One of the principal mosques and universities of the Islamic word, in Cairo, founded by the incoming Fatimid dynasty in about 970. Teaching began in 976.
For most of its history Al Azhar taught the three disciplines of theology, Sharia (Islamic law), and Arabic language, in an informal setting. In the late nineteenth century its faculties were regularized, and brought in line with the secular education system in the rest of Egypt. In 1961 under the Nasser government, radical reforms made it into a normal Western-style university with many new faculties.
For several hundred years it has been one of the preeminent places of Islamic scholarship, while others famous in the Middle Ages have lessened in importance. It has a reputation of being conservative, in the sense of supporting existing state institutions. It tends to be denigrated by new Islamic radicalism.