Al-Azhar University

Al-Azhar University
Al-Azhar University
جامعة الأزهر
Game'at Al-ʾAzhar al-Šarīf

Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo Egypt
Established 970~972 AD - as madrasa
1961 - as a university
Type Public
Religious affiliation Sunni Islam (Ash'ari)
President Dr. Osama al-A'bd
Location Egypt Cairo, Egypt
30°02′45″N 31°15′45″E / 30.04583°N 31.2625°E / 30.04583; 31.2625Coordinates: 30°02′45″N 31°15′45″E / 30.04583°N 31.2625°E / 30.04583; 31.2625
Campus Urban
Al-Azhar University logo.svg

Al-Azhar University (pronounced "AZ-har", Arabic: جامعة الأزهر الشريف‎; Game'at Al-ʾAzhar al-Šarīf, "the Noble Azhar University") is an educational institute in Cairo, Egypt. Founded in 970~972 as a madrasa, it is the chief centre of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world.[1] It is the oldest degree-granting university in Egypt. In 1961 non-religious subjects were added to its curriculum.[2]

It is associated with Al-Azhar Mosque in Islamic Cairo. The university's mission includes the propagation of Islamic religion and culture. To this end, its Islamic scholars (ulamas) render edicts (fatwas) on disputes submitted to them from all over the Sunni Islamic world regarding proper conduct for Muslim individuals societies. Al-Azhar also trains Egyptian government appointed preachers in proselytization (da'wa).[citation needed]

Its library is considered second in importance in Egypt only to the Egyptian National Library and Archives.[citation needed] In May 2005, Al-Azhar in partnership with a Dubai information technology enterprise, ITEP launched the H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Project to Preserve Al Azhar Scripts and Publish Them Online (the "Al-Azhar Online Project") with the mission of eventually providing online access to the library's entire rare manuscripts collection (comprising about seven million pages).[3][4]



Al-Azhar University concerns itself with the religious syllabus, which pays special attention to the Quranic sciences and traditions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, on the one hand, while on the other hand the university teaches all the modern fields of science. In 1961, according to Al-Azhar university's legislatory law No. 103, new colleges of applied sciences, such as the faculties of Medicine and Engineering, were introduced to Al-Azhar university. These newly introduced faculties are not duplicates of their counterparts in other universities because they combine the empirical sciences with the religious sciences. Alongside the Egyptian students who are studying at Al-Azhar university, there are also many other students from various Islamic and European countries. These foreign Muslim students have exactly the same rights as the Egyptian students.[citation needed]

The madrasa was founded by the Fatimid dynasty of Egypt, descended from Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad. Fatimah was called Az-Zahra (the brilliant), and the university was named in her honor.[citation needed]

Studies began at Al-Azhar in the month of Ramadan, 975 AD. According to Syed Farid Alatas, the Jami'ah had faculties in Islamic law and jurisprudence, Arabic grammar, Islamic astronomy, Islamic philosophy, and logic.[5][6] In the 12th century, following the overthrow of the Ismaili Shia Fatimid dynasty, Sultan Saladin (the founder of the staunchly Sunni Ayyubid Dynasty ) converted Al-Azhar to a Shafi'ite Sunni center of learning.[1][7] Abd-el-latif delivered lectures on Islamic medicine at Al-Azhar, while the jewish philosopher Maimonides delivered lectures on medicine and astronomy there during the time of Saladin.[8]

In 1961, Al-Azhar was established as a university under the government of Egypt's second President Gamal Abdel Nasser when a wide range of secular faculties were added for the first time, such as business, economics, science, pharmacy, medicine, engineering and agriculture. Before that date, the Encyclopaedia of Islam classifies the Al-Azhar variously as madrasa, center of higher learning and, since the 19th century, religious university, but not as a university in the full sense, referring to the modern transition process as "from madrasa to university".[2][9] An Islamic women's faculty was also added in the same year, six years after Zaib-un-Nissa Hamidullah had been the first woman to speak at the university.[citation needed].

Magazine publishing

Since 1929, Al-Azhar has published a magazine (now monthly), the stated mission of which is to publicise religious rules, subjects related to Islamic literature, and basic jurisprudence (Fiqh), including sections on history, biographies, translated texts, and news concerning the Muslim world.[citation needed]

Political views

Sheikh Tantawy noted that among the priorities of Muslims are "to master all knowledge of the world and the hereafter, not least the technology of modern weapons to strengthen and defend the community and faith". He added that "mastery over modern weaponry is important to prepare for any eventuality or prejudices of the others, although Islam is a religion of peace.".[10]

Sheikh Tantawy also reasserted that his is the best faith to follow (a tenet common to proponents of many religions) and that Muslims have the duty of active da'wa. He has made declarations about Muslims interacting with non-Muslims who are not a threat to Muslims. There are non-Muslims living apart from Muslims and who are not enemies of Islam ("Muslims are allowed to undertake exchanges of interests with these non-Muslims so long as these ties do not tarnish the image of the faith"), and there are "the non-Muslims who live in the same country as the Muslims in cooperation and on friendly terms, and are not enemies of the faith" ("in this case, their rights and responsibilities are the same as the Muslims so long as they do not become enemies of Islam"). However, Shi'a fiqh (according to a fatwa by Al-Azhar, the most respected authority in Sunni Islam)[11] is accepted as a fifth school of Islamic thought.

On freedom of speech

In October 2007, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, then the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, drew allegations of stifling freedom of speech when he asked the Egyptian government to toughen its rules and punishments against journalists. During a Friday sermon in the presence of Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and a number of ministers, Tantawy is alleged to have stated that journalism which contributes to the spread of false rumours rather than true news deserves to be boycotted, and that it is tantamount to sinning for readers to purchase such newspapers. Tantawy, a supporter of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, also called for a punishment of eighty lashes to "those who spread rumors" in an indictment of speculation by journalists over Mubarak's ill health and possible death.[12][13] This is not the first time that he has criticized the Egyptian press regarding its news coverage nor is it the first time he in return has been accused by the press of opposing freedom of speech. During a religious celebration in the same month, Tantawy released comments alluding to "the arrogant and the pretenders who accuse others with the ugliest vice and unsubstantiated charges". In response, Egypt's press union issued a statement suggesting that Tantawy appeared to be involved in inciting and escalating a campaign against journalists and freedom of the press.[14]

Notable persons associated with the university

Al-Azhar University has had a huge impact on the religious, cultural and political arena in Egypt, the Arab World, and the wider Muslim world

19th – early 20th centuries




  • Faculty of Theology
  • Facul−ty of Sharia & Law
  • Faculty of Arabic Language
  • Faculty of Islamic & Arabic Studies
  • Faculty of Islamic Call
  • Faculty of medicine
  • Faculty of Dentistry
  • Faculty of pharmacy
  • Faculty of engineering
  • Faculty of languages & Translations
  • Faculty of sciences
  • Faculty of Business Studies
  • Faculty of Agriculture
  • Faculty of Education
  • Faculty of Islamic & Arabic Studies for girls
  • Faculty of Humanities for girls
  • Faculty of Medicine for girls
  • Faculty of Dentistry for girls
  • Faculty of Pharmacy for girls
  • Faculty of Engineering for girls

See also

  • List of Presidents of Al-Azhar University
  • List of universities in Egypt
Outside Egypt


  1. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica. "Britannica article". Britannica article. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  2. ^ a b Skovgaard-Petersen, Jakob. "al-Azhar, modern period." Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Edited by: Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas and Everett Rowson. Brill, 2010, retrieved 20/03/2010:
    Al-Azhar, the historic centre of higher Islamic learning in Cairo, has undergone significant change since the late 19th century, with new regulations and reforms resulting in an expanded role for the university. 1. From madrasa to university
  3. ^ "AME, 26 September 2005". Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  4. ^ ITEP press release, 10 October 2006
  5. ^ Alatas, Syed Farid (2006). "From Ja¯mi`ah to University: Multiculturalism and Christian–Muslim Dialogue". Current Sociology 54 (1): 112–32. doi:10.1177/0011392106058837 
  6. ^ Goddard, Hugh (2000). A History of Christian-Muslim Relations. Edinburgh University Press. p. 99. ISBN 074861009X 
  7. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica p.37 1993 edition ISBN 0852295715
  8. ^ Necipogulu, Gulru (1996). Muqarnas, Volume 13. Brill Publishers. p. 56. ISBN 9004106332 
  9. ^ Jomier, J. "al- Azhar (al-Ḏj̲āmiʿ al-Azhar)." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2010, retrieved 20/03/2010:
    This great mosque, the 'brilliant one' one of the principal mosques of present-day Cairo. This seat of learning...regained all its activity—Sunnī from now on—during the reign of Sultan Baybars...Al-Azhar at the beginning of the 19th century could well have been called a religious university; what it was not was a complete university giving instruction in those modern disciplines essential to the awakening of the country.
  10. ^ "The Grand Imams of Al-Azhar". Retrieved 2006-06-24. 
  11. ^ al-Azhar Verdict on the Shia - Shi'ite Encyclopedia v2.0, Al-islam
  12. ^ "". 2007-10-10. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  13. ^ Online)
  14. ^ "International Herald Tribune". International Herald Tribune. 2009-03-29. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  15. ^ "Serving Dawoodi Bohras Worldwide". 2010-03-04. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  16. ^ David D. Laitin, Politics, Language, and Thought: The Somali Experience, (University Of Chicago Press: 1977), p. 102
  17. ^ "Cordoba University". Cordoba University. Retrieved 2010-03-21. 
  18. ^ a b [1]

External links

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