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Fatima bint Muhammad Al-Fihriya Al-Qurashiya (Arabic: فاطمة بنت محمد الفهرية القرشية‎) was an Arab Muslim woman who is credited for founding the oldest existing, continually operating and first degree-awarding educational institution in the world, The University of Al Quaraouiyine in Fes, Morocco in 859 CE.[1]


Karaouine Mosque and University.

Al-Fihri was the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and had been educated.[2] The family was part of a large migration to Fes from the town of Kairouan (Qayrawan), in modern Tunisia, which lent its name to the mosque and madrassa she would found.[3]

The madrasa Al-Fihri founded is still in operation today as the University of Al Quaraouiyine. It is the oldest continually operating educational institution in the world and is sometimes referred to as the world's oldest university, by being the first institution to award degrees indicative of different levels of study. The mosque is also still in operation, and is one of the largest in North Africa.[4][5][6]

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

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.[9]


  1. ^ Kenney, Jeffrey T.; Moosa, Ebrahim (2013-08-15). Islam in the Modern World. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 9781135007959.
  2. ^ Kenney, Jeffrey T.; Moosa, Ebrahim (2013-08-15). Islam in the Modern World. Routledge. p. 128. ISBN 9781135007959.
  3. ^ Gates Jr., Henry Louis (ed.). Dictionary of African Biography. 6. pp. 357–359. ISBN 9780195382075.
  4. ^ 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.

  5. ^ Joseph, Suad; Najmabadi, Afsaneh (2003-01-01). Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Economics, education, mobility and space. Brill. p. 314. ISBN 9789004128200.
  6. ^ Swartley, Keith E. (2005-01-01). Encountering the World of Islam. Biblica. p. 74. ISBN 9781932805246.
  7. ^ Shaheen, Kareem (2016-09-19). "World's oldest library reopens in Fez: 'You can hurt us, but you can't hurt the books'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-05-30.
  8. ^ CNN, Daisy Carrington. "This 1,157-year-old library gets a facelift". CNN. Retrieved 2017-05-30.
  9. ^ Kahera, Akel; Abdulmalik, Latif; Anz, Craig (2009-10-26). Design Criteria for Mosques and Islamic Centres. Routledge. p. 81. ISBN 9781136441271.

Further reading[edit]

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