Showing posts with label University of Al Qaraouiyine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label University of Al Qaraouiyine. Show all posts

Sunday 22 May 2022

Women in Islam: World's first University founded by a Muslim Woman

Whenever the mention of women in Islam comes, many non Muslims take them to be illiterate, oppressed hidden behind the veil or hijab, cut from the modern day developments and streams of education. But the opposite is true. Islam emphasizes education of male and female both as both have a specific role to play for being an important and useful part of the society. While there are many names that are attributed to Muslim women for their contribution to every field of education, science and social development, it may come as surprise to many, both Muslims and non Muslims that the first ever university in the world was established by a Muslim women in Morocco in 9th century AD.

This great Muslim woman was Fatima bint Muhammad Al-Fihriya Al-Qurashiya (فاطمة بنت محمد الفهرية القرشية‎)  who established a masjid in the city of Fez in present day Morocco. 
Fatima al-Fihri was born in 800 A.D. She was the daughter of Mohammed Bnou Abdullah al-Fihri - a rich merchant who settled in Fez with his family during the reign of Idris II.
Fatima was a strong believer. When she inherited a huge amount of money at the time her father and her husband died, she decided to use it to build a mosque which her Muslim community in Fez urgently needed, large enough to fit an ever-growing number of believers. Herself a highly educated woman, her dream was to do something for the educational uplift of her area. Thus she conceived the idea of building a mosque, which was urgently needed for the people of her community which was ever increasing. She supervised the building process herself and almost the entire inherited money was consumed in her project that was later to become the oldest university of the world. 

Initially a madrassa (school) was established withe masjid which later developed into a university in 895 CE in the city of Fez.  From the 10th century the famous mosque of al-Qarawiyyin became the first religious institute and the largest Arab university of North Africa. It attracted a lot of students and renowned scientists. [1]

They date al-Qarawiyyin's transformation from a madrasa into a university to its modern reorganization in 1963. Some sources, such as UNESCO and the Guinness World Records, cite al-Qarawiyyin as the oldest university or oldest continually operating higher learning institution in the world. Education at the University of al-Qarawiyyin concentrates on the Islamic religious and legal sciences with a heavy emphasis on, and particular strengths in, Classical Arabic grammar/linguistics and Maliki Sharia, though lessons on non-Islamic subjects are also offered to students. [2]
The University of Al Quaraouiyine became a state university in 1963 and now awards degrees in Islamic, religious and legal sciences with an emphasis on classical Arabic grammar and linguistics and law.  Interestingly, teaching is still delivered in a very traditional manner, whereby students are seated in a semi-circle around a Sheikh (Islamic scholar), who prompts them to read sections of particular texts, asks them questions on aspects of grammar, law, or interpretation, and explains difficult points. [3]
As per Wikipedia, Al-Qarawiyyin also compiled a large selection of manuscripts that were kept at a library founded by the Marinid sultan Abu Inan Faris in 1349. The collection housed numerous works from the Maghreb, al-Andalus, and the Middle East. Part of the collection was gathered decades earlier by Sultan Abu Yusuf Ya'qub (ruled 1258–1286), who persuaded Sancho IV of Castile to hand over a number of works from the libraries of Seville, Cordoba, Almeria, Granada, and Malaga in al-Andalus/Spain. Abu Yusuf initially housed these in the nearby Saffarin Madrasa (which he had recently built), but later moved them to al-Qarawiyyin. Among the most precious manuscripts currently housed in the library are volumes from the Al-Muwatta of Malik written on gazelle parchment, a copy of the Sirat by Ibn Ishaq, a 9th-century Quran manuscript (also written on gazelle parchment), a copy of the Quran given by Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur in 1602, a copy of Ibn Rushd's Al-Bayan Wa-al-Tahsil wa-al-Tawjih (a commentary on Maliki fiqh) dating from 1320, and the original copy of Ibn Khaldun's book Al-'Ibar (including the Muqaddimah) gifted by the author in 1396.

Fatima al-Fihri today is considered a saint and she is much respected among the believers especially in Fez. In 2017, a prize was created in Tunisia in her honor. It rewards initiatives which encourage access to training and professional responsibilities for women. Furthermore, an academic program and a scholarship given to students from Europe and North Africa pay tribute to Fatima al-Fihri.

Please watch an informative video on the evolution and development of the university:
Note: We have only provided the bare minimum information on Fatima al-Fihri and her pursuits to establish the masjid and later turned into a university. For detailed information, please refer to reference sources given below, specially the Wikipedia.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the reference material contained in Islam: My Ultimate Decision are that of the Islamic scholars / websites. We have shared these view as added information for better understanding of Islam. The reader may or may not agree with the views owing to their own perception / school of thought being followed. If any one differs with the material contained in this blog, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make our posts all encompassing / comprehensive.

You may also refer to our reference page on Women in Islam and other Reference Pages created so far, to know more about Islam.

Photo: University of Al Qaraouiyine (Wikimedia Commons / Author: Abdel Hassouni)
References:  | 1 |  23 |

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