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al-Azhar, also known as the al-Azhar Mosque (الجامع الأزهر‎), is an Egyptian mosque-madrasa-university complex in the city of Cairo. Over the course of its over a millennium-long history, the mosque has been alternately neglected and highly regarded. Today, al-Azhar remains a deeply influential institution in Egyptian society that is highly revered in the Sunni Muslim world and a symbol of Islamic Egypt.

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Al-Mu'izz li-Din Allah of the Fatimid dynasty commissioned its construction for the newly established capital city in 970 CE. Its name is usually thought to derive from az-Zahrāʾ (meaning "the shining one"), a title given to Fatimah. It was the first mosque established in Cairo, a city that has since gained the nickname "the City of a Thousand Minarets".

Brief History

circa 1250 BCE

After its dedication in 972 CE, and with the hiring by mosque authorities of 35 scholars in 989, the mosque slowly developed into what is today the second oldest continuously run university in the world after Al Karaouine in Idrisid Fes. al-Azhar University has long been regarded as the foremost institution in the Islamic world for the study of Sunni theology and sharia, or Islamic law. The university, integrated within the mosque as part of a mosque school since its inception, was nationalized and officially designated an independent university in 1961, following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.

al-Jāmiʿ al-Azhar

circa 1250 BCE

al-Azhar Mosque
The al-Azhar Mosque (الجامع الأزهر‎) literally meaning 'The Resplendent Congregational Mosque'), is the central and oldest part of the modern al-Azhar complex. The architecture of al-Azhar is closely tied to the history of Cairo. Materials taken from multiple periods of Egyptian history, from the Ancient Egyptians, through Greek and Roman rule, to the Coptic Christian era, were used in the early mosque structure, which drew on other Fatimid structures in Ifriqiya.


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