ages. The cartographer Mohammed al-Idrisi (d. 1166), whose maps aided European exploration in the Renaissance is said to have lived in Fes for some time, suggesting that he may have worked or studied at Al Karaouine. The madrasa has produced numerous scholars who have strongly influenced the intellectual and academic history of the Muslim and Jewish worlds. Among these are Ibn Rushayd al-Sabti (d. 1321), Mohammed Ibn al-Hajj al-Abdari al-Fasi (d. 1336), Abu Imran al-Fasi (d. 1015), a leading theorist of the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, Leo Africanus, a renowned traveler and writer, and Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon.
The Al-Karaouine madrasa is part of a mosque, founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant named Mohammed Al-Fihri. The Al-Fihri family had migrated from Kairouan (hence the name of the madrasa), Tunisia to Fes in the early 9th century, joining a community of other migrants from Kairouan who had settled in a western district of the city. Fatima and her sister Mariam, both of whom were well educated, inherited a large amount of money from their father. Fatima vowed to spend her entire inheritance on the construction of a mosque suitable for her community.In addition to a place for worship, the mosque soon developed into a place for religious instruction and political discussion, gradually extending its education to a broad range of subjects, particularly the natural sciences. In 1957, King Mohammed V introduced mathematics, physics, chemistry and foreign languages.
Among the subjects taught, alongside the Qur'an and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), are grammar, rhetoric, logic, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, history, geography and music. Al-Karaouine played, in medieval times, a leading role in the cultural exchange and transfer of knowledge between Muslims and Europeans. Pioneer scholars such as Ibn Maimun (Maimonides), (1135–1204), Al-Idrissi (d.1166 AD), Ibn al-Arabi (1165-1240 AD), Ibn Khaldun (1332-1395 AD), Ibn al-Khatib, Al-Bitruji (Alpetragius), Ibn Hirzihim, and Al-Wazzan were all connected with the madrasa either as students or lecturers. Among Christian scholars visiting Al-Karaouine were the Belgian Nicolas Cleynaerts and the Dutchman Golius.