Some brothers were asking various detail oriented questions that may not generally be answered in an overview of what to expect when starting at Madrassah Al-Mahdi. I’ll try to answer some of those questions and add some additional points in terms of what else one can expect when they come here. As mentioned in previous posts, that things differ greatly between married and single individuals. In the post titled I Just Arrived In Qum – Now What?, I ended it off by saying that once you have received your code from Jamaitul Mustafa, you take it to Madrassah Al-Mahdi.
That code is basically your files and documentation, that get transferred over to the Madrassah and they are then able to keep a record of you. One thing to keep a note of here is that there are various different offices located in the Madrassah. Furthermore, don’t expect things to be as organized as back home. For example, it is not considered rude if you are speaking to someone in the office and someone else comes from behind and interrupts to ask their question and the administration employee actually diverts their attention to them. This is completely normal. In fact, if you are entering into an office and see that there is a line of people in front of you, don’t just stay standing there. Go forward and ask your question away. Otherwise, you will never be able to get things done. Also, I noticed that at times it seems like the admin people aren’t listening to you because they are looking elsewhere or are dealing with someone else, but they are actually pretty good at multi-tasking. They are usually fully hearing you out and once they are done dealing with a person, they will look at you and will know exactly what you asked just a few minutes ago.
Anyways, that was just in terms of what to expect from a cultural perspective and how things work here. When you have given them your code, you will receive a paper that is your student admission paper which you need to get signed by a few different individuals, including the principal of the school. While these things are going on, it is very likely that you may also have started Farsi classes. You will need to purchase the Farsi books and some of the books also have supplementary work-books with them that you need to purchase. They are really cheap and you don’t have to panic about buying expensive books or spend a lot of time trying to find used cheap books like you may have to in the universities back in the West.
There are 5 classes in a day (technically 6 because one class is the length of 2 classes) and they take place between 7:20 in the morning till about noon (Dhuhr time) and there is a final class from 12:40 PM to around 1:30 PM. The first class in the morning is non-stop from 7:20 till around 9 am. Then the next 3 classes take place with around 10-15 minute breaks and intervals. Then you break for prayers, followed by the final class. There are 3 teachers per class and all 3 of them co-ordinate with each other and focus on different parts of the chapter that was taught on that day. The first class in the morning, which is non-stop, the teacher goes through a new chapter from the book and essentially finishes it off. The second and third teachers in their 2 classes each try to focus on different things such as dictation, oral speeches, sentence writing and making use of short video clips to teach.
While your Farsi is going on, you will still need to sort out various things in the offices and the best time to get this done is during the short 10-15 minute breaks that you get. Your Qur’an will also get tested and if it is (really) poor, they will probably ask you to attend Qur’an classes that are offered in the Madrassah in the late afternoon. Most individuals also go through an interview with the principal and this is standard. Sometimes they may not take an interview right away, but from what I have heard, they will still do one even if it is a few months down the line.
In one of the offices, you will also need to submit your Passport and the school will take care of sorting out your Iqamah (takes around a month on average). Make sure you have your passport photos here as well because you will need to give them in for a few different things. This office will also get you sorted out with your Shahriah (monthly stipend), medical insurance and other things. If you are married and want to apply for Hawzah housing or appliances for your house, this is the office that you will have to deal with. Make sure you have a photocopy of your marriage certificate (nikahnama) on hand as well. If you are renting a place, then bring your rental agreement with you because you will also get some additional shahirah towards the rent of your house (not the full rent, but a decent amount towards it).
There may be a few other trivial and nitty-gritty tasks that you need to take care of, but the aforementioned items are really the core of what you should expect to go through when you are just getting started at Madrassah Al-Mahdi.