The History of the Great Mosque of Kairouan
If there is any building that is venerated and treated with so much reverence in Islam, it is the mosque. As this is the place where we worship Almighty Allah (SWT), it is understandable that we attach so much importance to a mosque. This is the enchanting history of the Great Mosque of Kairouan. Located in the city of Kairouan in what is now modern-day Tunisia in North Africa, this is one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world.
It is also called the Mosque of Uqba, the creation of the edifice commenced in 670 AD by a Muslim general when he did the groundbreaking. The mosque is truly vast by all standards and it stretches to more than 9,000 square meters (that comes to about 97,000 square feet). As it was established just a few decades after Prophet Muhammad (SAW), this is one of the oldest mosques in Islam and it influenced the other mosques in the North African (Maghreb) region.
The mosque is not just vast, it is also one of the greatest pieces of architecture in the Islamic world and it is noted for its pioneering use of the horseshoe arch. Following its creation, successive Muslim rulers kept working on and expanding the mosque. Of all the Muslim rulers that worked on the mosque, those of the Aghlabid dynasty stood out. They did not just reconstruct the mosque, they also added extra elements and additions to it.
Apart from its grandeur and majesty, another thing that made the mosque popular was the efforts of the Muslim scholars, geographers, and historians. They took their time to write a lot on the mosque. They detailed its design, construction pattern, location, and other details which they recorded and still serve as points of reference until today. Of course, Western writers, voyagers, and historians were also captivated by the mosque so much so that they also took their time to write as much as possible about it.
One other outstanding feature of the Great Mosque of Kairouan is that its minaret is the world’s oldest surviving minaret. Today, it is located in the northern section of the structure and also once served the role of a watchtower but its principal function is that it was used as the location to call Muslims to prayer. As for domes, this is one mosque that has several of them and the biggest one is placed right on top of the mihrab.
Over the centuries, the Great Mosque of Kairouan has served not only as a place of worship but also as a centre for education, both secular and religious courses have been taught in the mosque. These include medicine, mathematics, botany, arts, culture, theology, and astronomy.
The mosque itself is the base of a renowned university and that explains the presence of a massive library. The Great Mosque of Kairouan is another testament to the fact that Muslims place a lot of focus on intellectual development, knowledge, and worship. May Almighty Allah (SWT) ease our affairs, aameen.