January is usually exam season in the seminaries in Qom and February is when the 2nd term starts. Therefore it is also possible for one to start their official Hawzah studies in February since it is a start of a new term in the schools. Finishing Tamhidiyah can be tricky and one needs to make sure that they will be able to finish all their tests in time to be able to reach the subsequent term.
All together, these are the tests one is expected to give in the Tamhidiyah duration:
- Aqaed – (5 tests covering the Usool al-Deen)
- Ahkam – 2 books (2 tests, 1 per book and one final oral exam)
- Tareekh – 2 books (2 tests, 1 per book)
- Sarf – Arabic Morphology (3 tests and final oral exam)
- Nahw – Arabic Syntax (3 tests and final oral exam)
- Darsnameh Ma’rifat – this is basically considered Farsi Book #8 (1 test)
- Ayeen Nigarish – a course dealing with writing skills (1 test)
- Rawaan Khwaani Qur’an – pre-requisite for Tajweed (1 test)
- Tajweed – (1 test)
- Hifz Qur’an – (1 oral test, requires one to memorize 24 selected Surahs and 7 selected verses)
- Mafaheem Qur’an – 3 books (3 tests, one per book)
- Computers – (1 oral test)
- Pursashay Aqaed – (1 oral test)
- Tarbiyat Badani – this is a physical exercise test
- Akhlaq – (1 test)
- Aashanyee ba Qur’an – a final Qur’an reading test before you leave Madrassah Al-Mahdi
- Qisayhaye Qur’an – (1 test)
Click here for a detailed overview of the aforementioned courses.
In the past there were a few more tests, and the school is trying to cut down on them as these are clearly a lot of courses and tests to cover within 6 months. The above list is the cut down version (just above 30 tests) from what they had in the past, such as Ahkam which was divided into 3 books. Personally, the courses I benefited from the most were Sarf, Nahw, Tajweed and Mafaheem.
In any case, when one is done with the above courses, they can then officially apply to their choice of Hawzah and leave Madrasah Al-Mahdi. Choosing a Hawzah to study in is not always as easy as it sounds. There are many factors that play a role in one’s selection. For foreign male students, here are the most well known schools:
- Madrassah Imam Khomeini
- Madrassah Hujjatiyah
- Madrassah Amir ul-Momineen
- Madrassah Mo’miniyah
- Madrassah Aal ul-Bayt (Arabic School)
- Madrassah Imam Sadiq (Arabic School)
For females, the 2 school options are Jamiat al-Zahra and Bint al-Huda. For males, I have heard that there are some other Arabic schools as well, but don’t know of any Western students that go there and are usually more catered for specific segments of students such as those from Saudi Arabia etc.
Choosing the correct school for yourself is crucial because it is essentially where you will be spending at least the first 5-odd years (this is equivalent to an undergraduate degree program in universities). Some factors that play a role are what you as a student want to achieve from studying. What is it that you want to study, timings of the school, the school’s undergraduate course syllabus (barnameh) which includes knowing what books and courses they will be covering and in what years etc. Discussing with students, teachers and scholars is important. Though this can be a bit tricky because different people will be give you different opinions, pros and cons of any given school.
Furthermore, after deciding what school you want to go to, it is possible you may still not end up going there because perhaps at another school there is a group of students going together who have decided to form a batch and a school is making special exceptions for them in their syllabus and thus they might be covering some extra or different books that the normal syllabus of that school might not cover. At times the school environment, location, building and size can also matter. Some may prefer a smaller school while some may like a school that is larger and has more facilities.
I cannot cover all the factors that play a role in selecting a Hawzah in detail because a lot of it is something that one will have to experience. When one arrives and is ready to make this decision, things will become apparent in terms of what they need to do and how they will go about it.