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Al-Azhar University: A Beacon of Islamic Learning and Tradition

Al-Azhar University, nestled in the heart of Cairo, Egypt, has been a renowned institution of Islamic learning and tradition for over a millennium. Being one of the oldest universities in the world, Al-Azhar University has been instrumental in shaping Islamic education and producing eminent scholars and leaders. 

A Brief History

Beginnings under the Fatimids

Al-Azhar University's inception dates back to 970 or 972 CE, during the reign of the Fatimid Caliphate, a Shia-leaning government. The university was established in the then Fatimid capital, Cairo, and was named in honor of Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad and wife of the first Shia Imam, Ali.

Expansion under Saladin and Mamluks

Al-Azhar's expansion and elevation to a seat of learning occurred over the centuries, particularly under the rule of Saladin and the Mamluks. It became an influential center for studying Islamic law, logic, grammar, and rhetoric.

Influence under the Ottomans and Post-Ottoman Era

Under the Ottoman Empire, Al-Azhar flourished as a center for Islamic studies. However, its influence extended far beyond the Ottoman Empire, impacting Islamic education across the globe. Even after the Ottoman era, Al-Azhar University maintained its reputation as a leading institution for Islamic learning.

Modernization and Global Impact

Recently, Al-Azhar University has undergone significant modernization, introducing a wide range of academic disciplines and expanding its global outreach. It has become a beacon of Islamic learning for students worldwide, mainly from Southeast Asia, who travel to Egypt to study at this prestigious institution.

Al-Azhar's Academic Structure and Curriculum

Al-Azhar University offers various undergraduate and postgraduate study programs across numerous faculties and institutes. The university boasts 81 faculties, nine institutes, 359 academic departments, 42 centers, six university hospitals, and 27 general administrative units.

Faculties and Institutes

The faculties at Al-Azhar are diverse, ranging from Islamic Theology and Jurisprudence to Medicine and Engineering. In line with Islamic custom, faculties are offered separately for men and women. The university also houses several institutes dedicated to specific areas of study.

Curriculum and Disciplines

Al-Azhar's curriculum is rooted in traditional Islamic studies, strongly emphasizing studying the Quran and Hadith. However, it includes disciplines such as Arabic language, logic, belief, jurisprudence, and Sufism. This comprehensive and diverse curriculum has become a model for many Islamic universities and departments worldwide.

Al-Azhar's Impact and Influence

Al-Azhar has had a notable impact on Islamic education and religious authority in Egypt and globally. Its graduates have become prominent scholars, leaders, and influencers.

Influence on Islamic Education

Al-Azhar's curriculum and teaching methods have significantly influenced Islamic education globally. Many Islamic universities or Islamic departments emulate Al-Azhar's curriculum. Furthermore, Al-Azhar graduates have been invited to lecture in universities worldwide, particularly in Islamic departments, spreading the Al-Azhar way of teaching.

Producing Religious Leaders and Scholars

Al-Azhar University has been instrumental in producing notable religious leaders and scholars who have made significant contributions to Islamic thought and society. These individuals have played vital religious, social, and political roles, reinforcing Al-Azhar's influence and prestige.

Al-Azhar Today: A Global Learning Hub

Today, Al-Azhar University continues to be a global hub for Islamic learning, attracting students worldwide. Its historical legacy and commitment to modernization and global outreach make it a preferred destination for students seeking comprehensive Islamic education.

Student Experience

Students at Al-Azhar enjoy a rich educational experience steeped in tradition yet open to modern perspectives. The university provides opportunities for deep engagement with Islamic studies and exposure to a diverse international student community.

Connection with Global Islamic Communities

Al-Azhar maintains strong connections with global Islamic communities, particularly in Southeast Asia. Its alumni network spans the globe, creating a vibrant community of scholars and leaders who continue to uphold and propagate the values and knowledge gained at Al-Azhar.


With its rich history and enduring legacy, Al-Azhar University stands as a beacon of Islamic learning and tradition. Its significant impact on Islamic education and its commitment to modernization and global outreach cements its status as a leading Islamic institution globally. As it continues to shape the minds of future generations, Al-Azhar University undoubtedly carries forward its mission of propagating Islamic knowledge and values.

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