Fatima al-Fihri

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Fatima al-Fihre (El-Fihriya)
Native name فاطمة الفهرية
Born c. 800
Qayrawan, Tunisia
Died 880
Fes, Morocco
Known for Founding oldest-surviving madrasa (University of Al Quaraouiyine)

Fatima bint Muhammad Al-Fihri Al-Quraysh (Arabic: فاطمة بنت محمد الفهرية القرشية‎‎) was an Arab Muslim woman who is credited for founding The University of Al Quaraouiyine (French: al-Karaouine) in Fes, Morocco in 859 CE.[1]


Karaouine Mosque and University

The madrasa she founded is still in operation today as the University of Qarawiyyin. It is the oldest continually operating educational institution in the world and is sometimes referred to as the world's oldest university, though it did not officially become a university until the 1950s. The mosque is also still in operation, and is one of the largest in North Africa.[2][3][4]

Al-Fihri was the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and had been educated.[1] The family was part of a large migration to Fes from the town of Qayrawan (in modern Tunisia), and so the town lent its name to the mosque and madrassa.[5]

Mariam, Fatima's sister, was the sponsor of the Al-Andalus mosque, also in Fes. Both were part of a larger tradition of women founding mosques.[6]

World's Oldest Library[edit]

Al-Fihri founded one of the world's oldest libraries in the University of Qarawiyyin. The library recently underwent restoration and reopened to the public in May 2016. The library's collection of over 4000 manuscripts includes a 9th century Qur'an and the earliest collection of hadiths.[7][8]


  1. ^ a b Kenney, Jeffrey T.; Moosa, Ebrahim (2013-08-15). Islam in the Modern World. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 9781135007959. 
  2. ^ Lulat, Y. G.-M.: A History Of African Higher Education From Antiquity To The Present: A Critical Synthesis Studies in Higher Education, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005, ISBN 978-0-313-32061-3, p. 70:

    As for the nature of its curriculum, it was typical of other major madrasahs such as al-Azhar and al-Qarawiyyin, though many of the texts used at the institution came from Muslim Spain...Al-Qarawiyyin began its life as a small mosque constructed in 859 C.E. by means of an endowment bequeathed by a wealthy woman of much piety, Fatima bint Muhammed al-Fahri.

  3. ^ Joseph, Suad; Najmabadi, Afsaneh (2003-01-01). Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Economics, education, mobility and space. Brill. p. 314. ISBN 9789004128200. 
  4. ^ Swartley, Keith E. (2005-01-01). Encountering the World of Islam. Biblica. p. 74. ISBN 9781932805246. 
  5. ^ Gates, Jr., Henry Louis (ed.). Dictionary of African Biography. 6. pp. 357–359. ISBN 9780195382075. 
  6. ^ Kahera, Akel; Abdulmalik, Latif; Anz, Craig (2009-10-26). Design Criteria for Mosques and Islamic Centres. Routledge. p. 81. ISBN 9781136441271. 
  7. ^ Fadel, Leila (21 May 2016). "The Delicate Task Of Restoring One Of The World's Oldest Libraries". NPR. Retrieved 1 September 2016. 
  8. ^ Weller, Chris (28 June 2016). "The oldest library in the world just opened to the public — here's a look inside". Tech Insider. Retrieved 1 September 2016. 

Further reading[edit]