Al Hidayah’s 2014 Speakers

“It is He who sent down upon thee the Book, wherein are verses clear that are the Essence of the Book, and others ambiguous. As for those in whose hearts is swerving, they follow the ambiguous part, desiring dissension, and desiring its interpretation; and none knows its interpretation, save only God. And those firmly rooted in knowledge say, ‘We believe in it; all is from our Lord’; yet none remembers, but men possessed of minds.” 

                                                                                                                                              — al-Imran (3:7)


Sheikh Rizwan Arastu was born in the UK and moved soon afterward to the US. He completed all of his preliminary schooling in South Carolina, after which attended Princeton University where, in 1998, he received his Bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology along with minors in Near Eastern Studies and Education. He is also certified in high school and elementary education. He began his Arabic studies at the Middlebury College Intensive Arabic Program, and in the year 2000 headed to Qum, Iran to study at the Hawzah. Upon returning to the United States, he, in conjunction with several of his teachers back in Qum, founded the Islamic Text Institute, an organization that makes Islamic primary sources available to Muslims in the West by providing accurate, scholarly translations of important Shi’a texts.

Sayyid Sulayman Ali Hasan was born and raised in Western New York. While still in high school, he attended classes at the Hawza Ilmiyya in Medina, New York, after which he attended the University of Buffalo and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1997. Immediately after graduating from college, he went to Qum, Iran, to study at the Hawzah. In Qum, he studied the standard texts taught within the Hawza and proceeded to the advanced study of fiqh and history. During this time, he also taught several of the standard Hawzah texts and translated several books and articles into English. Sayyid Sulayman currently resides with his wife and two children in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, where he is completing his PhD from the University of Chicago in Near Eastern Civilizations and serving as the religious director of the Baitul Ilm Islamic Center.

Sister Zermina Awan was born and raised in England. Coming from a Shia-Sunni background combined with a passion to learn more about Islam motivated her to pursue formal Islamic education at Jamia tuz Zahra (sa) in Qum. She then went on to study for a post-grad in Politics and Religion at the University of Birmingham in England, while taking a year out to participate in an interfaith community organizing residency in the US. She now plans to continue with her hawza studies, and has recently enrolled for a Masters degree in Islamic Ethics.

Sheikh Hamza Sodagar is an American scholar raised in Washington, DC. He currently resides in Qum, Iran where he is in his seventeeth year of studies, specializing in Islamic Law and Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. He had attended the Dars al-Kharij of the renowned scholar, Grand Ayatullah Shubairi Zanjani and is presently spearheading the first ever hawza in Qom designed to cater to students from the West.