An akhoond (akhund or akhwand)  (Persian: آخوند) is a Persian name for a Muslim cleric, common in Iran, Azerbaijan and some parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Chinese word for imam, 阿訇 (Pinyin: ahong), used in particular by the Hui people, also derives from this term. Other names for similar Muslim clerics include Shaykh and Mullah.
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 hozeh and in other countries as a madrassa.
Akhoonds will usually have completed some studies (of varying levels) in a madrassa, studying various Islamic and non-Islamic subjects, such as Sharia (Islamic law), Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), Qur'anic studies, and basic mathematics. They commonly dress in religious attire.
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. Ironically, Ayatollah Khomeini himself used the term "Akhoond" 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' or 'holy'. 'Rohani' is considered as a more polite term for Muslim clerics, used by Iranian national television and radio, and by devout Muslim families. The term "Akhoond" in Iran is increasingly outmoded, usually with only the older clerics having the title "Akhoond" as part of their name. It has not been used widely as a title since the Qajar era.
In Afghanistan, and among the Pashtun tribes of the Afghan-Pakistan border region, the term is still current in its original sense as an honorific one.
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Use in personal names
- Clericalism in Iran
- Kyai, similar term in Indonesia
- Hadhrat Molana Pir Fakir-u-llah Bakoti
- Islamic term