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Monday, July 29, 2013

U.S.-born Islamic scholar hopes to encourage Muslim youth in struggle for religious identity

Mohammed Al-Saadi 3.jpg
Mohammed Al-Saadi, the guest lecturer for the second half of Ramadan 2013 at the Alabama Islamic Education Center of Al-Zahra, lectures from the minbar of the prayer hall. The banner behind him spells the names of the Fourteen Infallibles, the daughter and sons and grandsons of the Prophet Muhammad. Shi'a Muslims honor the leadership of the natural lineage of Muhammad as the first authority on Islam, while Sunni Muslims honor the lineage of the elder of the Islamic community. Both denominations affirm the supreme importance of being Muslim, not being Shi'a or Sunni. (Kay Campbell /

Kay Campbell |  
By Kay Campbell |
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on July 28, 2013 at 6:36 AM, updated July 28, 2013 at 6:37 AM

Mohammed Al-Saadi 1.jpgMohammed Al-Saadi will be lecturing at the Alabama Islamic Education Center of Al-Zahra in Huntsville, Ala., through the end of Ramadan, which this year will be on Aug. 8 or 9, 2013. (Kay Campbell /

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – The month of Ramadan can be a month of self-revolution for Muslims, says Mohammed Al-Saadi, the visiting scholar for the remaining two weeks of the month of fasting and study at the Alabama Islamic Educational Center of Fatemeh Al Zahra, Huntsville’s Shi’a Muslim congregation.

Al-Saadi will lecture at the mosque, at 8200 Memorial Parkway S.W. in Huntsville, Fridays at 1 p.m. prayers and nightly at 7 p.m. The lectures are followed by question-and-answer discussions. Visitors are always welcome, he said.

Al-Saadi, 26, and his wife are studying Islamic studies at the Islamic seminary in Najaf, Iraq. Al-Saadi, who was born and raised in the United States, is the son of parents who emigrated from Iraq to the U.S. He said he felt drawn to study Islam more deeply because he found, as an active member of the mosques his family attended, that he was being asked to speak.

“I realized I had become too active too soon,” Al-Saadi said Friday, July 26, 2013, speaking the prayer hall of the center after Friday noon prayers and before the evening prayers. “I realized that to do a good job of representing the faith to youth, I needed to educate myself first before educating others.”

Shi’a youth find themselves twice a minority in the United States, Al-Saadi said. First, of course, Muslims are a religious minority in the U.S., and often viewed with some suspicion by people who don’t know them. Second, within the Muslim faith, Shi’a Muslims are a much smaller minority than the majority Sunni. Layer on top of that that many Muslim youth are first-generation American children of immigrants, and they are dealing with a lot, Al-Saadi said.

“I try to help the youth focus on the importance of developing their Muslim identity without the full-fledged assimilation into the secular culture,” Al-Saadi said. “They should preserve their identity, know who they are, and be a practicing Muslim, not just a Muslim in name.”

“But they also need to be patient with the struggle of all that and be quick to seek help and counsel when they feel torn between their faith and the culture,” Al-Saadi said. “Many of the youth are pretty much struggling. After all, they are in a society that rewards them for not being Muslim.”
His lectures during Ramadan for the entire congregation will include the etiquette of fasting and the importance of referring to experts, not just personal opinion, in studying the Quran other Islamic texts.

“Muslims can use the month of Ramadan for a revolution of the self,” Al-Saadi said. “They can become better Muslims and better human beings.”

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