The First University Of Its Kind Founded By A Muslim Woman in Fez, Morocco in 859AD
By Maj Hussain,
Manchester: Over 1157 years have passed since the creation of one of the earliest known Universities in history. This university was set up and developed by a Muslim woman in Fez Morocco. The University of Al Quaraouiyine as it is known is a masterpiece in promoting educational values and aspirations. Fatima al-Fihri was the innovative Muslim woman who created this educational establishment in 859AD a period in early Islamic history.
Fatima a forward thinking young Muslim woman inherited a large sum of money from her father who was a wealthy merchant and trader. Fatima had migrated from her home in Tunisia to Fez in Morocco. She decided to use the finances she had acquired to open a mosque and an institute for learning next to it. Religious subjects were taught as well as wider areas of learning and intrigue. The University was the first to award diplomas to its students as a sign of their achievements and success in their studies and subjects of choice.
Amongst the most famous students at this learning institution was Pope Sylvester II. The Pope was credited with taking the digit 0 from the Islamic world to the Western Christian society which had a profound lasting effect on Western society.
Another famous scholar who studied at the University was Maimonides a Jewish intellectual who was said to have been amongst the greatest Jewish scholars in history. He rose to prominence in Al Andalus and was skilled being able to navigate through the Arabic language with ease. Mohammed al-Idrisi also attended the institution, he was known for being one of the most famous geographers of his era living in Sicily and operating at the court of King Roger II. Idrisi produced a magnitude of maps and literature in his lifetime. Ibn Khaldun was also an inspirational Historian who studied at Al Quaraouiyine. He is best known for his book, ‘The Muqaddimah’ (literally the “Introduction”, known as the Prolegomena in Greek).
Other regions of the world such as India have also claimed to have amongst the oldest Universities in the world but the format and context of Al Quaraouiyine is uniquely the only known one in this period of history. It is said Fatima directly assisted in building the University of Al Quaraouiyine with her own hands. Being a spirited Muslim woman she was able to finance the project and directly take action in spearheading its construction and development.
This is a clear example of how Muslim women were empowered early on in society to work towards social change and impact their environments positively contrary to some of the negative opinions held in modern society. This information is important as it helps aspire and create role models for young women in contemporary society.