27 May, 2024

19 Dhu al-Qi'dah, 1445 H

"Silence saves you from regret"

- Imam Ali (as) -


Core Curriculum

Section 1 - God, Religion and Islam: An Introduction
  • Topic 1.1 - God, Allah and Religion

  • Topic 1.2 - What is “Religion” and What’s the Point of it Anyways?

  • Topic 1.3 - Introduction to Islam

  • Topic 1.4 - A Brief Introduction to the Prophet Muhammad (s), the Prophet of Islam

Section 2 - Foundations of Islam - Theology
  • Topic 2.1 - Satan, Jinns and Angels: Their Influence in the World

  • Topic 2.2 - The Islamic Concept of the Nafs: Battling the Human Ego

  • Topic 2.3 - The Sharīʿa: Purpose and Practice

  • Topic 2.4 - Nubuwwa: The Purpose of Prophethood in Islam

  • Topic 2.5 - Tawhīd: The Unity and Oneness of God in Islam

  • Topic 2.6 - The Usūl al-Dīn: The Fundamental Beliefs of Islam

  • Topic 2.7 - Adala: Divine Justice in Islam

  • Topic 2.8 - Entering Islam: The Shahada

  • Topic 2.9 - Maʿād: The Day of Judgment in Islam

  • Topic 2.10 - Imāmah or divinely guided leadership in Islam after the Prophet Muhammad.

Section 3 - Foundations of Islam - Obligatory Acts
  • Topic 3.1 - Accepting Islam: Putting Faith into Action

  • Topic 3.2 - The Furūʿ al-Dīn: The Fundamental Practices of Islam

  • Topic 3.3 - Salāt: Obligatory Ritual Prayers in Islam

  • Topic 3.4 - Fasting in Islam, its Purpose, Dos and Don’ts

  • Topic 3.5 - The Hajj Pilgrimage

  • Topic 3.6 - The Purpose of Zakat and Khums in Islamic Law

  • Topic 3.7 - Jihād in Islamic Law and Spirituality

  • Topic 3.8 - Commanding the Good and Forbidding Evil in Islam

  • Topic 3.9 - Tawalla and Tabarra, its Basics and Purpose

  • Topic 3.10 - The Five Categories of Islamic Law

  • Topic 3.11 - Niyya: Religious Intention as the Foundation of Islamic Practice

  • Topic 3.12 - Ritual Purity in Islamic Law: Understanding Tahāra and Najāsa

  • Topic 3.13 - Other Obligatory and Forbidden Acts in Islam

Section 4 - Prophethood in Islam
  • Topic 4.1 - A Brief Biography of the Prophet Muhammad (s): The Prophet’s Childhood (PART I of III)

  • Topic 4.2 - Bio: The Prophet Muhammad as a Prophet of God (PART II of III)

  • Topic 4.3 - A Brief Biography of the Prophet Muhammad (s): The Prophet’s Character (PART III of III)

  • Topic 4.4 - The Prophet Muhammad (s) as Messenger and Teacher

  • Topic 4.5 - The Prophet and his Relationships

  • Topic 4.6 - The Prophet’s Sunnah and Hadith

  • Topic 4.7 - Ghadīr and Arafah: The Two Last Sermons of the Prophet

  • Topic 4.8 - Jesus and Mary in Islam

Section 5 - The Qur'an and Hadith
  • Topic 5.1 - Islam and Other Religions

  • Topic 5.2 - What is the Qur’an? A Short Introduction to Islam’s Holy Book

  • Topic 5.3 - The Structure of the Holy Qur’an

  • Topic 5.4 - The Quran and Islamic law

  • Topic 5.5 - The Qur’an, Allah and Humankind

  • Topic 5.6 - Hadith and Sunnah, difference and variations

  • Topic 5.7 - The Reliability of Hadiths

  • Topic 5.8 - A Reflection on Verses of the Holy Qur’an

  • Topic 5.9 - Hadith al-Thaqalayn

  • Topic 5.10 - Imam Ali (as) and Nahj al-Balagha.

  • Topic 5.11 - Taqlid and Tawḍih Al Masail Genre of Literature

Section 6 - Measuring Good and Bad in Islam
  • Topic 6.1 - Guidance According to Islam

  • Topic 6.2 - Life and Death in Islam

  • Topic 6.3 - Heaven and Hell in Islam

  • Topic 6.4 - The Effects of Our Actions in this World

  • Topic 6.5 - The Gray Areas of Islamic Law and Morality

  • Topic 6.6 - Benefits of Islamic Law in this World

  • Topic 6.7 - Good and Bad Deeds: The Spiritual Consequences of our Choices

  • Topic 6.8 - The Effect of Culture and Environment in Shaping our Religious Choices

  • Topic 6.9 - Fate and the Consequences of our Choices in Islam

  • Topic 6.10 - Trivializing the Harām

  • Topic 6.11 - Sinning Against Others and their Delayed Punishment

  • Topic 6.12 - The Three Kinds of Rights in Islam

  • Topic 6.13 - Major Sins in Islam

  • Topic 6.14 - Repentance and Forgiveness of Sins in Islam

  • Topic 6.15 - Kufr in Islam

  • Topic 6.16 - Why Allah Allows People to Sin

Section 7 - The Legacy of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Ahl al-Bayt (as)
  • Topic 7.1 - Islam and Knowledge: the Importance of Islamic Education

  • Topic 7.2 - The Ahl al-Kisa

  • Topic 7.3 - Imamah in the Qur’an

  • Topic 7.4 - Fatima al-Zahrah (as)

  • Topic 7.5 - A Brief Look at the Lives of the Imams (Imam al-Hasan until Imam Muhammad al-Baqir)

  • Topic 7.6 - A Brief Look at the Lives of the Imams (Imam Jafar al-Sadiq until Imam Hasan al-Askari)

  • Topic 7.7 - A Brief Look at the Life and Importance of Imam al-Mahdi (aj)

  • Topic 7.8 - Salawat and Atonement in Islam

  • Topic 7.9 - The Companions (Sahaba) of the Prophet According to the Qur’an

  • Topic 7.10 - Clerical Hierarchies in Muslim Communities

  • Topic 7.11 - Mosques in Islam

  • Topic 7.12 - The Philosophy of Karbala and Majalis

  • Topic 7.13 - A Brief Biography of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (as)

  • Topic 7.14 - The Battle of Karbala: A Brief History

Section 8 - Islamic Relationships, Sects and Conflicts
  • Topic 8.1 - Islam and Rights

  • Topic 8.2 - Islam and Religious Conflicts

  • Topic 8.3 - Major Sects of Islam

  • Topic 8.4 - Sunnism and Shi’ism, beginnings and historical developments.

  • Topic 8.5 - Misconceptions about Shi’ism


Special Topics

Section 9 - Independent Topics
  • Topic 9.1 - Muslim Converts – Welcome to Islam!

  • Topic 9.2 - Basic Dos and Don’ts of Being a Muslim

  • Topic 9.3 - Halal Food and Zabiha

  • Topic 9.4 - Modesty in Islam

  • Topic 9.5 - Family, Parents and Marriage in Islam

  • Topic 9.6 - Marriage in Islam

  • Topic 9.7 - Islam and Sex

  • Topic 9.8 - Women’s Menstruation in Islam

  • Topic 9.9 - Music, Alcohol, Drugs and Pork in Islam

  • Topic 9.10 - Islam and Science

  • Topic 9.11 - A Reading List of Islamic Knowledge

  • Topic 9.12 - Islam and Sufism

  • Topic 9.13 - Ritual Prayers and Supplications in Islam

  • Topic 9.14 - Death & Burial Rituals in Islam

  • Topic 9.15 - The Battle of Armageddon: An Islamic View

  • Topic 9.16 - The Muslim Calendar

  • Topic 9.17 - Muslims and non-Muslims in the Shariah

  • Topic 9.18 - A Timeline of Major Events in Islamic History

  • Topic 9.19 - Introducing the Qur’an: Why it is the way it is

  • Topic 9.20 - The School of Imam Jafar al-Sadiq

  • Topic 9.21 - Major Fields in Islamic Studies

  • Topic 9.22 - The Caliphate in Sunni and Shia Islam

  • Topic 9.23 - The Spread of Islam: After the Prophet until the Ottoman Empire

  • Topic 9.24 - Islam, Racism and Anti-Semitism

Section 10 - Islam, Religion, and Modern Controversies
  • Topic 10.1 - Modern Fallacies about God: where Theists and Atheists Agree

  • Topic 10.2 - Tawhīd: The Muslim God according to the Prophet Muhammad and the Ahl al-Bayt (as)

  • Topic 10.3 - God’s Existence: The Argument From Being (Wujūd)

  • Topic 10.4 - God’s Existence: The Kalam Cosmological Argument

  • Topic 10.5 - God’s Existence: The Argument From Design

  • Topic 10.6 - The Problem of Evil, Suffering and Pain

  • Topic 10.7 - Why did God Create Us? The Purpose of our Creation

  • Topic 10.8 - Why Humans Need Religion according to Islam

  • Topic 10.9 - Jahl and Spiritual Ignorance in Islam

  • Topic 10.10 - Faith in Islam: Belief without Evidence?

  • Topic 10.11 - Do Non-Muslims Go to Hell?

Clerical Hierarchies in Muslim Communities


Clergy exist in almost all religious traditions. Islam has clerical hierarchy, however, this hierarchy is mostly based on knowledge and years of training which form the backbone of the religion's clerical hierarchy. 



Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm, As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh. Peace be upon you brothers and sisters. 


Welcome back to the Muslim Converts Channel! Most, if not almost all religious communities across the world have clerics. By cleric we mean some kind of a priest or religious leader. These leaders are either ordained, like in the case of Catholicism or through institutional appointments (without official rites and ceremonies) like in Islam.  


In other cases, more knowledgeable members of the community organically spring up and take leadership roles. Either way, religious leadership is there.  


In this lesson, we’re going to look at some of the religious or clerical hierarchies that exist in Muslim communities, particularly Shia Muslim communities. In addition to the hierarchies, we’ll also look at the functions that clerics have in Islam in the day to day affairs of Muslims.  




“Are those who know equal to those who know not? It is only men of understanding who will remember” (Chapter 39, verse 9 of the Holy Qur’an) 


The Prophet Muhammad (s) once said: “ …Verily the Ulama (scholars/theologians) are the heirs of the Prophets, verily the Prophets do not leave behind gold nor silver (wealth), they only leave behind religious knowledge” 


There are various terms for clerics in Islam, here we’ll go over some of the more popular ones. 


Alim, pl. Ulema 


An Alim means someone who knows. The term is general and applies to all clerics or scholars regardless of the rank. In some cases however, Alim can be restricted to a highly learned scholar. As you can guess, there is no standard usage of the term except that it is used for clerics in general. 


Clerics in Islam are usually trained in special seminaries called Hawzas. A Hawza literally means a fountain, as in a fountain of knowledge. Clerics will spend 5 to 50 years studying in those seminaries. The two major seminaries or hawzas are in Najaf (Iraq) and Qum (Iran).  




The word ayatollah means “sign of God.” If taken literally, all of creation is a sign of God so in this sense calling someone an Ayatollah is not controversial at all, at least from a Qur’anic perspective. However, in Shia Muslim institutions, the word ayatollah has a specific meaning.  


The first rank that a person attains after studying for a few years in the hawza is Hujjat al-Islam (Proof of Islam) or someone who is an authority in Islam.  


The mid-ranking clerics (after having studied for a longer period) are called Hujjat al-Islam wa al-Muslimeen) which means someone who is an authority in Islam and an authority among Muslims.  


The higher ranking cleric, after having completed his studies, is called an Ayatollah.  


When an Ayatollah becomes sufficiently seasoned enough and is of very high caliber knowledge, he becomes a Marja or a source of legal emulation. A Marja is also an Ayatollah, but he is often referred to as Ayatollah al-Udhma meaning Greater Sign of God.  


The equivalent of an Ayatollah in Sunni Islam is a Mufti. 




A mujtahid is someone who is able to do ijtihad, in other words, as we saw before, it is someone who is knowledgeable enough and has gained enough mastery over religious sources to derive Islamic rulings on his own. A person who is a mujtahid is usually called an Ayatollah in Islam. 


 In previous decades, not all mujtahids would be considered Ayatollah. They had to spend over a decade teaching advanced level classes in Islamic law and jurisprudence and manage religious taxes. The term is a bit looser nowadays. 




Maulana means “our master.” It is a term of endearment to a cleric of any degree. The term is mostly used by South Asian communities. 




Remember here we are not talking about Imam as in the Imams of the Ahl al-Bayt (as), we’re talking about Imams as religious and clerical functionaries in Islamic centers. Imam means leader. In functionary terms, it is a term that is usually used for two kinds of clerics.  


The first refers to high ranking clerics, usually Ayatollahs who assume political leadership roles. The second meaning refers to clerics who are resident scholars of particular institutions or Mosques (Masjids). 


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Clerics play an important role in the Muslim community. Not everyone can become a scholar, or set the time to appropriately become experts in Islamic law. As such, we need to follow a Marja in order to quickly learn about our legal duties in Islam and get answers for pressing questions. As we saw in a previous lesson, the practice of following a Marja in issues of Islamic law is called taqlid.  


Before the internet, Muslims used to call or send letters to their Marjas. Marjas themselves, or their students, would respond to these emails. With the advent of the internet, things have radically changed. People can now send emails asking their questions to their Marjas. Answers usually don’t take too long to come. Most Marjas nowadays have their official websites, so if you have a Marja, take a look at his website if you haven’t already! 


Clerics in Islam play other functions as well. For many Muslims, they are the ones who marry us and divorce us when relationships go sour. They play important roles in educating the community about the basics of Islam.  


They are also important arbitrators. Like any other human community, conflicts happen between people, either between spouses, parents and children, or friends. Clerics play a critical role in Muslim communities in helping to resolve these conflicts.  


In order to find your local Imam, try searching it online. Most Mosques or Islamic centers tend to have a website and in that website the center’s email or phone number is available. Through using that contact info, you can easily get into contact with a resident Imam who can also offer the center’s religious services to you. 


Until Next Time, Thank you for watching. As-salāmu ʿAlaykum wa rahmatullāhi wa barakātuh 


 Someone who possesses knowledge, i.e. cleric. 


“Our master,” in reference to a cleric of any rank, it is a term usually used by South Asians 


“Sign of God,” a highly trained cleric who is a mujtahid 

Ayatollah al-Udhma

“greater Ayatollah (Sign of God),” another name for a Marja 


Islamic seminary where Muslim clerics are trained in Law 


If I want to ask a Marja questions about Islamic law, where do I go?

 You can visit his official website. Most Marjas have official sites where Q&A are emailed.


How can I contact my local resident Imam?

Most Islamic centers have websites where relevant contact info is provided.  



What are the major hawzas or seminaries in the world?

Najaf and Qum 


If I want to join the hawza, what can I do to enter it?

Contact your local Islamic center Imam, he may be able to arrange for you to be trained in a hawza, either within the country or abroad. 


Why are highly ranked scholars called Signs of God (Ayatollah), isn’t this a bit sanctimonious?

Clerics usually don’t refer to themselves as Ayatollahs, its usually the people who call them such. However, according to the Qur’an, all of creation is a sign of God so in this sense, there is nothing wrong or sanctimonious about the term.  

Ahl al-Bayt
salvation in Islam
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Hujjat al-Islam
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Ayatollah al-Udhmah
Shia community


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