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Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Published on 27th May, 2002

History of Shi'ism in Egypt

By S. Abidin

Al- Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.

Toward the end of the rule of the Fatimid Caliphs, Shi'ism and the teachings of the Holy Ahlul Bayt ('a) was solidly practiced in Northern Africa, particularly that of Egypt.

The Al-Azhar University

The year 359AH saw the building of the Al-Azhar University of Cairo, Egypt, by Jawharus Sayqali, the Commander of the army of the Fatimid Caliph.

An extensive programme of the Shia jurisprudence, faith and philosophy were taught and all verdicts and teachings throughout Egypt conformed with the religion of the Ahlul Bayt ('a).

The first text used at Al-Azhar University was al-Iqtisad, which dealt with the Jurisprudence of the progeny of the Holy Prophet ('s) and thereafter Da'a'imul Islam which contained the rules and regulations of the Ahlul Bayt ('a) regarding lawful and unlawful things.

Salaluddin Ayyubi

The last Fatimid Caliph was overthrown by Salaluddin Ayyubi, who was a Kurd from Baghdad. Salahuddin dismissed the Shia judges and replaced them with Shafi'i judges. He eliminated the words "Hayya 'ala Khayril 'Amal" (Come to the good act) from the Azhan and he demanded that the people follow one of the four Sunni mazhabs.

His order was: "The evidence of only that person, who believes in the four sects will be accepted, and a person is not entitled to deliver a speech or to teach unless he follows one of the four sects."

The Ayyubis forcibly interfered with the traditions and teachings of the Shia and endeavoured to destroy them, eventually leaving the Shia faith relatively dormant in Egypt at that time.

Salahuddin imprisoned the remaining descendants of Imam Ali ('a) in Egypt and separated the men from the women so that the off-spring of Imam Ali ('a) might become extinct.

Bani Ummayah and Hajjaj (the Shaytanic Caliphs following from Mowawiya) used to celebrate the Ashura day (10th Muharram) like an Eid festival, but later this practice was abolished. Salahuddin once again declared it to be an Eid day.

Burning of The Libraries

This individual is also responsible for the tragic burning of the great libraries of Alexandria, al-Azhar University and many other grand libraries.

One of these contained over 200,000 books on jurisprudence, ahadith, lexicography, history, medicine, chemistry, astronomy, etc. It is said that this library was the biggest in all the Islamic countries of its time.


  • Shaykh Muhammad Jawad Mughniyyah [Lebanon] (1985) Ash Shi'ah Wal Hakimun (The Despotic Rulers) Islamic Seminary Publications, Pakistan.

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