Azhar, Al- ("The Brilliant" or "Resplendent," in Arabic)

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AZHAR, AL- ("The Brilliant" or "Resplendent," in Arabic)

This name is given to the Great Mosque, opened in Cairo in 972, which has since become one of the most important centers of Islamic teaching. In 988 a college was started there to propagate the faith among the Egyptian population. In 1005, the teaching program expanded to include philosophy, astronomy, and chemistry, which enhanced its reputation. In the twelfth century the Mamluks came to power in Egypt and created a university at the mosque for the purpose of training ulema. Al-Azhar served as the main college for religious education among Palestinians, particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In 1961, President Gamal Abdel Nasser transformed the religious college into a multidisciplinary university. Directed by the Great Imam Muhammad Sayed Tantaoui in 2004, Al-Azhar Mosque is the home of a university with fifty-two schools that welcome almost 140,000 students.

SEE ALSO Mamluks.