Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini
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|Sayed Hassan Qazwini|
|Religion||Twelver Shia Islam|
|Institute||Islamic Institute of America|
|Other names||Arabic: السيد حسن القزويني|
16 October 1964 |
|Based in||Dearborn, Michigan - Dearborn Heights, Michigan|
|Period in office||1997 - Present|
Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini (Arabic: حسن القزويني سيد); born 1964 in Karbala, Iraq is the founder and leader of the Islamic Institute of America in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, one of the largest mosques in North America, representing the Twelver Shi'a branch of Islam. He is the son of Ayatollah Sayed Mortadha Al Qazwini.
Al-Qazwini's family is well known in Iraq and in the Muslim world. With the advent of the despotic Ba’athist regime in the late 1960s and early 1970s, al-Qazwini and other Shia scholars and clerics increased efforts to educate the masses to combat their depravity and brainwashing. Al-Qazwini’s father Ayatollah Sayid Mortadha al-Qazwini was among the leading scholars in spreading the word of Islam in Iraq and engaging in Islamic activism, helping to establish several Islamic schools and institutions, and serving as the principal of Imam Assadiq Islamic School in Karbala.
After several years, Saddam Hussein identified the al-Qazwini family as an ideological threat to his regime. Consequently, he started to pressure them to abandon their mission and to support his regime. In 1980, Sayid Hassan al-Qazwini’s grandfather, Ayatollah Sayid Mohammad Sadiq al-Qazwini, was arrested and imprisoned by Saddam Hussein because he did not support the Baathist regime. Amnesty International deemed him as the oldest political prisoner in the world at the time. Since then, the al-Qazwini family never heard from him, and it was not until a few weeks after the collapse of Saddam’s regime that they found documents verifying his death in Saddam’s prisons. Consequently, Al-Qazwini’s family was forced to flee Iraq and seek refuge in Kuwait.
In Kuwait, Al-Qazwini decided to pursue the path of his forefathers of becoming a scholar of Islam and religious leader. At that time, Iraq was at war with Kuwait. Therefore, at the inception of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Al-Qazwini immigrated to Iran along with his family. In 1980, Al-Qazwini joined the Islamic Seminary in Qom, Iran, the largest Shi’a seminary in the world. After twelve years of vigorous study, Al-Qazwini graduated in 1992 with in-depth knowledge of the fundamentals of Islamic jurisprudence and Qur'anic commentary. During his studies, he administered a prominent Islamic journal called “Annibras,” or The Eternal Light. The journal addressed many social, historical and Islamic issues. In addition, he authored two books: Meditation on Sahihain: A Critique of Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, and Prophet Mohammad: The Ethical Prospect.
Immigration to the United States
Al-Qazwini’s father immigrated to the United States in 1986, where he established several Islamic institutions and mosques. In 1994 he founded a full-time Islamic school which enrolled students from pre-kindergarten to twelfth grade. Realizing that there was a dire need for scholars and religious leaders in the United States, where Islam was in the crawling stage of development, al-Qazwini immigrated to the United States in late 1992 along with his family. He spent four years in Los Angeles, where he directed Azzahra Islamic Center, which was founded by his father, and conducted several Islamic Fiqh and various other Islamic classes.
In early 1993, Al-Qazwini was invited by the Islamic Center of America, oldest Shi'a mosque in the United States to be the guest speaker for the Arabic program during the upcoming holy month of Ramadhan, where the community in Dearborn, Michigan quickly found him responsive to their spiritual and religious needs. The Islamic Center of America asked him to join them the following year as their guest speaker during the holy month of Ramadhan and the first ten days of Muharram, commemorating the martyrdom of the beloved grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Imam Hussein.
Prior to Al-Qazwini’s visit to Michigan, he realized the importance of disseminating the message of Islam in North America in English, especially to the youth. While numerous scholars and religious leaders performed a good job reaching out to the Arabic speaking members of the community, the English-speaking generations needed someone who was capable of communicating with them, and Al-Qazwini devoted himself to learning and acquiring a fair grasp of the English language quickly.
In 1997 Al-Qazwini established residence in Dearborn, Michigan after the Islamic Center of America asked him to serve as scholar and religious leader. Al-Qazwini conducts Friday Prayer every week, delivering the first sermon in Arabic and the second in English, attracting a growing number of the younger English-speaking to religious events. He also performs an English presentation during the Sunday service, usually aimed at addressing of current issues affecting the local Muslim community as well as the global community at large.
Young Muslim Association
Realizing that the greatest energy and potential rested in the younger generation, Al-Qazwini founded the Young Muslim Association (YMA) in 1998, becoming its spiritual leader. This organization, affiliated with the Islamic Center of America, is aimed at educating Muslim-American youth, fostering leadership, and creating an environment in which they can actively and effectively channel their efforts in promoting Islam. In the first five years since its establishment the YMA has grown to be one of the largest Muslim youth organizations in North America. The YMA annually holds a thirty-day program during Ramadhan and a ten-day commemoration of the grandson of Muhammad, Imam Hussein. It also conducts an annual retreat during the summer, a Ramadan dinner, an Eid Al-Ghadeer dinner (which celebrates the day Muhammad appointed his cousin and son-in-law Imam Ali as his successor according to the Shi'a view), and numerous other educational activities throughout the year.
Since September 11 attacks, al-Qazwini has stepped up his efforts to act as an ambassador American Muslims, speaking at over a hundred churches, colleges and universities, hoping to dispel what he sees as common misconceptions about them. As Congressman John D. Dingell put it at the 108th Congress session after Al-Qazwini offered the prayer for the opening session:
Imam Qazwini has become a leading voice for Muslims in America. He has spoken movingly of the need for reconciliation, for tolerance, and for the recognition of our humanity. He has worked with leaders in both the Christian and Jewish communities to help bridge the differences and to dispel prejudice. His work has touched Muslim and non-Muslims alike, and his devotion to our State and our community of Dearborn has been recognized by the mayor, the governor, and by President [George W.] Bush.
Al-Qazwini has reminded numerous political leaders in America to cater to the Muslim communities. For instance, he has pressured the American leadership several times to speak out publicly against religious leaders who have repeatedly attacked Islam and Muhammad. The White House has invited al-Qazwini on several occasions to represent the Shia-Muslim community. Al-Qazwini has met with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as with then-Senator Barack Obama. He has also received invitations from the U.S. State and Defense Departments. He also made an appearance in the award-winning PBS-broadcast documentary Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet (2002), produced by Unity Productions Foundation.
Al-Qazwini is the author of American Crescent: A Muslim Cleric on the Power of His Faith, the Struggle Against Prejudice, and the Future of Islam and America. Rashid Khalidi of Columbia University wrote in The New York Times:
This book is many things. It is, first, a personal chronicle of Imam Hassan Qazwini’s own trajectory from Karbala, Iraq, where he was born in 1964, to exile in Kuwait and Iran, to Dearborn, Mich., where he currently heads the Islamic Center of America. Second, it is an argument for Qazwini’s variety of Shia Islam, rooted in Iraq and Iran and adapted for America. Finally, it is a political statement — in fact, two of them — a plea for Muslim Americans to immerse themselves in the life of the United States while simultaneously deepening their identification as Muslims, and also for a particular outcome in Iraq, where Qazwini’s father, a leading ayatollah, is Imam of the mosque of Imam Hussein in Karbala. 
- Warikoo, Niraj. "Imam Al-Qazwini plans new mosque to educate about Islam" (Archive). Detroit Free Press. September 22, 2015.
- His Official Website
- Young Muslim Association
- Islamic Center of America
- American Crescent
- Rolling Stone Review
- CNN Interview
- 60 Minutes Interview Analysis
- ITVS Interview
- NPR Interview
- NPR Interview 2
- Fresh Air Radio Interview
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