(Arabic: جامعة الأزهر )
Established: 970- 972
Founded by al-Muizz Lideenillah, the 4th Caliph of the Fatimids
Head imam: Ahmed el-Tayeb
Al-Azhar University, also known as ‘Noble Al-Azhar University’ (Arabic: جامعة الأزهر الشريف), is the oldest university in Egypt and one of the oldest in the world. It is a center of Arabic literature and is considered the leader of Sunni Islamic doctrine and learning in the world.
Some scholars consider it the second-oldest surviving degree granting university, but others have refuted the claim for various reasons.
Al-Azhar was founded between 970-972 by order of Islamic Caliph Muizz Fatimid (al-Muizz Lideenillah), the fourth Caliph of the Fatimid period, for teaching Shiite Islamic doctrine.
Its name, ‘Al-Azhar,’ is derived from the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, Fatima al-Zahraa, who was married to Ali Bin Ali Talib, the Prophet’s nephew. Shiite Muslims are devotees of Talib, and thus gave the institution al-Zahraa’s name.
During the reign of al-Aziz Billah, the fifth Caliph of the Fatimids, the institution was changed into a university. It is the oldest university in Egypt.
During the Ayyubid era, Egypt became a Sunni rather than Shiite country, between 1164-1169, and consequently Al-Azhar became a Sunni Islam institution. Over time non-religious curriculum was also introduced.