2019 Volume 2019 Issue 59 Pages 23-45
The Egyptian schooling system consists of two main streams: one is the general educational system managed by the Ministry of Education and the other is Islamic educational system supervised by comprehensive Islamic institution “al-Azhar.” The purpose of this study is to reveal the reason why the al-Azhar educational system has managed to expand their primary and secondary institutions, “Ma‘had,” to more rural areas, and to investigate the factors that Egyptian people contribute to establishing their own Ma‘had in their communities from two perspectives, educationally and administratively.
The first section of this paper investigates the reform of Islamic educational policy after the Nasser regime (1956−1970) using the analysis of the legal framework enforced by the government and articles published in local newspapers in the 1970s. In the second section, this study examines the background in which the people are establishing Ma‘had schools as their new Islamic educational style for their home villages. It further elucidates people’s motivations, which allow them to launch “self-effort” movements to build such schools with villagers’ endowment and service, based on a case study on the establishment of Ma‘had in Village A.
The number of Ma‘had schools reached around 40 in the late 1950s, and the expansion of Ma‘had continued through the second half of the 20th century, although some people have criticized the drawbacks of the dual educational system or the backwardness of religious education. The expansion of the number of Islamic schools became more evident in the 1970s; this increase was bolstered by the educational reform of al-Azhar and their official campaign to open new Islamic primary and secondary schools in various spheres around Egypt. The movement was popularly supported by citizens, as the people donated money and participated in the establishment of the school buildings for the Ma’had. This trend evokes the Islamic revivalism, denoted by previous researchers, who have discussed the effects of a new Islamic movement rising up with religious enthusiasm, whether politically or socially, throughout the 20th century.
When Free Officers succeeded in overthrowing the constitutional monarchy, it is said that the ex-minister of Education, Taha Hussein, attempted to eliminate al-Azhar’s educational system. In addition the abolishment of the Ma‘had, al-Azhar graduates suffered from difficulties of unemployment because there was a lack of opportunity to utilize their specialty of Islamic knowledge. In the end, the abolition of such schools failed, but the government demanded that the al-Azhar system be transformed and enforced Law No. 103 in 1961 (the 1961 Law). The reform not only oversaw religious authority but also the educational policy of al-Azhar. The law stipulates articles to promise students that they will have the same opportunity to gain knowledge to proceed to the next stage of education as graduates of general schools. Additionally, the new curriculum added more general contents to Ma‘had. The 1961 Law established general departments in al-Azhar University, which had traditionally only held departments of religious sciences. At the same time, al-Azhar started Ma‘had elementary schools and Ma‘had girls’ schools. The enrichment of the education contents and new general departments let the students who do not work for religious professions enroll in the Ma‘had. The new concepts of Ma‘had extended opportunities for students who had not been accepted under the previous system.
In parallel with the educational reform, Abdelhareem Mahmoud, the rector of al-Azhar (1973−1978), expanded the number of Ma‘had and called for contributions from their domestic and overseas supporters. According to the articles from the local newspapers, inhabitants and influential people exhibited (View PDF for the rest of the abstract.)