The Jurisprudence Center of Pure Imams in a Glance
08 December 2023
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Translated by Javed Akbari
Six years have elapsed ever since the Jurisprudence Center of Pure Imams (a.s.) have been established. It was established to promote and develop Shi'ite's true fiqh (jurisprudence) and meet jurisprudential needs. Thank God, so far this center has taken great steps towards training researchers and scholars and publishing books as well as scientific articles that are expected to meet legal and jurisprudential needs and requirements.
What follows is an interview with Hojjatul Islam Sheikh Jawad Fazel Lankarani conducted by Ofugh Daily of Qom Islamic Seminary on the activities and goals of the Jurisprudence Center of Pure Imams (a.s.).
In the inception we wish to thank you sincerely for giving us your precious time. Could you provide us with some information about when the Jurisprudence Center of Pure Imams (a.s.) was established and what its major aims are?
The Jurisprudence Center of Pure Imams (a.s.) was established in the year 1997 at the order of (late) Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani to train and educate talented students from the Islamic Seminary and help them produce worthwhile jurisprudential works. The center admits and selects interested students by holding an entrance examination. Those who have studied at least for six years at the Kharij level of Usul and Fiqh of the Islamic seminary are qualified for the examinations. Once they are admitted, different scientific groups are set up under the supervision of learned and competent teachers. As of now, eight groups including Qaza (judgment), Hajj, Ejara (Rent), Principles of Fiqh (1), Principles of Fiqh (2), Salat, Current Legal Issues and Khums have been set up. All the procedures of seeking knowledge and gaining competence at the Kharij level are explained. The first brilliant feature of these groups is that the teacher is not the sole speaker; he takes one third of the time while the two thirds of the time is given to the students to discuss relevant matters with the teacher. The second feature of these groups is that all related and supplementary issues concerning various topics including Fiqh, Usul, Tafsir, Kalam (theology) and Rejal (biography of narrators) are discussed at length until a conclusion is reached. The third feature of these groups is that all group members must contribute to the discussion by expressing their own views and showing a clear understanding of the points. The fourth feature of these groups is that all students are bound to write a comprehensive research and deductive treatise on the subject of the raised discussion. Over one hundred jurisprudential articles have been written by the students ever since the establishment of the center. To be fair, the treatises are pretty profound and insightful. Anyhow, the main aim of this center is to admit students who demonstrate strong and tangible jurisprudential tendency and readiness to grasp jurisprudential arguments and become actively competent in terms of deduction and inference of Islamic laws. On the whole, we have placed reasonably good facilities at their disposal.
What are the constraints or problems being confronted in the process of teaching the method of inference?
Thank God, there are very important and rich kharij lectures in the Islamic seminary for the time being. Perhaps, we can say that the classes held here and there in the Islamic seminary are unique from many aspects. The lectures given by prominent teachers are attended by a large number of learned students. We should thank God for all this and at the same time, we should not be negligent of the importance of such classes.
In the existing classes, the stronger and more talented students mingle with moderately talented students and they are generally treated as being equal. However, the teacher should present his lectures in such a way that would benefit the majority of the participating students.
In educational matters, all experts say that no matter how talented some students may be, if they are not directly instructed and supervised by proficient teachers, their talents will not flourish. Hence, we can say that one of the flaws of the kharij lectures is lack of direct scientific supervision and surveillance over the talented students. The second point I want to make is that, in the past the teachers would check the writings of learned and talented students. For example, the book "Nihayat al-Taqrir" printed in 3 volumes was written by my (late) father between 19 and 24 of his age and it was checked thoroughly by late Grand Ayatollah Boroujardi.
Given the great number of attendants in legal studies, a teacher normally does not have enough time to check all the scientific writings of his students. Naturally, one who conducts a scientific research and writes a treatise specially one that deals with jurisprudence expects to be in continuous communication with an expert, otherwise he will not be immune to error because jurisprudential competence is not gained through reading a few theories or standpoints only. Unless one attends a jurist's lectures, he cannot claim that he has become a jurist because there are secrets and principles in the process of ijtehad which are gained only through rehearsal and frequent practice of the skill. Thank God, the Jurisprudence Center of Pure Imams (a.s.) has solved this problem. The students who cannot discuss their understandings of the lessons with their teachers now meet a group leader who helps them in lieu of their teachers.
What is the course duration and how long does it take for a student to finish the entire syllabus?
The course is initially completed in four years of study, and then there is another two-year program which is the final course for the students. The four years of study involves dealing with highly complex and specialized issues concerning jurisprudence and legal theories plus their arguments, reasons, proofs, fundamentals and relevant narratives. For example, Hajj Group which is supervised by Hojjatul Islam Beigdili and which is now going to finish has succeeded in going through all the important issues relating to hajj. Thus in the first four years, our main task is to help the students study the important issues pertaining jurisprudence and its theories as well as law verses. In addition, each student is required to write a dissertation article. About fifty dissertations or treatises have been written on ayatul ahkam (law verses) which not only have been read thoroughly by their teachers but also evaluated by other experts.
As for the postgraduate program which comes after the four year term and which takes another two years, no concrete measure has been taken by the Hawzah (Islamic Seminary) in this connection. Our aim is to divide fiqh (jurisprudence) into multiple specialized branches in the future. For instance, there are numberless questions about medical issues within the jurisprudential sphere and there are many more questions directed each day to the office of His Eminence (late Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani). We have gathered the medical questions in two books each containing two hundred pages. Each question requires an independent treatise. Therefore, we are planning to ask a few students to put their efforts into medical jurisprudence only so that they can specialize in such matters and serve the needs of universities and doctors who often face with such questions not knowing what actions to take. Also, family jurisprudence is a lengthy topic which requires and deserves an independent discussion. So do political jurisprudence, jurisprudence of worship and jurisprudence of transactions.
How many students are busy studying in this center?
In view of the strict conditions and the difficult admission tests which sometimes take 6 to 7 hours, we have thus far admitted selectively only 60 students and we are planning to further develop and improve the programs qualitatively in the future.
Although the main task of the Jurisprudence Center, as you mentioned, is to teach jurisprudence, given its high scientific capacity, do you have a special group that may deal with current legal issues?
We are planning to refer the new issues belonging to each section to the special groups but since we are in the beginning of the way and it requires some time, we have tasked one of the groups to deal solely with new and modern issues. The product of their endeavor will be published be soon. Of course, very good and new issues have been taken into account, discussed and answered scientifically.
You just mentioned that you had published some works? What are the works published by this center?
A great encyclopedic work written and authored by late Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani and which is an exposition of Tahrirul Wasilah has been published in 22 volumes under the title Tafsil al- Shari'ah. Currently, the Center is working on the references of the encyclopedia. About seven volumes of the twenty two volumes have been made available with references and they are in very good quality. Grand Ayatollah Boroujardi's lectures about Salat transcribed and rewritten by my (late) father is one of the source books in the Islamic seminary because many of the seminary teachers who were teaching jurisprudence at the post-graduate level used to say: "One of the books which we use a lot is Nihayat al-Taqrir, grand Ayatollah Boroujardi's kharij lectures written by late Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani."
In addition to preparing my late father's works, these groups have researched some treatises. For instance, we have a group dealing specifically with the rules of jurisprudence (al-qawa'ed al-fiqhiyah) and the group is headed by Hojjatul Islam Sheikh Husain Karimi. A treatise titled "lottery" has been prepared and researched by him and other students. In addition, we make researches and attempts to fill research vacuums in line with the priorities. For example, when the students reach where they should study the 'rules of jurisprudence', they do not have access to areas of application. What we have done is we have mentioned the areas and instances of the rules' application which we have combined in a treatise titled "the dichotomy between principle and external meaning". The treatise is yet to be printed and published.
The encyclopedia which we have prepared deals with Islamic laws for children only because today's world is very much sensitive about certain issues one of which is the law pertaining children and the other is the law pertaining women. A group of learned scholars are working on this exhaustive encyclopedia to prepare the entire volumes for publication.
Since your selection of the interested students is based on certain criteria, how do the seminary students see this center and what is the view of the students who are already in the process of accomplishing the academic programs?
Since we do not make any public announcement, obviously only few people refer to the center for admission, yet they are too many but we admit, through tests and oral interview, only the gifted and talented students. The evaluations show that some of the students who had attended Kharij lectures for many years now have acquired the secrets of Ijtehad within four to five years of study in the center. I suggest that you speak also with the students of the center to find out their opinion.
Of course, since this is a new program and the first of its kind in the Islamic Seminary, naturally there are some flaws which will be removed by and by. We are satisfied with the achievements we have made so far. Our main purpose is to provide the students with facilities to help them make progress in jurisprudence and I believe we have achieved 90 percent of our goals.
What are the facilities the Jurisprudence Center is providing the students with?
The center has a huge library with more than 15 thousand books dealing about Shia, Sunni, Zaidiyah, Kharijite and western jurisprudence. We are planning to provide Latin books on law and jurisprudence. In addition, the dissertations written by the students are typed, edited and prepared by the center. Also, a small stipend is given to the students for their expenses.
As it is common, most of the academic centers have interdisciplinary programs with other scientific institutes; does this center also provide such scientific services?
In addition to the educational programs, the center launched a website in 1999 which is the official website of (late) Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani (may his soul rest in peace). To be honest, it has many visitors. In the first year in which it was published, the website received more than 6 thousand emails (and it has now increased to thirty thousand emails per year). Each email contains minimum two questions on religious and ideological matters. The services are continuously rendered. Moreover, the works of my (late) father, his statements and verdicts and a list of the books available in the specialized library have been posted on the website. The books are online and can be downloaded and used by visitors.
What is more, we have evaluated some of the important and crowded classes of the Islamic Seminary and asked the teachers to hold extraordinary classes with their talented students. We have been carrying out this program for the past three years with as many as 200 students. Some of the students have said in their remarks: "Now we have come to know the reality of the lessons."
This center has branches in other cities and countries also. For example, one of its branches is set up in Mashad where the teachers teach Rasail, Makasib and Kifayah with a special method. The Islamic Seminary holds 120 sessions during an educational year whereas we had 180 sessions in the Jurisprudence Center. One of the students of the Mashad branch told me: I am now able to teach Rasail because of the good method being used in this center.
Thank you for your time. Do you have any special point to add to your comments?
I would like to thank Hojjatul Islam Sheikh Watheqi for his good efforts and management of the Jurisprudence Center. What I would like to say at the end is that we believe that there should be many such centers in Shi'ite's Islamic seminary.
Despite the fact that Shiite scholars have worked and researched on jurisprudential issues, we can dare say that only one tenth of fiqh (jurisprudence) has been researched, discovered and worked upon, yet many steps need to be taken. A lot of people might think that in the area of fiqh and Usul, enough research has been made and what was needed to be said has been said while the fact is that there are many aspects of jurisprudence which have remained unattended. We do not deny the necessity of dealing with other sciences but what we have come to know is that if all of the issues of Fiqh have to be studied, one such center is not sufficient. We urge the individuals in charge of the seminaries and the theorists to pay more attention to jurisprudential researches.