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al- Azhar


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Founded in 969/970, this Cairene university may have been named for the prophet Muhammad's daughter Fatimah “al-Zahra” (the brilliant), the eponymous ancestor of the Fatimids, founder of Cairo. Premodern al-Azhar had no formal admissions procedures, academic departments, written examinations, grades, or degrees; the curriculum focused on Quranic exegesis, hadith, jurisprudence, grammar, rhetoric, and the sciences. The early modern period ushered in attempts to reform and modernize the university through the addition of new subjects and required yearly examinations, but students and faculty protested and forced the cancellation of these measures. Starting in 1961 the usually conservative university has adopted modern higher educational standards and has expanded its curricular base to include colleges of agriculture, engineering, medicine, commerce, science, and education. Women students are admitted albeit educated in separate colleges. Outside Egypt, al-Azhar is prized as a champion of Sunni Islam and the Arabic language.

Subjects: Islam.


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