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Fatima, the Founder of the World’s First University

The name Fatima crowns the annals of history with the distinction of establishing the world’s very first university. Yes, it was a Muslim woman who pioneered this effective model of higher learning coupled with the issuance of degrees of various levels.

Fatima al-Fihri migrated with her family from Qayrawan in present-day Tunisia to the city of Fez in Morocco in the early ninth century during the rule of the Idrees II, who was both an extraordinary ruler and a devout Muslim. Fes at the time was bustling as the metropolis of the “Muslim West” (known as al-Maghrib), and held the promise of fortune and felicity. Having become one of the most influential Muslim cities, it boasted a rich combination of religion and culture, both cosmopolitan and traditional. Idrees II reestablished the city on the left bank of the River Fez. This is where Fatima was to settle and get married.

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Teaching the Qur’ān is the Greatest Service

It is related from Abū ‘Abdu’l-Raḥmān al-Sulamī on the authority of ‘Uthmān b. ‘Affān that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The best of you are those who learn the Qur’ān and teach it to others.” Abū ‘Abdu’l-Raḥmān said, “This statement is what made me sit in this place of mine.”

[Bukhārī 4639, 4640, Abū Dāwūd 1240, al-Tirmidhī 2832, 2833, al-Dārimī 3204, Ibn Mājah 207, 208, Aḥmad 382, 389, 469]

This concise but crucial ḥadīth contains within its chain of narrators some of the most influential personalities related to the Holy Qur’ān and within its text the statement that inspired them so.

To begin with, the proclamation comes from the mouth of the very man, the Messenger, whose primary mission it was to deliver this Book to the world and show them how to live it. His entire life was tirelessly devoted to this Qur’ānic mission and inspiring others to do the same. Continue reading