Life, World Life

Badass Ladies in History: Fatima Al-Fihri

Hello, Germ readers! I hope you enjoyed the first article I wrote for this series. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here. This month we look at the major accomplishment of Fatima Al-Fihri, the Badass Lady who created the first university. A big thanks to our reader Hadice for this month’s suggestion!

Today, a college degree is more important than ever, according to the US Department of Education. It has turned from a luxury to a necessity, especially in today’s economy. A college degree is considered a “key to opportunity” and those who have it earn 66% more than people with just a high school diploma.


Fatima Al-Fihri was the daughter of Mohammed Al-Fihri and was part of the families that moved from Tunisia to Morocco under the rule of King Idriss II. After Fatima Al-Fihri’s husband and father died, she and her sister inherited a fortune, which they wanted to use as a contribution to the community in return for God’s blessing. Fatima and her sister Miriam were well-educated, and they were raised with religious devotion. Fatima vowed to spend her inheritance on building a mosque (a Muslim place of worship) that the community could benefit from.

In 859 C.E. Fatima founded the Al Qayrawan Mosque, and her sister Miriam built the Al-Andalus Mosque. Fatima’s Al Qayrawan developed into a university, becoming an important center for education and one of the “first Islamic and most prestigious universities in the world.”

For more than 12,000 years, the Al Qayrawan has been the center of one of the spiritual and educational institutions of the Muslim world. Its name represents sustainability, and it has served as a bridge between the Muslim and European cultures. Some of the subjects offered along with the Qur’an and Fiqh are: grammar, rhetoric, logic, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, history, geography, and music. The high quality of education and its large range of subjects captured the interests of students and scholars from around the Muslim world, causing there to be an overwhelming amount of applicants, and eventually the Al Qayrawan had to establish a strict admission system.

Fatima Al-Fihri even has a scholarship program in her name. The Erasmus Mundus Fatima Al Fihri Programme serves to promote higher European education, to enhance the students’ career goals and “promote intercultural understanding through cooperation with North African countries,” and to contribute to North Africa’s sustainable development in higher education.

Fatima Al-Fihri founded the oldest university and emphasized the importance of a college education. Her story is a powerful example of a Muslim woman not only contributing to the Islamic community but contributing to the development of people from around the world.


For more information about Fatima Al-Fihri, click here and here.

Thank you, Hadice, for suggesting Fatima Al-Fihri for this series! Everyone is encouraged to share their own suggestions with us by emailing