IWD: Muslim women who have transformed the field of science
Categories: Latest News
Wednesday March 06 2019
The intellectual contribution of Muslim women to our society has often been minimised within previous patriarchal societies as well as the current patriarchy we live in.
In fact, unsurprisingly, the contribution of Muslim women has played, and continues to play, an integral role within the Muslim communities and the wider society.
Important individuals that should continually serve as key role models to Muslim women, men and the wider society include: Fatima Bint Muhammad al-Fihriya al-Qurashiya, Mariam al-Ijliya, Burcin Mutlu-Pakdil, Bedour al-Maghrabi.
Fatima Bint Muhammad al-Fihriya al-Qurashiya
One of the greatest women in Islamic history is Fatima Bint Muhammad al-Fihriya al-Qurashiya, who is accredited with founding the oldest University in the world that has been continuously operative and introducing the issuance of degrees, Masjid al-Qarawiyyin. Therefore, she pioneered the model of higher education that has been adopted across the world.
Born in present day Tunisia, her family migrated to present day Morocco when it was a bustling metropolis of enterprise. Her father, coming from humble beings, became a successful businessman profiting from the industrial spirit of the city. Fatima, recovering from the quickly followed deaths of her husband, brother and husband, inherited a large sum of money and sought to dedicate it to the establishment of a mosque that also provided excellent education for the community. So passionate was Fatima about the construction of the facility, that it is reported she fasted every day until the mosque was completed in 859 AD (244 AH).
Al-Qarawiyyin university has since provided hundreds of years of education on Islamic religious and legal sciences, classical Arabic grammar/linguisitics and Maliki law with the later introduction of French, English and IT. Notable alumni include: Jewish philosopher Maimonides, the great Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd and Pope Sylvester II.
Mariam “al-Astrolabiya” al-Ijliya from the mid-tenth century is accredited to significantly developing the design and use of astrolabes (which were created by Muhammad al-Fazari). Her father worked as an apprentice to a well-known astrolabe maker to which Mariam studied under for a number of years. Over time Mariam mastered the complex mathematical calculations and precision required to design astrolabes. The work so impressed the ruler of the city, Sayf al-Dawla, that he employed her to the court in Aleppo.
Astrolabes are elaborate inclinometer used by navigators and astronomers to measure the altitude above horizon of a celestial body, day or night. The instrument was widely used for timekeeping, navigation, geography and astronomy, as well as for many other disciplines.
Her immense contribution to the field of astrophysics has been recognised globally, with the main-belt asteroid 7060 al-Ijliya (discovered at Palomar Observatory in 1990) being named in her honour.
A more recent Muslim woman who has garnered significant repute within the field of astrophysicist is Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil. Burçin is credited for the discovery of an extremely rare galaxy with a unique double ring structure, which is now referred to as Burçin’s galaxy.
Born in Turkey, Burçin grew up fascinated by the night sky and physics which propelled her to attend the Beşiktaş Atatürk Anatolian High School and Bilkent University in 2009. She subsequently went to Texas Tech University for a Masters and earned her Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, and is currently a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Arizona and a 2018 TED Fellow.
Burçin’s galaxy is similar to Hoag’s Object, which were discovered in 1950, a ring-type galaxy which is why they were mistaken as the latter when newly discovered. Burçin, and her team, took note of a galaxy called PGC 1000714 and mistakenly thought it to be a Hoag-type galaxy at first. It was only after Burçin studied it better did the unique structure become present. Unlike Hoag-type galaxies, Burçin galaxies have an extra-ring like structure within them.
Bedour al-Maghrabi, in conjunction with others, has developed a number of medical instruments that have resulted in her being honoured by winning the 2015 British Invention Show and Awards and coming second place at Korea’s International Women’s Invention Exposition in 2014.
Bedour, in conjunction with Maha al-Qahtani and Thekra al-Otaibi, invented a device as a treatment option of sensory neuropathy issues via sense rehabilitation and stimulation in patients. This invention was awarded first place during the 2015 British Invention Show and Awards.
Bedour, in conjunction with Mariam al-Otaibi, also invented glasses for patients afflicted with cerebral blindness that would aid them in identifying objects. The glasses scan the area in front of the wearer, and then narrates it to the wearer via an earpiece.