Have you ever asked someone to name inspirational people, dead or alive? You’ll probably get names like Martin Luther King, Neil Armstrong, Tariq Ramadan, … I mean, We can’t deny that these and so many other men have done amazing things and are definitely worth the title, but I’ve noticed that most people only name men when it comes to powerful people. Little do they know that women have done and are still doing some pretty amazing things. So in this series I want to talk to you about women whose names are often forgotten or simply ignored because of the patriarchal society we live in. All I want is for you to never forget their names and keep their achievements in mind.
She was the daughter of a merchant named Mohammed, she was known as ‘the lady of Fez’ and ‘the mother of boys’. I’m talking about Fatima Al Fihri, founder of the very first academic university. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
It all started 1215 years ago, Fatima was born in approximately 800 CE in Tunisia. After quite some years they all moved to Fez which was one of the most influential Muslim cities back then. Which means that it was the place to be for ambitious people. And that was exactly what the family Al Fihri needed. They started as a family who struggled a lot with money, but hard work paid off and Mohammed Al Fihri became a very successful businessman. When Fatima’s father and brother died she was left alone with her sister Mariam. They were very lucky as they inherited a big sum of money. As generous as they were they both decided to invest their money in projects that would benefit their community. Fatima’s sister decided to build a mosque which is known as the Al Andalus Mosque. Fatima herself decided to benefit her community on an educational level. In 859 she founded the Al Qarrawiyyin University which was the very first academic university. Although some people say that this university started out as a Mosque and developed into a university through the years.
This university wasn’t only a big achievement when it comes to education, it was also a great opportunity for Muslims to unite with European cultures. Different non-Muslims studied at the Al Qarrawiyyin University. Probably because of its wide range of subjects. For a university built in the 9th century in a Muslim country you’d think that the only things that were taught were the Quran and the Fiqh, which is known as the Islamic legislation. But that was not the case, there a-were a lot of different subjects such as: geology, astrology, grammar, chemistry, medicine, mathematics and even music!
To me the most admirable thing about Fatima is that she was a woman with a vision. Even though she was a wealthy women she still decided to invest this money in other people and in education.
Fatima died in 880 CE and it’s almost 1135 years later but the Al Qarrawiyyin University is still existent and is known as one of the highly appreciated Moroccan universities. Fatima is admired by many Moroccan women for being the smart, ambitious and inspiring woman she was.