Academic Commons

Theses Doctoral

Al-Azhar and the Orders of Knowledge

Gubara, Dahlia El-Tayeb M.

Founded by the Fatimids in 970 A.D., al-Azhar has been described variously as "the great mosque of Islam," "the brilliant one," "a great seat of learning...whose light was dimmed." Yet despite its assumed centrality, the illustrious mosque-seminary has elicited little critical study. The existing historiography largely relies on colonial-nationalist teleologies that are grounded in a strong centrifugal essentialism: positioning Cairo (and al-Azhar) at a center, around which faithfully revolve concentric peripheries.
Setting its focus on the eighteenth century and beyond, this dissertation investigates the discursive postulates that organize the writing of the history of al-Azhar. Through textual explorations that pivot in space and time, it elucidates shifts in the entanglement of disciplines of knowledge with those of the self at a particular historical juncture and location. It thus locates al-Azhar in the modern order of knowledge, even as it imagines another intellectual universe bound by ideas, texts and authors who lived before and outside Europe: one which articulated itself in conceptual, epistemic, moral, social, cultural and institutional ways, modernity as such cannot not capture.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Gubara_columbia_0054D_12270.pdf Gubara_columbia_0054D_12270.pdf binary/octet-stream 5.29 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Bulliet, Richard W.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 15, 2014
Academic Commons provides global access to research and scholarship produced at Columbia University, Barnard College, Teachers College, Union Theological Seminary and Jewish Theological Seminary. Academic Commons is managed by the Columbia University Libraries.