Monday, July 9, 2018

A Muslim Woman Founded World's Oldest Continuously Operating University

Taxila University, the world's first known university, was founded in 600 BCE in what is now Pakistan. This university ceased to exist in 500 CE. University of Al Quaraouiyine, started by a Muslim woman in North Africa, is believed to be the world's oldest university that has been in continuous operation since its founding 859 CE.

University of Al Quaraouiyine
University of Taxila:

University of Taxila, the  world's oldest known university, was founded in 600 BCE  in the Kingdom of Gandhara, in Ancient India, but now in Pakistan. It was not a university in the modern sense of the word. It did not have any infrastructure like classrooms nor did it provide housing for its teachers or students. There was no established system of schooling or curriculum in Taxila. Taxila followed no system of examinations, and did not award degrees to its students.

The town of Taxila flourished between 600 BCE and 500 CE. Dozens of subjects were taught at the university including religion, language, philosophy, politics, warfare, music and commerce. Minimum  admission age was 16.  Over 10,000 students studied there, including students from many nations around the world.

University of Al Quaraouiyine:

University of Al Quaraouiyine (also spelled al karaouine) was founded by Fatima Al Fihri in 859 CE in Fez, Morocco. It is believed to be the world's oldest continuously operating university.

Al-Fihri, born in Kairouan (Qayrawan) in what is now Tunisia, was a well-educated daughter of a wealthy merchant. Her family migrated to Fez where she started the world's oldest continuously operating university named after her place of birth.

The University started as a madrassa affiliated with a mosque. It had the basic infrastructure and systems associated with modern universities. It had a formal curriculum, administered examinations and awarded degrees. It became part of the foundation of the glory days of the Islamic Civilization.

The University currently has staff and faculty of over 1000 and it has over 8000 students enrolled. The list of its most distinguished alumni includes Ibn Khaldun, widely regarded as the forerunner of the modern disciplines of historiography, sociology, economics, and demography. Other notable alumni are Jewish philosopher Maimonides,  Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Muslim geographer Mohammad Al-Idrisi.

The world's second oldest continuously operating university is Al Azhar in Cairo, Egypt established in 970 CE.

Universities in Europe:

University of Bologna, the oldest university in Europe, was established in 1088 CE, more than two centuries after  University of Al Quaraouiyine was founded by Fatima Al-Fihri in Fez, Morocco.

Then came Oxford University in 1096, Salamanca University in 1134, Paris University in 1160 and Cambridge University in 1209.

World Changing Inventions/Discoveries:

While the concept of universities has had the biggest impact on the world, there are several other innovations and-or discoveries by Muslims that have changed the world. A short list includes coffee, Algebra, marching band and camera. Here is a video about the top 5 Muslim inventions that changed the world:

https://youtu.be/CC6CkdsuN-k




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Rise and Fall of the Islamic Civilization

Pakistani Woman Leads Global Gender Parity Campaign

Muslims Have Few Nobel Prizes

Ibn Khaldun: The Father of Modern Social Sciences

Obama Speaks to the Muslim World

Lost Discoveries by Dick Teresi

Physics of Christianity by Frank Tipler

What is Not Taught in School

How Islamic Inventors Changed the World

Jinnah's Pakistan Booms Amidst Doom and Gloom

9 comments:

Naveed S. said...

Well done. Great article!

Dawud said...

A university is established for providing education and must cater to all irrespective of their beliefs.

It is good to know about one old university still exists in Morocco, but why does one need to link it to religion?

Riaz Haq said...

Dawud: "It is good to know about one old university still exists in Morocco, but why does one need to link it to religion?"

All major universities in the medieval world, including European universities like Bologna, Cambridge and Oxford, were steeped in religion.

Most teachers and scholars came out of churches.

Very few laymen were literate in the that period.

https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/5140/100/were-medieval-universities-catholic

Dawud said...

Those "Dark ages" have since passed with great damage to mankind, why do we need to remember them?

Jalil S. said...

Since I graduated from Taxila university, now I feel really old. 😉

Riaz Haq said...

Dawud: "Those "Dark ages" have since passed with great damage to mankind, why do we need to remember them?"

Those were not "Dark Ages" for Muslims. It was a golden era for Muslims. And Jewish historian Abba Eban has described it as "golden era for Jews".

It seems you have either not read or not understood the significance of world's first university started by a Muslim woman in a highly patriarchal medieval period. Without the work done here and other Muslim universities, there would likely have been no Renaissance in Europe nor the scientific revolution described by Yuval Noah Harari in "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind".

Read the following part:

The list of its most distinguished alumni includes Ibn Khaldun, widely regarded as the forerunner of the modern disciplines of historiography, sociology, economics, and demography. Other notable alumni are Jewish philosopher Maimonides, Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Muslim geographer Mohammad Al-Idrisi.

Majumdar said...

Brof sb,

It was not a university in the modern sense of the word. It did not have any infrastructure like classrooms nor did it provide housing for its teachers or students. There was no established system of schooling or curriculum in Taxila. Taxila followed no system of examinations, and did not award degrees to its students.

Sadly, a Univ run by Hindoos could have done no better.

Regards

Riaz Haq said...

In Hasidic Enclaves, Failing Private Schools Flush With Public Money
New York’s Hasidic Jewish religious schools have benefited from $1 billion in government funding in the last four years but are unaccountable to outside oversight.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/11/nyregion/hasidic-yeshivas-schools-new-york.html


The Hasidic Jewish community has long operated one of New York’s largest private schools on its own terms, resisting any outside scrutiny of how its students are faring.

But in 2019, the school, the Central United Talmudical Academy, agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than 1,000 students.

Every one of them failed.

Students at nearly a dozen other schools run by the Hasidic community recorded similarly dismal outcomes that year, a pattern that under ordinary circumstances would signal an education system in crisis. But where other schools might be struggling because of underfunding or mismanagement, these schools are different. They are failing by design.

The leaders of New York’s Hasidic community have built scores of private schools to educate children in Jewish law, prayer and tradition — and to wall them off from the secular world. Offering little English and math, and virtually no science or history, they drill students relentlessly, sometimes brutally, during hours of religious lessons conducted in Yiddish.

The result, a New York Times investigation has found, is that generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education, trapping many of them in a cycle of joblessness and dependency.

Segregated by gender, the Hasidic system fails most starkly in its more than 100 schools for boys. Spread across Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, the schools turn out thousands of students each year who are unprepared to navigate the outside world, helping to push poverty rates in Hasidic neighborhoods to some of the highest in New York.

The schools appear to be operating in violation of state laws that guarantee children an adequate education. Even so, The Times found, the Hasidic boys’ schools have found ways of tapping into enormous sums of government money, collecting more than $1 billion in the past four years alone.

Warned about the problems over the years, city and state officials have avoided taking action, bowing to the influence of Hasidic leaders who push their followers to vote as a bloc and have made safeguarding the schools their top political priority.

“I don’t know how to put into words how frustrating it is,” said Moishy Klein, who recently left the community after realizing it had not taught him basic grammar, let alone the skills needed to find a decent job. “I thought, ‘It’s crazy that I’m literally not learning anything. It’s crazy that I’m 20 years old, I don’t know any higher order math, never learned any science.’”

To examine the Hasidic schools, The Times reviewed thousands of pages of public records, translated dozens of Yiddish-language documents and interviewed more than 275 people, including current and former students, teachers, administrators and regulators.

The review provided a rare look inside a group of schools that is keeping some 50,000 boys from learning a broad array of secular subjects.

The students in the boys' schools are not simply falling behind. They are suffering from levels of educational deprivation not seen anywhere else in New York, The Times found. Only nine schools in the state had less than 1 percent of students testing at grade level in 2019, the last year for which full data was available. All of them were Hasidic boys’ schools.


Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's Islamic seminaries pair science with the Quran
Pakistan has thousands of private madrassas that have been criticized for not teaching secular subjects to students who graduate with limited job prospects. Some later join militant groups.



https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2014/0415/Pakistan-s-Islamic-seminaries-pair-science-with-the-Quran

Anwarul Haq, a frail, bespectacled cleric, sits before a class of attentive students in Darul Uloom Haqqania, one of Pakistan’s many madrassas, or Islamic seminaries. His class of 1,400 students is the most senior of 4,000 enrollees at Darul Uloom, an hour's drive from Peshawar.

The students follow a 500-year-old curriculum adopted across South Asia. The oversized book used in Mr. Haq's class, a collection of ahadith, or sayings attributed to the prophet Muhammad, is centuries old and written in Arabic. Commentary written in Urdu in present-day India fills the margins.

“This country was built on Islam, the idea of following God's teachings. Here we are learning how to do that,” says Haq.

What students learn, and don’t learn, in thousands of such private seminaries is a matter of concern for Pakistan’s government. Under a national security policy unveiled last month, Pakistan aims to bring madrassas under tighter state control, update their curricula to tone down extremist views, and introduce subjects like mathematics and science. The goal is to turn out graduates capable of getting decent jobs who won’t be tempted to join the Taliban or other militant groups.

“Graduates stand in between two worlds,” says Nafisa Shah, a lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League. When they don't get jobs, she says, “they become vulnerable [to recruitment by militants].”

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In Darul Uloom’s computer lab, nearly 350 students use dozens of old desktop computers for classes on how to type, or surf the web. By contrast, only 39 percent of government schools in Pakistan have electricity. Three million children never attend a single class, according to an official 2011 survey. Critics say the focus on regulating madrassas ignores the broader failure of Pakistan's leaders to invest in primary education.

Computer literacy
The school's computer literacy course was started nearly 15 years ago in response to demands by students. Most students also sign up for extra classes in science or mathematics that use the same curriculum taught in government schools, says Haq.

Most graduates from Darul Uloom work as clerics, but hundreds have had successful secular careers. Muneer Alam is among them: he graduated in 2003 with an advanced degree in Islamic law, then went to medical school and became an endocrinologist. He now runs a clinic outside Rawalpindi. “People see Islamic education as an obstacle, but it isn't,” he says.


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Ammar Khan Nasir, an expert on modernizing Islamic studies who teaches at Al-Sharia Academy, a university in Gujranwala, says madrassa curricula need to be updated so students understand the modern nation-state. But he warns this alone isn’t enough to staunch the recruitment of militants in war-torn tribal areas near the Afghanistan border.

“They study the same curriculum that was in place 500 years ago," he says. What's changed, he adds, is what they hear in their spare time, a vitriolic narrative that pits the West and the Pakistani state against Islam. [Editor's note: The original version misidentified Mr. Nasir's university and wrongly attributed a direct quote to him.