By Ali Ben Saad
Did you know the great woman who was born in North Africa and inspired everyone around the world? Fatima Al-Fihri she is an African Muslim Woman, she founded Al Qarawiyyin University in Fes Morocco's 859 AD.
Fatima was born around 800 AD in the town of Kairouan, in present-day Tunisia. She is of Arab Qurayshi descent, hence the name "al-Qurashiyya", 'the Qurayshi one'. Her family was part of a large migration to Fes from Kairouan. Although her family did not start out wealthy, her father, Mohammed al-Fihri, became a successful merchant.
She and her sister Maryam were well-educated and studied the Islamic jurisprudence Fiqh and the Hadith, or the records of Prophet Muhammad. Both went on to found mosques in Fes: Fatima founded Al-Qarawiyyin and Maryam founded Al-Andalus.
Little is known about her personal life, except for what was recorded by 14th-century historian Ibn Abi-Zaraa’. This is largely due to the fact that the Al-Qarawiyyin library suffered a large fire in 1323. Al-Fihri was married, but both her husband and father died shortly after the wedding. Her father left his wealth to both Fatima and her sister, his only children.
Fatima used the money she inherited from her father to purchase a mosque that was built around 845 AD under the supervision of King Yahya ibn Muhammad. She then rebuilt it and bought the surrounding land, doubling its size.
The construction project was supervised by Fatima herself. Although the mosque’s architecture is extravagant, Fatima made a point to build it modestly. As Tunisian historian Hassan Hosni Abdelwahab noted in his book Famous Tunisian Women:
“She committed to only using the land she had purchased. She dug deep into the land, unearthing yellow sand, plaster, and stone to use, so as not to draw suspicion from others [for using too many resources].”
The mosque took 18 years to construct. According to Moroccan historian Abdelhadi Tazi, Al-Fihri fasted until the project’s completion. When it was finished, she went inside and prayed to God, thanking him for his blessings. She named it after the immigrants from her hometown of Kairouan.