On Saturday 9th September 2017, coinciding with the auspicious event of Ghadeer Khum, the Hawza Ilmiyya of London held its opening ceremony for the 2017-18 academic year. Students and teachers from this Islamic seminary gathered in the Tabatabai Hall also to commemorate the event of Ghadeer Khum marking the day when Prophet Muhammad(s) in 632CE, the year of his demise, proclaimed Ali ibn Abi Taleb(a) as his successor at a place known as Ghadeer Khum located north of Makkah.
Guest speakers were Hujjatul-Islam Isa Jahangir, Principle of The Islamic College, Hujjatul Islam Seyyed Hashem Musavi, a visiting guest from Iran and Hujjatul-Islam Shomali Head of the Islamic Centre of England. The event was chaired by Hujjatul Islam Mirza Abbas, the administrator of the Hawza Ilmiyya of London. Also addressing the audience was Brother Ali, a senior student of the Hawza, who gave a short talk on the importance of Pre-Hawza studies, a programme of Islamic studies running every Saturday at the Hawza Ilmiyya.
In his address, Hujjatul –Islam Jahanghir congratulated all students and staff for their efforts during the last three years, which enabled the Hawza to grow. Analysing a tradition of Imam Ali(a), he explained how in the pursuit of knowledge students of the Hawza should also pay attention to the refinement of one’s character and manner. The tradition from Imam Ali(a) projected to the audience emphasised the interrelatedness between knowledge and good manners. “According to Imam Ali(a) the most important knowledge is the one that leads towards God. By acquiring this type of knowledge and with good and ethical behaviour towards others one can gain proximity to God”, said Hujjatul-Islam Jahangir. He further emphasised the importance of continued studies and research by quoting the endeavours of the great scholar Allamah Sheikh Abdul Hossein Amini, author of the 11 volume work ‘The Ghadeer in the Book, the Sunnah, and Literature’. He spent many years and travelled extensively in the pursuit of authentic knowledge.
Hujjatul Islam Seyyed Hashem Musavi was the next speaker to address the audience. He was on a short trip to London and students and teachers were happy to see him addressing the audience in the little time available. His talk was brief but to the point. He expressed his joy at being among students of the Hawza ‘who seek the knowledge of the Ahl ul Bayt and Qur’an, a knowledge that is useful both here and in the Hereafter’. Hujjatul Islam Musavi quoted a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad(s) stating that: The first part of acquiring knowledge is to know God and the last part is to submit all affairs to Him. He explained that between these two parts there is a connecting path upon which students not only have to embark but strive to remain on. He explained that to ‘submit to God’ has many meanings but one of them is to achieve a status when what pleases God becomes also what pleases us. This point was reinforced by quoting an exhortation from Imam Sajjad(a): “Don’t sell yourself for Paradise”, meaning that our good action should not be only for the purpose of ‘buying’ a place in Paradise but should conform with what pleases God, to attain God’s pleasure.
Hujjatul Islam Musavi exhorted all students especially freshmen to try to establish a special path in their lives and ask God to keep them on this path and be ready to give everything back to Him at the end.
Before the final address by Hujjatul Islam Shomali, awards for completion and recognition were given respectively to pre-Hawza and Hawza students.
Hujjatul Islam Shomali began his talk with a prayer for the London Hawza Ilmiyya to be a conduit of light, understanding, knowledge and wisdom, exhorting all staff to do their utmost to strengthen this noble institution. He explained that the focus of his talk would be on the importance of ‘rationality’.
Hujjatul Islam Shomali quoted a tradition from Imam Musa Kazim(a) told to one of his companions: “… O Hisham! For everything, there is a special sign. The sign of the intellect is reflection, and the sign of reflection is silence. And there is a carrier for everything and the carrier of the intellect is submission [to truth]. To commit what you have been forbidden to do [by God] is sufficient indicator of one’s foolishness….
He described having knowledge but not being able to process it properly as a downfall. He underlined the importance for the students of the Hawza to develop and utilise their intellectual capacities to correctly elaborate knowledge and come up with an understanding of what we are supposed to do, especially in the times in which we are living. He said that not only should we grow in knowledge but also in our rational faculties and wisdom to understand what should be the appropriate responses to the challenges of our time.
Hujjatul Islam Shomali explained that there are signs that tell us if we are developing our intellect. As per the above tradition, intellect is correlated to reflection, a state of contemplation. It follows that the more one is in contemplation the more silent he/she will be. He explained that the sign of thinking and contemplation is silence as thinking engages your mind leaving no room for irrelevant words.
Referring to the third part of Imam Kazim’s(a) tradition (And there is a carrier for everything and the carrier of the intellect is submission [to truth]), Hujjatul Islam Shomali explained that submission means humility as without it our intellect grows in its ego rather than searching for truth. He said that progress in Hawza studies is measured also in relation to one’s growth in humility. He warned students and scholars of the danger of arrogance. The transformative power of knowledge can lead us into two opposing directions; therefore, the cultivation of humility alongside knowledge is a must.
Following on the tradition of Imam Kazim(a), he exhorted all not to fall prey to flattering praises that make us believe that we are special but rather to conduct introspective self-evaluation. He also cautioned the students to be careful about those who try to dissuade them from undertaking Hawza studies because they consider them to be anachronistic and of little use. Knowing the worth of this path and truly acknowledging it is like a ‘precious pearl’ in our hand which should help us from wanting to give up after a few months. He added that students of the Hawza should reflect on the fact that they have been given access to a very special treasure that cannot be replaced by anything else.
The programme concluded with the recitation of some poetry and eulogies about the event of Ghadeer Khum.