xni , EDUCATION 235
traditional street cries. The muezzin's call to prayer from one of the lofty minarets of the adjoining mosque is the signal for the students to stream into the sanctuary, an immense hall of which the low and time-blackened roof is borne on over a hundred columns. Each of the four great rites., or schools of theology, into which orthodox Sunni Mahomedanism has been divided since the second century of the Hejira, has its own Kibleh pointing to Mecca for worshippers to turn to at prayer-time. The students as they ent%r split up into different groups and move towards the one of the 126 columns which the teacher at whose feet they elect to sit has made his own. With their legs crossed under them and their shoes deposited behind them, they crouch round the teacher, whose audience fluctuates with his popularity. He does not indeed always lecture, as we understand lectures, but confines himself to answering any questions put to him by the students, who in turn read out from the text-book of which each one has a copy in his hand. When El Azhar overflows, similar scenes may be witnessed in other mosques appointed for the purpose. These sittings, j
which have now been shortened, still take up seven hours - *
of the student's day.
The object of El Azhar education was defined in the Law of 1911 to be " the maintenance of the Sheria (the Maho-medan Sacred Law) by imparting sound knowledge of the sciences relating to it and by forming a body of ulema !|I
(men learned in the Sacred Law) competent to give religious instruction and to discharge the public functions connected with the administration of the Sheria for the guidance of the people into the path of happiness." Now, as the Sheria is an immutable law based upon the Koran and the Traditions of the Prophet, it is upon these that the whole course of studies centres. No student is admitted who, besides reading and writing sufficiently to study the text-books, cannot recite half the Koran by heart. Blind students, who in a land of ophthalmia are so numerous as to form a separate and important group, \tance. Its position has seldom been more 4ominan^ than it is to-day as the rallyingement. The Special