Important Sites: The University of Timbuktu

Timbuktu, the historic city in the West African country of Mali, housed an ancient university that became known around the Islamic world. Founded in 1100 C.E., Timbuktu eventually became a center for the expansion of Islam in Africa and an intellectual and spiritual capital. The University of Timbuktu is the focus of this post, part of a series on important sites in Islam. Continue reading

Important Sites: University of Al-Qarawiyyin

Fes, a city in Morocco, houses what many deem to be the oldest university in the world. The University of Al-Qarawiyyin was founded in 859 C.E.; it was initially part of a mosque built by Fatima Fihriya, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. Fatima decided to use all of her inheritance to build a mosque; later, the university was established. The University of Al-Qarawiyyin is the oldest continuously operating degree-granting university and the focus of this post, the latest in a series on important sites in Islam. Continue reading

On the Qur’an and Knowledge

“And say, Lord increase my knowledge.” (Qur’an 20:114)

There are many misunderstandings that surround the Qur’an. It is often depicted as a book of violence and hatred that only pushes Muslims to blindly commit acts of terror. Many people who have not read the Qur’an or who do not understand enough about it to properly approach it are unable to understand its core messages. Not only does the Qur’an not encourage violence, it provides a guideline to engage the world and to find a purpose in life. One of the main ways it does this is by making knowledge and reason central to religious pursuit. In other words, a major feature of the Qur’an is its emphasis on reason as a means to understanding this world and the Divine. Continue reading