Thanks to its religious, historical and cultural stature, the Holy City of Makkah has always been deemed to be a beacon for the entire Islamic world. It is the landing place of revelation, and the direction (kiblah) towards which millions of Muslims around the world turn for prayer everyday. It also allures millions of people who flock every year for pilgrimage (Hajj and Umrah), and to visit the Prophet's Mosques and the other Holy Sites.
It could be said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become the ideal Islamic state. While coping with modernity and showing keen interest in building a modern state, the Kingdom has also clung to authenticity and cultural specificities, and based its internal and external policies on the teachings of Shari'a. It should come as on surprise, as such, that the Kingdom has gained impressive political and economic weight on the international arena, thanks to its prudent policy. The successive five-year development plans, adopted by the Kingdom over 30 years now, have given a vigorous impetus to the country's journey of development and renaissance, in a manner hard to achiever by any other country. Emanating from a balanced policy, these plans have placed particular emphasis on constructing basic infrastructure, as well as building capacities and developing human resources.
Ever since the Kingdom was unified (by annexing Hijaz) in 1925, tremendous efforts have been exerted to boost the intellectual movement, bolster education and care for students. In this spirit, the first Ministry of Education was founded, schools were opened across the Kingdom, and staffed with highly qualified Saudi and expatriate educators. Established in 1926, the Scientific Institute of Makkah is reckoned one of the Kingdom's earliest academic institutions. It was followed by the School of Preparation for Scholarship (Makkah, 1936), and Dar al-Tawheed (Taif, 1948), in addition to many other schools and educational institutions throughout the Kingdom's regions and cities.
In 1949, King Abdulaziz give his orders to establish the College of Shari'a (Islamic Law) in Makkah, to be the Kingdom's first university institution, and, thereafter, the kernel of Umm al-Qura University (UQU). And as a matter of fact, this college is still regarded as the university's mother college, and the most prominent one. Even though restructured quite recently, still UQU is looked upon as one of the most prestigious universities, given its noble location and impressive authenticity. UQU has been known for its praiseworthy reputation in Shari'a, education, and Islamic studies, in addition to modern applied sciences. Historically, Umm al-Qura University has gone through three phases phases:
The UQU's inception was in 1949, when the College of Shari'a was established as the first modern academic institution in KSA. It was followed, in 1952, by the Teachers' College, which continued until 1959 when the College of Shari'a took over the responsibility of preparing teachers, and was renamed to the "College of Shari'a and Education". Afterwards, in 1962, the College of Education was founded as an independent college.
During this phase, both the College of Shari'a and the College of Education were annexed to King Abdulaziz University (in Jeddah) as its branch in Makkah. As this phase drew to its close, the College of Education (in Taif) was opened, new departments were introduced, and a number of academic centers were founded.
Umm al-Qura University was founded in 1981 by a royal decree issued by KingKhalid bin Abdulaziz –may Allah bless his soul. From the two old colleges (the College of Shari'a and Islamic Studies, and the College of Education, along with the Arabic Language Institute), emanated a number of colleges as expansions to former departments. Thus, during the first decade of the 15th Higri century, five colleges were added; they are the College of Da'wa and Islamic Theology, the College of Arabic Language, the College of Applied Sciences, the College of Social Sciences, and the College Engineering and Islamic Architecture; besides the College of Education in Taif, which was opened in 1981. By the establishment of the College of Medicine and Medical Sciences in 1997 in Makkah, and by transforming the Deanship of Community Service into a college, the number of UQU colleges was brought to twelve; aside from the Institute for Arabic Linguistics for Non-Native Speakers, and the Hajj Research Institute. Later on, th College of Community Services was opened in al-Baha.
Currently, the University offers BA, Graduate Diplomas, Masters and Ph.D degrees in a wide array of disciplines, such as Islamic studies, Arabic language, education, social sciences, applied sciences, medicine and engineering. In the UQU premises in Makkah, there are currently over 30.000 students. And the disciplines offered by its colleges are on the increase. In doing so, the university takes part in meeting the community needs, and satisfying the requirements of development plans, by providing qualified educated calibers, who are capable of innovation in all walks of life. Coinciding with the inception of the university, work was initiated on the new UQU premises. Al-Abdiyah was chosen to be the university's new location. Based in southeast Makkah, the campus overlooks Mount Arafat. It was the late Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahad bin Abdulaziz, who laid the foundation stone of this giant project, the second phase of which is projected to get completed soon.
In 1995, three UQU colleges were moved to the university’s new campus in al-Abidiyah: they are the College of Shari'a and Islamic Studies, now recognized as the pioneer of Islamic studies and holding the academic accreditation of the Muslim World League, and the College of Engineering and Islamic Architecture, in addition to the College of Arabic Language, which had taken up an annex building at first, before it was moved to an independent building by 2001. Established in 1998, the UQU College of Medicine and Medical Sciences had been temporarily annexed to the premises of the College of Engineering and Islamic Architecture, before it was moved to an independent building, the first phase of which was accomplished in record time. Currently, the UQU premises are distributed to three campuses in Makkah. The first campus is in Aziziyah, accommodating the university leadership, supportive deanships, and the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques' Institute for Hajj and Umrah Research, the Scientific Research Institute, in addition to the College of Community Service and some other colleges. The second campus is based in al-Zahir; it accommodates the Deanship of Girls Undergraduate Studies and its subsequent colleges, the third being the new al-Abdiyah Campus.