Twelve hundred years ago, a young, wealthy and well educated woman named Fatima Al-Fihriyya (also known as Al-Fihri) inherited a big fortune from her businessman father. Her interest was neither in shoes or handbags, nor in any celebrity lifestyle. Fatima lived to make life for her community better and was a woman with a vision. Her vision did not remain a dream but was accomplished and the results can still be seen today. In 859 CE, Fatima Al-Fihri founded the oldest academic degree-granting university existing today, the University of Al-Qarawiyyin in Fes, Morocco.
Fatima Al-Fihri is an example of the empowerment and encouragement Islam gives to women. The Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque is one of the largest mosques in North Africa and the oldest true university in the world. Al-Qarawiyyin is the perfect example of how Islam combines the spiritual with education and that Islam is not separate from life's affairs. This is not only an example of how education and religion merge in this small corner of the globe, but it sheds light on the esteemed role that women played in the Islamic community - an aspect of Islam that is often misunderstood.
It's unfortunate that in the Muslim world today, such inspirational women, the likes of Fatima Al-Fihri, are rare. Rather, they are rare in all parts of the modern world.