Born and Upbringing
Ayatollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini was born in one of the holiest cities in the Islamic world—Karbala, Iraq—in 1931 to a family well known in the Shia world for its knowledge, wisdom, and piety. His father, the grand Ayatollah Sayid Sadiq Al-Qazwini (shown to the right), was one of Iraq’s most popular and educated Mujtahids. As a distinguished and respected scholar, masses of people congregated to follow him in the daily prayers he led at the shrine of Al-Abbas (as). A void was left in the mosques of Iraq and the hearts of thousands of Muslims when Ayatollah Sayid Sadiq was captured by Saddam’s regime at the age of 80 and detained there indefinitely as one of the oldest political prisoners.
Ayatollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini was raised in a strong religious environment under the guidance of his virtuous parents who taught him to recite and understand the Qur’an from his infancy.
He began studying at the Hawza (seminary) in Karbala at the age of 12. Although completely immersed in his theological studies, he nonetheless continued his academic education studiously, and at the age of 17 was awarded by the Iraqi president of the time for being the top student in the country.
In his early teens, Ayatollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini began to learn the essence of speech under the guidance of his uncle, Ayatollah Sayid Saleh Al-Qazwini. By the age of 18, Ayatollah Al-Qazwini had reached a level of Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence) so prominent that he began to teach in the seminary of Karbala. By this time he had become such a well-known speaker that he often spoke in the shrine of Imam Al-Hussein (as) where thousands of people would congregate to be enlightened by his sermons.
Traveling for Propagation around the Arabic Espeaking World
In his early 20’s, Ayatollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini began traveling all over the Arabic-speaking world to lecture. Countries he visited included Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Dubai and other surrounding countries.
Ayatollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini also studied jurisprudence (Fiqh and Osool) under the most renowned scholars of this time, including Grand Ayatollah Imam Mirza Mahdi Al-Shirazi, Grand Ayatollah Imam Sayid Hadi Al-Milani, and Ayatollah Sheikh Ja’far Rashty. In his early thirties, he was certified by all of his teachers for having reached the highest level in Islamic education (jurisprudence) meaning Ijtihad. Thus, Ayatollah Al-Qazwini became a Mujtahid in the 1950’s. Furthermore, his eminence subsequently spent several years at Al-Azhar University of Egypt, where he studied the different perspectives of scholars and schools of thought with regards to the Al-Ja’fary school of thought.
Flee to Kuwait
Ayatollah Al-Qazwini had to flee his hometown of Karbala in 1970 because of the severe persecution against the Shia in Iraq. He fled to Kuwait and picked up where he left off in Iraq from delivering speeches to teaching jurisprudence classes to all the other religious guidance that he provided.
Services and Responsibilities
Ayatollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini founded the first modern, full-time Islamic school in Karbala, named “Imam Al-Sadiq School”, and presided as the principal for several years. In the 1960’s, he established and directed Al-Kitab Wal-Etra Institution for advanced religious studies in Karbala. As the director of this institution, he took on the task of developing and training speakers and scholars and dispatching them to all parts of Iraq. After Migrating to Kuwait, Imam Al-Qazwini also founded Al-Rasoolel A’dham College in Kuwait.
After the Islamic revolution in Iran, he served as a professor in Shaheed Motahari University in Tehran. Furthermore, his eminence taught in the Hawza (seminary) in Qum for several years. Ayatollah Al-Qazwini was also a supreme judge in the Islamic Republic’s judiciary system for many years appointed by Imam Khomaini. In Jamkaran, Iran, Imam Al-Qazwini led the jum’a prayers for a period of time. In the capital, Tehran, Ayatollah Al-Qazwini also led prayers at a well-known masjid named “Masjid Al-Qodos.”
His Emigration to US
In 1986, Ayatollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini migrated to the United States, where he established many more Islamic centers and institutions, and served as a spiritual leader to the entire Muslim community with his relentless efforts and services. In the States, he founded “Masjid Al-Zahra” in Los Angeles, where he led prayers and offered lectures and religious programs. He also founded “Imam Ali Islamic Center” in San Diego, which is currently directed by his son, Al-Alamah Sayid Mohammad Al-Qazwini, as well as another Islamic center and masjid, the “Islamic Educational Center of Orange County”, which is currently directed by his other son, Al-Alamah Sayid Mostafa Al-Qazwini. Ayatollah Al-Qazwini also established Assadiq Foundation, also in Los Angeles, directed by his oldest son Sayid Ali Al-Qazwini, which conducts various Islamic services. Imam Al-Qazwini founded and served as the religious leader for a full-time Islamic school, the “City of Knowledge,” which serves hundreds of students with an academic and Islamic education. He also provided the Muslim community of Los Angeles, both men and women, with a Hawza for basic Islamic studies, and always attentive to the needs of the youth, guided the establishment of the Muslim Youth Association of Southern California.
Return to Karbala
Upon the toppling of Saddam’s regime in 2003, Ayatollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini immediately returned to his hometown of Karbala, Iraq, where he was welcomed by thousands of people anxious to be guided under his strong leadership. Due to the request of the citizens of the holy city of Karbala Ayatollah Al-Qazwini became the Imam of the daily prayers at the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala. Along with leading the prayers, he conducts daily sermons and devotes his time to educating and guiding the Iraqi population, filling the void of Islamic knowledge that came about during the dictatorship of the corrupt regime of Saddam.