One of the outstanding educational institution that masters in both academic and traditional sciences is the ‘Hawza Ilmiyya of England’. Since its establishment in 2003, it has provided marvellous community building and community service. From providing its graduates as ‘resident scholars’ to many different communities in the UK and as the medium of teaching and learning is in English, it has become a source of spiritual, traditional and academic support to many Muslims living in the UK, Europe and Internationally. Furthermore, many of its students have graduated and travelled to the Seminaries of Qum for advance and further studies in the field of ‘Religious Sciences’. The Hawza of England has been very instrumental in also providing support to local ‘madrasas’ (the Sunday and Quran teaching schools) by having courses geared towards the methodology of Quran teachings.
Hawza Ilmyyah of London
The Hawza Ilmiyah of England is an extension of the very traditional Hawza (seminaries) of Najaf & Qum and this is because the curriculum of this institution has been adapted from the Seminaries of Najaf & Qum. The unique aspect of this Hawza is that along with teaching the ‘traditional (sunnati) sciences’, the students also become aware of the ‘academic’ approach towards the sciences. They are fully trained in academic writing, rational thinking and post-modern thinking. Hence, making the students equipped to attend to the critiques and challenges faced by Muslims living in the West. In order to have an insight of what Hawza is all about and how the Hawza of England is an offshoot of the traditional Hawza, we would like to give a bit of the background of this institution in the course of its history and its legacy.
Hawza in the lexical sense is known as region or parish (nāhīya) confederate or meeting place (mujtam’a) or place (makān) and hawza ilmiyya in the terminology sense in the Islamic world and particularly near Shi’as is an institution or a center of acquiring religious knowledge. Among the Shi’a religious class the place of the hawa ilmiyyah is of extreme value and lofty status. It is considered as the referent (misdaq) of the verse,
A strong deep rooted tree that has been in the course of history of Islam that provides amazing fruits for the seekers of Divine Sciences and leaves a powerful impact of ‘God Consciousness’ (taqwa) and knowledge (‘ilm).
The formation of this holy/religious institution returns back to the very beginning of Islam and nomination (b’athat) of the Prophet (s). Analysing the formation of hawza ‘ilmiyyah requires us to investigate two domains in the history; the fourteen thousand year period of teaching & learning in the history of Islam from the beginning and the period after the ‘major occultation’ of the 12th Shi’a Imam (aj). In short the period before the major occultation and after. The era before occultation is about 3 centuries from the time of the advent of Islam until the 12th Shi’a Imam (aj) went in hiding and the second era that requires investigation is from this period up until now. The common element in the first domain is the presence of an infallible authority and how the Imams played a pivotal role in religious teaching.
The ‘major occultation’ begins with the demise of the last appointed deputy of Imam al Mahdi (aj) in the year 329/941 AD. At this time, the 12th Shi’a Imam asserted that the cultural, social, political and religious responsibilities was transferred to the jurists (fuqhā) in the school of ahl baith and this is where the institutionalisation of religious authority started and formed in the hawza ‘ilmiyyah.
There was an exodus of scholars to the holy city of Qum and Tehran from Iraq due to the immense amount of pressure and persecution brought by the Abbasite Caliphate upon the Shi’a during the period ‘major’ and ‘minor occultation’. Then in the 5th century due to the weakness in the Chaliphate of Abbasites the formation of the School of Baghdad took place were the scholars like Shaykh Mufīd, Shaykh Murtuza Ansārī and Shaykh Tūsī appeared and this made the schools from Qum and Tehran (ray) transferred back to Baghdad. The occupation of the Seljuks forces Shaykh Tūsī to migrate along with many scholars to Najaf. This lays the foundation of a robust Hawza in Najaf, which became a center of education and religious sciences for the entire Shi’a world. The peculiarity of the formation of this institution centralised the religious authority (marj’aiyyah) as Najaf and to Najaf. Since then the curriculum, books and methods of teachings were centralised and flourished across Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon, India, Sind etc. Hence laying a foundation for future hawzas to follow and therefore any hawza institution anywhere in the contemporary period follow the same traditional methodology. However, these hawzas also consider the importance of zaman (time) and makan (place) and train its students to be the contributors of knowledge and helpers of founding Shi’a Islamic communities.
This makes the hawza ilmiyyah of England first of its kind in the west with such measures and thorough understanding of the principles of the hawza and its role in the Muslim Community. The hawza illmiyah of England offers a 4 year program, which will train them enough to lead a community as a ‘resident scholar’. After completion of 4 years they have another 3 years of specilisation course in theology and fiqh. have yearly intakes, the term begins every September and the dead line for application is end of August. The hawza have two semester September to December and January to May. Sometimes they do offer summer courses and short-term courses and work-shops. The hawza also offers a week long ‘Taster Hawza Course’ in the summer for those who are interested in knowing or joining the hawza.The hawza offers Saturday courses under the brand of pre-hawza courses. These pre-hawza runs for 1 year and is equivalent to one semester of the regular hawza and those who are interested in part-time or would like to try hawza this is the best opportunity available. The hawza ilmiyyah of England also offers part time courses and also welcome guest in a particular course such as tafseer (Exegesis), aklaq (ethics) or any subject of your choice. However this also requires and application to be filed through the Admin office.
Address. Hawza illmiya of England
133 Hight Road
Tel. No: 0208 451 9993