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An akhoond (akhund or akhwand) [1] (Persian: آخوند‎‎) is a Persian name for a Shi'i cleric, common in Iran, Azerbaijan and some parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Standard Chinese word for imam, Chinese: 阿訇; pinyin: āhōng), used in particular by the Hui people, also derives from this term.

Other names for similar Muslim clerics include sheikh and mullah.


  • Duty 1
  • Old usage 2
  • Use in personal names 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5


Akhoonds are responsible for leading religious services in a community. Akhoonds lead the prayers in the mosques, deliver religious sermons and perform religious ceremonies, such as birth rites and funeral services. They also often teach in Islamic schools known in Iran as a howzeh and in other countries as madrasa.

Akhoonds will usually have completed some studies (of varying levels) in a howzeh, studying various Islamic and non-Islamic subjects such as Sharia, fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Quran, and basic mathematics. They commonly dress in religious attire.

Old usage

This term was traditionally a slang term in Iran, and it has been completely a derogatory term since the Shah's efforts at westernization. Today in Iran it is almost invariably used as a term of insult, ridicule or disparagement. Ruhollah Khomeini used the term as an insult against those clerics that he considered hypocrites and misguided (mostly low-level seminarians who collaborated with the Shah, and unqualified, ignorant village preachers who falsified their own credentials). In Iran, they are also called mullah, molavi, sheikh, haj-agha or rohani. The word rohani means "spiritual, holy". Rohani is considered a more polite term for Muslim clerics, used by Iranian national television and radio and by devout Muslim families. Akhoond is increasingly outmoded in Iran, usually with only the older clerics having the title as part of their name. It has not been used widely as a title since the Qajar dynasty.

In Afghanistan, and among the Pashtuns of the Afghan-Pakistan border region, the term is still current in its original sense as an honorific.

Use in personal names

The Azerbaijani surname Akhundov (as in e.g. Mirza Fatali Akhundov) is formed from the word akhund.

See also


  1. ^ "Akhwand - Names Directory". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-20. 
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