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al-Azhar (Arab., ‘the most resplendent’). One of the principal mosques in Cairo, also a centre of learning and later a university. It was founded in 969 CE by the Fāṭimid rulers of Egypt. Since they were Ismaʿīlī, al-Azhar was (for two centuries) a centre for Ismaʿīlī teaching, until the Ayyubids under Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn (Saladin) deposed the Fāṭimid dynasty in the late 12th cent. In the 1950s, and especially in the reform of 1961, further expansion added facilities for a much wider range of studies (including sciences, languages, and business studies) and in the 1970s a section for women was opened. Al-Azhar remains to this day one of the leading and most influential universities in the Islamic world.

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