Al-Azhar University is a university in Cairo, Egypt. Associated with Al-Azhar Mosque in Islamic Cairo, it is Egypt’s oldest degree-granting university and is renowned as the most prestigious university for Sunni Islamic learning.
Al-Azhar began as a mosque built in 970 AD during the Fatmid era, and became a Sunni institution after the conquest by Saladin in 1171. With the abolition of the caliphate and the office of Shaykh al-Islam (seyhul Islam) in Istanbul in 1924, al-Azhar became the paramount Islamic institution. There is no clear consensus as to when al-Azhar became a centre of learning. Al-Azhar is inclusive of the four major Sunni schools of law, the Ashari and Maturidi schools of theology, and seven major Sufi orders. Al-Azhar has been through several stages of reform: in the nineteenth century it was transformed from madrasa to university, with the Azhar Organisation Laws of 1896 and 1911 creating a centralised bureaucracy that allowed the institution’s head, the Grand Sheikh, to oversee its general administration.
University of Oxford: Changing Structures of Islamic Authority