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Introduction to Studying at Al-Azhar

Information on studying at Al-Azhar University has been compiled on this wiki for Western Muslim students considering applying to the university for Islamic studies.  This information can be used by non-Western students as well, although some of the advice is not applicable to non-Westerners.


Why Study at Al-Azhar University?

Al-Azhar University is considered to be one of the oldest universities still in use today.  Many great scholars in Islamic history have studied at this institution.  There is much knowledge available at and around Al-Azhar University, and there are many scholars in Cairo of different backgrounds and ideologies that a stud

Al-Azhar University provides a balanced and diverse environment for students from all backgrounds.  Although the university officially has a particular ideology, many students and teachers follow different and even opposing ideologies.  This is one of the few institutions in the Muslim world that has this diversity.

Cairo is a developed city, and it is fairly easy for a Western student whether married or single to live comfortably and focus on studies rather than the environmental challenges that face students elsewhere.  Egypt is a very welcoming country for Westerners, and it is easy for a student to travel to.  The cost of living is not very high, and the attending the university is practically free.

The university itself allows all students to take the entrance exams, so a student does not have to rely on an arbitrary selection process to get into the university.  If a student works hard and passes all of the exams, then the student is allowed to enroll in studies.


Who Should Study at Al-Azhar University?

When a Western Muslim envisions the idea of studying Islam at a place such as Al-Azhar University, he/she tends to imagine that studying overseas is romantic and enjoyable, and will lead to an inevitable increase in one's faith.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  Studying Islam in place such as Al-Azhar is very difficult, and a student will face many challenges and be tempted to leave without completing the course of study.  As with any degree program, studying at Al-Azhar is for specific people who have specific goals.  There are many other institutions in Egypt in which a student can get a general understanding of Islam and Islamic studies in a shorter period of time with less difficulty.

The first question a prospective student should ask themselves is "Why do I want to study at Al-Azhar?"  If the answer is for any worldly benefit, then Al-Azhar is not the place for him/her.  If the answer is to argue with those who hold a different opinion, then Al-Azhar is not the place for this person either.  If the answer is to get a basic understanding of Islam or to learn Arabic, there are other places that offer this education much more efficiently.  If the person is interested in becoming a scholar of Islam, whether in the field of Islamic law, or Tafseer, or Hadeeth, or Da3wah, then Al-Azhar is an appropriate place to learn.  Al-Azhar University is also a good place to learn for a student who wants to be an imaam of a mosque or wants to pursue higher education in Islamic studies in the West or the East.


Disclaimers for those Interested in Al-Azhar

There are caveats that a student interested in studying at Al-Azhar should be aware of.  The first is that although Al-Azhar has a rich history, the institution is not at its peak and has flaws in its organization at this time.  There are political and historical reasons for this, as well as a lack of available funding.  There are tens of thousands of students in the Azhari system, yet studying at the university is extremely cheap.

Prospective students should be patient and be willing to face challenges.  They should not expect that everything in terms of the education and the administration in the Azhari system will go smoothly, as Egypt is a developing country.  The Azhari system reflects the issues that the rest of the country is facing.

Although the curriculum is excellent, a student should expect that some of the curriculum needs to be studied privately outside of the university to supplement the shortcomings in the university itself.  Cairo is full of scholars, and there are many qualified people to sit with to learn these subjects outside of the university, both privately and at other institutions.

A student must understand that a portion of his/her learning will occur outside of the university, and must be willing to put the effort to accomplish this.

All of these challenges are increased for women interested in attending Al-Azhar, because the Ummah in general lacks qualified female scholars and teachers.

These challenges are also present in most of the other Islamic universities and institutions around the world.  Cairo does provide an environment where many of these challenges can be dealt with, if the student is willing to put in the effort.  Students who are willing to put in effort and struggle in learning for the sake of Allah benefit greatly in Al-Azhar and in Cairo.

Created by: admin. Last Modification: Sunday 29 of March, 2009 00:49:13 IST by admin.