Today education in Iranian Howzah schools starts when students attend these schools after finishing middle school or high school (and achieving a diploma). During their educational career they pass the different levels of studies including mughaddamati (Introductory studies) which consists of Arabic syntax and grammar, ma’ani, bayan, logic, etc, level one studies which include principles of jurisprudence, fiqh (i.e., jurisprudence) and philosophy. Elective studies include theology, Quranic exegesis, economy, history, Quranic sciences, ethics, foreign languages, Introduction to computers, etc. Kharej studies include jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence at the level of ijtihad. There are also specialized studies which include exegesis, theology, propagation, etc.
Since the Islamic revolution in Iran and the establishment of the Islamic state and the considerable growth in number of the individuals interested in attending the Howzah, students start their studies after finishing middle school or after finishing high school and achieving a diploma.
During their educational career in the Howzah, students pass the stages of Mughaddammati (Introductory) studies, level one, kharej, specialized studies and other elective studies. First, we will briefly explain these stages:
1- Introductory Studies:
These studies include Arabic grammar and syntax, ma’ani, bayan and logic. The main purpose of these studies is to enable the student to comprehend and deal with the language of the Quran and therefore, this stage is key to understanding Islamic sciences. Also the ahadith and Sunnah of the prophet and his household are transmitted through this language. This stage takes up to 3 or 4 years.
2- Level one studies:
These studies include principles of jurisprudence and jurisprudence. In regard to principles of jurisprudence, usually the books Ma’alem, Usul al-Fiqh, Rasa’el, and Kifayah are studied while for jurisprudence, the books Lum’ah and Makasib are widely studied.
However, in other Howzahs other books are taught also. The key purpose of this stage of studies is for the student to learn about jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence and the literatures that are written in this field. By studying the works and texts of previous scholars in the fields of jurisprudence and principles of jurisprudence firstly: The student will learn about their opinions and their way of arguing in these fields as well as their fundamental principles and bases and secondly: the student practices in order to be able to extrapolate rulings from the Quranic verses and ahadith in the Kharij stage. This stage can take as long as 5 to 7 years.
3- Kharij studies of Fiqh (jurisprudence) and Usul (principles of jurisprudence):
During this stage, in order to follow a certain order, the teacher and student choose a certain fiqh text such as Sharaye’, Tahrirul Wasilah, Urwah al-Wuthqa or an usuli text such as Kifayah al-Usul and scrutinize and examine the opinions and viewpoints of the greatest scholars in that field. Finally, the teacher expresses his personal opinion after examining the reasons and material that exists in regard to each issue and the students have the chance to refute or accept his viewpoint.
The main aim for this stage is to develop and enhance the student’s ability of extrapolating and drawing rulings so that they can express their personal opinions in fiqh and draw the ruling of every issue of fiqh from the four sources of rulings: the Quran, sunnah, intellect and consensus, and, in short, be able to apply the general rulings to specific issues. In this stage, fiqh and usul are taught at their highest level. Due to the fact that during this stage the teacher does not confine himself to a certain book and expresses his opinion using all the related reasons and material that may be in different and divergent books and sources, this stage has been dubbed as Kharej studies (Kharej means outside of something). In order to complete his level one and higher studies at this point, the student also takes Kharij classes of irfan (Islamic mysticism) and philosophy depending on his way of thought and sometimes even teaches these subjects or writes about them. The best students write down the taqrir (report) of the class along with researching and referring to sufficient sources and books and then the teacher evaluates their work and endorses it if he is pleased. The Kharij stage usually takes from eight to ten years depending on the student’s intelligence and the teacher’s talents and abilities. Classes are held as long as one or two hours. Some students also attend classes of other teachers. It is at this point that intelligent and hard working students reach the status of ijtihad which is the final stage of Howzah studies.
Howzah students usually attend more than one course of Kharij studies and in some cases reach the status of ijtihad depending on their intelligence and efforts.
4- Specialized studies:
The purpose of these studies which include exegesis, theology, propogation, history, etc is to train experts in fields that the Howzah or the society is in need of. This vital program leads to each student specializing in at least one of the fields of Islamic studies in addition to fiqh and usul, and this way he can be of great benefit to the Howzah and the society.
5- General or elective studies:
In Howzah schools located in Qom and some other cities, students also pass certain classes with the subjects of theology, exegesis, economy, nations and religions, Quranic sciences, ethics, foreign languages and computer classes which play an important role in the students’ intellectual development, use of sources and increase of information. Even though these classes are important, they are not considered a separate stage of studies in the Howzah and are usually taken alongside other stages of studies.