Dars al-Kharij

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Ayatullah Jafar Subhani teaching Dars al-Kharij.

Dars al-Kharij (Arabic: درس الخارج) is the highest level of study in the Shi'ite seminary system.

Scope and Methodology

In this level of study, a student begins doing their own partial, guided Ijtihad with a teacher. The student is expected to begin analyzing legal sources and forming legal rulings of their own, and are supervised in this by a qualified religious jurist. Typical courses of dars al-kharij can last anywhere from seven to fourteen years, during which students study every aspect of Islamic law in as much detail as possible. When a teacher decides that the student has begun debating their points in the way of another religious jurist, the teacher may then give a permission to that student to begin doing ijtihad for themselves, and following their own rulings. Ultimately, dars al-kharij does not have any end. When a student has finished with the last chapters of Islamic law, they simply start all over again, re-evaluating all they learn. It is a life-long process that brings great joy to those who pursue it.

Most studies of dars al-kharij revolve around the book Urwat al-Wuthqa, one of the first modern compendiums of legal rulings. Scholars take each ruling, and then begin analyzing it. Sometimes hundreds of pages may be written on a single line within this text. The dars al-kharij of Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr, which is 1500 pages in long, only covers the first part of the book on ritual purity, a section which only takes about 15 pages in a small book of legal rulings. Interpretation of Qur'an, criticism of hadiths, philosophical analysis, and so forth, are all brought to bear on trying to determine the precise ruling for any given situation.

As the student progresses, they are gradually becoming a partial Mujtahid. Many students will follow their own opinions on the issues they have completed in dars al-kharij, while making recourse to a marja in the issues they have not studied.

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