Updated: Jun 8
Ancient Legacy of Women
As we may know, there are many historical figures who contributed remarkably to the development of the educational system and institutions. We can talk about Samuel Pearson, Henry III, Rab Butler, Ludwik Rajchman and many of them for their great contribution in education but we might almost never mention that there was a woman who was a main founder of the oldest educational institute.
Guess what! She is the first woman who built the university which is known as the oldest and the ancient University of al-Qarawiyyin or you can call it the medieval educational institute of 859 CE.
Untold true story of Fatima Al-Fihri
Fatima bint Muhammad Al-Fihriya Al-Qurashiya was an arab woman, born in 800 CE at Kairouan (Qayrawan), Abbasid Caliphate on the chest of Tunisia. Later on, her entire family migrated to Fez, Morocco. She was well educated in the Islamic jurisprudence Fiqh and the Hadith. Besides, she was taught at home following the Islamic tradition. Mohammed al-Fihri, her father, was a successful merchant. He, alongside her husband, died shortly after the wedding. Her father left his wealth to both Fatima and her sister named Maryam. They could live a luxurious and comfortable life but both sisters decided to do something more remarkable and thoughtful. They started a journey in which they were actively seeking for Mosque in Fez to flourish the knowledge of Islam.
Around 859 to 860 CE, both sisters founded two mosques which are known as Al-Qarawiyyin and another one known as Al-Andalus. Both mosques were named after the immigrants from their motherland. Many Muslim immigrants just like Fatima’s family in the northern city of Morocco came to Fez from various places such as Cordoba (Southern Spain) and Qayrawan (Northern Tunisia). The main reason behind that immigrants was the breakdown of Islamic guideline in Spain was expected not exclusively to expanding animosity with respect to Christian states, yet to divisions among the Muslim rulers. The decay came from both the middle and the furthest points.
Right off the bat in the 11th century, the single Islamic Caliphate had broken into a score of little realms, ready for taking out. The principal large Islamic focus to tumble to Christianity was Toledo in 1085. The Muslims answered with powers from Africa which under the overall Yusuf receptacle Tashfin crushed the Christians resoundingly in 1086, and by 1102 had recovered the vast majority of Andalusia. The general had the option to rejoin a lot of Muslim Spain. It didn't last. Yusuf kicked the bucket in 1106, and, as one student of history puts it, the "leaders of Muslim states started slitting each other's jugulars once more".
Inside uprisings in 1144 and 1145 further broke Islamic solidarity, and notwithstanding irregular military victories, Islam's control of Spain was finished for acceptable. The Muslims at long last lost all force in Spain in 1492. By 1502 the Christian rulers gave a request requiring all Muslims to change over to Christianity, and when this didn't work, they forced ruthless limitations on the leftover Spanish Muslims. Some Muslims were hardly managed to find refuge in Fez like Fatima's family.
Immigrating gave her a goal and a motive, so she united all the immigrated citizens and soon, it had become a community. They were deep believers in their Almighty and in religious knowledge. The community ended up outgrowing the mosque rapidly, which made Fatima swear to build a new and larger place.
As she tries to keep her promise, Fatima purchased a mosque that was built around 845 CE under the supervision of King Yahya Ibn Muhammad. She devoted money that was inherited from her parents for it. Then, she rebuilt it and bought the surrounding land to double the size of the mosque. It took 18 years to finish off the constructions. Fatima could hold a lavish celebration to mark the completion of the mosque’s construction just like a luxurious wealthy queen but she went inside the mosque and thanked God for blessing her.
Why should we Read About Fatima Al-Fihri?
Fatima Al-Fihri is not only an ancient legacy of women but also an untold story for this generation. She is a great inspiration and motivation for individuals and especially women all over the world. She was a modest, kind and religious person. Not only that, she was carrying a deep patriotic touch in her heart for her motherland Tunisia which was the reason for keeping the name of mosque “Al-Qarawiyyin” (by the name of her Qayrawan city in northern Tunisia.)
There was not such detailed evidence of her personal life due to the burning of the Al-Qarawiyyin's archives in 1323. But we can predict by her small biography by reference to sources that she lived in a pious way and that she didn’t have any greed of goods or wealth. She is a great icon of leadership since she managed the entire overgenerous construction of the mosque with modesty. That’s the reason maybe she is still respected by the title of “Umm Al-Banayn” in Tunisia as well as in Morocco.
Al-Qarawiyyin was not announced as a teaching institute or madrasa from the beginning according to the source. THE evidence of historians can be proof that it started between 1040 to 1147. The university of Al-Qarawyyin is considered the most ancient university in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records also it still exists, operating and running well in this present world. It’s great inspiration imprints Fatima Al-Fihri left for everyone. Many non-profit universities are opened in the last few decades by the inspirational story of Fatima al fihri for example Fatima Al-Fihri Open University.
How can I follow Fatima Al-Fihri footsteps?
Vision of mine is really simple and advanced since we are living in 2021 where people started to think about having a high-tech modernized world like Elon Musk's ideas. We need to walk with current phenomena by adding our historical knowledge in an advanced way. In general, many researchers, scholars and religious speakers publish Islamic content online on a different platform by the refer of Al – Quran but we also need to give an example of our other greatest historical contributor such as Fatima Al-Fihri for bringing the importance also awareness of education and women rights. We need to spread other historical contributor’s research, courtesy of knowledge and biography for bringing the awareness of literacy. We need to make sure that we are not only a devoted worshiper, we are a scientist, business holder, scholar, teacher or a head of an online University in 2021 which will give this digital era advanced knowledge, resources and ideas to walk into a path of a highest level of literacy.
Imaginary mission as a head
What can be my imaginary mission as a head in Fatima Al-Fihri Open University after having knowledge of her story in 2021? I will gather people who are actively looking for knowledge and literacy. There are still 781 million adults in this world who are not able to write and read according to the source of UNESCO. I will try my best for gathering at least 1% (78,100) among them into one shelter which call Fatimal Al-Fihri Open University. I will use money that I inherited from our donors and sponsors for bringing all the sources and media for them so they can study well, explore knowledge and research as a team at our online platform without any obstacles. I know that it is not easy to do but it’s nothing if we compare with the hardship of Fatima Al-Fihri. Can you build a better university than her today?
Fatimal Al-Fihri's Information Sources