Facilitating Howza Students – Possibilities of our role & involvement

By Zulfiqar Ali (favoritetoyz@yahoo.co.uk ) of

'Muntazirane Imam & Nasirane Deen Society’ (MINDS)

 

A. Backdrop:

 

It is basically wajib e kifai on all of us to study fiqh indepth. But when these students in sufficient numbers take upon themselves to devote their lives for Islamic studies it becomes possible and halaal for us to concentrate on other avenues in life including jobs and busineses. Hence, when we enjoy the fruits of our employment or businesses, we should not forget that these very students rightfully deserve a share in this. 

We must understand that whatever services are being provided to the students are truly deserved by them. In fact, they deserve much more than that. They have given their  life for the cause of Allah s.w.t.Whatever they rightfully deserve should also reach them and in the most respectful manner at that. They should be honored and paid what they have earned.

Imam Ali (AS) has said, "If you cannot be a scholar who speaks that which he knows (and shares his knowledge with others), then at least be a person who hears and remembers (the knowledge he is given)." (Ghururul Hikm, page 1027)

Our creator, Allah (SWT) has ordered us in numerous verses of the Quran, to be well-versed with the teachings of Islam. In addition, the traditions clearly indicate that we need to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. They also advise us to obtain knowledge wherever it may be found - even if it may be as far away as China was to the Arabs. Moreover, the Holy Prophet (SAW) has stated that gaining knowledge is obligatory upon both, men and women. As the ahadith makes clear, we must have knowledge of the essential beliefs (Usul-e-Din) and cannot follow or emulate another's beliefs in this regard (ie. taqlid in this area if forbidden). However, many times our knowledge of our faith is limited - merely enough to guarantee our own salvation.

Theoretically, each of us is supposed to be a beacon and a guide to the path of Islam; however, in reality, this is not the case. Therefore, if we are not at the level of being classified as scholars in Islam, then we must strive to increase our knowledge and where we are able to enhance our understanding by obtaining guidance from those who are scholars, then we must humbly do so. Arrogance should never divert our hearts and minds from seeking religious direction and understanding from the ulama..
 

B.Brief look at the Course/ syllabus & Intensive Training undergone (draft) 

The students undergo many Years of intensive study for extended hrs in each day.There are Material hardships & Family life. comforts are compromised for the sake of acquiring knowledge. 

Subjects covered starting from language( Arabic incl grammer , farsi)  to logic .Philosophy to history & Narrators & Quran interpretation /tafsir etc .Main books used Luma ( xx vols) Istibrar (xx vols) . Each one is dealt in details .Classroom lectures in halls & individual study is involved,  Level of teachers & students their akhlaq /piety are at high levels.The Marja / Mujtahid provides his Research & own proof for each of the 000's of fiqh rules . Dars e Kharij methodology intensive

Awareness of modern issues & practical applications.

C Issues Involved / & faced by Students 

  1. Counseling & Hand holding: Most of the students that come at the threshold of Hawza have lot of enthusiasm. It is this enthusiasm that makes them sacrifice their personal life for pursuing studies. But very unfortunately, they lack guidance. They are unable to clearly decide a future course of action. Either they get an environment that is too rigid or are lingering in an entirely free environment with no one bothered about their qualitative achievements. In an unbending environment, to add to injury, usually everything imposed upon them is substandard. This includes the quality of their teachers. It is unfortunate to note that most of the students learning in countries like Pakistan and India have to start their studies from scratch when they come to comparatively matured study environment like Iran or Iraq. Also, imposing everything upon the student including what he should study and what not, disenchants the students in the long run. On the other hand, leaving the student entirely free without any guidance, care and follow-up makes them leave focus in life. They follow a course of action, retract, then follow a new course and then retract, finally realizing that opportunities in life have ceased. They need to be understood on a personal level, handled with care and then provided a definite future course that they can well pursue and achieve great success in their focus area
  1. Good teachers: More than material facilities, the student requires excellent teachers. A good teacher can make the learning process very interesting, provide ‘meanings’ and ‘substance’ to the students in ‘days’ that would not have been possible to understand in a life time, etc. We should pay good salaries to some of the teachers who can provide quality education to the students.
  1. Learning Aids: Since the student is devoted to studies, he requires related facilities, tools and learning aids like books, CDs, computers, library facilities, etc.
  1. Material Facilities: As a respectful human being, the student requires a variety of facilities. On personal level - a student should have a good accommodation, household appliances like washing machine, etc. – these save a lot of time for them to peacefully study. Many students can increase their output by 100% if provided these small but important facilities
  1. Tableegh Opportunities: While learning, the student has an ardent desire to work for the cause of tableegh. We should enable him to do tableegh of whatever he has confidently learned. This tableegh process will also help in establishing a positive interaction and understanding between the student and the community. The student will know of the requirements of the society and hence he will do research in those lines. On the other hand, the community will know of a source that can be approached in times of need.
  1. Visiting home country: Those students that come from outside Iran and Iraq should have sponsored trips to their native places. The frequency will ideally be once in a year. We should have an associated tableegh clause while sponsoring. This will help them in maintaining regular contact with the residents of their native place for personal as well as tableegh purpose
  1. Language courses- Arabic& English: Many students are from non-Arabic background. Also, learning language without the environment is a mammoth exercise. We should provide good teacher and environment to study Arabic for students. Furthermore, we can also have English language courses for the students so that they learn a skill that will help them in disseminating knowledge.
  1. Specialized Orientations/workshops: They should have an opportunity to get oriented with specialized skills like Business Management, finance, etc. that can help them understand the activities of the community. This will help us to bridge the gap between the Ulema and the community. The orientation can be done in the form of workshops and seminars.
  1. Placements: After a certain period of studies, the students look at getting working opportunities and to get settled in life. Based on the goal of the student, the time frame of studies differs, some students’ look for openings after 3yrs., some after 5yrs. and some after say 10-15yrs. This is a critical period for the student as well as for the community. If he does not get an appropriate opening then he shifts his focus in life and the community fails to utilize most of his studies. This is a big loss for the community as well. At this critical juncture it is important that we place the student appropriately.
  1. Work security and future prospects: The student requires security in life and also wants to see a bright future. It is good to have faith that Allah s.w.t. alone provides security and future prospects. But when He designates us for this job we should realize it and act. If the student sees a bleak future or feels insecure, there is a potential risk that he will not be able to perform or even a risk that he becomes counter productive.
  1. Compensation for financially restricted good quality students: There are many students who come with long term plans to study. But due to financial restrictions and low financial security they have to prematurely quit. We should firstly identify all those good quality students who would like to further study but are not able to do so because of financial reasons. After identification we should provide enough funds to them so as to enable them to stay back and continue studies.
  1. Remuneration for work done: In all cases, we can even ask the students to do some task on commercial remuneration basis – like translation, etc. We should pay them sufficient amounts so that they do the work on part time basis and get their full time financial requirements fulfilled.

 

D. Initial Possibilities of Our Role & Involvement in providing solutions

 

There are many options available to play our role as far as the students are concerned.  Some of the initial steps using limited funds are as under:-

 

  1. Arrange for students counseling. This can be done initially at the time the student wants to start his studies. Also, the student should have the opportunity to regularly visit and get advice as per the developments. This requires small budget as we can utilize existing madressahs for this. Once we have a proper place for it, we have to convince some of the experienced Hawza people to provide guidance. We can keep a fixed timing for the counseling. Furthermore, we need to print certain handouts and other information material that is related to guiding the course of action for the students.
     
  2. Arrange for workshops and seminars for the purpose of orientation of transnational businesses and finance related topics. These workshops can be once in 6/12mths.
     
  3. Provide 1 or 2 good teachers to the students. Specifically Arabic language teachers. There is no doubt that our students are weak in Arabic because of paucity of good teachers and lack of conducive environment. We can give good remuneration for an excellent teacher in Arabic and take care that good results are obtained.
     
  4. Identify around 3-5 students who can use computers and want them for studies, research and/or tableegh. Provide 80% loan to them for the computers, payable in easy installments. We can rotate this money to buy new computers. Also, we can provide CDs for ref. purpose.
     
  5. Good students who are unable to stay for studies require immediate attention before we lose them. We provide them some jobs like translation, writing books, etc. on long term basis. This will give them the immediate funds required and also some kind of longer-term security. We should pay them at least USD5 to USD10 per page/hour basis depending on the details of the particular case.

There are many responsibilities that are required to be performed on this front. It will be highly advisable if we can convince some of the financial contributors in the community to stand for this noble cause that has high paying dividends on long-term basis.

 

 E. Some Problems & Solutions to the present method of compensation

 Problem: 

At present, people hand cash or articles to them in a way that is not appropriate. There is a sincere attempt made at making the process very respectable. But unfortunately this very attempt is also responsible in making the said process a disrespectful one for the students. Following are the reasons why it becomes disrespectful for the students to take money or articles in prevailing scenario: 

  1. The cash amounts are usually in small lots like USD1-10
  2. They are at times given randomly They are provided foodstuff, etc.
  3. Before paying them the amounts, they are literally asked if they have problems in taking care of their family expense!
  4. At times, they are even assured that their names will not be released to any third parties. The promise is fulfilled but still the students respect is hurt in his own eyes.
  5. While discussing about these amounts everyone involved in the process use words like ‘help’, ‘assistance’, ‘madad’, ‘imdad’, etc. All these do not have a good connotation. This percolates through all levels of workers, donors and spectators.

 

Solutions: 

  1. Everybody involved in the process, at whatever level, should avoid all terms in words, thoughts and deeds that denote that there is a favor or help extended to the student.
  2. Everybody involved should understand it clearly that the student is getting a partial salary for his work done. This understanding will also reflect in all communications and thoughts.
  3. Either fixed payments should be made on a monthly basis or if payments are committed against assignments then on completion of assignments.
  4. They should be paid decent amounts for the assignments. The payment standards at present are quite low because many students do the Islamic work on non-commercial basis. Hence the demand-supply moves heavily towards easy (assumed) supply. But the supply never does come up because thee assignments are mostly unsuccessful. We cannot expect students in financial problems to deliver good results when doing non-commercial projects or when they are underpaid. Under the impression of pseudo-supply people usually do not want to pay or want to pay very low for religious projects.

  

Initial Budget Plan : USD5000 for Qom Students Compensation

1. Arrange for students counseling. This can be done initially at the time the student wants to start his studies. Also, the student should have the opportunity to regularly visit and get advice as per the developments. This requires small budget as we can utilize existing madressahs for this. Once we have a proper place for it, we have to convince some of the experienced Hawza people to provide guidance. We can keep a fixed timing for the counseling. Furthermore, we need to print certain handouts and other information material that is related to guiding the course of action for the students.
This does not require much funding. More than funding we need good volunteers.
Budget: USD300 for 6Mths.

Generally students do not understand and appreciate the value of counseling, that is, ‘proper guidance @ proper time’. People implementing this may not take this very seriously more specifically when we have also allocated smaller budget for this. But if this is not implemented properly then we have lost one very good and essential aspect of our activity that would have otherwise been achieved at a very low cost. If, Allah s.w.t. protect us, we fail in this then it would imply that we have failed in more than 20% of our activities. We cannot calculate this failure based on allocation of our entire budget to this, that is, 6%.
 

HJ- As you know we have started a madresa + hostel in Qum ,which can use as a proper place for counseling purpose , we also have printing facilities in this madresa ,therefore we are able to printout handbills & other information material ,we also have some seniour & experienced Hawza people with us who can guide the new comers .But we give the guidance only to whom who conact us . 

WE NEED TO GRADUALLY DESIGN A COMPREHENSIVE COUNSELING KIT OF AROUND 25-40 PAGES THAT MAY CONTAIN INFORMATION LIKE ENTIRE CURRICULUM TILL DARS-E-KHARIJ, SUPPLEMENTING BOOKS, BRIEF DESCRIPTION AND BENEFITS OF EACH BOOK TO BE STUDIED IN CURRICULUM AND ALSO THAT OF THE SUPPLEMENTING BOOKS, CAPABLE TEACHERS WITH ONE PARAGRAPH FOR AROUND 25 SELECTED TEACHERS, TABLEEGH AND PLACEMENT OPPORTUNITIES AT THE END OF THE COURSE, TIPS & TOOLS ON CAREER PLANNING, SELF-ASSESSMENT TOOLS, APTITUDE TESTS, TIME MANAGEMENT, SPECIALIZATION PROSPECTS, CAREER VERTICALS, ETC. IT IS UNFORTUNATE TO NOTE THAT THOUSANDS OF LIVES (STUDENTS FROM ALL NATIONALITIES) ARE SPOILT BECAUSE OF INADEQUATE GUIDANCE/COUNSELING. THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF STUDENTS WHO JOIN THE HAWZA MERELY BASED ON THEIR STRONG EMOTIONS TO SACRIFICE FOR THE SAKE OF ISLAM. THESE EMOTIONS ARE GOOD BUT AT THE SAME TIME THE PERSON SHOULD ALSO HAVE EQUAL URGE AND THE APTITUDE TO DO THE REQUIRED STUDIES. AFTER A FEW YEARS THESE STUDENTS REALIZE THAT THEY CANNOT MAKE A GOOD SCHOLAR OF THEMSELVES, AS THEY DO NOT HAVE THE REQUIRED APTITUDE. IT IS TOO LATE NOW - THE OPTION TO GO BACK IS ALREADY CLOSED. THIS CLASS OF STUDENTS, IN SUCH A SCENARIO - MAY ALLAH S.W.T. PREVENT IT, MAY EVEN ACT AS NEGATIVE ELEMENTS TO THE SOCIETY IN GENERAL AND TO THE STUDENT COMMUNITY IN PARTICULAR. FURTHERMORE, IT IS NOT UNCOMMON THAT A STUDENT HAS A TASTE FOR A PARTICULAR SUBJECT/ SPECIALIZATION BUT HE REALIZES IT LATE OR EVEN IF REALIZES IT EARLIER, HE IS UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO PURSUE THIS SPECIALIZATION.
THOUGH THIS FACILITY OF COUNSELING IS PRESENTLY AVAILABLE ON AS AND WHEN FELT-SO BY THE STUDENT BUT IT IS NOT SUFFICIENT AND APPROPRIATELY PLANNED/ARRANGED. WE NEED TO BE MORE ACTIVE IN THIS SPHERE. EVEN IF WE SPEND THE ENTIRE USD5000 ON THIS, I FEEL THAT IT IS LESS. NEVERTHELESS, I AGREE THAT IMPLEMENTATION WILL BE A PROBLEM AND ALSO THIS WORK IS MORE SKILLS-INTENSIVE RATHER THAN FUNDS-INTENSIVE. HENCE, WE START WITH A PINT-SIZED BUDGET INITIALLY BUT IN A VERY EFFECTIVE MANNER.
 

2.Arrange for workshops and seminars for the purpose of orientation of transnational businesses and finance related topics. These workshops can be done once in 6/12mths.
This again does not require much funding. We need to arrange for a volunteer speaker.
Budget: USD300 for one workshop.

We may have some problem in identifying an effective person to conduct the workshop. Again the problems mentioned in point 1 mostly also hold true for this. Though the previous point is more important than this.

WE WANT TO HOLD IN IRAN. BUT WE NEED SOME VOLUNTEER WHO CAN VISIT IRAN ON HIS OWN EXPENSE AT HIS CONVENIENT TIME AND HAS GOOD SKILLS THAT CAN BE IMPARTED TO THE STUDENTS. CAN YOU LOCATE SUCH A PERSON

 3.Provide 1 or 2 good teachers to the students. Specifically Arabic language teachers. There is no doubt that our students are weak in Arabic because of paucity of good teachers and lack of conducive environment. We can give good remuneration for an excellent teacher in Arabic and take care that good results are obtained.
We can start with hiring one part-time Arabic teacher. The main focus will be to impart vocabulary skills.
Budget: USD1000 per year.

The Hawza system of Iran was initially copied up to a certain extent from that of Najaf. In Najaf originally the students entering the Hawza were well versed with Arabic vocabulary. So it was required there to only polish their existing skills and focus more on grammar so as to prevent ‘small mistakes’ in ‘language already known’. In Iran, the situation drastically differed and still differs. More than 90% of the Non-Arab students do not have the basic knowledge of Arabic vocabulary when they enter the Hawza. Here, instead of polishing skills or preventing mistakes, we need to impart basic skills before moving ahead.
Most of the students will not agree with me when I state that there is a dire need to impart basic Arabic vocabulary skills to most of the new and existing students of Iran. Since most will not agree, they may not be very effective in implementing this point. In fact, they may tend to request us to use this USD1000 in some other way or for teaching some other subject. We need to handle this situation appropriately.

HJ- We have already started a persian language class for the new comers , presently there are 25 students .We hired an Iranian teacher ,who teach 2 hrs daily with video & audio acilities .We are also planning to arrange an english language class only for the seniour students , for which we are trying to contact some American & British seniour students for teaching .We can also arrange the Arabic language class with an Arab teacher as its also very necessary. 

IT IS EVIDENT THAT MANY STUDENTS IN IRAN ARE WEAK IN ARABIC. IT IS BECAUSE OF THE METHODOLOGY SHORTFALL. EVEN ARABIC GRAMMAR, WHICH IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE PEAK OF THE LANGUAGE SKILL, IS TAUGHT IN PERSIAN MEDIUM!! MANY STUDENTS WHO HAVE LEARNT FOR MORE THAN 5YRS. CANNOT MAKE SIMPLE SENSE OUT OF READING ARABIC SENTENCES/BOOKS. THERE IS VERY LOW INTEREST AMONGST THE STUDENTS TO USE ARABIC BOOKS. INSTEAD OF READING ORIGINAL ARABIC BOOKS, STUDENTS READ PERSIAN EXPLANATIONS TO THOSE ORIGINAL TEXTS. WE NEED TO CHANGE THE SCENARIO FOR THE BETTER. INSHAALLAH, KEEPING AN ARABIC TEACHER FOR VOCABULARY WILL BE OUR FIRST STEP FORWARD TOWARDS CHANGING THE TREND AND THE SYSTEM. WE HAVE VERY LIMITED FUNDS AND HENCE CANNOT BE SPENT FOR PERSIAN AND ENGLISH AT PRESENT

4.Identify around 3-5 students who can use computers and want them for studies, research and/or tableegh. Provide 80% loan to them for the computers, payable in easy installments. We can rotate this money to buy new computers. Also, we can provide CDs for ref. purpose.
In fact, we can provide computers to 1 or 2 students @ USD300. Since there is a paucity of learned people working over the net, we can choose these 1 or 2 people from those willing to work for Islamic propagation over the net on part time bases. We can pay a salary to the student/s @ USD100 p.m. to USD300 p.m. based on the quality.
Budget: USD1800 for 4mths. to 8mths.

a. Mostly on-ground workers will not agree that USD1800 be spent on just 1 or 2 students.
b. Students as well as others have a tendency to be lenient and supportive towards other students. This results in loose selection of students for the job. Since, we are extending benefits to a very small group of students and if this small group of students is selected loosely then our whole idea will be in a mess. Professional selection based on pure merits has to be strictly implemented.
 

HJ-It was in our plans earlier ,we have arranged 4 or 5 computers from London , presentlywe are facing some custome clearence problems , which will be solved soon inshallah ,we have a 100 hrs free internet connection monthly through Agha Seestani office . For the propagation through net its better to hire a comp skilled person seperately & atleast three specialized persons for FIQH,MANAZRA & TAREEKH on part time bases .We are also planning to start a web site.

WHAT ARE THE EXACT SKILL-SETS IN TERMS OF KNOWLEDGE LEVELS AND COMMUNICATION OF THESE STUDENTS WHO WOULD BE HIRED FOR FIQH, MUNAZARA AND TAREEKH? IF THEY FIT THE SKILL-SETS REQUIRED THEN WE SHOULD HIRE THEM ON PART TIME BASIS.

5.Good students who are unable to stay for studies require immediate attention before we lose them. We provide them some jobs like translation, writing books, etc. on long term basis. This will give them the immediate funds required and also some kind of longer-term security. We should pay them at least USD5 to USD10 per page/hour basis depending on the details of the particular case.
At present the rates at which these kinds of jobs are offered are very low. We may not directly start with meaningful amounts but we can start with ‘better than prevailing’ rates. We can identify 2 students and assign them various jobs @USD100 to USD300 p.m. on part time bases depending on the quality of the student.
Budget: USD1600 for 4mths. to 6mths.
Same as point 4 above.

HJ- The main idea is good ,but this way is not advisable ,because these activities effect badly on studies , there are many examples in front of our eyes , the rate considered for translation is also very low as the lowest rate for translation is of persian to english which is 20 USD per page presently. 

WE FULLY AGREE THAT IF STUDENTS START DOING JOBS OR BUSINESSES THEN THEIR STUDIES WILL SUFFER. BUT WHAT WE HAVE MENTIONED DIFFERS FROM THIS SUBJECT. WE WILL BE GIVING A PART TIME JOB OF SAY 20HRS. TO 30HRS. IN A MONTH WITH A PAY OF AROUND USD100 TO USD300 PER MONTH. WE WILL NOT GIVE A BOOK OF SAY 300 PAGES TO A STUDENT ASKING HIM TO DO IT AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. WHILE THIS WORK OF FEW HOURS IN A MONTH IS NOT CAUSING A BURDEN FOR THE STUDENT, HE IS ALSO GAINING KNOWLEDGE AS THE WORK IS RELATED TO HIS FILED. ALSO, THE MONEY SO EARNED WILL BE INSTRUMENTAL IN HIS SURVIVAL IN IRAN.
USD20 MAY BE AN APPARENT RATE THAT IS PREVAILING IN IRAN FOR TRANSLATION. I DO NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS. BUT MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE DOES NOT INDICATE THIS AS EASILY AVAILABLE RATES. A FEW MONTHS BACK WE WERE LOOKING AT GETTING SOME PART TIME TRANSLATION WORK FOR MYSELF FROM PERSIAN TO ENGLISH OR ARABIC TO ENGLISH AND WE SPOKE TO QUITE SOME PEOPLE BUT  COULD NOT ACHIEVE MY TARGET RATE OF USD10-USD15 AT THAT TIME. THERE WOULD BE MANY SKILLED STUDENTS WHO ARE UNABLE TO GET SUCH PART TIME JOBS. USD5 TO USD10 PER HOUR BASED ON THE SKILLS OF THE STUDENT IS APPROPRIATE AT PRESENT BECAUSE WE HAVE LIMITED
BUDGETS. WE MAY NOT BE ABLE TO EMPLOY HIGHLY QUALIFIED STUDENTS AT THIS STAGE. PLEASE NOTE: WE HAVE A BENCHMARK BASED ON PER HOUR FOR INTERNAL PURPOSE ONLY. WE WILL ACTUALLY PAY ON TURNKEY BASIS AFTER CALCULATING OURSELVES ON HOW MANY HOURS WOULD BE REQUIRED FOR A PARTICULAR WORK. ALSO, ONLY 20-30HRS. OF WORK PER MONTH WILL BE GIVEN TO A SINGLE STUDENT. 

IMPORTANT: GROUND TEAM TO IMPLEMENT ALL THE POINTS AND NOT TO SELECT ONE OR TWO POINTS FROM THESE..... WE ACCEPT THE IMPEDIMENTS…BUT EFFORTS REQD , POSSIBLY THRU A TEAM