Do you see the green roofs? He points into the distant panorama. “That is QARAWIYYIN!”
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Medina of Fes, she waits patiently for the weary traveller, the avid shopper who when exhausted by the outstretched hands of dunya and the acquisition of useless things steps over her threshold. We too enter to seek sanctuary peace, prayer and solace in her bosom.
She is the Masjed QARAWIYYIN ……
Her doors are always open, her arm held wide waiting for her sister. Though she is a sanctuary and place of solace for others, yet she aches at the loss of her sister and has become weary and ragged at the edges in the waiting.
In 1912 they came from France, marauders, carpetbaggers, searching, looting and occupying Morocco.
Fes I am told was the center of Resistance. It was the capital of Morocco, all the suave politics of the world was played out there. Fes was also the center of the intelligentsia where the Ivy League Professors gathered, understood and expounded on how to overthrow the occupation by France. A Resistance for Freedom was brewing in the halls of the university of QARAWIYYIN.
In the University and the Mosque are the souls of the two sisters who built the two longest standing structures of continuous education and prayer. They gave their lifeblood for these two as a sadiqa e Jariya for the future students of Deen and Ilm.
The French recognized that they did not have the power to overcome the resistance so they use the British method of “divide and rule”
Fes was too intellectually advanced for the French; they were outsmarted at every turn. They must have given it a lot of thought, but they could not bomb it into oblivion like NATO did to Afghanistan.
Thus they shipped the politicians to Rabat and closed the doors of the University stripping the soul from the body…Knowledge was forbidden, only Salah could be performed without attainment of knowledge.
The QARAWIYYIN University lies barren, windows shuttered, doors closed, corridors silently waiting for the next generation of students of ilm.
Their moving the Capital to Rabat forced the politicians to move hundreds of miles away with poor roads and communication systems thus isolating Fes. The next step was to shut down the QARAWIYYIN University and start a new secular University in Rabat raising a sigh from the hearts of the sisters. The two separated, one struck silent and the other opening its arms to the lost, the weary and the disillusioned.
Thus began the era of the French: ushering in ignorance and the slow exsanguination of the comprehensive Islamic educational system that connected the life sciences to the Quran and Sunnah.
The French snatch her other half, stuffed its mouth silencing it forever they think. The sounds of footsteps in the hallways of the University cease. The body of knowledge that was gained in the classrooms of the University when joined with the spirit of the faith became the wings of those desirous of the Qurb of Allah while remaining in this world.………. is rudely jerked apart. The body in Rabat, the soul in Fes.
She on the other hand though left alone today, stands regal and elegant in demeanor, hiding her pain from the casual tourist like me. She continues to provide the peace and sanctuary to all those who seek it. She misses the light enthusiastic step of the students who came to her after studying at the University. Their joy and desire only to attain the best in the realm of Allah Subhanawataala. Eager students illuminating her halls with the light of knowledge and polishing her floor with the sujoods of submission.
She feels the pain and the anguish of loss of her other half. It is after magrib and the worshippers raise their voice in the recitation of the Quran, which resound in the archways of the mosque. Buried in the recitation are her sighs that are mistaken to be the tinkling of the fountain in the courtyard, as she looks longingly at the closed doors of the University.
She waits silently and patiently. How long will she have to wait before her other half is restored?
When will the halls of the QARAWIYYIN University ring with the footsteps and laughter of the young students as they spill into the mosque after class to pray, recite and remember their Lord?
The lights come on in the Medina…………… It is after Maghrib Salah and the recitation of the Quran in warsh begins.
As the singsong voices repeat the eternal words of Allah, my heart opens and flows out through my eyes. It glistens on the floor of the mosque reflecting the tear in her eyes as she waits……….silently for her sister to be restored to its former glory, as do I.