The Bureaucratization Project in Qom Seminary: A Weberian approach

A Sociological Research on

The Bureaucratization Project in Qom Seminary:  

A Weberian approach

(Processes, challenges and barriers)


The full article of this research has been published in:  The Journal of Iranian Social Studies, Iranian Sociological Association, Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring 2013, (Special issue on Sociology of Religion).[1]

  • Author(s): Dr. Sara Mazinani Shariati, Mahdi Soleimanieh
  • Type of the text: Academic research
  • Academic field: Sociology
  • University: University of Tehran
  • Faculty: Social Sciences
  • Date: Spring 2013
  • Email of author: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.|This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This study based on the concept of "Latent function" of social action. Using the definition of bureaucratization concept from Max Weber, effort was made to show that recent developments of the Seminary, which are in the form “the Seminary evolution” project, are examples of such a process. Then, the negative consequences of this process were enumerated. And finally, some of the internal resistances of the Seminary against these changes were investigated.

A historical look at the bureaucratization project of the Seminary shows 4 great milestones in this process. These four milestones are:  

Firstly, the revival of the Qom Seminary by Ayatollah Haeri in 1922,

Secondly, the period of Ayatollah Borojerdi’s leadership from 1944 to 1961,

Thirdly, the Islamic revolution of Iran and the establishment of “the Council for the Management of Qom Seminary” in 1981,

Finally, travelling of Ayatollah Khamenei to Qom and the establishment of “the Supreme Council of Qom Seminary” in 1991.

By applying a Weberian approach, thirteen indicators which are signs and examples of bureaucratization in the recent evolutions in the Seminary are presented according to the investigation of the last texts from the theoretical and executive proctors of this project (Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi and Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbaah Yazdi). The discipline of matters by the sentences, regulations and administrative provisions, doing regular activities for required for the structural purposes and functions of bureaucracy, using qualitative scientific selection tools, considering the systematic regulations and predictions for the regular and continuous duties of the agents, considering general competencies for employing, establishing a system of administrative hierarchy with different levels of power, establishing an archive of written documents and personal files, the separation of administrative activities from the personal lives of the agents (reducing the power of the Beyts), the rational management of financial institutions, emphasis on specialist exams, certificating and issuing the importance of formal education certificates.

Considering this project bureaucratic, we enumerated its serious negative undesirable consequences for the Seminray. The important ones were a decrease in the charismatic aspect of the authorities of Shiite imitation (Marjas); and a decrease in the initiativity, creativity and individuality of students of the Seminary and being dependent on the governments and political power.

Finally, it must be noted that sociological analysis confirms that the Seminary educational system is a coherent and homogeneous totality and has a history, accumulation of meaning and more than a thousand years of historical memory. It needs change, development and evolution for its effective revival and for playing its role in the society with regard to the new social developments in Iran and the whole world.

But, it seems that there is a need to consider some points with regard to this change:

First, the changes should be according to the internal rationale of the Seminary. No development should contradict the main factors of the internal rationale of the Seminary. Trying to develop the Seminary with political or academic rationale will greatly damage the totality and positive points of the nature of the Seminary or even disturb its social functions, i.e. these changes should come from inside, not imposed from outside.

The second point is finding a balance point between the traditions and the internal dynamism of the Seminary: An optimum point for the active living of both the aforementioned factors. This balance point should be between discipline and personal freedom, between institutional factors and personal creativity. There might be a need to distinguish the main factors of the educational system of the Seminary (what is called the Mohkamaat in the Seminary and the Quranic studies) form its extrinsic factors; and all the internal development should take place with regard to keeping these main inherent factors; for example, this would not be a desirable change to if it includes internal control of the Seminary mechanism, backwardness, and  tendency towards instrumental motivations or scientific teachings deepening , and taking students’ freedom.

The third point is that the educational system of the Seminary is vulnerable to severe and uncontrollable bureaucratization due to some of its specific features such as being hierarchical, and having adherence and compliance values and being ideological. In the bureaucratization process of the Seminary, it should be kept in mind that in this atmosphere bureaucracy can create a massive fortress that crash all of its personal wills, academic freedom and academic talents of its agents and serve the managers who are careless about the tradition and historical memory of its power towards achieving its goals that can be in line with internal and inherent goals.

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