Ibn al-Banna, whose full name was Abu 'l-Abbas Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Uthman al-Azdi, was born in 1256 in Marrakech. There is a claim that Ibn al-Banna was born in Grenada in Spain and moved to North Africa for his education. What is certain is that he spent most of his life in Morocco. This confusion on the place of his birth may be due to the fact that even after Almohad power had faded, the Moroccans – the Merinids in this instance – kept trying to save Muslim Spain. The Merinids had formerly lived in eastern Morocco before taking control of the whole country in 1269. They tried to help Granada to halt the Castillan advance through their country, and the strong link built between Granada and Morocco may account for the confusion as to which country Ibn al-Banna was a native of.
Ibn al-Banna lived and taught for some time in Fes which became, after the fall of the Almohads, the capital of the Merinids, and which tried to rival, on an intellectual level, Marrakech, the only city which had had the privilege of having been, for almost two centuries (1062-1248), the capital of the entire Maghreb, including vast sub-Saharan zones. Ibn al-Banna studied geometry, fractional numbers and learnt much of the impressive contributions that the Muslims had made to mathematics over the preceding centuries. At the university in Fes, Ibn al-Banna taught all branches of mathematics, which at this time included arithmetic, algebra, geometry and astronomy. Many students studied under him in this thriving academic community.