The mosque of Al Azhar is the first ismalic university built in cairo around 1000 years ago and it was the official mosque to have the Friday prayer. It was built by the great Fatimid army leader and the builder of Cairo, Gawhar El Seqelly with the orders of the Fatimid Caliph, Al Mui’z le Din Allah. The building work of the mosque of Al Azhar started in the year 970 AD and it was finished three years afterwards in 972 AD.
The objective behind building it was to make it the official mosque of Cairo, the same as the Mosque of Amr Ibn El Aas in Fostat, Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun in Qata’ea. It was also established to be an educational institution to teach Shiite teachings and spread it all over the country.
The area that was first built in the Azhar Mosque consisted of only half the area it has now. Additions, new buildings, and restorations were done during all of the following eras until the Mosque of Al Azhar Appeared in the shape it is today.
The early mosque of Al Azhar consisted of three iwnas, prayer halls, around and a Sahn, an open air courtyard. The gate of the mosque was located in the mosque’s Western walls and this section contained a simple Fatimid minaret. This section was decorated with Kofy Islamic writings and plant ornaments which are the only remaining feature of the ancient mosque that is still available now.
The old Mihrab of the mosque was richly decorated with ornaments and Kofi writings of Quran. There is also a Mamluk style dome that goes back to the 15th century which took the place of the Fatimid dome.
The mosque of Al Azhar had three gates in its Northern, southern, and western walls. The original menbar built by Gawher El Seqqely was then transferred to the Mosque of Al Hakim. When the mosque was built the Imam used to deliver his Friday speech one week in Al Azhar Mosque, another in the Mosque of Al Hakim, another in the mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun, and another Friday in Amr Ibn El Aas Mosque.
Al Azhar Mosque in the Fatimid period
The mosque of Al Azhar went through a lot of changes in the Fatimid period. Al Hakim be’amr Allah added 27 amazing lamps to the mosque which were made of silver. What remains of the works of Al Hakim is a small wooden door that is richly decorated with Kufi writings which was the dominant decoration feature of this era
In 1125 AD, the Fatimid ruler Al Amer be’ahkam Allah established a Mihrab for the mosque made out of the Aro Turkish wood which was decorated with a lot of plant and geometric shapes.
In 1149 AD the Fatimid Caliph, Al Hafez Le Dine Allah wanted to expand the area of the mosque so he added some space to the Sahn of the mosque. He also added some decorations to the walls of the mosque and it was built out of plaster.
The mosque of Al Azhar in the Mamluk period
In 1266 AD, Al Zaher Baybars ordered to build a Minbar and nothing remains of it except its historical building note which is now kept in the museum in Algeria.
A new Madrasa, the Tabrisy Madrasa, Islamic teaching institution was built by Baybars Khazendar, the army commander in the reign of Al Nasser Mohamed Ibn Qalaun. It is located to right hand when you enter the mosque. This added a bigger space to the Mosque which hosted Islamic teachings classes and also had a large Islamic books library.
The Afghaweya Madrasa was built in 1340 AD and it is located on the left hand side of the entrance and it hosts the library of Al Azhar in the present time.
Al Gawhareya Madrasa which was built in the Eastern Southern section of the mosque and it is a small Madrasa consisting of four Iwans and a small Sahn.
The mosque of Al Azhar in the Ottoman era
The Mosque of Al Azhar has seen a lot of building works in the Ottoman era. The biggest and most important building work was done by the Amir Abdel Rahman Katkhuda in 1753 AD as he expanded the area of the mosque by adding a Riwaq behind the Mihrab and it was built on a higher level than the whole mosque. He also added a new Minbar and Mihrab. Katkhuda added two great gates as well: the first in the Southern wall and it was called the Sa’ayda gate and the Shroba gate in the Eastern section of the mosque and added a minaret beside it. Katkhuda was also responsible for building the beautiful Western gate with its amazing Islamic decorations and which is now the main entrance of the mosque.
The mosque has been also restored by the supreme council of antiquities in the modern time
Al Azhar as a mosque and as an educational institution has played a major role in the whole Egyptian history, especially in fighting the French and British occupation.
Al Azhar University
It is the largest and most important Islamic teaching institution in the whole world and it is the second modern university to be built in history. Islamic teaching in Al Azhar University, which was transformed from Shiite teaching to Sunni teaching, started in the Fatimid era and it is still one of the most important education institutions in Egypt and in the whole world.
Egypt ismalic travel guide- Guide to all Egyptian islamic Sightseeings and famous mosues such as hamed ali Mosque, Sultan Hassan Mosque, Ahmed Ben Tulun Mosque, EL Hakim Mosque , EL Azhar Mosque, El Rifiae Mosque, Sabil Katkhuda
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