The great mosque of Kairouan
The Great Mosque of Kairouan, also called Oqba Ibn Nafi Mosque in memory of its founder Oqba Ibn Nafi, is one of the main mosques in Tunisia located in Kairouan. Historically the first Muslim metropolis in the Maghreb, Kairouan, whose political and intellectual peak was in the 9th century2, is reputed to be the spiritual and religious center of Tunisia; it is also sometimes considered the fourth holiest city in Islam.
Representing the emblematic building of the city, its Great Mosque remains the oldest and most prestigious sanctuary in the Muslim West.
Appearing, since the beylical decree of March 13, 1912, on the list of historical and archaeological monuments classified and protected in Tunisia, it was also classified, with the historic ensemble of Kairouan, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 19881.
Built initially by Oqba Ibn Nafi from 670 (corresponding to the year 50 of the Hegira), when the city of Kairouan was founded, it was enlarged and rebuilt in the 8th and 9th centuries. It is considered, in the Maghreb, as the ancestor of all the mosques of the region, as well as one of the most important Islamic monuments and a universal masterpiece of architecture.
From an aesthetic point of view, the Great Mosque of Kairouan appears to be the most beautiful building of Muslim civilization in the Maghreb. Its age and the quality of its architecture make it a jewel of Islamic art. Many books and manuals of Muslim art refer to the mosque.
Beyond its artistic and architectural importance, it played, according to the Tunisian scholar and Islamologist Mohamed Talbi, a key role in the Islamization of the entire Muslim West, including Spain, and the spread of Malikism.
Under the reign of the Aghlabid dynasty (9th century), major reconstruction and embellishment works gave the mosque its current appearance. Remarkable for its overall unity as well as for its vast dimensions, the fame and prestige of this place of prayer also comes from its contribution to the acquisition and transmission of knowledge, particularly between the 9th and 11th centuries. The university, made up of scholars and jurists who dispense their teachings within the mosque, is a training center both for the instruction of Muslim thought and for secular sciences.