University, or Al-Azhar Al-Shareef (الأزهر
الشريف; literally, "The Noble Al-Azhar"), is connected to the
Fatima Az-Zahraa, the daughter of
from whom the
Fatimid Dynasty claimed descent. The mosque was built in two years from
The school of theology (madrassa)
connected with it was founded in
988 as an
but it later became a
which it remains to this day. It is one of the oldest operating
universities in the world.
Al-Azhar is considered
by most Sunni
Muslims to be the most prestigious school of Islamic law, and its
scholars are seen as the highest scholars in the Muslim world. Its stated
objectives remain the propagation of Islamic culture and the Arabic
language. To that end it maintains a committee of
judge on individual Islamic questions, a printing establishment for printing
and trains preachers trained in
da'wa and the propagation of religious publicity.
Al-Azhar is run by a
Supreme Council forming general policy, headed by a Grand Imam, styled the
"Sheikh Al-Azhar." Unlike most universities it does not admit students who
are not practicing Muslims, thus it combines the institutions of a Western
theological seminary with faculties, established in
medicine and engineering.
Its library, which was
1897, is considered second in range and importance only to
Dar Al-kotob Al-Masriah in Egypt, as far as the number of Islamic books
and manuscripts are concerned. The library comprises of 99,062 books consist
of 595,668 volumes of the most precious manuscripts and rare books, some as
old as the 8th century. The library is center of attraction to the
researchers of Al-Azhar students and other Islamic universities. It
contributes in propagating knowledge by making photo copies of some of the
manuscripts available for the benefit of researchers from Egypt, Arab and
Islamic countries. The library does not collect non-Islamic literature.
has published a magazine (now monthly) whose stated purpose is to promulgate
religious rules, subjects related to the propagating of Islamic literature,
and basic jurisprudence (shariah),
including sections on history, biographies, translated texts and news
concerning the Muslim world.
In 1961, Al-Azhar was
reorganized by the Nasser Government and several secular faculties were
added to the university, such as medicine, engineering, agriculture, as well
as an Islamic women's faculty.
Muhammad Sayid Tantawy, the current
Imam of Al-Azhar, has declared that the perpetrators of the
9/11 attacks and suicide bombers are "heretics" who are not following
the true path of Islam. In a
recent conference in
he asked all "true believers" to deny speakers of violently heretical Islam
places to speak in the mosque, thus preventing the spread of violent
Abd Al-Sabour Shahin, a prominent professor at the University, denies
that Muslims were even involved in the attacks, claiming a "dirty Zionist
hand" was behind them.
Ali Gomaa', the
associated with Al Azhar, has declared that insurgents who kidnap and kill
civilans in Iraq
are the ones which Islam has authorized to kill since they wreak havoc in
In 2005 the Al Azhar
online document archive was launched (see link below). This is a joint
venture between the university and the HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al
Maktoum IT Education Project (ITEP) in Dubai. The archive will eventually
give access to all 42,000 manuscripts (c. 7 million pages) in the Al Azhar
library; as of writing there are around 1.5 million pages available to view.