Under Haeri, Qom moved from a respectable provincial Madrasah to a major center of learning close to the level of Najaf. Although “some of his contemporaries outshone” him as jurisconsults, Haeri became the marjafor “many religious Iranians.”
It is because of the efforts of Ayatollah Abdul Karim Haeri that Qom today has become the epicenter of Shia learning. In the year 1921, Ayatullah Haeri accepted the invitation of the people of Qom and came to Qom with his older son. Two months after his arrival, Haeri attended a meeting with respect to the formation of a hawza at the house of Ayatullah Paeen Shahri. The meeting involved businessmen, learned scholars and jurists including Ayatullah Bafqi, Ayatullah Kabir and Ayatullah Faiz. This meeting lasted for hours and the final outcome was delegated to Ayatullah Haeri. Ayatullah Haeri initially believed that the Hawza in Qom should be formed by the elders and residents of Qom. However, due to the intense persistence of the learned scholars, he accepted the responsibility on the following condition – he said: ‘I will perform an Istikhara on the basis that is it feasible for me to stay in Qom and invite the students and teachers who are waiting for my return to come here or not?’ Early the next morning, before leading the salaat-e-Fajr,Ayatullah Haeri reached for a Qur’an and stood in the Haram of Bibi Ma’sooma engaging in dua before performing the Istikhara. It is narrated that Ayatullah never used to do Istikhara by use of the Qur’an and he used to say that I don’t fully understand if the verse is good or bad. However, when he performed the Istikhara with relation to whether or not he should stay in Qom, he left everything in the hands of Allah, and when the verse of Qur’an was chosen: ‘Take this shirt of mine, and cast it upon my father’s face; he will regain his sight, and bring me all your folks,’4 Yusuf [12:93] it left him in no doubt as to where his future lay. He therefore immediately began the task of setting up of a Hawza and in the process wrote to all his former students in Arak to invite them to Qom.