Al-Azhar Mosque
Cairo-Islamic District – Egypt

Located in El Hussein Square, the Al-Azhar Mosque (the most blooming), established in 972 (361 H) in a porticoes style shortly after the founding of Cairo itself, was originally designed by the Fatimid general Jawhar El-Sequili (Gawhara Qunqubay, Gawhar al-Sakkaly) and built on the orders of Caliph Muezz Li-Din Allah. Located in the center of an area teaming with the most beautiful Islamic monuments from the 10th century, it was called “Al-Azhar” after Fatama al-Zahraa, daughter of the Prophet Mohamed (P.U.H.) It imitated both the Amr Ibn El-As and Ibn Tulun mosques. The first Fatimid monument in Egypt, the Azhar was both a meeting place for Shi’a students and through the centuries, it has remained a focal point of the famous university which has grown up around it. It was under Yaqoub Ibn Cals that the mosque became a teaching institute. This is the oldest university in the world, where the first lecture was delivered in 975 AD. Today the university built around the Mosque is the most prestigious of Muslim schools, and its students are highly esteemed for their traditional training. While ten thousand students once studied here, today the university classes are conducted in adjacent buildings and the Mosque is reserved for prayer. In addition to the religious studies, modern schools of medicine, science and foreign languages have also been added.

Al-Azhar in 1937 Al-Azhar today

The original Mihrab, uncovered in 1933, has a semi-dome above it with a marble column on either side. Intricate stucco decorations were a prominent feature of the mosque, with the Mihrab and the walls ornately decorated. The Mihrab had two sets of verses from the Quran inscribed in the conch, which is still intact.

The first set of verses are the three that open al-Mu’minoon:
{قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ – الَّذِينَ هُمْ فِي صَلَاتِهِمْ خَاشِعُونَ – وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنِ اللَّغْوِ مُعْرِضُونَ}
{Successful indeed are the believers – who are humble in their prayers – and who avoid vain talk}
The next inscription is made up of verses 162 and 163 of
Al-An’am:
{قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ – لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ وَبِذَلِكَ أُمِرْتُ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ}
{Say: Surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are (all) for Allah, the Lord of the worlds – No
associate has He; and this am I commanded, and I am the first of those who submit.}

These inscriptions are the only surviving piece of decoration that has been definitively traced to the Fatimids.
Architecturally, the mosque is a palimpsest of all styles and influences that have passed through Egypt, with a large part of it having been renovated by Abdarrahman Khesheda. There are five very fine minarets with small balconies and intricately carved columns. It has six entrances, with the main entrance being the 18th Century Bab el-Muzayini (barber’s gate), where students were once shaved. This gate leads into a small courtyard and then into the Aqbaugh-awiya Medersa to the left, which was built in 1340 and serves as a library. On the right is the Taybarsiya Medersa built in 1310 which has a very fine Mihrab. The Qaitbay Entrance was built in 1469 and has a minaret built atop. Inside is a large courtyard that is 275 by 112 feet which is surrounded with porticos supported by over three hun-dred marble columns of ancient origin. To the east is the prayer hall which is larger than the courtyard and has several rows of columns. The Kufic inscription on the interior of the mihrab is original, though the mihrab has been modified several times, and behind is a hall added in 1753 by Abd el-Rahman Katkhuda. At the northern end is the tomb medersa of Jawhar El-Sequili.

****************
Al-Azhar University

(AHZ-har ; Arabic: جامعة الأزهر (الشريف) Jāmiʻat al-Azhar (al-Sharīf)

Bab al-Muzayinīn The minaretatop the Madrasa

“The honorable Azhar University , is a university in Cairo, Egypt. Founded in 970 AD by the Fatimids as a madrasa, or center of Islamic learning. It is the oldest university in the world where the first lecture was delivered in 975 AD.
Its students studied the Qur’an and Islamic law in detail, along with logic, grammar, rhetoric, and how to calculate the lunar phases of the moon. 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. It is today the chief center of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world. It is the oldest degree-granting university in Egypt. 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 (Ulamas) render edicts (fatwas) 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 proselytization (da’wa).
Its library is considered second in importance in Egypt only to the Egyptian National Library and Archives.

The Old Madrassa

************************************