37. Memoirs of an unveiled girl at the Azhar University

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A young woman’s memoirs examine her frustration and disappointment with her time at the Azhar University.

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This is a report about the memoirs of an unveiled student at the Azhar University. In these memoirs, she recalls some moments of her life as a student from preparatory school to university, as well as her ordeals and her opinions about the university, its doctors and curricula.
According to the author, it is quite rare to see an unveiled female student at Azhar University and if there is one, everyone – the staff, female students and even doctors – look at her strangely.
When he asked her to publish her memoirs, not only did she not object, but she also welcomed the idea, as she wanted other female students to see that studying at that university is like torture.
She recalls the time when she was attending preparatory school. She says she used to study 13 subjects - such as Arabic, sciences, literature, mathematics and social sciences - which gave her what she defines a very fragmented cultural background. Finally, she recalls the final exam at the end of the year, saying all students cheated and passed easily.
She then moves on to talk about secondary school – also at the Azhar - saying she used to dream of enrolling at a top faculty.
She was told it would be easier to be accepted at the Azhar than at other public universities. However, she found out later on that this was not true given all the religious and non-religious subjects she had to study, which makes it very difficult to be accepted unless one keeps studying 24 hours a day.
She regrets the days she spent at the Azhar secondary school, but says all she did there was study things by heart without acquiring real religious knowledge. Finally, she was not able to get a high grade at the secondary school final exam.
She then enrolled in the Faculty of Islamic Studies, where she went through many ordeals.
At first, she makes fun of the extremely low enrollment fees – LE 0.50 – as the rest was paid by the State through subsidies. Then, she moves on to talk about the bad treatment students received from the staff, saying the latter had a lot of clout. A female student’s complaint would not upset them even if they behaved inappropriately, and they kept on behaving as they had always done.
As for male students, though, the story was quite different, she says, as they would graduate with the support of some of the staff.
She then starts talking about cheating in exams, saying it was more widespread at the Azhar than in other universities, especially with regard to Islamic subjects. She also adds that they were more lenient about the Qur’ānic exams.
This student then wonders whether the religious subjects she studied were a form of worship or slavery and points out that the Holy Qur’ān at this university is turned into a subject where all that matters is that students pass the exam. She adds that there was much leniency at the Qur’ān exam and that some students even dared tear the pages of this holy book and use a hand free to be told some of its verses during the exam.
She also days that the science of hadīths as it is taught at university is based on misguided understanding, explanations and interpretation.
For instance, she was told that the weakest form of faith is to change what is forbidden with your heart. However, she says her brother gave her a totally different idea, saying that the heart was indeed the strongest belief and not the weakest.
She then comments that Azhar female students know nothing about Islam or at least less than other people who have never entered the university.
She feels sorry for the Azhar students who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood group, as she says they have fallen prey to the group itself on the one hand and its hard-line methods on the other.
She further states that she is not surprised to hear about terrorist students coming from the Azhar, as she says that the place is a fertile land for even more than that.
She was very glad when Dr. Su‘ād Sālih ‘Imādah took office as dean. She increased enrollment fees to LE 40, and was not lenient with students, no matter how poor he or she was.
However, she says her major problem was being unveiled. All the other female students lectured her as though she had abjured Islam and some professors even used to send her out of the classroom during a lecture for silly reasons.
She ends her memoirs by saying she thought she would die during the years spent at the university.

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