Al-Azhar University (AHZ-har ; Arabic: جامعة الأزهر (الشريف) Jāmiʻat al-Azhar (al-Sharīf), "the (honorable) Azhar University") is an educational institute in Cairo, Egypt. Founded in 970 or 972 as a madrasa, it is the chief centre of Arabic literature and Islamic learning in the world. It is the oldest degree-granting university in Egypt. In 1961 non-religious subjects were added to its curriculum.
It is associated with Al-Azhar Mosque in Islamic Cairo. The university's mission includes the propagation of Islamic religion and culture. To this end, its Islamic scholars (ulamas) render edicts (fatwas) on disputes submitted to them from all over the Sunni Islamic world regarding proper conduct for Muslim individuals and societies. Al-Azhar also trains Egyptian government-appointed preachers in proselytization (da'wa).
Its library is considered second in importance in Egypt only to the Egyptian National Library and Archives. In May 2005, Al-Azhar in partnership with a Dubai information technology enterprise, ITEP launched the H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Project to Preserve Al Azhar Scripts and Publish Them Online (the "Al-Azhar Online Project") with the mission of eventually providing online access to the library's entire rare manuscripts collection (comprising about seven million pages).
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“If not us, who? If not now, when?”
—Slogan by Czech university students in Prague, November 1989. quoted in Observer (London, Nov. 26, 1989)