In January 1909, the students of the Azhar, the Islamic world’s most prestigious university, went on strike. Protesting recent curricular and administrative changes introduced by the Egyptian Khedive, they demanded increased material support and asserted the university’s right to govern itself. After several weeks of demonstrations that drew thousands of supporters into the streets of Cairo, the Khedive suspended the reforms that first caused the Azharis to walk out. Oddly, this remarkable mobilization has nearly vanished into obscurity. Drawing on reporting from the Egyptian press and intelligence memoranda from the Egyptian Ministry of Interior, this article argues that the apparent incongruity of Azharis on strike was no mistake. Their willful rejection of ascribed categories helps to explain both why this movement of unionized seminarians speaking a language of self-government proved so striking for contemporary supporters and critics alike and why this event has slipped through the cracks of a historiography still framed by those very categories. Long forgotten in histories of both nationalism and organized labor, the Azhar strike represented a pivotal moment in the emergence of mass politics in Egypt. In invoking “union,” the Azharis engaged in multiple, overlapping acts of comparison. Inspired by the modular repertoires of militant labor, they simultaneously hailed the constitutional revolution of the Ottoman Committee of Union and Progress as a model for political transformation. Rooted in a self-conscious critique of colonial comparativism, their struggle thereby furnished new materials with which to elaborate a telescopic series of anti-colonial solidarities that were themselves fundamentally comparative.