Al-Azhar Mosque

The mosque slowly developed into what is today the second oldest continuously run university in the world after Al Karaouine in Idrisid Fes

Cairo, Egypt

Coordinates: 30.045869, 31.262753

Al-Azhar Mosque known simply in Egypt as al-Azhar, is an Egyptian mosque in Islamic Cairo.

Al-Mu’izz ud-Din Allah of the Fatimid dynasty commissioned its construction for the newly established capital city in 970.

Its name is usually thought to derive from az-Zahra (meaning “the shining one”), a title given to Bibi Fatimah رضي الله عنه.

It was the first mosque established in Cairo, a city that has since gained the nickname “the City of a Thousand Minarets”.

After its dedication in 972, 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.

Conversion from Shia to Sunni Mosque

Al-Azhar mosque was established shortly after the Shia Fatimid caliphs conquered Egypt in 969 and founded their new capital, Cairo, in it. It was its main mosque, and it was associated with a school (madrasa) being a centre of Isma’ili Shia learning and propaganda.

It was temporily used as a church by crusaders during a short period of internal turmoil, crusaders and Zankids interventions, which lead to Fatimids paying a tribute to the Kingdom of Jerusalem and crusaders occupying the gates of Cairo.

When crusaders were pushed out by Hz. Salahuddin Ayyubi رحمة الله عليه and his uncle sent by Sunni Zankid ruler Hz. Nur ad-Din رحمة الله عليه, Hz. Salahuddin Ayyubi رحمة الله عليه became the Fatimid vizier, he abolished the Shia caliphate, imprisoned the Fatimids for many decades and turned the mosque into a Sunni one.

Today it is therefore a Sunni mosque, and a very important one. The legal opinions of the Al-Azhar University (reformed in late 19th century by Muhammad ‘Abduh) are the most respected in the (Sunni) Muslim world.

Al Azhar Judgements

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.

It remains a deeply influential institution in Egyptian society that is highly revered in the Sunni Muslim world and a symbol of Islamic Egypt.

In addition to being the default authority within Egypt, al-Azhar has been looked to outside of Egypt for religious judgments.

Prior to the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd asked for a fatwa authorizing the stationing of foreign troops within the kingdom, and despite Islam’s two holiest sites being located within Saudi Arabia, he asked the head sheikh of al-Azhar instead of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia.