The Al-Azhar University is a university in Cairo, Egypt. It was founded in 970 or 972 by the Fatimids as a centre of Islamic learning. By bringing together the study of a number of subjects in the same place 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. In 1961, additional non-religious subjects were added to its curriculum.
It is associated with Al-Azhar Mosque in Islamic Cairo. The university’s mission includes the propagation of Islamic religion and culture. To this end, its Islamic scholars render edicts 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 da’waah.
In 1961, Al-Azhar was established as a university under the government of Egypt’s second President Gamal Abdel Nasser when a wide range of secular faculties were added for the first time, such as business,economics, science, pharmacy, medicine,engineering and agriculture. An Islamic women’s faculty was also added in the same year, six years after Zaib-un-Nissa Hamidullah had been the first woman to speak at the university.
According to Syed Farid Alattas, the Jami’ah conducted classes in Islamic law and jurisprudence, Arabic grammar,Islamic astronomy, Islamic philosophy, and logic. The Fatimids gave attention to the philosophical studies at the time when rulers in other countries declared those who were engaged in philosophical pursuits as apostates and heretics. The Greek thought found a warm reception with the Fatimids who expanded the boundaries of such studies.
In the 12th century, following the overthrow of the Ismaili Shia Fatimid dynasty, Sultan Salahuddin (the founder of the staunchly Sunni Ayyubid Dynasty) converted Al-Azhar to a Shafi’ite Sunni center of learning. Abdul Latif delivered lectures on Islamic medicine at Al-Azhar, while the Jewish philosopher Maimonides delivered lectures on medicine and astronomy there during the time of Salahuddin.
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