Here is an overview of the Hawza program and its curriculum.
Prominent Subjects at the Hawza
The main subjects of study at the Hawza are those which are directly related to developing a student’s ability to understand and derive rulings from the Holy Qur’an and the Ahaadith of the Ma’sumeen (a.s.). This is why Arabic Grammar, Logic (Mantiq), Theology (Kalam), Jurisprudence (Fiqh), Principles of Jurisprudence (Usul ul-Fiqh), Biographies (‘Ilm Al-Rijaal) are the most prominent subjects at any Hawza. Subjects like Philosophy (Falsafa) and Mysticism (‘Irfan) also have an important place in the curriculum. Additionally, a number of short courses are taught to all students such as Ethics, Principles of Propagation, Economics, Political Theory, History, Tafseer, leaving it up to the student to pursue any of these he may be interested in through specialized courses.
To know more about the curriculum and its subjects, you can visit Al-Islam’s Hawza Studies Page
Levels of Study
Broadly speaking, the main course of study at any Hawza is divided into the following levels.
- Darse Kharij – this is the heart of any Hawza. Usually a student takes 8-10 years of study to qualify for participation in this. The teacher, who is invariably a Mujtahid, takes on live issues and challenges facing Muslims today, and demonstrates how to arrive at Islamic rulings and answers through the process of ijtihaad. After about 6-10 years of active participation in this level, a select number of students become qualified mujtahids themselves. The PhD. Degree awarded by MIU, corresponds to this level to a certain degree.
- Sutooh – this begins 5-6 years after entering the Hawza and lasts 3-4 years. In it, students study advanced texts in Usul ul-Fiqh, Fiqh, Falsafa and Rijaal, as well as continue their studies of Tafseer, History and Kalam. At the end of this level, a student has superior command over the subjects he has studied, and should be able to critique viewpoints by writing scholarly theses if required. The Masters’ Degree provided by MIU approximately corresponds with this level.
- Muqaddamat– This is what Hawza studies commence with and it and lasts 4-6 years. In it, students study Arabic Grammar, Mantiq, Kalam, introductory texts in Usul ul-Fiqh and Fiqh along with several other shorter subjects such Quranic Sciences, History, Ethics, Political Theory etc. By the end of this level, a student has acquired a basic Islamic ideological framework, and has an overview of the various subjects that comprise Islamic Studies; he should be able to understand many books written by great scholars and explain their contents to others. The Bachelor’s Degree Provided by MIU approximately corresponds to this level.
Pre-Hawza: Learning Farsi; Orientation – This level is specific to non-Iranian students who enroll at the Hawza in Iran. Their studies begin with an intensive full-time Farsi language course that lasts about 6 months. This is followed by another 6-month course which introduces the student to some of the subjects that will be taught later. At the end of this year, a student has good command over the language – he can speak and write Farsi reasonably well, and will be able to understand basic and non-technical writings in the language.
Medium of Instruction
The medium of instruction in the Hawzas located in Iran is usually Farsi, but there are a number of institutions (esp. in Qom) where Arabic is the medium of instruction.
At the Iranian Hawzas, specialization is available at most of the levels listed above. 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.
More info about MIU’s courses and specializations is available here at MIU’s Courses Webpage.