in this series about amazing Muslim women, I am excited to write about the story of Fatima bint Muhammad. also known as Fatima al-Fihri, bint Muhammad was a Moroccan woman who is credited with founding the al-Qarawiyyin university in 859 AD, the oldest university in the world that is still operating to this day.
Fatima bint Muhammad Al-Fihriya Al-Qurashiya فاطمة بنت محمد الفهرية القرشية also nicknamed Um Al-Banun, was born in 800 CE in Qayrawan modern-day Kairouan, Abbasid Caliphate in a man named Abdallah Mohammed Ibn Abdallah Al-Fihri, who was a merchant. She also had a sister named Mariam and a brother and was of Arab Qurayshi descent. Fatima and her sister Mariam were said to be well educated and very knowledgeable about religion and well versed in classical Islamic teachings such as Fiqh, jurisprudence, and the hadith. She and her family were among a community of Arab people who immigrated from Qayrawan, now called AL-Kiraouan, modern Tunisia day to Maghreb Morocco in the city of Fez Fatima. Her family was a part of a community called the Qarawiyyin”, which means the ones from Qayrawan. The city was said to be a bustling cosmopolitan metropolis of the time. It was founded by its ruler Idris II who was an Alwite sharif of Iraqi origin. A few years later it was said to be filled to overflowing with thousands of Muslims emigrating from Al Andalusia, Based on the selfless actions of Fatima and her sister Mariam, they could be compared to other Abbasid leaders, who would use their wealth to commission buildings for the public good that was done in the era that Fatima was born. The Abbasids of Iraq had loosely controlled the Aghlabids of Tunisia. Both the ruling houses valued the science industry and the arts. Abbasid women from caliphal families of means and noble houses would frequently donate amenities to travels to fund their journey to Mecca Amat al Aziz. The wife of Caliph Harun al Rachid ordered an aqueduct and reservoir to be built after seeing the effects of a drought in the surrounding lands. The commissioning of these public works may have had an ulterior motive. The Aghlabids were taxing ordinary citizens in arrangements not warranted by the holy which is why it is believed that Fatima and her family immigrated to Morocco due to the un Islamic taxes. Both the military of Qayrawan, (modern-day Kairoua) and its everyday people, was said to be educated, pious, and legal-minded objected to the liberties that the Aghlabid rulers were taking. It was caused by the outbreak of violence by the Jund (the standing army) from 824-826 A.D. Which had caused drove hundreds of noble families to make the 1600 km (1000 mile) journey from Qayrawan to Fez, Fatima’s family went on to build their wealth after years of hard work. Her father had become a successful businessman. Almost all of them departed before reaping the benefits of their wealth. Her father, her husband, and her brother died and left her with the family fortune. The city lacked schools and masjids to accommodate its population so Fatima and her sister donated their inheritance to build more mosques, one Al Qarawiyyin and the other Al Andalus. In 859, She decided to use her inheritance to fund a project to build a Mosque and early on began buying property adjacent to her initial land to increase the size of the mosque. Fatima started her project at the beginning of Ramadan month 859 A.D. and fasted during construction and promised not to eat before the completion of construction work. She bought land nearby, from a man of the Hawaara tribe. Fatima also insisted that all the materials for construction should be local, with stones and sand that were extracted from the land. They used bricks and roof tiles were made also from fired clay of the same land she bought. and after 2 years later the project was completed, historical reports offer that she made prayers of gratitude in the masjid she had so hard to build. she had even named her Mosque after her own hometown Qayrawan. The Mosque would later develop into the Al qarwarawiyyn University, where it would become the first cultural-educational, and religious hub in the Islamic world. Her building severed the community as a mosque, library, and a university for the city of Fez. There were even “Hamams” steam rooms set up which are still functioning properly today. In the beginning, the education that Al qarwarawiyyn university offered was courses in religious instruction and the holy Qur’an, but its curriculum gradually expanded with time. It would eventually offer education in various sciences, including Arabic grammar, geography, history, mathematics, logic medicine, alchemy, chemistry, and astronomy. Her library is said to be the oldest in the world, the library contains a copy of the Holy Qur’an dating all the way back to the 9th century written Kufic script on camel skin, and thousands of manuscripts from a range of fields, and an Arabic version of the Gospel of Mark that dates back to the 12th century. the Al Qarawiyyin university accepted students from all around the world who set off in a quest to study at the University, some of the university’s more famous scholars that had graduated from Al-Qarawiyyin are Pope Silvester, Nicolas Cleynaerts, cartographer Mohammed al-Idrisi, the famous traveler Leo Africanus, the historian Historiographer and thinker Ibn Khaldun, Sufi poet and philosopher Ibn Hazm, Medical, grammarian Ben Ajrum, Dutch Orientalist and mathematician Jacob van Gool, Sufi leader Muhammad al-Jazuli, Gerbert of Aurillac, who was Pope from 999 to 1003, is also believed to have studied at the university and is credited for introducing Arabic numerals that are still used in Europe today, and prominent Jewish philosopher Moses Ben Maimon.
Fatima al-Fihri’s sister Mariam went on to not only sponsor but also build the Al Andalus mosque, the grand Andalusian mosque named after the immigrants from the Andalusian region from southern Spain. Fatima’s university to this day continues to contribute to scientific and intellectualism. As well as in the field of language and literature philosophy, astronomy, and medicine, as well as Islamic law and jurisprudence. The Guinness World Records acknowledges it as the world’s oldest and currently operating institution in the world as well as the United Nations. Fatima-al-fihri is considered to be a saint in some parts of modern-day north Africa and is still respected especially in fez morocco. In 2017 a prize was created in Tunisia in her honor, It rewards initiatives that encourage access to training and professional responsibilities for women and an academic program. the scholarship is given to students from Europe and North Africa that also pays tribute to Fatima al Fihri.
thank you everyone for taking the time to read this amazing story, so what did you think after reading this, or if you have any information for this amazing Muslim woman let me know in the comments down below.
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