A sociological Study of Tollab; Students of Qom Shiite religious seminary

A sociological Study of TollabStudents of Qom Shiite religious seminary
(Typical sample of “Sat-h” level)



The main goal of this research is to find a “sociological” answer to the question: “what may we know about the lifestyles of young Iranian Shiite Tollab (clerical students in Islamic Shiite schools)?” I attempt to answer this question by posing other questions about the objective aspects of the Tollab’s everyday lives and attitudes.

The objective of this research, in its first step, is to deconstruct and breakdown common stereotypes regarding the homogeneity of the lifestyles of young Shiites studying to become clerics. This can help us to understand, among other factors, the plurality of their lifestyles, beliefs, and motivations. This research also intends to produce some contextual methodological hypothesis for future quantitative sociological research in this field.

The methodological approach of this research is qualitative analysis. Semi-structured deep interviews, structured observations, and document/content analysis were adopted during the data-collection phase. In analyzing the gathered data, grounded theory and typology (by applying the “constructed typology” of Howard Becker) were employed.

The research is based on a sample of 12 individuals: nine young Tollab chosen through a theoretical sampling method, and three teachers and managers of Hawza. To gather first-hand field data, the researcher lived in the city of Qom for eight months discontinuously.

In the analysis, two distinct types of young Tollab were identified and reconstructed: “modernist” and “traditionalist.”Among the 40 variables researched, the two groups showed similar characteristics in 33 attributes, but differed in 7 respects: motivations in becoming clerics (comprised of two variables); age at time of marriage; the mechanisms of religious propagation; differences in the levels of skills and use of communication technology (e.g. email, weblog, satellite receiver, social network websites); the nature of their relationships with their wives; and attitudes towards their wives working outside the home.


Key words: Tollab, young Shiite clerical students, lifestyle, grounded theory, typology, bureaucratization project in Hawza, modernist type, traditionalist type, bureaucrat type.

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