MUHARRAM - SAFAR 1424 H
Volume 17-03 No : 207
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For centuries, Al-Azhar, the cradle of Islamic learning has been attempting to create intellectual unity among Muslims across the globe
By Abdul Shaheed Balloor
Al-Azhar has duly come to be known as the oldest religious university all over the world. Al- Azhar is located in Cairo, the capital of Egypt and the largest city in Africa, the name means the victorious city. Cairo is known locally as Misr, the Arabic name for Egypt itself, because of its centrality in Egyptian life. Al -Azhar university is a natural expansion of the great mosque of Al-Azhar, the oldest and most celebrated of all Islamic academic institutes and Universities all over the world without exception. For over 1000 years, Al-Azhar was a venerated cultural centre for all Muslims in the East and West. Al Azhar University is an authoritative voice throughout the Islamic world. Al-Azhar university concerns itself with the religious syllabus, which pays special attention to the Quranic sciences and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) on the one hand, while on the other, the university teaches all the modern scientific fields of science . Thus, the university has not only fulfilled its obligations in these two fields of study, but also fulfilled its obligations towards the Arabic language which is the language of the Holy Quran.
When Jawhar, the Sicilian, commander of the Fatimid troops sent by the Fatimid Caliph Almuiz to conquer Egypt, founded Cairo in 358 AH, he built the Al-Azhar mosque. The mosque was completed in nearly two years. It was first opened for prayers on 7th of
Ramadan 361 A.H/ June 22, 972 AD. Since then it has become the most well-known mosque in the whole Muslim world, and the oldest university ever for both religious and secular studies .The mosque's role was not limited to being a forum for prayers and sermons. It also had an important role in other aspects of Egyptian life. Court sessions were held in the mosque, and the mosque was a focal point for religious festivals in Cairo. It was in Ramadan, 365 AH(October 975 AD) during the reign of Al-Muiz when chief justice Abu El-Hassan Ali ibn Al-Nu'man El-Kairawany sat in the court of Al-Azhar and read "El-ikhtisar" a book written by his father Abu Hanifa Al-Nu'man as a reference on shi'ite law (fiqh). This was the first "Dars"(religious teaching) in Al Azhar University .
In modern times, Al-Azhar's educational policy is governed by some basic guidelines and principles. Al-Azhar is open for all Muslim students who wish to specialise in a particular academic discipline or to further their knowledge of Islamic teachings. It should be mentioned here that Al-Azhar played an important role in the development of natural sciences. When Bonaparte attacked Egypt in (1213 A.H / July 1789 A.D) he looked upon Al-Azhar as the most well-known university in the whole Islamic world. During his exile at St. Helena, he wrote in his dairy that Al-Azhar was the counterpart of Sorbonne in Paris. He looked highly upon Al-Azhar Ulama as the elite of the educated class and as the leaders of the people. Alongside the Egyptian students who are studying at Al-Azhar university, there are many other students from various Asian, African and European countries. These foreign Muslim brothers have exactly the same rights as the Egyptian students.
The University of Al-Azhar is open for all Muslim students who wish to study a particular academic discipline or to further and deepen their knowledge of Islamic Religion. The University of Al-Azhar is always attempting to create a kind of intellectual unity. To achieve this goal, the university supports the higher studies, creating a new area of different specialisations, providing scholarships in various walks of life. During the reign of Khedive Ismail, the first statute for Al-Azhar was promulgated in 1822,A.D., whereby the steps for procurement of "Al-Alamiyah" Certificate and the relevant subjects to be studied were specified. Then, other laws regulating education at Al-Azhar followed, most important of which was the 1950 law, which divided education there into three categories and introduced the faculty-education system- Faculty of Shariat (Islamic Jurisprudence), Faculty of Theology ( Osoul Al- Been ), and Faculty of the Arabic Language. By law of 1961, Al-Azhar Faculties increased in number, and besides the theoritical faculties, other practical and technical faculties were established like Medicine, Engineering and Agriculture. Other theoretical and technical faculties were set up for girls, all of which are affiliated to the Al-Azhar university.
Al-Azhar Faculties- Faculties for Boys
A- In Cairo- Faculty of Islamic Theology. Faculty of Islamic Jurisprudence and Law.
Faculty of Arabic Language. Faculty of Islamic and Arabic Studies. Faculty of Da'wa, Islamic Call. Faculty of Education. Faculty of Languages and Translation. Faculty of Science. Faculty of Medicine. Faculty of Pharmacy. Faculty of Dentistry. Faculty of Agriculture. Faculty of Commerce. Faculty of Engineering.
Faculty for Girls
A- In Cairo- Faculty of Arabic and Islamic Studies. Faculty of Humanities.
Faculty of Medicine. Faculty of Science. Faculty of Commerce.
For centuries, Al-Azhar, the cradle of Islamic learning, housed one of the world's largest collections of Islamic manuscripts. There are approximately 3 million ancient manuscripts from various Islamic eras in the Muslim world, 1.3 million of which are located in Egypt. In 1897, a central library for Al-Azhar was established, which served as a repository for the vast collection of Islamic works of reference scattered throughout the university's other libraries. .The library comprises of 99,062 books, 595,668 volumes of the most precious manuscripts and rare books. The library is considered second to " Dar Al-kotob Al- Masriah" in Egypt, as far as the number of books and the rare literatures is concerned. A number of hand written Holy Books, in various styles, i.e..(Kufi,Texthand, Persian, Naskh) form part of the libarary. Most of the writings are coated with gold, some are overlaid with liquid gold and illustrated with Islamic portrays and drawings. Islamic scholars had to travel to Cairo to view these works in person.
Al Azhar in the Cyber World
Al-Azhar has decided to rescue its priceless treasures by launching Al-Azhar online (www.alazharonline.org), giving Internet users the chance to access some of the world's oldest and rarest Islamic manuscripts. The manuscripts are works on Muslim tradition, jurisprudence and interpretation of the Quran. It will also provide direct access to Islamic culture and heritage as seen through the eyes of the world's oldest university and religious institution. The idea for the portal was initiated by General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and UAE Minister of Defence, following his visit to Al-Azhar in April 2000 when the Grand Imam of
Al-Azhar, Dr Mohammed Tantawi, discussed the idea of preserving Al-Azhar Library's priceless manuscripts and books. The $ 5 million-project features the digital conversion of over 42,000 manuscripts, dating back over 1,400 years, and it includes 9,000 that are the only existing copies in the world. The electronic scanning and storing of the University's archives will take another five years to complete.
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There are a number of Ahadith exclusively concerned about developing and strengthening the human will. Abu Bakr and Umar relate from Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to pray: "O Allah, I seek refuge with You from incapacity and laziness, and from cowardice and old age, and I seek refuge with You from the afflictions of life and death and from the punishment of the grave."
Supplication for protection against incapacity and helplessness can only create a psychological aversion to these weaknesses in the mind of a Muslim and induce him to gain strength and ability. In fact, such a prayer opens up before a person the practical way to realize his cherished goals and expectations in life. It coordinates and harmonises a person's skills and abilities for the realization of his dreams.
The sunnah of the Prophet, peace be upon him, exemplifies a perfect harmony between supplication and its practical manifestations. Once a Companion from among the Ansar came to the Prophet and complained to him about his needs and poverty. Thereupon, the Prophet taught him in a practical way how to overcome his difficulties and live up to the higher ideals of supplication wherein a Muslim seeks refuge with Allah from incapacity and laziness. He bought him an axe by auctioning his few belongings and advised him to cut wood and sell it.
There was a mother who used to tell her daughters, " Children, do not criticise others. Even in a bad human being, there will be some good qualities". Once one daughter retorted-" Mom tell me, what quality Satan has?" Mother replied: "We must admire his persistence!"
We can learn some good things from an individual with the worst character too.
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