The university was established as the College of Sharia (Islamic Law) in 1949 before being joined by new colleges and renamed as Umm Al-Qura by royal decree in 1981.

UQU started primarily as an Islamic university offering degrees in Islamic Law and Arabic language studies.

It now offers more courses in such diverse subjects as Technology Management, Business Management, Islamic Economics, Marketing, Engineering,Technology, Medicine, Education, Architecture, as well various Applied, Social and Engineering Sciences.In 2015, the UQU annual budget hovered around SR 3 billion.