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Muhammad Ali, who assumed power in Egypt in the early 1800s, nationalized all land, including hundreds of thousands of hectares of land belonging to Al Azhar Mosque, putting the funding of that institution under state control.Awqaf, traditionally independent endowments for mosques and Islamic schools, became a ministry of the government.Ottoman rule reinforced the public and political roles of the ulama (religious scholars), as Mamluk rule had done before the Ottomans, because Islam was the state religion and because political divisions in the country were based on religious divisions.During the 19th and 20th centuries, successive governments made extensive efforts to limit the role of the ulama in public life and to bring religious institutions under closer state control.Since there has been no religious census the actual percentage of Muslims is not known: the Christians are estimated to be number between 8% to 12% according to sources cited in articles Religion in Egypt and Christianity in Egypt.Prior to Napoleon's invasion in 1798, almost all of Egypt's educational, legal, public health, and social welfare issues were in the hands of religious functionaries.

In the late 10th century, the Shia Ismaili caliphate of the Fatimids made Egypt their center and Cairo their capital.

Most upper- and upper-middle-class Muslims believed either that religious expression was a private matter for each individual or that Islam should play a more dominant role in public life.

Islamic religious revival movements, whose appeal cut across class lines, were present in most cities and in many villages.

After the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, the government assumed responsibility for appointing officials to mosques and religious schools.

The government mandated reform of Al-Azhar University beginning in 1961.

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