Shi'ite women's seminaries (howzeh-ye 'elmiyyeh-ye khahran) in Iran: Possibilities and limitations

Keiko Sakurai*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The establishment of Jami'at al-Zahra, the first official female seminary in post-revolutionary Iran, opened new possibilities for women to enter the male-dominated clerical hierarchy. The rapid growth of female seminaries increased the presence of seminary-educated women in the official religious sphere. However, as opposed to the male seminaries whose dominant role is to train mojtaheds who can issue a competent legal opinion, the primary role of female seminaries is to train educators and propagandists. Drawing on interviews, documents issued by seminaries and secondary sources, this paper concludes that in spite of the rapid growth of female seminaries, very few women reach the rank of a mojtahed, and thus, in no way weaken the male-centric seminary system in contemporary Iran.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-744
Number of pages18
JournalIranian Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Nov 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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