This introductory chapter describes the working of the three most influential international centres of Islamic learning in contemporary times: al Azhar University in Egypt, the Islamic University of Medina (IUM) in Saudi Arabia, and al Mustafa International University in Iran. These three universities, located in the politically influential countries in the Middle East and Gulf region, attract students from across the globe. Their graduates carry the ideas acquired during their education back to their home communities, and some also bring with them a reformatory zeal. The significance of these universities is in their hybrid nature; they produce ulama through their curriculum, as inherited from the seminary tradition, while claiming a “modern” space by adapting the formal structures of the Western university.
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