By Hawraa Beydoun
Unis Middle School
As one of the best-known imams in the country, Sayyed Hassan Al-Qazwini often is asked to explain his religion to other people. He knows that the questions sometimes come from people who are fearful of Muslims because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the war on terror that followed.
“What does the word “Muslim” mean?” he says. “It means peace.” “Islam does not support or believe in violence. A true Muslim is the one that keeps people safe…..Religion has nothing to do with wars. All religions promote peace. It’s people that take advantage of these religions sometimes to kill.”
As Al-Qazwini explains it, just because people call themselves Muslims, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are Muslims. He believes that people are not Muslim if they don’t love people and want to help people with whatever they happen to need. He also spoke of Timothy McVeigh, an American terrorist who set off a bomb in a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168 and injuring more than 600. McVeigh was raised Catholic and sited ethical and quasi-religious motivations for his actions.
“Ignorant people that call themselves Muslim or Christian can cause harm,” Al-Qazwini said.
Al-Qazwini has wanted to be a religious leader since he was five or six years old. He just thought that that would be the best choice for him. Al-Qazwini’s family is a very well known in Iraq and the religous world. His father is a famous religious leader in Iraq, Ayatollah Sayid Mohammad Sadiq Al-Qazwin. You can watch him on TV while he reads Qu’ran.
Sayyed Hassan Al-Qazwini is the spiritual leader of one of the biggest mosques in the United States, the Islamic Center of America, which is located on Ford Road in Dearborn. In 1980, Al-Qazwini joined the largest Shia seminary in the world. He spent 12 years studying there, graduating in 1992 with deep knowledge of Islamic scripture and the ability to deliver beautiful Qu’ran commentary.
As a prominent Muslim leader in America, Al-Qazwini has been to the White House three times to advise with three presidents: Barrack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Al-Qazwini said that he loves his job because everything that he does has to do with people and he loves to help people and be with them. There isn’t anything that he dosnt like about his job. Al-Qazwini travels to lots of places to give speeches. When he went to Congress, he did a part of sallah prayer with the people at Congress. He also is friends with many Detroit area religious leaders, including Father Jeffrey Day, who is specially assigned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit to work on interfaith relations.
The Islamic Center sits between two large churches, which use the mosque’s parking lot during their holidays. The mosque uses their parking lots on special occasions. All three of the religious institutions are good friends.
Speaking to students from Unis Middle School on their recent visit to the Islamic Center, Al-Qazwini counseled them to avoid popular music with violent or sexually suggestive lyrics. “It hypes you up and you can do stupid things. It’s like a drug,” he said. “But classical music is OK.”
He also urged the students, who are almost all Muslim, to be good ambassadors for their religion. “Defend your religon when people question you,” he said. “They do not know Muslims.”