The first person featured in the Awesome-sauce Muslims series!
FATIMA AL-FIHRI everybody!
I have had an interest in Islamic history since high school, when I wrote an essay comparing Europe and the Islamic world in the Middle Ages, and found out about the amazing accomplishments of Muslims.
A recurring theme that I kept coming across was the importance of education and knowledge in Islam. The status of knowledge in Islam can be illustrated through the poetic hadith (my favorite actually) below:
The whole science and religion don’t go together thing never really occurred to Muslim seekers of knowledge, who dedicated their whole lives seeking out learned people all over the world so that they can learn from them on subjects such as mathematics, sciences, and astronomy.
Fatima Al-Fihri (died 880 CE) was the daughter of a wealthy businessman who died and left his vast fortune to his two daughters. Fatima is accredited with founding what is considered by many historians as the oldest, continually operating, degree-granting university in the world – known as University of Qarawiyyin (859 CE). How awesome is that?!
The Islamic Golden Age is known for attracting non-Muslim scholars from neighboring lands. This was a time when cultural and religious differences did not stand in the way of people who sought knowledge. The thirst for knowledge was the bridge that crossed that gap. Isn’t that simply beautiful?
According to a fantastic article on whyislam.org:
Non-Muslims were welcome to matriculate. In fact, the University’s outstanding caliber attracted Gerber of Auvergne who later became Pope Sylvester II and went on to introduce Arabic numerals and the concept of zero to medieval Europe. One of the university’s most famous students was a Jewish physician and philosopher, Maimonides.
theurbanmuslimwomen.wordpress.org adds that subjects such as Quran, Islamic Jurisprudence, grammar, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, history, geography, music, physics, sciences, and foreign languages were taught at the University.
Fatima was a devout Muslim who oversaw this project of amazing magnitude to the end and made sure her work came to fruition. Here is proof that wearing a veil or a hijab do not stop Muslim women from achieving amazing things. And this is way back in the 9th century people.
This example is just the tip of the iceberg. I came across so many more amazing men and women from Islamic history that truly inspired me. And I hope they can inspire you, and perhaps (hopefully) help everyone get rid of this stereotypical image of ‘oppressed Muslim women’ who can’t do anything because the hijab keeps them back.
Psssh. Yeah right. I don’t think so.