Remembering a pioneer of girls education

Sheikh Omar Abdul Jabbar who founded Al-Zahra School for Girls in Makkah six decades ago

Saudi Gazette report

THERE were no formal schools for girls in the holy city of Makkah until 1957. That year Sheikh Omar Yahya Abdul Jabbar, who passed away in 1970, became the first to establish an elementary school for girls in the city.

Sheikh Abdul Jabbar worked strenuously to realize his dream of building facilities for educating the girls of Makkah, according to a report in Al-Riyadh daily recently.

Sheikh Abdul Jabbar decided to found Al-Zahra School for Girls when he noticed that many Saudi young men traveled abroad to get married to educated women because they preferred them to uneducated Saudi ladies. The school played an important role in educating Saudi girls at the time. He bore all the expenses of constructing and equipping the school. He purchased everything from desks, chairs and blackboards to cooking tools with his own money. His sole intention was to help Saudi girls get educated and he was not after money.

Al-Zahra School

Sheikh Abdul Jabbar chose Al-Zahra neighborhood of Makkah to be the location of his school. The neighborhood had a park at the time and many people would go there to enjoy their spare time.

In the beginning, Sheikh Abdul Jabbar encountered many insurmountable problems but eventually he overcame them all. His office was located close to the school premises where he would meet the parents. He organized a celebration at the end of each school year. He invited mothers of students to attend and urged them to encourage their daughters to continue their education.

He bought buses and charged nominal fees for the transportation of students. He traveled abroad looking for qualified female teachers and brought them over to the Kingdom to teach at the school.

Personal life

Born in 1902, Omar Yahya Abdul Jabbar received his education at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. His passion for learning made him travel to several Arab and Muslim countries, including Iraq, Yemen and Indonesia, encouraging people to build educational institutions. He spent 10 years of his life traveling.

When he returned to Makkah, he opened a library near the Grand Mosque and filled it with books in different fields of knowledge.

He prepared curricula for schools in mathematics, reading, health and religious studies. He also designed curricula for teaching Arabic language in Indonesian schools.

A versatile author

Sheikh Abdul Jabbar wrote books that helped children develop their skills, broaden their knowledge, learn ethics and enhance their talents.

Several scholars spoke very highly of the children's books authored by Sheikh Abdul Jabbar and described them as very beneficial and helpful.

He also authored biographies of scholars, especially scholars who were well known in Makkah. His book containing biographies of Muslim scholars who lived in the 14th century Hijrah is an important reference for historians doing research about scholars who taught at the Grand Mosque.

Death

Sheikh Abdul Jabbar passed away in Makkah in 1970 at the age of 68. He was buried in the Jannat Al-Mualla cemetery.

The Saudi government issued an obituary offering condolences to his family and describing him as one of the pioneers of the education movement in the country. Many scholars and poets mourned him as well.