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Published On:25 October 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

How Does One Enter Al-Azhar?

By Suhaib D. Webb

Bismellah wa salatu wa salamu ala sayedenaa rasulellaah salahualayhe wa salam:

What you need to know to get into Al-Azhar in Brief:

1. Try to have no less than 2 juz of Qur’an memorized.

2. If you are not fluent in Arabic consider studying in an Arabic center in Cairo for a year before taking the exams. al-Azhar has no department for teaching Arabic to non-Arabs. In addition, teachers utilize both Egyptian colloquial and Fusha. However, most of instruction in al-Azhar is conducted in Fusha and if requested, Fusha it will be employed to accommodate you.

3. Being a student of knowledge is a serious endeavor. Thus, I advise brothers and sisters to exhaust all their local resources before setting off to study in Egypt. It is wise to utilize the scholars and Imams in your locality before setting abroad. This is also the is the Sunnah of the Ulema –to learn firstly in one’s locality before traveling abroad to seek knowledge. Once you have exhausted your resources then you should prepare yourself to study abroad.

It makes little to no sense for a person to travel to Egypt to learn a basic book of Fiqh, Tajwid or some other science that can be learned in our lands, in the West. The Islamic sciences can be learned at a basic introductory level in our home countries as we have many teachers who are well qualified and experienced in teaching at this level. Also, failing to study in our countries for introductory level instruction undercuts the efforts of the Institutions in the West that are aiming at disseminating Islamic education.

4. It is beneficial to remember that al-Azhar, in its hey day, existed in a first world setting. Currently, Egypt no longer occupies a first world position as it once did. This is why the student of knowledge encounters many challenges and tends to be saddened by his or her experience.
Despite the challenges one may face given third world conditions is one is patient there is much benefit to be found in the Azhar of today that exists in a third world setting. Currentyl, al-Azhar is witnessing a revival so classes are to be found in the masjid at various levels and are possessed of a high degree of organization despite the environmental pressures. Cairo is one of the world’s largest cities numerically being thus one finds all the problems of a big city. Despite, pollution and the hecticness of life in Cairo and the city slicker attitude one comes to encounter there is much knowledge to be gained and many lessons to be learned in the city of a 1000 minarets. The student should not expect utopia but that does not preclude that he or she will not find the intellectual and spiritual jewels that prompt the student of knowledge to travel. It must be said that these jewels are found only by the student who is willing to endure and struggle and sacrifice for knowledge and seeks to please Allah {swt} in the contemporary world.

5. Having Ikhlaas and a heart dedicated to your Lord in the process of registering. You are required to have 5 photo copies of your passport, three passport pictures [to be taken in Egypt], a letter from your embassy granting you permission to study in Egypt. In addition, you are required to have blood work done either the Hussein Hospital or the Zahraa hospital both which are under the supervision of al-Azhar and yo must have paper work given to you by the majma bahouth [registrar’s office] so that the results of your blood work is recorded and presented to al-Azhar so that your paper work is complete. al-Azhar recognizes blood work from the two hospitals mentioned as they are under the Azhari system.

You may need proof that you are Muslim if your name Islamic and written on your passport. You can a certificate declaring your profession of faith from the mashaikha or the office of Shaikh al-Azhar which is close to the al-Azhar masjid.

Subject matters that comprise the entrance exam:

1. Hadith
2. Nahu
3. Sarf
4. Balagha
5. Fiqh according to one of the four schools
6. Aqeeda (according to the ‘Ashari school [what is required in this area is very basic information])
7. Sirah
8. Tafsir

You can find the books that will help you for the entrance exams behind Masjid al-Azhar in the Dar al-Atrak area. There is a book shop known as al-maktab al-Azhariyah and they have what are known as the Tawdih series (Yes, Azhari cliff notes) for every subject that one is tested in.

There are oral exams along with written exams. After you take the oral exams you will be placed in the part of the examination process which requires writing it consists of the eight subjects listed above. Depending on how well you prepare for the tests you will be either placed in the middle school or the high school. Most students who prepare well invest 1 to 2 years in the high school wherein they study al-Fiyah ibn Malik, a madhab, arabic rhetoric and literature and hadith and tafsir etc. The base of Azhari education is in its high school system. Education there is not bad at all, you will study a number of good traditional texts there.

After a few months (because the exams to get in are in the middle of the year) you will be eligible to take two exams:

If you failed to make it to the last year of high school then you can test for the next year (to move up a grade). Or you can take the test to get into the university (in other words kinda like a test for the high school diploma.) If you pass the exit exam you can chose from one of the following colleges:

* Usol al-Din
* Shari’ah
* Arabic language
* Qur’an (eight year program)
* Dawa
* Islamic studies

The first two have the best reputation. However, don’t expect anything like your used to back home. there is NO ORGANIZATION so you must have a great deal of patience.

6. Exams start in late October early November. Thus, you need to have your paper work turned in to the office of foreign students in Nasir City by September/late August.

This office is behind the Women’s dorms located at the intersection of Mustapha Nahas and Tayran streets. It is one the sixth or eighth floor of the building. The building is simply known as the Idara. Go there around 10 am. The will close very shortly after the noon prayer.

7. Finally, Egypt is made up of all types of groups from the Salafis to the Shadhulis. Thus, students who have a balanced outlook and avoid being too extreme, and carry themselves in a balanced manner are successful in Egypt as they are able to deal with the diversity which represents the society and the Muslim ummah.

Remember the statement of your Lord, “Thus we’ve made you a balanced nation.” Although you have these different groups there is a general feeling of love and brotherhood amongst most of them which we lack in the West.”

Why al-Azhar?

One of the reasons that I chose al-Azhar and why I would recommend it, is because of the depth and maturity in outlook that the program cultitvates. You will not come out of Egypt hating sufis, bashing salafis and spending your life on mundane issues. You will, inshallah, come out with a profound respect for others and a love and concern for humanity. You will learn to appreciate your condition and strive harder to be a better human being and service society muslim and otherwise. It is really something incredible here to meet, live with and read from so many persons of different thoughts, ideas and orientations, so many scholars.

Note

If you want to come here to start the latest click, cool fad or are bent on being intolerant of others then this is the wrong place to come. People come here to help the Ummah and be of benefit to humanity.

I encourage all of you, who are serious students to come, I’m your brother here and you will find me more than willing to help you the best I can. We have now, by Allah’s blessing, around 10 students in al-Azhar form the West and a few more entering this year. Thus, you are welcome.

Which is better Syria/Egypt?

This is really a very harmful question. All of these places have benefit. I’ve seem some amazing students come out of all of these lands and I’ve seen my share of flunkies. As one of our teachers told us, “99% of it rest on the student’s heart and his hal with Allah.” Thus, let’s avoid this type of dangerous competition and say, “All are, inshallah, on goodness from Allah.” I have nothing but respect and awe for the students of knowledge from Sham and other places and feel that they are really very special people. Let move towards developing each other and not destroying each other.

Costs

1. Up until now Al-Azhar is free although there is a rumor that they will begin to charge Westerners $400.00 yearly next year. However, books and everything are very cheap here in Egypt. For example I bought the ‘Amir’s printing of Lisan al-’Arab for $75 USD.

2. Living is cheap as well for many. But for families it can get interesting. There are a number of Islamic schools for children here and some of them can get a little pricey. At the same time there are others that are good and the price is decent.

3. If you are married make sure brothers to involve your wife in the process. There are many great Women scholars here and a number of places for women to study. However, it is important to get out and not live in the Arabic language centers. That is a first step and you should try to move beyond that after you have a good mastery of the language.

4. It is important to surround yourself with Westerners who can help you and keep you cool. Egyptian people are very good but poverty is eating at the faith like a termite eats wood. Things are not easy for them. You will see a lot of boy friend girl friend stuff, people smoking weed, robberies and other things. Thus, you need your fellow students to offer you support and fraternity in such situations.

5. It should, if all goes according to plan, take you 6-7 years to complete the Azhari program.

(Courtesy: SuhaibWebb.com)

About the Author

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on October 25, 2012. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on October 25, 2012. Filed under , , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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