Pick of the Day – How to Get Into Azhar & Advice on Studying Abroad by Imam Suhaib Webb

Bismellah wa salatu wa salamu ala sayedenaa rasulellaah salahualayhe wa salam:I promised to write this a long time ago. Since the blog is down and we won’t be up for at least a month. Here is a brief rundown on what you need to do. It is good if we can distribute this so others students of knowledge can benefit:What you need to know to get into Al-Azhar

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

2. If you not fluent in Arabic consider studying in an Arabic school in Cairo for a year before taking the exams. Azhar has no department for teaching Arabic to non-Arabs. In addition, teachers usually switch between the classical language and the noxious Egyptian one. However, most of the classes are in Fusha and if you ask the teacher he will accommodate you.

3. This is not the NBA playoffs. Thus, I advice brothers and sisters to exhaust all their local resources before coming and studying here in Egypt. Use the scholars and Imam’s around you and then see if your ready to come here. It makes no sense for a person to come all the way to Egypt to learn a basic book of Fiqh, Tajwid or some other science. Those sciences can be learned in our home countries as we have many teachers there who can do the job.

4. Remember that Azhar, in its great days, existed in a first world setting. Now
Egypt is no longer as it once was. Therefore, and this is why many people leave sad, know that although the scholars are amazing, especially in the morning in the Masjid, Egypt is today a third world country and this has taken its toll upon this great institution. in addition Egyptian society is very corrupted: Crime, rape and violence exist here and you must have a lot of sabar. Remember that pearls are not found except at the bottom of the sea. Thus, come, work hard and don’t get to caught up in the bad stuff.

5. What you need: Ikhlaas and a heart dedicated to your Lord. They require photo copies of your passport and a letter from the US/UK (depending on your nationality) embassy. In addition you have to take a blood test at the Hussein Hospital for men and the Zahraa hospital for women. Azhar only excepts results from these two hospitals as they are under the Azhari system.

If you’ve accepted Islam you will need proof for it if your name is not changed on your passport. You can get that from Azhar as well.

Subject matter on the entrance exam:

1. Hadith

2. Nahu

3. Sarf

4. Balagha

5. Fiqh according to one of the four schools

6. Aidah (according to the ‘Ashari school)

7. Sirah

8. Tafsir

You can find the books that will help you for those 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)

After you take the oral exam you will be placed in the exam above (these eight subjects) depending on how you do you will be placed in the Azhari high school system. It is not bad at all and you will study a number of good 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 lot of sabar.

6. The 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 Salaifs to the Shadillis. Thus, they like students who have a balanced comprehensive outlook. Avoid being too extreme on any ideology and carry yourself in a balanced manner remembering 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 the depth and maturity of the program. 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. It is really something incredible here to meet, live with and read from some many different thoughts, ideas and scholars.

Note: if you want to come here to start the latest click, cool fad or BackStreet boyz type dawa, then this is the wrong place. 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.


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.

With love and respect.

Suhaib D. Webb

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