In the path of the Imam (84)
In this episode, we are going to discuss Imam Khomeini’s behavior with the students of seminaries, especially his system of payment of tuition to them.
According to a religious tradition, the students who study in seminaries receive tuition from the Sources of Emulation in order not to face financial problems. This tuition is paid on the basis of the level of education. This tuition is maintained by the money gathered from alms giving, mainly in the form of Khoms and Zakat, and endowments. Thus, the government has no role in this. That’s why the Shia clerical structure has been independent of the ruling system throughout history. Since the early years of the advent of Islam, righteous and pious people have endowed large swathes of properties, including real states, gardens, farms, factories, shops, etc. to the seminaries so that they could use them for administration of those religious centers. These moneys are spent for education, teaching, research, propagation, management and relevant jobs. Of course, the money paid to the students is not sufficient for an ordinary livelihood. Therefore, the seminary students have to lead a very simple life and forget about many daily requirements let alone luxurious life. Payment of tuition to the seminary students is based on ayah 41 of surah Anfal of the noble Qur’an, part of which reads, “And know that whatever you gain, one fifth of it is for God and for the Messenger and for the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer.”
According to the jurisprudential terms, Khoms means one fifth of a person’s annual income that should be paid to the Imam of the Age and the descendants of Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) with special conditions. Of course, during the time of Imam Mahdi’s occultation, this money should be paid to Sources of Emulation.
Khoms consists of two parts: the share of Imam Mahdi and the share of Sādāt (descendants of the Prophet). Half of Khoms is spent for public usage such as research, teaching, propagation and promotion of religious sciences, establishment of seminaries, mosques and helping the poor, calamity-stricken people, and so on. The other half is spent for the poor among the descendants of the Prophet since it is religiously forbidden (Harām) to pay them charity (sadaqeh). Sources of Emulation spend part of the tuition to propagate and promote the religion and another part for training of specialists in religious fields and securing a portion of the students’ needs. Of course, this money is not paid to the students and ulema who work in a center affiliated to the government because they are paid by the government.
Imam Khomeini (God’s mercy upon him) was a great Source of Emulation who was very careful in spending tuition to the students of seminaries. In view of the Imam, being hardworking was a high criterion for payment of tuition. Thus, he used to give exams to volunteers and assign tuition for them as students. Late Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammadi Gilani said on this, “After the Imam came to Holy Najaf and started teaching Makāseb at Sheikh Ansari Mosque, he assigned tuition for students. Of course, this was done after giving exam by those who he had appointed. Those who could pass the exam would be accepted to receive the tuition. This examination program would cause students to study diligently.”
Paying tuition to those who were qualified was of high importance to Imam Khomeini. Hojjat-ol-Eslam Mohsen Saqafi says, “If Imam Khomeini realized that a student is interested in religious sciences, he would help him as much as he could, no matter if the student was in Qom or other cities; no matter if he knew him or not. If the Imam understood that the student was not able to make money due to studying, he would assist him in different ways or through his representatives or the emulators who gave him money.”
Imam Khomeini would react to those students who were not serious and hardworking in education. One of his reactions was to cut their tuition. Hojjat-ol-Eslam Seyed Abdul Hamid Iravani recounts a memory in this regard, “Imam Khomeini would choose different methods to encourage students and ulema to learn jurisprudence and attain high degrees. Sometimes, if someone was spending his time lackadaisically, the Imam didn’t like to give him tuition.”
Dear friends, Imam Khomeini believed that paying enough tuition to assiduous students was a way of strengthening seminaries. Therefore, he increased their tuition notably. Hojjat-ol-Eslam Seyed Ja’far Karimi says in this regard, “One day, Imam Khomeini called me and said, “The Ba’ahist government intends to dissolve the Najaf Seminary. Now, I consider it as my religious duty to do my best not to let this happen. One of the ways to do this is to embark on the situation of the students and increase their tuition.”
Hojjat-ol-Eslam Kharaqāni also said, “When Imam Khomeini came to Najaf, the tuition of students was very unfavorable and most of them were in poverty because the maximum tuition that they received was 2.5 Dinars. This was while the rent of a small house in Najaf was almost 2 Dinars. As the Imam came, the first tuition that he assigned was 3 Dinars. The next month it increased to 6 Dinars and later on it became 30 Dinars.”
Imam Khomeini used to ask about the condition of students, and if he was informed of a poor student, he would surely help him. Hojjat-ol-Eslam Mohammad Ebrahim Ansari Anaraki says in this regard, “The Imam was heedful of students, especially the young ones, and would enquire about their situation constantly. If they were needy, he would pay special attention to them; although he was under pressure by the regime and SAVAK. The Shah’s regime wouldn’t allow people’s money to reach the Imam, yet, he would do his best to help students.”