A few years ago I wrote about the knowledge of the Talmud among the scholars of the Shia intellectual center in Qom, Iran. The Forward has been publishing a series of articles by Larry Cohler-Esses based upon his recent visit to Iran. The most recent installment is titled Reading the Talmud in a Most Unlikely Place-Iran’s Holy City. Here is how the article begins:
The Shia holy city of Qom teems with mosques, mullahs and madrassas. So, it was a little surprising to hear Qom religious scholar Hossein Soleimani’s response when I asked him to name his favorite writers. “Adin Steinsaltz, for his translation of the Talmud,” he responded promptly. “And also Martin Buber.” Soleimani was one of several senior faculty members from Qom’s University of Religions and Denominations whom I met during my recent visit to Iran. Soleimani’s field is comparative religions, and he is affiliated with the school’s center devoted entirely to Judaic studies. Soleimani’s area of specialty is the study of sects in Jewish history — especially during the talmudic period, from about 70 B.C.E. to 500 C.E. Another area of interest, he said, is corporal punishment in the various religions. “I’m a criminologist,” he said, “so I’m studying crime and punishment in Judaism. Right now, I’m translating a book on criminal justice in Judaism — An Introduction to the History and Sources of Jewish Law. The book, with several authors and editors, is published by Boston University.
The classic work that describes the intellectual training of Shia scholars is Roy Mottahedeh’s The Mantle of the Prophet. Vali Nasr’s The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future also addresses this subject.
The entire article from the Forward can be found here.