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The Development of a Locker System at al-Azhar


In: Islamic Law and Society
Author: Irfana Hashmi1
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There is widespread scholarly agreement that al-Azhar rose to prominence as an Islamic center of learning in the sixteenth century, as Arab provinces were adjusting to Ottoman administration. This article examines the development of a locker system at al-Azhar, one of several structural changes that took place between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, in addition to the expansion of fraternities. I argue that this material infrastructure, which was supported by modest endowments, served as a crucial scaffold for teaching and learning at al-Azhar and contributed to its rising status as an educational institution. Shari‘a court records reveal that the growing importance of lockers was the result of (1) decisions made by ordinary men and women about the endowment, subdivision, and circulation of lockers and (2) Ottoman legal reforms and innovations. In this way, a seemingly peripheral material object may serve as a site for exploring al-Azhar’s development as an educational institution.


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