Fatima al-Fihri was a Muslim of Tunisian origin who migrated to Fez, Morocco, founded a mosque and developed it into the first known university: al-Qarawiyyin University. The university was founded in 857–859, over 1,000 years ago and is recognised by the Guinness World Records and UNESCO as the oldest existing university and continually operating educational institution in the world.
Fatima was born into a wealthy merchant family who valued education – even for women. Fatima was well schooled and devoutly religious. Fast forward to her adult years, her father and husband had passed away and which led her to a large inheritance. She decided to use it to build a mosque which was urgently needed by her Muslim community in Fez. After some years, the famous mosque of al-Qarawiyyin became the first religious institute and the largest Arab university of North Africa. It attracted a lot of students and renowned scientists. In today’s society, al-Qarawiyyin University is still very popular; the education concentrates on Islamic religious and legal sciences with a heavy emphasis on Classical Arabic grammar and Maliki law. Other non-Islamic subjects are also offered to students such as French and English language .
Fatima al-Fihri’s name holds power and influence on the modern world. She did not only build the world's first university but also provided us with a powerful historical example of the ability in women to lead.