Entry Title: "ḥawza ilmiyya"
Name: farhad babaei , Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Category and Expertise: Photo Essay and Feature Story|Culture|Deeper Perspective, Professional


Entry Description: ḥawza ʻilmiyya is a seminary of traditional Islamic school of higher learning. Although it is a term used mostly by the Shi'a Muslims communities and refers to a traditional Shi'a centre where clerics are trained, another branch of Islam, Sunnism has its own schools and they are called Hawza ,too.

Story: ḥawza ʻilmiyya is a seminary of traditional Islamic school of higher learning. Although it is a term used mostly by the Shi'a Muslims communities and refers to a traditional Shi'a centre where clerics are trained, another branch of Islam, Sunnism has its own schools and they are called Hawza ,too. The entities in Najaf, Iraq and Qom, Iran, are the preeminent seminary centers for the training of Shi'a clergymen. However, several smaller hawzas exist in other cities around the world, such as at Karbala in Iraq, Isfahan and Mashhad in Iran,India, Africa, Europe and North America. Students who apply for these centers are either graduated from ordinary schools or colleges, or just have passed primary years of ordinary schools, and haven’t gotten diploma. An exam and interview divides each group of them according to their grades. Then a center will be specified for them. After that, they reside in school and begin their studies. Students will be trained through years of studying classic texts in their original languages. Besides having to study "classics"which are standard Arabic texts in each subject area, that all Hawza students are expected to study, each Hawza tends to create its own syllabus, too. The studies will begin by learning fiqh, kalam, hadith, tafsir, philosophy, natural and abstract sciences as well as Arabic and Arabic literature. Once these studies have been completed, they may begin preparation to become a mujtahid by studying advanced ancient textbooks known as sat'h, and research courses known as kharij. Some students study as a registered student at a school, others are independent students who pick their own tutors and study at their own pace. Furthermore, a lot of students will engage in other Islamic activities during their studies, such as writing, translating, preaching, teaching others, etc. all of which could lengthen the duration of one's study. Most Hawza students consider themselves students for life. From the very first century of Isalm’s emerge ,this educational entity was held in Najaf, Baghdad and Halab. After the entrance of Islam into Iran a Howze was held in Qum.Gradualy other centers appeared in different cities of Iran. They sustained and growed throughout 14 centuries and different sovereignty. By Islamic revolution in Iran in 1978, these centers which had played a significant role in the revolution strengthened their roots in the basis of Iran’s society and even broadened their influences beyond borders more than ever. Today, Howze elmiye Qom is claimed to be the greatest Howze in all Shiite world. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic,Shiite clerics have played an important political role in the state, government and society. Since then These centers have become institutions of the reproduction not only of the religious elites but also of political elites.Even the Constitution of Islamic Republic underlined their function in the structure of government. For instance, It implies that the head of Judiciary system must be a qualified clergyman called “Mojtahed” which will be selected by the Leader which is a Mojtahed too. Throughout the years after revolution, clergymen occupied a wide range of high ranking positions in Iran’s society.Therefore, their influence on diverse aspects of Iraninan everyday life is clearly detectable and cannot be ignored

About the Artist:

My childhood had been influenced by war.The life situation in Iran as an ancient country of the Middle East which was involved in war, economic, and political crisis gradually brought about some questions about human and his inner soul in my mind, like when the man is in hard conditions, what will he reveal from his personality? How does he confront with the passions that occur to him in life? What is that inner element that makes him a distinct and unique being? The trace of these questions becomes more highlighted under natural catastrophes like flood, earthquake or while situations made by human interference like war, revolution, social and political conflicts and poverty. It was a question for me that how the man reveals himself when he faces with freedom and pinches. How does he step toward freedom? How does he interact with his environment? All these questions were occupying my mind while facing with ethnic and religious traditions. When I began photography, my camera became a tool for surveying these questions. I learned that it is possible to ask question with camera and overwhelm deep in the question likewise it is possible to think deep in humans’ faces with camera. The questions do not end in answers but also bring more questions along with themselves. And this is how my attitude to the photography takes form, with asking and moving toward humans’ depths and their environments.