Records recognizes the University of Al Karaouine (Morocco), founded in 859 C.E, as the world’s oldest degree-granting university.
The University of al-Qarawiyyin or al-Karaouine (Arabic: جامعة القرويين) is a university located in Fes, Morocco. It is the oldest existing, continually operating and the first degree awarding educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records and is sometimes referred to as the oldest university.
The al-Qarawiyyin mosque-religious school / college was founded by Fatima al-Fihri (Muslimah) in 859 C.E with an associated school, or madrasa, which subsequently became one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the historic Muslim world. It was incorporated into Morocco’s modern state university system in 1963. The claim of the university being the oldest in the world are subject to discussions as other institutions, such as the Zaytouna mosque-school founded in 703 C.E in Tunis, predated the founding of al-Qarawiyyin. Al-Qarawiyyin itself is named after the Qairaouan Mosque in Tunisia, the oldest mosque in the Maghreb and the cradle of the Muslim Maliki rite.
Another one is Al Azhar University and perhaps one of the oldest university in history. The madrasa is one of the relics of the Fatimid dynasty era of Egypt, descended from Fatimah, daughter of Prophet Mohammed (Sallallaho Alaihi Wa’Sallam). Fatimah was called Az-Zahra (the brilliant), and it was named in her honor. It was founded as a mosque by the Fatimid commander Jawhar, at the orders of the Caliph Al-Muizz as he founded the city for Cairo.
The Islamic Golden Age was inaugurated by the middle of the 8th century by the ascension of the Abbasi Caliphate and the transfer of the capital from Damascus to Baghdad. The Abbasi’s were influenced by the Qur’anic injunctions and hadith stressing the value of knowledge from religious to improvement in life.
During this period the Muslim world became an intellectual center for science, philosophy, medicine and education as the Abbasi’s championed the cause of knowledge and established the House of Wisdom in Baghdad; where both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars sought to translate and gather all the world’s knowledge into Arabic. Many classic works of antiquity that would otherwise have been lost were translated into Arabic and Indus or Sindh Valley (Pakistan) Farsi and later in turn translated into Turkish, Hebrew and Latin.
During this period the Muslim world was a cauldron of cultures which collected, synthesized and significantly advanced the knowledge. “In virtually every field of endeavor — in astronomy, alchemy, mathematics, medicine, optics and so forth — the Caliphate’s scientists were in the forefront of scientific advance.”