Al-Azhar, Thousand Year-old Lofty Beacon - The Mosque

Following overall restoration,
Al-Azhar (the most shining ) mosque glitters anew

Al-Azh mosque ccomprehensive restoration

Al-Azhar Mosque, the symbol of Islamic Egypt, has been recently reopened, following a major operation of restoration. The comprehensive restoration works, completed in 20 months, were carried out exclusively by Egyptian technical expertise and trained labor. The renovation and refurbishing works covered the whale mosque; the Fatimid, which is the core component, commonly known as the Fatimid Umbrella, the Mameluk and the Ottoman parts.

This historic mosque was build in 358AH by Gohar As-Siqilli, the Army commander of the Fatimid ruler of Egypt Al-Muiz Lidinillah, in the course of building the city of Cairo, following the conquest of Egypt. The mosque was completed in Ramadan 361AH (972AD). The first Juma (Friday) prayers were performed in the mosque on Ramadan 7, 361AH.

Al-Azhar was the first mosque to be built in the city of Cairo and the fourth in Egypt, built with the purpose of disseminating the Shiism. Cairo itself was the fourth city to be built in Islamic Egypt, following Al-Fustat, built by Amr Ibn Al-As in 20 AH (641AD), Al-Azhar, by Saleh Ibn Ali 133AH (751AD) and Al-Qataie by Ahmed Ibn Touloun 256AH (870AD)

Al-Azhar Mosque is composed of the core building founded by Gohar As-Siqilli. Built to a unique Fatimid style, this part contains 76 white alabaster columns. Beyond the Fatimid Mihrab (niche) there is the Ottoman part with 50 marble columns, with a raised flouring. There follow the renovations and additions made by Mameluk Sultans, on top of whom comes Prince Abdul Rahman Katukhda.

During the 14th century AD, there was added Al Taibarsid School, ordered to be built by Prince Ala-Uddin Al- Taibarsi, who served as treasurer during An-Nasser Ibn Qalawoons reign. Another school namely Al-Aqbaghawi School was built. Both schools were intended for the study of jurisprudence, in addition to lobbies (rowaqs), built upon the orders of Mameluk Sultan as boarding quarters for students. Each district of Egypt and other Islamic parts of the world was assigned a separate quarter.

This renovation project has been completed within the context of the Governments policy of maintaining and conserving religious monument. The project allowed for the preservation, refurbishing and enriching of all monumental components of the mosque. An area of 3,300sq.m.were added to the mosque, thus increasing the total area to 7,800sq.m., accommodating around 20,000 worshippers. The completed restoration work, undoubtedly enhances the status of Al-Azhar as an outstanding center of Islamic call and Egypts leading position in the Islamic world.

Scientific/Academic Life at Al-Azhar

Mubarak and the academic Azhar life

Only 3.5 years following establishments, Al-Azhar started to function as a seat of learning, as well as, a place of worship. During the Fatimid period, it was a principal venue of intellectual activity. In addition to "study circles" ," wisdom sessions for women" were held in the mosque. Late in the 9th century AH, as centers of Islamic culture in Baghdad or Andalusia were deteriorating, Al-Azhar persisted as the center of intellectual radiation and Islamic and Arabic studies in the Islamic world.

"Science circles" frequently held at the mosque showed many features of academic traditions and practices.

According to Napoleon Bonaparte, Al-Azhar Mosque was the most renowned university in the Islamic world, stating in his memoirs that "Al-Azhar matches Sorbonne University in Paris.

As Muhammad Ali who took over as the ruler of Egypt in 1805 started to build a modern state in Egypt ,he relied on the resources of Al-Azhar ,selecting members of scientific missions sent to Europe from Al-Azhar staff.

Prominent political and intellectual leaders of Egypt in late 19th and early 20 th centuries emerged from the ranks of Al-Azhar. Examples are Muhammad Abdou, Al-Manfalouti and Saad Zaghloul. Following the 1952 Revolution, several enhancements and modernization, were introduced to Al-Azhar as an educational institution, intended to boast its status and role in service of Islam , knowledge and humanity at large .

Mission of Al-Azhar University

Earlier, in 1872,the first law on Al-Azhar was promulgated, where steps for obtaining "Al-Alamiya" certificate (equivalent to BA),as well as, topics to be covered .This law was a practical steps towards regulating academic life at Al -Azhar during the 19th century. According to the law regulating Al-Azhar and its related institutes issued on May 5,1961,the prestigious University of Al-Azhar was created under the umbrella of Al-Azhar. The University now includes the faculties devoted to Islamic Law Sharia, Jurisprudence and Arabic language, scientific faculties such as Medicine, Engineering ,and Commerce faculties in addition to separate faculties for girls.

Mission of Al-Azhar University

The University is concerned with all matters related to higher education at Al-Azhar and research pertinent to or resulting from such education.

The university also pays attention to for preserving the study and dissemination Islamic heritage. It delivers the message of Islam to people. The university is particularly concerned with the revival of Arabi civilization as well as the scientific, intellectual and spiritual legacy of the Arab Nation. It also seeks to provide to the Islamic world active scholars and scientists who combine, in addition to the faith in Allah, self-confidence, firm belief in creed, Sharia and language of the Quran, scientific, political and professional efficiency in medicine, engineering, agricultural and commerce among others. The University seeks also to establish closer cultural and scientific relations with Islamic, Arab and foreign universities and scientific institutions.

The story of Al-Azhar

Al-Azhar Main Page

Last Updated: June 26th, 2011