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Friday, August 7, 2015

EGYPT: Al-Azhar that I knew, but I do not anymore

Al-Azhar University,  (Arabic: جامعة الأزهر (الشريف)‎) Jāmiʻat al-Azhar (al-Sharīf,  "the (honorable) Azhar University") is a university in Cairo, Egypt. Associated with Al-Azhar Mosque in Islamic Cairo, it is Egypt's oldest degree-granting university and is renowned as "Sunni Islam’s most prestigious university" In addition to higher education, Al-Azhar oversees a national network of schools with approximately two million students. As of 1996, over 4000 teaching institutes in Egypt were affiliated with the University.



Founded in 970 or 972 by the Fatimids as a centre of Islamic learning, its students studied the Qur'an and Islamic law in detail, along with logic, grammar, rhetoric, and how to calculate the lunar phases of the moon. It was one of the first universities in the world and the only one to survive as a modern university including secular subjects in the curriculum. It is today the chief centre of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world. In 1961 additional non-religious subjects were added to its curriculum.



Its mission is to propagate Islam and Islamic 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 and societies. Al-Azhar also trains Egyptian government-appointed preachers in proselytization (da'wa).



Its library is considered second in importance in Egypt only to the Egyptian National Library and Archives. In May 2005, Al-Azhar in partnership with a Dubai information technology enterprise, IT Education Project (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).


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I am proud to be a graduate of Al-Azhar university, but Al-Azhar is no more my Al-Azhar. Presided by Sheikh Ahmad El-Tayybe, Al-Azhar, during the current corrupt president El-Sisi, has become a shofer for the government. Hence in the eyes of many, it lost its credibility and many of its graduates sheikhs are now known as "turbans on dead bodies" since they have become drummers for the clown in power and his government, issuing edicts every now and then that serve the government agenda. This has become confusing because they base their edicts on their own interpretation of the Islamic Jurisprudence. 

This situation has lead to a conflict between the two parties of scholars; the ones against the government and the ones supporting the government.


Over a thousand years old, Egypt’s Al-Azhar Islamic Seminary hasbecome a venerated point of reference for Sunni Muslims worldwide which has moved history, strengthened the nation-state, and even advanced the field of science in North Africa and the Middle East. It has at times set the very tone of Sunnism. And despite several attempts to restrict its influence, it has maintained its position as an innovator in the Muslim world, weathering many political and religious storms along the way.





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