Al Azhar Mosque
Al Azhar Mosque was the first Islamic university built in Cairo. It was constructed around 1,000 years ago and was the official mosque for Friday prayer (jummah) for many years in Egypt. It was built by the great Fatimid army leader and the builder of Cairo, Gawhar El Seqelly, on the orders of the Fatimid Caliph, Al Mui'z le Din Allah. Construction of Al Azhar began in 970 A.D. and was completed three years later.
Al Azhar was built to be the official mosque of Cairo, the same as the Mosque of Amr Ibn El Aas in Fostat and the Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun in Qata'ea. The mosque of Al Azhar is among the largest mosques in Cairo and was first established as an educational institution to teach Shi'ite theology and spread it all over the country.
Architectural Design Of Al Azhar Mosque
Al Azhar was originally half the size that it is today. Additions, new buildings, and restorations were made during various eras until the mosque reached its current size and shape. The early mosque of Al Azhar consisted of three iwnas (prayer halls) centered around and a sahn (open-air courtyard). The mosque's gate was located in the mosque's western walls, and this section contained a simple Fatimid-style minaret. This section was decorated with Kofy Islamic writings and plant ornaments, the only remaining feature of the ancient mosque that is still available now.
The old Mihrab of the mosque was richly decorated with ornaments and Kofi writings from the Noble Qur'an. There is also a Mamluk-style dome that goes back to the 15th century, which replaced the Fatimid dome. Al Azhar had three gates in its Northern, southern, and western walls. The original minbar built by Gawher El Seqqely was then transferred to the Mosque of Al-Hakim. When the mosque was built, the Imam used to deliver his Friday speech one week in Al Azhar Mosque, another in the Mosque of Al-Hakim, another in the mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun, and another Friday in Amr Ibn El Aas Mosque.
Al Azhar Mosque In The Fatimid Period
Al Azhar went through a lot of changes in the Fatimid period. Al-Hakim Be'amr Allah added 27 unique silver lamps to the mosque. What remains of the works of Al-Hakim is a small wooden door that is richly decorated with Kufi writings, which was the dominant decoration feature of this era. In 1125 A.D., the Fatimid ruler Al Amer be'ahkam Allah established a Mihrab for the mosque (a niche that indicates which way to pray towards Ka'aba) made out of Aro Turkish wood, which was decorated with a lot of floral and geometric shapes.
In 1149 A.D., the Fatimid Caliph, Al Hafez Le Dine Allah, wanted to expand the mosque's size, so he added some space to the sahn of the mosque. He also added some decorations to the walls of the mosque and plaster additions.
Al Azhar In The Mamluk Perio
In 1266 A.D., Al Zaher Baybars ordered the building of an ornate minbar (pulpit). Still, unfortunately, it remains the same except for its written instructions, which are now kept in a museum in Algeria.
Baybars Khazendar, the army commander during Al Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalaun's reign, built a new madrasa (religious school), the Tabrisy Madrasa. It is located to the right when you enter Al Azhar mosque. This addition increased the mosque's space for Islamic teaching classes and housed a sizeable Islamic library.
The Afghaweya Madrasa, built-in 1340 AIt, is located on the left side of the entrance. It currently houses the library of Al Azhar.
Al Gawhareya Madrasa, built in the southeastern section of the mosque, is a small madrasa consisting of four iwans (rectangular halls with one side open) and a small sahn.
Al Azhar In The Ottoman Era
Al Azhar underwent a lot of expansion in the Ottoman era. The most significant and most crucial building work was done by Amir Abdel Rahman Katkhuda in 1753 A.D. as he expanded the area of the mosque by adding a riwaq (portico) behind the mihrab that was built on a higher level than the whole mosque. He also added a new minbar and mihrab. Katkhuda added two great gates: the first in the southern wall called the Sa'ayda gate and the Shroba gate in the eastern section of the mosque with an added minaret beside it. Katkhuda was also responsible for building the beautiful western gate with its incredible Islamic decorations, which is now the mosque's main entrance.
The supreme has also been Councill Azhar in modern times. As a mosque and educational institution, Al Azhar has played a significant role in many stories of Egyptian history, especially in fighting the French and British occupation.
Al Azhar University
Al Azhar University is the world's largest and most influential Islamic teaching institution and is the second modern Islamic University to be built. Islamic teaching at Al Azhar University was transformed from Shi'ite to Sunni teaching starting in the Fatimid era. It is still one of the most important and prestigious educational institutions in Egypt and the world.
A treasure trove of ancient wisdom tucked away in bustling Cairo, Al Azhar University provides a distinct and unparalleled educational journey. This blog aims to trace the University's curricular path, highlighting the distinctive ways it taps into the wealth of ancient wisdom to shape the lives of its students and impact the world. As we venture into the hallowed halls of Al Azhar, we delve into a melting pot of education, culture, religion, and tradition, celebrating the institution's transformative journey toward knowledge and enlightenment.
History of Al Azhar University
Founded in the 10th century, Al Azhar University is one of the oldest universities globally and indisputably the foremost institution for Islamic learning. Initially established as a mosque, it evolved over the centuries into a center of learning, intertwined with the spiritual and intellectual evolution of the Islamic world. Its centuries-long journey is a testament to the resilience and adaptability that has allowed it to navigate turbulent times, repeatedly emerging as a beacon of wisdom and knowledge.
The University has steadfastly committed to promoting understanding and respect for Islamic culture and heritage. It has become an international destination for those seeking comprehensive and nuanced learning of Islamic law, theology, language, and culture. Through the ages, Al Azhar has played a significant role in shaping Muslim identity, developing intellectual leadership, and fostering a deep appreciation for the richness of Islamic traditions.