by Hafidh ‘Omair Kamil
Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem
Here are step-by-step instructions for which a Westerner applies for admission to Al-Azhar. Note that the best a foreigner can do is to enter the last year of high school in the Azhari system, and to enter the university after completing the final year. The steps are specific for an American, but they should be similar for other Westerners as well.
This process assumes that you know Arabic (Fusha) well. Egyptian dialect is not necessary to enter Al-Azhar, although it helps in going through the steps below (but you can manage without it). If you do not know Arabic well, consider studying at an Arabic institute and delaying until next fall.
This process applies for the 2008-2009 school year. It will insha Allah be useful for the coming years as well, but some things have changed since last year so one can expect them to change again.
The application process opened in mid-August this year. The deadline to apply is not set yet, although we were told that the application can be turned in after Ramadan. Keep in mind that this is not a guarantee. It takes about a week to complete the steps necessary for the application.
1. Purify your intention for applying to Al-Azhar and ask Allah (swt) to grant you success and patience.
2. Make sure that your visa is valid for more than a month. Officially it needs to be valid for a month, and it appears that this is from the date that you turn in the application. If you need to renew your visa, you can go to the Mugamma’ in downtown (http://wikimapia.org/6300986) and take care of that. Most likely you can do this while waiting for your blood test results.
The following steps can be done the first day if you start very early:
3. Go to your embassy and request a letter for permission to study at Al-Azhar for the department of foreigners (Al-Waafideen). The US Embassy will give you a letter stating that they witnessed you saying you want to study in Al-Azhar, as they don’t give or deny permission for these things. This letter costs $30 or 170 LE. You have to go to the American Citizen Services section in the embassy, which is open from 8-11 AM from Sunday to Thursday excluding Egyptian and American holidays. The embassy is located in Garden City near the Nile (http://wikimapia.org/498427).
4. Go to the Azhar administration building called Majma’ Al-Buhooth Al-Islaamiyyah. It is located in Nasr City close to the 7th district just off of At-Tayraan St. It is the first left north of Mustafa An-Nahaas St. and Masjid Nuri Khattaab between the girls dorms for Azhar and a hospital (At-Ta’meen As-Sihhy). The building is a very tall and wide building that has green trim, and the name is visible from both sides on the middle of the building when on At-Tayraan St. (It is the bottom building in the conference center in this map: http://wikimapia.org/428595)
5. The department for foreigners is on the fourth floor of this building, on the left side of the hallway that you enter from. Go to the office on the left side that is labeled Al-Iltihaaq Bithaanawiyyah (some letters and dots may be missing), present to them your passport and the letter from the embassy, and ask for “Tahdeed Al-Mustawaa”. They will give you the application form and send you to another office down the hall to get your letter translated.
6. Go to the office down the hall where the translation is done (they will tell you his name so you can ask for that). The man will ask you for some information and fill out the personal details section of the application form, as well as translate the embassy letter. Ask him to translate your passport as well if your visa is valid for at least 6 weeks. If not, you can do that later when you turn in the application. He will give you all the documents back.
7. Continue to the end of the hall to pay for the application form. In Egypt official payment is done through postal-style stamps, so you will pay 4 LE and receive 4 stamps (or more if the stamp denominations are less) that have to be put in 4 places on the application form (I believe 2 places in the front, 2 in the back where it says “Ad-Damghah”).
8. Go to the Hussein hospital to get your blood tests done. You will need 2 passport size pictures and the application form for this step. The hospital is next to the original Azhar campus in the Khan Al-Khalili / Maydaan Hussein area (http://wikimapia.org/7337449). You should get there no later than 11:30 AM in Ramadan, and no earlier than 9 AM any time during the year.
9. If you enter from the main entrance of the hospital, continue straight through the hallways until you reach the open area before the exit. The blood work hallway is to your left. Go to the end of the hallway, where the actual blood samples are taken. Show the man sitting at the desk in front of this room the form and let him know you want “Tahleel Ad-Damm”. He will direct you to the secretary. The secretary’s office is right before this desk to the right. If she is not in this office, he will direct you to another room behind the blood room. Go through the blood room, exit the door in the back (out of the building), and go to the room immediately to the right.
10. Give the secretary your application form and your 2 pictures. She will return the application to you after attaching the pictures and give you a receipt. Take this receipt and pay for the blood analysis.
11. The cashier is at the front of the building. From the main entrance (as you are entering), take the second door to the right in the reception area. Go to the left to the end of the hall, and you will find the cashier (Al-Khazeenah Al-Iqtisaadiyyah). Give them the receipt and 45 LE. They will give you two receipts, one blue and one pink.
12. Take the receipts and give the blue one to the secretary along with your application (they will keep this for now). Then take the pink receipt and show it to the man at the desk in front of the blood room. He will give you an empty test tube with your number written on it. Take the test tube to the nurses in the blood room and have your blood drawn. If you are female you can request that they take the blood out behind a curtain.
13. Ask the man at the desk when to return for the results, he will say tell you around a week.
The following steps can be done in one day if you start early and have already bought folders and made some copies:
14. Go back to the hospital to the secretary and give her the pink receipt to get your application and results back. The application will have some more information filled out, along with some signatures and ink stamps. You will also receive a results paper with your picture attached. The hospital tests for HIV and HCV (Hepatitis C). If you are positive for either of these you will unlikely be able to Al-Azhar (wAllahu a’alam).
15M. For males, you can get your stomach and eye tests done in Hussein as well. Take your application and go back to the cashier, show it to them and let them know you want an eye and stomach test. The cost is 5 LE for each. Take the receipts, take a few steps down the hallway that is next to the cashier (parallel to the hallway that brought you to the cashier), and take the first right (it is very close). You will be in an area where the hallways make a rectangle. The eye test room is the right hallway and labeled “Ar-Ramad” and the stomach test room is in the left hallway labeled something like “Al-Bataniyyah” for men (there is one for women too). Give the nurse or doctor inside the receipt and the application, they will sign the application form.
15F. For females, you must go to Az-Zahraa’ hospital in ‘Abbaasiyyah to get your tests. It is very close to Hussein, between Hussein and Nasr City (http://wikimapia.org/9355445). If you enter from the east entrance, go through the reception and go up the stairs one floor. There is a cashier on one side in the reception area, and the other side has the examination room numbers labeled on the wall. Show the cashier the form, it seems you don’t have to pay anything or get receipts. Go to the stomach room (room 7) for the stomach exam and signature, and the eye room (room 15) for the other signatures. The labels are the same as in Hussein.
16. Assemble your application packet. You will need 2 folders (the thin report style folders will suffice, you can keep the papers loose in them without punching holes or anything). The first folder needs the following:
1) Your completed application form. Make sure you write in the section below your personal information “Al-Bu’ooth Al-Islaamiyyah” in Arabic for the Ma’had that you want to enter, and sign where it is required. That is enough for this section. On the back, fill out the top section stating that the information is accurate. The embassy section does not need to be filled.
2) Your blood test results page.
3) Your embassy letter.
4) The translation of this letter.
5) The passport translation.
6) 2 copies of the picture page of your passport and 2 copies of the visa page.
The second folder needs the following:
1) A copy of your completed application.
2) A copy of your blood test results.
3) A copy of the embassy letter.
4) A copy of the translation of the letter.
5) A copy of the passport translation.
6) A copy of the picture page and visa page from your passport.
7) One passport size picture in the front.
There is a copy place (maktabah) on the other side of Tayraan St. across from the Majma’ where you can make copies for the standard price of 0.1 LE / copy and even buy folders.
17. Take the folders to the office in the Majma’ for Al-Iltihaaq and let them know you are applying for Al-Bu’ooth Al-Islaamiyyah. They will give you a letter that you have to fill out that asks for permission from the department head (they may ask you to make a copy of it and give back the original). You will also need to get a 1 LE stamp to put on this letter from the same place as before. It may be possible to get this letter the first day instead.
18. Turn in the folders with the letter to the office for Al-Iltihaaq. They should tell you if anything is missing in your paperwork. Once turned in, they will likely tell you to return after ‘Eid to find out when the exams are.
19. Thank Allah (swt) for facilitating this process for you.
The expectation is that the oral examinations will occur some time in October. The date is not set yet, although the workers at the Majma’ said either October or early November. The written examinations should occur a few weeks after that, wAllahu a’alam.
For more information and advice, please refer to Imam Suhaib Webb’s post, “How Does One Enter Al-Azhar?“.