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FAQ – Academics

  1. 1.      How is studying at a Hawza different from doing a course in Islamic Studies at a University?


A Hawza is not just another educational institute. It sees itself as the inheritor of the heritage of the Ma’sumeen (a.s.), and of the great Islamic scholars of the past 14 centuries. Matters such as ethics, spirituality, purity of intention, absence of attachment to worldly matters, prayer and ibaadat, respect for elders and scholars, and maintaining an Islamic lifestyle are all very important aspects of Hawza culture.

A special emphasis is placed in the Hawza on understanding things in deep. More than at any other place, knowledge and ability value much more at the Hawza than degrees or qualifications do.

Teachers at a Hawza genuinely believe in the subjects they teach, and are expected to be role models of behavior. Students seek advice and guidance from them not only in the subjects they teach but also in other fields and even in spiritual and personal matters.

The Hawza is the nerve-center and unofficial leader and guide of shia societies. Shia societies have always sought and found leadership in personalities from the Hawza – personalities such as Ayatullah Sistani (h.a.), Imam Musa Sadr or Imam Khomeini (r.a).

  1. 2.      How long should I study at the Hawza?

That depends on you, your interest, abilities and personal circumstances. For a general guide you may consider this table:

No. of Years

Degree Awarded by MIU

Expected Abilities Acquired

1 Farsi – Certificate of Completion
  • Reasonable comfort in reading, speaking and writing Farsi.
  • Can understand elementary books in Farsi.
5-6 Bachelors Degree
  • Has developed an overall Islamic ideological framework within which to understand things.
  • Has an overview of the various disciplines within Islamic Studies.
  • Can understand most books written in Islamic disciplines; can explain their contents to others.
8-10 Masters Degree
  • Has a deep understanding in area of study and specialization.
  • Able to critique scholarly viewpoints by writing theses if required.
  • Can understand advanced texts, and use the teachings in them to guide other people.
13-20 Ph.D. and/or Ijtihaad
  • If Ph.D, able to present new research and viewpoints in area of study
  • If mujtahid, can assume complete and independent leadership role in the community

  1. 3.      Why do Hawza studies take so long?

There are many reasons for this. Firstly, the importance and scope of what Hawza students study is immense. Secondly, the Hawza places a lot of emphasis in acquiring a deep understanding of things and obviously this takes more time. Thirdly, when people enter a university, their previous 12 years of schooling contain many elements that are linked to University studies, but this is not the case with someone who enters a Hawza. Consequently, the first few years in the Hawza are spent in having to learn basics that the schooling system has not taught us, such as Farsi, Arabic, logic, Kalam etc.

An alternative answer would be: Hawza studies are actually quite short! Considering the depth and breadth of what students must study, and the important leadership roles they are expected to play in society upon their return, 10 or 20 years is hardly anything!

  1. 4.      Is there a standard syllabus or curriculum for Hawza studies?

Yes there is. You can find details of this in “About Hawza” section of this blog. You can also refer to these links for more information

  1. 5.      What is the academic program like?


The academic year at MIU begins around the middle of September. All programs run on a semester basis, with two 17-week semesters in every academic year. The two semesters are separated by a week-long break. Then there is a summer vacation that begins in late June and lasts around 11 weeks; it may include a special 6-week summer term in certain cases. The rest of the year is taken up by exams, study leave and vacation.

Subjects range from 1 to 5 credits. Each credit translates into 16 hours of classroom teaching.  Normally, a student must take between 18-24 credits in each semester; that translates to between 288 and 384 hours of classes each semester.

All programs have two kinds of subjects – Core Courses and Electives. All students must take the Core Courses compulsorily; their choice of Electives depends on the field they would like to specialize in.

Students are expected to attend all their classes and attendance problems are strictly dealt with.

  1. 6.      What are the subjects I can specialize in?

 Specialization is available at most levels and is available in a large variety of subjects. This means that a student may choose to study extra credits in the field of his choice, and hence work towards a specialization in it. There is now also an option for students to opt out of the Darse Kharij program and instead pursue a university-style Ph.D in the subject of their choice.

You may refer to this page for more:

  1. 7.      Is Al-Mustafa International University (MIU) a part of the Hawza or is it a university?

The answer is: “both”! MIU is a university within the Hawza. MIU is clear in stating that it is an institution with a Hawzavi character and values. However it has been organized on the lines of an international university so that its degrees are recognized internationally and so that it is able to enter into agreements with other universities the world over.

  1. 8.      Are the degrees issued by MIU recognized in India?

 Based on an announcement made by the MIU Representative’s office in New Delhi, we believe that yes, they are recognized. The announcement said that the Association of Indian Universities has listed MIU as one of the internationally recognized universities in its annual handbook. However, students are advised to confirm for themselves what this listing actually means at the time of seeking employment, or admission into a higher level course in an Indian University.

  1. 9.      What is the classroom environment and teaching method like?

Class sizes usually vary between 10-20 students. Each class is usually of 50 minutes duration. Students sit on chairs with folding tables attached to the armrests. Classrooms are air-conditioned in summer and heated in winter. The teacher uses a whiteboard or projector to display material.


  1. 10.  What is the student-teacher relationship like?

One of the Hawza’s traditions has been the establishment of close relationship between students and teachers. Though this has become challenging to maintain in the changing and expanding Hawza of today, with some effort it is still possible to do.


      1.  11. I already have a Bachelor’s Degree. Why should I do a B.A. all over again in MIU? Can’t I enroll directly for the Master’s Program?

 Unless the Bachelor’s Degree you already have is in Hawza Studies, and that too from an institution recognized by MIU, direct entry into the M.A. program will not be possible for you. That’s because the M.A. coursework builds upon the knowledge and skills imparted in the B.A. program.