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Key Chapters

Chapter 9, Those Who Know: the ‘Ulamā’


[Image: al-Azhar]

The Mosque-University of al-Azhar, in Cairo (1977). Founded in the tenth century by the Fatimids to train the propagators of Isma‘ili Islam, it later became a Sunni madrasa and the most highly esteemed one after the Mongol invasion set back learning in other centers and has continued as such to the present. The Shaykh (Rector) al-Azhar is generally considered the spiritual leader of Muslims in Egypt. Considered a bastion of conservatism in the early twentieth century, reforms in 1961 brought it more fully under government control and secular subjects were added to its curriculum.

© William Shepard

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