The Latino Muslim Voice
The April-June 2008 newsletter features:
Quotes of the Month
¿Quién es Al-láh?
¿Quién es Al-láh?
Por Dr. Y. Mansoor Marican, Ph.D.
¿Es Al-láh el dios de los musulmanes?
¿Porqué no hay ningun
Al-láh se refiere como “Él.”
¿Hay otros nombres para Al-láh?
¿Quién creó Al-láh?
¿Tiene Al-láh un hijo?
¿Hay otros dioses para
¿Necesita Al-láh un día de descanso?
¿Es Al-láh el dios de Jesús?
Si Al-láh es compasivo,
Si Al-láh es misericordioso, entonces
Señor de la Creación
Al-láh es el señor de todas las
Todo en la creación lo
La fe de musulmanes es Islam. Significa
Al-láh está más allá del asimiento de la visión
Por eso, cuadros o cualquier fabricación
No es una persona
Cuando un individuo hablas, las palabras
El equivalente hembra para 'dios' es
El Todopoderoso se llama “Al-láh”
Oh, también, ¡el Todopoderoso no es un
Cualidades de Al-láh
Algunos libros refieren a los “99 nombres” de
Al-láh se refiere como Misericordioso,
Al-láh es Eterno
Al-láh es eterno. No fue creado. Él
Al-láh no tiene un hijo o ayudantes. Si Él
¡Nada es como Él!
El Creador no puede ser de la misma
Al-láh existió antes del principio
La noción que el Todopoderoso necesitó un
¡Son los que no estaban allí en la
Las cosas creadas se cansan.
El único Dios verdadero
Al-láh es el nombre propio y único del Dios
Entre los profetas más bien conocidos
El Más Compasivo
Nuestro sufrimiento es causado por
Hay tiempos cuando, por ejemplo, no
Dios sabe mejor. Solo podemos
El Más Misericordioso
En el Corán, el Todopoderoso dice que Él
Muchos dirán que también creen en el único
El Todopoderoso declara en el Corán que Él
Traducción por Shafiq Alvarado.
Organización Islámica para América Latina
Latino Conversion to Islam...
Latino Conversion to Islam: From African-American/Latino Neighbors
By Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani
In recent times, there has been a sudden increase of Latinos converting to Islam, both in the United States and within Latin America. This phenomenon has even reached the attention of some within the media. Despite an increase of Latino Muslims, there has not been (for the most part) a great effect to call the Latino population to Islam. Indeed, Muslims have a long way to go in when it come to calling Latinos to Islam. For those Muslims in the U.S. who are concerned with da`wah (calling to Allah), there are many unanswered questions as to how or why there has been an increase in the number of Latino Muslims. Chief amongst these unanswered questions is, “Under what factors and environment does Islam thrive?” While thinking of ways and approaches to better facilitate conversion to Islam, one is forced to ask himself/herself, “Why do Latinos convert to Islam?” One method of analysis that can be used to attempt to begin to answer some of these questions is the social sciences approach.
In this essay, I have tried to use the social sciences methodology of analysis to help better understand these processes which are taking place on a societal level to try to understand Latino conversion to Islam. Better understanding the factors that have lead Latinos to accept Islam at certain times and places can help assist Muslim du`aat (callers), organizations, masjids, and daw`ah groups to better facilitate the process of Latino conversion to Islam. This essay is an attempt to try and answer some of these unanswered questions. This however is just a beginning step to try and answer some of the important questions related to Latino conversion to Islam.
I will give a brief description of the history of Latino conversion. My analysis is based primarily upon my own personal and intimate knowledge and understanding of the history of Latino Muslims in New York. This understanding has broadened after coming in contact with the Latino Muslim community of Union City, New Jersey. I came in contact with the latter community in 2006. I have also come into contact with Latino Muslims in Puerto Rico in 1999 and 2006. Moreover, I have been in contact with Latino Muslims in the United States and throughout the world through the medium of the internet. However, it was after several visits to Union City that it became apparent to me that there are new factors leading Latinos to Islam. Thus, Latino conversion seems to have occurred in five key areas. These five areas are: (1) Puerto Rican/African-American interactions, (2) the internet, (3) Latinos living among immigrant Muslims, (4) prisons, and (5) marriage. The first three areas are time-based; the first occurred from the 1960s until the mid-1990s; the second phase began in the mid-1990s and continues until the present; and the third area began in the post-9/11 era. The last two areas are not based upon any particular period of time.
In this article, I have used the term 'phase' or 'era' when referring to the first three time-based areas. The use of these terms is most appropriate to divide these periods. I chose to use time as an appropriate way to divide these shifts. That is since like any other phenomenon phases, or periods of time do not necessarily have an easy point of demarcation. In other words, one phase may overlap into another phase. The mid-1990s and post-9/11 are significant points in time in which to express the major shift of conversion in the Latino community for the time-based sections of my essay.
II. PUERTO RICAN/AFRICAN-AMERICAN INTERACTIONS
The first area and phase touches upon the first Latinos who converted to Islam. Those Latinos who converted were mostly Caribbean Latinos – namely Puerto Ricans in the New York City area. The majority of the younger generation of Puerto Ricans of the 1960s were U.S. mainland-born and English-dominant. At the time, the Puerto Rican community was coming of age. Furthermore, Puerto Rican barrios and colonias (colonies) in New York City were not exclusive Latino communities, but tended to have large populations of African-Americans living within these same communities. The younger generation of Puerto Ricans was quite familiar and at home with the issues affecting African-Americans and shared much of the same concerns (such as racism, discrimination, housing, education, prisons, and poverty). There was a high level of intertwining and intermingling of traditional Caribbean Hispanic and African-American cultures amongst young Puerto Ricans. This can be seen in the Puerto Rican musical creations of the era, such as in the musical genres of Latin soul, Latin boogaloo, and even salsa.
Politically, the greatest influence on these young Puerto Ricans was the Black Consciousness movement of the 1960s and 1970s. It helped to spark a Puerto Rican movement in the 1960s and 1970s. In that era, conversion to Islam for Latinos, as with African-Americans, was a continuation of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. (See Imam Al-Amin's Revolution by the Book). These movements were not unfamiliar to Puerto Ricans in New York, and many of them were at the forefront of these movements. In addition, Puerto Ricans and African-Americans shared many commonalities and shared spaces in neighborhoods, parks, schools, prisons, and nightclubs. They are both, “New York's quintessential resident minorities.” (Rivera, 45). That is not to say that all was harmonious between the two communities, however, there was more in common than there was different. Nonetheless, there was also a common historical connection to Africa. This is due to the fact that Puerto Rican culture has many of its roots within African culture. This is as a result of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, when many African slaves (or runaway slaves from neighboring islands) came to Puerto Rico. (For more on African roots as part of the foundation of Puerto Rican culture, see José Luis Gonzalez' “El Pais de Cuatro Pisos”).
The first Latinos who became Muslims were mainly Puerto Ricans in New York. Prior to accepting Islam, a sizeable amount of Puerto Ricans had taken part in such groups as the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X's (Malik Ash-Shabazz) group, The Five Percent Nation, the Black Panther Party, and the Young Lords Party. These groups can be seen as pre-cursers or (to borrow a term from Sherman A. Jackson) “Islamizers” to Islam. (Jackson, 28). The Young Lords Party, unlike all the other organizations mentioned, was a Latino-dominated organization. The Young Lords Party was originally part of the former Chicago gang-turned-political organization known as the Young Lord Organization. It was the culmination of the Black Consciousness Movement, the Students' Movement, and the Puerto Rican Independence Movement.
Due to the close proximity of Puerto Ricans to African-Americans – culturally, politically, racially, and most importantly demographically – Latinos began to learn about Islam. This is an important point that cannot be overlooked. Puerto Ricans actually lived next to African-Americans in many parts of New York City in such neighborhoods as East Harlem, the South Bronx, the Lower East Side (Loisaida), Hell's Kitchen, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Bushwick. In fact, Puerto Ricans in New York live in closer proximity to African-Americans and have closer ties to them than any other Latino community in the country. With the movement of Islam (and pseudo-Islamic groups) among African-Americans, in this era, it was only inevitable that Puerto Ricans would also become Muslim. This reality may explain why the oldest Latino Muslim group, Alianza Islamica, was started by Puerto Ricans in New York and not by other Latino in another part of the country.
For Puerto Ricans in New York City, Islam was an outgrowth and product of the era of change and struggle from which they and African-Americans participated. Besides the political and cultural factors, history played a big role in informing these early Latino Muslims about a Muslim past coming from two lines of Puerto Rican heritage, namely Africa and Spain. As far as the conversion of Latinos in other parts of the United States, such as in California and Texas, the author does not know how far back conversion can be traced. The Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s may have had a similar effect on the Latinos from the Southwest. However, that is something to be further explored.
The first area and phase of Latino conversions also took place chiefly in the 1960s and 1970s. There was somewhat of a continuation of this movement in the 1980s and 1990s, but it was not as pronounced it was in the two preceding decades. Those Latinos who came to Islam in this later period looked towards the movements of the 1960s and 1970s with a sense of pride and honor. Those who converted in the 1980s and 1990s may or may not have participated in the then-defunct organizations of the former period. The 1980s and 1990s saw the rise hip-hop, the direct descendant of the Civil Rights, Black Power, and the wider Black Consciousness movements of the 1960s and 1970s. It played a huge role in the conversion of Latinos in the short-lived Consciousness Movement (not to be confused with the Black Consciousness Movement) within hip-hop in the late 1980s. The fact that Puerto Ricans were co-founders of hip-hop is also very relevant to my analysis.
Looking at the role of Puerto Ricans in hip-hop can give us much insight into the rifts and widening gap between Latinos and African-Americans in the post-Black Consciousness period. It may also be argued that the Consciousness Movement within hip-hop could have also ostracized Latinos away from hip-hop. During the late 1980s, Puerto Ricans had been written out of hip-hop's history. (For more on New York Puerto Ricans' role in early hip-hop, see Raquel Rivera's New York Puerto Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone). The Consciousness Movement within hip-hop espoused an African-American urban identity and had no room for Latinos. With the rise of Gangsta Rap in the 1990s, hip-hop exposed and glorified a ghettoistic identity. Newly arriving Latinos and those already living within the U.S. who wanted to get ahead in life would not look towards hip-hop (in this new form) as a good model for progress and self-development. This stigma attached to hip-hop, and by extension African-American culture, was a model that was seen as one not to emulate if one wanted to become successful in the U.S. By extension this stigma, therefore led to a stagnation of Latino conversion to Islam. Islam even within the African-American community was no longer seen as a way of life that African-American youth wanted to embrace. The lifestyle of Dr. Dre and not Malcolm X was the one that African-American youth aspired to emulate. Gangsta Rap had a devastating effect on the African-American community. The glorification of ghettoism (in all negative senses of the term) has led many young African-Americans to not look beyond the ghetto and progress within life. Unfortunately, African-American culture became synonymous with ghettoism. Both African-American youth and those outside of the African-American community viewed ghettoism as the only authentic expression of African-American culture, as opposed to the vast shades of expressions of African-American culture that truly exists.
III. THE INTERNET
The second area and phase of Latino conversion to Islam began during the mid-1990s. In this phase, Latino conversion was a direct result of the explosion of the internet. With this explosion, many Latinos have gotten connected to other people around the world. Latinos were no longer living within their own isolated worlds of New York, California, Mexico City, San Juan, Buenos Aires, Bogotá or Caracas. Prior to having access to the internet, they may have never met a Muslim; but now they were in communication with Muslim peoples through the medium of the internet. This communication was not exclusive to cross-border communication but also included intra-border communication. For example, a Latino from San Antonio, Texas could now easily meet a Muslim from Dearborn, Michigan, as a result of this new medium. This evidences to the fact that two individuals from two different communities within the continental United States could meet, exchange ideas, and share each others culture. Latinos communicating to Muslims took place both within the United States and between Latin America and the Muslim World. Due to this new medium of communication, more people had greater access to information about Islam and Muslims. The technological age and global exchange continues until the present. The internet still tends to be a principal medium and factor which has led many Latinos to Islam in the U.S. and Latin America. Within the Latino Muslim community new groups arose to accommodate these new Muslims within this space. The Yahoo! group Latino American Dawah Organization (LADO) is a prime example of Latino Muslims who banded together to speak about Islam on a national and even international level. (See http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LADO/ or http://www.latinodawah.org/ for more information on this group).
IV. LATINOS LIVING AMONG IMMIGRANT MUSLIMS
After September 11, 2001, many Latinos wanted to learn more about Islam. This leads us to the third area or factor to consider in Latino conversion to Islam. That horrible event had led many to go out and speak to Muslims and/or go to the internet searching for answers. This phase (as well as the second one) also saw a greater diversity in the ethnic, national, and racial background of Latinos converting to Islam. In the post-9/11 period, we also saw the increase of non-Puerto Rican Latinos coming to Islam. Formally Puerto Ricans from New York had dominated Latino Islam. Ironically, in the post 9/11 period, New York Puerto Ricans seem to be the least affected among all Latino groups by this new wave of conversion. I would even argue that although New York Puerto Ricans (by this I mean those born and/or raised in New York, even if no longer living there) were once the main Latinos converting to Islam (and truly pioneers) they are now the least likely to convert to Islam. There is also no longer a Latino Muslim organization that is dominated by Puerto Ricans. This era also saw the decline and eventual dissolving of Alianza Islamica, a Muslim organization that early New York Puerto Rican Muslims helped establish.
Although the earliest Latino converts to Islam were Puerto Ricans, the whole nature of the lifestyle in New York and the country has changed drastically since the 1960s and 1970s revolutionary era (discussed earlier in the first phase). Nowadays, what we see is that Islam is not as strong in the African-American community, as it once was in the 1970s. This has had a spill-over effect on the Puerto Rican community. There seems to be a short-term memory amongst Puerto Ricans that cannot remember that in the recent past there was a sizeable number of Puerto Rican Muslims amongst them.
During the post 9/11 phrase, many Latinos coming to Islam live near Muslims or know at least one Muslim. The immigration of Muslims after the immigration reform of 1965 has led to the formation of large immigrant Muslim communities. In our times, the primary contact that Latinos have come to Islam is through their interaction with Arab and Pakistani/Indian Muslims. In places like New Jersey, Latinos share neighborhoods with Arabs. Latinos live with and amongst Arabs in many places. Latinos interaction with Arabs has led to conversion in such places as Sunset Park, Brooklyn; Union City, New Jersey; and Puerto Rico. While in other places as Queens, New York and Chicago, Illinois there are a lot of Latinos interacting with Muslims from the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent.
In the post-9/11 period, most Latinos have come to learn about Islam primarily from their interactions with immigrant Muslims and not from African-Americans. This phenomenon can be seen with the rise of Latino Islam in cities such as Union City, New Jersey which has had large numbers of Latinos converting to Islam. There are also many new non-Puerto Rican Latinos within New York City converting to Islam. As stated earlier, some of these Latino communities, such as in Queens, New York, live in close proximity to Muslims – especially those from the Indo-Pakistani subcontinent. A parallel development is the fact that New York City is currently seeing a decrease in the population of Puerto Ricans. The relationship between New York Puerto Rican migration away from New York to other parts of the country (such as Florida) and the decrease in Puerto Rican conversion is yet to be explored. Nowadays, those who are converting to Islam are not, for the most part, New York Puerto Ricans. The fact that many Puerto Rican Muslims have moved out of the city and that there is not a stable epicenter for Puerto Ricans is one factor, however there may be many other reasons for this lack of conversion among Puerto Ricans. The question of Puerto Rican conversion to Islam with the greater study of Latino conversion must keep in mind that, “[t]his momentous pan-Latinization over the course of a single generation make is necessary to rethink the whole issue of Puerto Rican culture and identity in the United States.” (Flores, p. 142).
The fourth area of Latino conversion is conversion in prison. This area and the last one are not restricted to any particular time period. However, there is some relationship to various points in time which will be discussed. Prison conversion tends to also be an area that is exclusive to male Latinos. Latino conversion to Islam in prison, to a large degree, depends upon the level of exposure Latino have had to Islam in prison. It, like the first area of Latino conversion discussed earlier, is closely related to relations between Latinos and African-Americans. These relations have had ups and downs in various places and at various times throughout the United States. Two factors are relevant to this factor of conversion: (1) African-American have been and still are the largest ethnic group of Muslims within the United States; (2) African-Americans and Latinos statistically make up the largest ethnic groups within the United States penal system. These two factors have to be considered for a full understanding of Latino conversion in the United States.
Latino conversion to Islam has been higher when Latino and African-American shared struggles have been higher. The mere shared sense of oppression does not necessarily help for good relations between the two ethnic groups. It is when there is a level of consciousness amongst Latinos and African-Americans having a shared lot within side the prison walls that Islam can be studied and explored by Latinos. Perhaps the highest point of time for Latino conversion was when there was a united front around prisoner's struggles and rights during the 1971 Attica Correctional Facility riot in upstate New York and the 1971 San Quentin State Correctional riot in California. These riots were the result of a shared struggle. Prior to these uprisings, both African-Americans and Latinos suffered from inhumane treatment by White correctional officers. At the time, indiscriminant killings were quite common. African-Americans and Latinos struggled just to stay alive. Some of the thirty-one demands of the leaders of the Attica riots were gains for all African-American, Latinos, and Muslims in prison. It was after this historical event that Muslims were given some of the most basic rights in prison.
There are many cultural similarities that can be considered for this area of Latino conversion that are not dissimilar to the first area discussed in this essay. While during the late 1960s and 1970s there were many ties between African-Americans and Latinos both on the streets of New York City and inside the prison system of New York State; this was not the case in places such as Chicago and California, for example. In the latter places mentioned, Latino/African-American ties were not as strong “on the outside” as they were “in the inside” of prison walls. So how can we account for Chicano conversions during the period the 1960s and 1970s time of Civil Rights struggles? Whereas Latino conversion in New York at this time was an extension of African-American/Latino coalitions and ties on the streets, Latino conversion by Chicanos was an anomaly of the situation (for the most part) on the streets. The situation of the shared situation in prison forced Latinos and African-Americans to become more united against a common nemesis (i.e., racist White prison guards and a racist prison industrial complex). This area of shared struggle has lead to and allowed Islam to spread among Chicanos, and it has also led to conversion at various times among many different Latino nationalities throughout the country.
Another example of an African-American and Latino front that had prison roots is the “Rainbow Coalition” of Chicago in the late 1960s and 1970s. This was a coalition between the Black Panthers, an African-American group; the Young Lords Organization, a Puerto Rican group; and the Young Patriots Organization, a White group. The Young Lords originated as a Puerto Rican gang, but became politicized when its leader, José “Cha-Cha” Rodriguez was imprisoned. During his imprisonment he met the leader of the Chicago chapter of the Black Panthers, Fred Hampton. It was after discussions with Fred Hampton that Chi-Chi decided to transform his gang from a criminal organization to a political one for the betterment of his community.
While good relations between Latinos and African-Americans has had a positive effect upon Latinos converting to Islam, conversely decreased relations between Latinos and African-Americans has lead to a decreased Latino conversion or the non-existence thereof. This was the case during the late 1980s in the New York State prison system. At the time, relations between African-Americans and Latinos in the urban centers were at one of the lowest they have ever been. Competition for resources, increased schisms between the two groups, and “scrounging for crumbs” from the government were not an isolated situation for “the outside,” but this bad state of affairs spilled over into the prison communities of the state. Latinos in prison not only felt oppression from “the man,” but they were also being greatly wronged by African-Americans. To further compound the problem, not only did African-American enjoy a higher status in the prison social hierarchy, but African-American Muslims or African-American pseudo-Muslims were at the very top. Many Latinos looked upon Islam as a “Black thang” (i.e., an exclusively African-American religion) that had not place for Latinos. African-Americans in the prison system professed a more narrow vision of Black Nationalism (read African-American nationalism). This narrow vision was quite different from the more Pan-African Nationalism or Third-World Consciousness movements that made room for Puerto Ricans or other Latinos in the 1960s and 1970s.
The terrible relations between Latinos and African-Americans at that time even promoted the spread of the Latin Kings gang in the New York State penal system, which further compounded the situation between the two groups. The Latin Kings came about as an organization for protection of Latinos from African-Americans injustices. (Brotherton and Barrios, 97-98). After spreading throughout New York State prisons, it spread to the streets of New York. Despite a less hostile (though not that less hostile) state of affairs between African-Americans and Latino “on the outside,” the situation was not nearly as brutal. Nonetheless, during this time, Islam was far from being considered a viable option for many Latino males who were at one time “locked up” in prison.
Despite the type of situation at that time in New York, the relatively good treatment (or perceived thereof) of African-American Muslims or pseudo-Muslims in relation to other inmates has also had a slightly positive effect upon Latino conversion. Muslims in the prison system tended to eat better and have a more tightly-knit brotherhood that could defend fellow believers. This higher status has prompted a small number of Latinos to accept Islam in prison. Unfortunately, most of those Latinos who came to Islam seeking a better lot “on the inside” did not remain long in the fold of Islam “on the outside.”
Another matter that needs to be considered in this discussion of Latino conversion vis-à-vis Latino/African-American relations is the percentage of Muslims among African-American in a given area. Islam among African-Americans in the United State has traditionally been stronger in urban communities of the Northeast. Outside of the Northeast, there are also large pockets of African-American Muslim communities in places such as Chicago and Los Angeles. In places where Islam has been weak or hardly existent among African-Americans it has naturally, by extension, been likewise among Latinos.
The last area of Latino conversion to Islam is conversion through marriage. It is not related to any particular time or place. The Latinos who have converted to Islam through marriage are almost always females. Data for this type of convert is much harder to tract. Latinas who have married Muslim men are of two main categories: those who converted just before marriage and those who converted after marriage. Those who converted to Islam just before marriage (or more accurately as a pre-condition for the marriage contract) have ranged from those who are only nominally Muslims (and may have returned to their former religion if the marriage were to cease) and those who have become very piously devout Muslims. A similar issue which could be explored is conversion and the relationship between divorce and retention in Islam. While there are those who became nominally Muslim, there are also those who have been very devout and committed Muslims yet had a very difficult marriage, and as a result when the marriage ended they may have become nominal Muslims or have even apostatized from Islam.
The first Latina Muslim converts through marriage have been Puerto Ricans who married African-American men in places such as New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Latinas (of many nationalities) continue to marry African-American Muslims. In addition, after 1965, when Muslims as well as many different Latino nationalities started to immigrate to the United States in large numbers, marriage between Latinos and immigrant Muslims also took place. Since Arab and Indo-Pakistani Muslims have been the two largest immigrant groups, naturally marriage between them and various Latino groups have been the largest among marriages with immigrant Muslims. Therefore, Latinas converting to Islam have not been confined to marrying any particular Muslim ethnic group, but marriage has occurred more with African-American Muslims, Arab Muslims, and Indo-Pakistani Muslims simply because those are the largest Muslim groups in the United States. Latinas who have converted to Islam through marriage have been for the most part exogamous marriages, whereas endogamous ones have less been less common. Ironically, conversion due to Latinas marrying Latino Muslims has not occurred as often as marriage to non-Latino Muslims.
In conclusion, the connection Hispanic (in the broadest sense of the word) peoples have to Islam and Muslims is not something new. Muslims ruled Spain for over 800 years. Some Latinos also have a connection to Islam through Africans ancestors. There are many aspects of Latino culture that have its roots in the Muslim civilization of Spain. In the second half of the twentieth century, Latinos have reconnected to Islam in the United States. Globalization has allowed Islamization of Latinos to occur at an ever-increasing rate. The future is yet to be seen as to how deeply rooted Islam will become in the Latino communities of the United States and Latin America. Latino conversion to Islam is not quite different than other ethnic group converting to Islam in America. There are, however, many particularities to Latino conversion to Islam that needs to be further explored. This essay is the result of my own research, interactions, and experiences. If there is anyone out there who would like to be interviewed or would like to share their experiences or would like to contribute information about Latino Muslims and/or Latino conversion in his/her area, so that I can further refine thesis in future essays he/she can e-mail me at jazirapr2 at yahoo.com. I am also extremely open to hearing from those whom disagree with anything I have stated in this essay. La paz sea con aquellos que siguen la guía.
Al-Amin, Imam Jamil, "Revolution by the Book: The Rap Is Live" (Beltsville, Maryland: Writers' International, 1993).
Brotherton, David C. and Reverend Luis Barrios, "The Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation: Street Politics and the Transformation of a New York City Gang" (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).
Flores, Juan, “Pan-Latino/Trans-Latino: Puerto Ricans in the 'New Nueva York,'” From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity (New York: Columbia University, 2000).
Gonzalez, José Luis, “El Pais de Cuatro Pisos (Notas para una Definición de la Cultura Puertorriqueña,” El Pais de Cuatro Pisos y Otros Ensayos (Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Ediciones Huracán, 2001), pp 11-42.
Jackson, Sherman A., "Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Toward the Third Resurrection" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
Rivera, Raquel Z., "New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone" (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).
The IslamInSpanish Dinner - Educating Hispanics About Islam
On Friday March 7th, 2008 IslamInSpanish sponsored a dinner at Andalucia Restaurant attended by 200 Spanish Muslims and Non-Muslims along with their families.
The purpose of the dinner was to announce the launch of a new IslamInSpanish.org Website, IslamInSpanish OnlineRadio, as well as an IslamInSpanish TV Series airing on April 08â€™ - October 08â€™ on Houston Public Access Channel 17.
The event gained media coverage from major television stations like â€œUnivisionâ€ Channel 45 as well as from various well-known local Spanish Newspapers.
Mujahid Fletcher, founder of IslamInSpanish, says, â€œthe closest way to my way of life in Colombia in relation to family values, respect for others, and the value of seeking knowledge was the way of Islam.â€
â€œTherefore, we invited Muhammad Isa to speak on the topic of Family in Islam,â€ he continued. â€œWe hoped to bridge the gap of understanding between Islam and the Latino culture from a common ground - family values.â€
Muhammad Isa Garcia, originally from Argentina, is a graduate of Umm Al-Qura University in Mekkah with a Bachelor Degree in Ussoul Ad-deen (Islamic Theology) with a specialization in the Science of Hadith.
He is the author and translator of the majority of Spanish literature about Islam in the Spanish language available today. He is the leading source of authentic Spanish Islamic content used by IslamInSpanish to produce multimedia audio and video material, which is distributed worldwide to educate Latinos about Islam.
What Latino Muslims Can Learn From Mexican Muslims
By Tania Tahira Canales
Islamic Center of Mexico
Before September 2001, Islam was largely viewed as a religion for Arabs. Most Mexicans could not identify a woman wearing hijab with Islam if they saw her walking down a Mexican street. After September 11, Mexican people received all kinds of information about Islam. They heard good information, half-true information, biased information, and misconceptions about Islam. But many Mexicans wanted to know more about Islam. They wanted to know what we Mexican Muslims had to say about Islam.
After understanding Islam, many Mexicans understand why some of their countrymen have embraced Islam. Once you remove all misconceptions of Islam, Mexican people stop thinking that Allah is an invented deity, that Muslims are terrorists, and that Muslimahs are oppressed. Instead, Mexicans begin to realize that Islam is a suitable way of life for any Mexican and for all people. They also realize Muhammadâ€™s life (pbuh) is the best example to follow. I want to share what we Mexican Muslims have learned with Latino Muslims and all American Muslims.
We must be ready to present Islam to whoever wants to hear it. Stating that we are Mexican Muslims surprises almost everyone, even Muslims. During the last ten years, around eight hundred Mexicans have embraced Islam. Mexican Muslims find in Islam truth that was not found in the beliefs and traditions of their parents and closest relatives. They have found that Allah (swt) and His last Messenger (saws) are the truth.
We inform Mexican people about Islam in all possible ways including radio programs, TV shows, and university lectures. Sometimes we simply go out to the street and wait for people to ask us where we were born. Mexican people want to know why we Mexican Muslimahs dress the way we do. Mexican people ask the men why they wear beards and strange sombreros. A smile always brings the best out of people and is charity as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would say.
The best way to call people to Tawheed is with patience, Islamic manners, and a gentle way of speaking. Although almost every Mexican professes to be a Roman Catholic, introducing Islam is an easy task. Mexicans are open-minded and curious. They are amazed to learn that both Muslims and Catholics believe in the Day of Judgment, Virgin Mary, Angels, Paradise, and Hell. Every Christian has wondered about the rational of the Trinity, but fear Hellfire for questioning their current beliefs.
Fortunately, many Mexicans are beginning to believe in only One God and in the line of Prophets. After Jesus Christ (as) left, Muhammad (as) came as a mercy of Allah (swt) to revive the true universal message of God. Mexicans are beginning to learn that all humans are born Muslim. Consequently, many Mexicans understand that nothing is wrong with reverting back to Islam. They are neither betraying God nor rejecting Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Islam is clear and pure without priests, without original sin, and without all the rituals.
We must remember that only Allah (swt) is the guide. We tend to think that we can change a personâ€™s life and way of thinking. We assume that by showing the truth all people will say Shahada. Our assumptions are not true and can be very dangerous. We cannot try to force Islam on people. We are not selling houses to Paradise. Nor are we the sales staff of "Islam Inc." If someone accepts Islam, only Allah has guided him or her.
Bringing people to Allah (swt) was the mission of our Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). We must accomplish this mission using the methods he would adopt. We must not adapt Islam to what nonbelievers will accept and want to hear. The Deen should not be weakened for the sake of converting more nonbelievers. We need Muslims with the right understanding of the Qurâ€™an and Sunnah of Muhammad (pbuh). The search for true knowledge creates the Muslim character. We must be open to knowledge.
The best way to spread Islam is by practicing Islam as Prophet Muhammad and his companions would practice it. Dawah begins with us. Muslims cannot talk about something they have no idea how to do. All Muslims must be positive examples by correctly practicing Islam. Practicing our faith often takes courage. Many misconceptions about Islam come from bad Muslims exhibiting bad behavior. The beautiful Muslim character should stand out within every crowd. How effectively can a Muslim invite people to Islam if he or she drinks, lies, steals, is impatient, and does not pray? Islam is the only way of life that pleases Allah.
By continuously learning and practicing Islam, we will be ready to spread Islam within our homes, our families and friends, our neighborhoods, and to the world. Our dream as Mexican Muslims is to present Islam to all Mexican people. Mexican people have the right to know that Islam is their birthright. We must all struggle to build a strong, Allah-fearing community.
Through our own struggle, we have built a mosque and a study center for Mexican Muslims at Tequesquitengo, Morelos, just a half and hour away from Mexico City. This place seeks to provide the ideal environment for Mexicans searching Islamic knowledge, inshaAllah. At this location, we have started and intend to start more courses about a variety of needed subjects such as Qurâ€™an recitation, introduction to fiqh, and science of haddith. We still need your assistance to continue working for Dawah in Mexico.
Make dua for us and for Islam in Mexico. Help us to please Allah (swt) by visiting www.islam.com.mx to learn about how you can join our struggle.
Labayk! I Hear and I Obey
By Shariffa Carlo Al Andalusia
As a former Catholic, one of the things that has helped to strengthen my faith as a Muslim is the fact that everything in Islam is so clear and so protected. If we really want to know Allah and His deen, all we have to do is look. It is all here for us, preserved. As a Catholic, I did take my priest as a Lord above Allah. I would obey his edicts, no matter how contradictory because I believed he has some connection to God from which he was able to dictate right from wrong. I was truly from what Allah calls the misguided in Surat Al Fatiha. Now, alhamdulillah, thanks to the guidance of Allah, I know better. I recognize that all men are fallible, but Allah is Perfect. Inshallah, I no longer do as Allah warned us to not do and I try to do as He commanded us to do,
"They have taken their rabbis and their monks for lords besides Allah, and (also) the Messiah son of Mariam and they were enjoined that they should serve one Allah only, there is no god but He; far from His glory be what they set up (with Him)." (9:31)
Now, I try to base all my knowledge on the Quraan and the Sunnah of our great prophet. I recognize that I can not do this alone, I need guidance from someone who knows more than I do, but I do not accept that any man is infallible. I recognize that other than what comes straight from Allah or what was taught by His Prophet, the rest is all subject to mistake.
For you see, Allah promised us to make the Quraan and the Sunnah clear, easy and protected. He told our beloved Prophet,
"Do not move your tongue with it to make haste with it, Surely on Us (devolves) the collecting of it and the reciting of it. Therefore when We have recited it, follow its recitation. Nay more, it is for Us to explain it (and make it clear):" (5:16-19)
Here, Allah has promised not just to preserve the Noble Quraan, but also the hadith. How do we understand this? Well Allah Promised to collect it, recite it and to explain it. The explanation is the hadith. The explanation was achieved by making the Prophet an example of the Quraan.
The explanation was achieved by making nothing come from the Prophet himself. The prophet was the example of the Quraan, and we, as Muslims, have been commanded to obey him.
"And obey Allah and His Messenger; and fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: For Allah is with those who patiently persevere:" (8:46)
"The answer of the Believers, when summoned to Allah and His Messenger, in order that He may judge between them, is no other than this: they say, "We hear and we obey": it is such as these that will attain felicity. It is such as obey Allah and His Messenger, and fear Allah and do right, that will win (in the end)," (24:51-52)
Obeying Allah and His messenger is the foundation of the words La ilaha il Allah, Muhamadur Rasool Allah. (There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His messenger) . It is the essence of the deen. To the extent that when we receive a command from the Quraan or from the Prophet, we are just to say, "we hear and we obey." An example of this is:
Narrated Abu Sa'id Al-Mu'alla: While I was praying, the Prophet called me but I did not respond to his call. Later I said, "O Allah's Apostle! I was praying." He said, "Didn't Allah say: 'O you who believe! Give your response to Allah (by obeying Him) and to His Apostle when he
This is Islam. This is true faith. We recognize that our own personal desires, our rationalizations, and our understandings are all limited and flawed. We recognize that we do not know it all, and that if what we wants contradicts with what Allah and His messenger have commanded for us, then what we want is incorrect and Allah and His messenger are correct and we defer to their judgement.
Having said this, I know I am often asked what is the first thing any Muslim should learn or do. My answer is that we should all begin by learning Islam. The best way to do this is by going back to the original sources. We will never achieve true knowledge or true success in our deen until we make these two sources, the Quraan and the authentic sunnah, to be our foundation. I recommend that we all start with the basics, read and study the Quraan. Then, pick up Sahih Bukhari or Sahih Muslim and start reading and studying them too. These three books will give you about 75% of your deen. Now, can we just read the books and think we know it all? Of course not! No more than a man can pick up a set of medical books and be a doctor. We need to understand how all this was applied. We need to know how the companions and the scholars understood and understand it. We need to be sure that we understood what we read.
At this point, however, we will be ahead of the game. We will recognize most of the sahih hadiths and be careful about that which we do not know. We will know that there is a possibility for error, and we will be careful. This is very important. Actually, this is critical. We will not be so easily mislead, inshallah, because we will have a small arsenal of knowledge from which we have armed ourselves. So when someone teaches us, we will call to him/her to
"...Bring your proof if you are truthful." (27:64)
We will insist on learning from a pure fountain of knowledge, not from one tainted by conjecture, rationalization and personal desires. We will have a healthy foundation.
The next thing we need to recognize is that since we are limited and also flawed. We can read something and understand it completely differently than it was intended, like the following companion:
Narrated Anas ibn Malik: When this verse: "O ye who believe! raise not your voices above the voice of the Prophet, nor shout loud unto him in discourse, as ye shout loud unto one another, lest your deeds should become null and void, while you perceive not" (xix.2-5), was revealed,
The Messenger (peace_be_upon_ him) asked Sa'd ibn Mu'adh about him and said: AbuAmr, how is Thabit? Has he fallen sick? Sa'd said: He is my neighbour, but I do not know of his illness. Sa'd came to him (Thabit), and conveyed to him the message of the Messenger of Allah
Sa'd informed the Holy Prophet about it: Therefore the Messenger of Allah observed: (Nay, not so) but he (Thabit) is one of the dwellers of Paradise. Sahih Muslim: Book 1, Number 0214.
This companion heard the words but did not fully understand its meaning.
It was refering to voluntary lifting of the voice, not what comes naturally. Another companion misunderstood the commands about the time for fajr prayer.
Narrated 'Adi bin Hatim: When the above verses were revealed: 'Until the white thread appears to you, distinct from the black thread,' I took two (hair) strings, one black and the other white, and kept them under my pillow and went on looking at them throughout the night but could not
So, we should avoid being arrogant and always leave the door open for understanding and learning more. Islam is not stagnant. Allah guides us as He wills when He wills and makes things clear for us when we are ready for it. We never know what will happen to us or when, so we
May Allah make us good knowledgeable slaves and increase our faith, knowledge and practice of this great deen. Ameen.
Influencing the Behavior of Muslim Youth and Their Parents
By Shahid Athar, MD
The purpose of this article is to evaluate the factors influencing the behavior of children and how to modify them so that they grow as model citizens practicing Islam in their community, become a source of joy and comfort to their parents, and maintain family harmony.
The behavior of growing children is influenced by many factors that include their parents and other close relatives, teachers, peers at school, community and the media. Lack of discipline and civilized behavior at school is a major problem in the U.S., the fallout of which is also seen at home! With broken families and the absence of a father at home, this becomes a major problem for single mothers raising a teenager.
Muslim children, although distinct in their value system, still are exposed to and affected by what they see and learn. In Islamic teachings, great emphasis has been placed on moral conduct and behavior.
The Quran says, "Lo, the noblest of you, in the sight of God, is (the one) best in conduct. Lo, God is knower, Aware" (49:13).
"By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it, and its enlightenment as to its wrong, and its right. Truly he succeeds that purifies it (the soul), and he fails that corrupts it" (91:7-10).
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), has said, "I have been sent to perfect your conduct" (Bukhari and Muslim). "A fathers' teaching his child good manners is better than giving a bushel of grain (in charity)" (Bukhari).
Children are very susceptible to any and every influence. It has been said, "They are like molten cement. Anything that falls on them makes a lasting impression." Their minds are like virgin soil, ready to accept any seed. As they grow, their organs of reception start working and accept new ideas and influences. It is up to us to screen the experiential factors that influence a child's development so that they can learn to accept the right ideas and behaviors and reject the wrong influences.
The parents (and close relatives living with them like uncles and grandparents) have only 25% influence in a 6-16 year old child. 50% is by peers at school or in the community. 25% is from the teachers and other sources of education outside home i.e. media, mainly TV (and magazines for older youths). The influence of parents is high during early age (0-8 years, up to 80%), but as the child discovers new friends and ideas, he or she grows independent from the influence of parents.
The WESTERN scene
The WESTEN scene of the behavior of children and adults is changing. While it is difficult to qualify the behavior at home, the same at school has been published. What is happening in our homes is reflective of what's happening outside homes and vice versa According to a study conducted by Fullerton California Police Department of Education,l the leading school discipline problem in 1940 was talking, chewing gum, making noise, running in the hallways, getting out of place in line, wearing improper clothing and not putting paper in the wastebasket, etc. In 1980 the major problems were drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pregnancy, suicide, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, arson, and bombing. The Indianapolis public schools conducted a behavior discipline survey.2 It reported the following activities in the hall: Grabbing 69%, pushing 84%, hitting 82%, kicking 48%, slapping 57%, pinching 66%, fighting 78% and tripping 62%. There is also a high percentage of physical violence by teacher against student (22%) and by student against teacher (42%). We leave our children at school in such an environment for 30-40 hours per week and then expect them to develop into angels.
While the parents can do little to affect other influences, some suggestions can be made in this regard.
Keep children in the company of good Muslim children after school and during weekends to dilute the unavoidable influence of undesirable elements at school.
Choose a school in a good location (neighborhood) irrespective of it being private or public. Get to know the teachers personally and interact with them. Only the neglected children create wrong impression at school and expose themselves to various abuses. Supervise their homework.
Watch TV with your children, and select good educational and entertainment programs. Comment on the negative aspects of the program. Cut down the TV hour to less than 1 1/2 hours on weekdays and 2 1/2 hours on weekends. Do not buy rock music tapes (out of love for your child) nor allow him/her to listen to any hard rock. Encourage outdoor activity in preference to indoor (e.g. TV/music). Encourage them to read newspapers, good magazines (National Geographic) and Islamic periodicals.
Role of parents in influencing the behavior of their children
As I have said many times, "Children will become what we want them to be if we are what we want them to be." Children cannot be expected to practice Islam by sending them to Sunday school if we are not doing that ourselves in our day to day life. If we want them to get up early in the morning to perform the prescribed prayer, we have to do it ourselves and ask them to join us. If we want them to read the Quran, we should read with them and so on.
Growing children may not take an order, but will do things out of love and respect for their parents. So love and respect on a mutual basis is our best weapon against all the negative influences on them. Parental love should be unconditional and on biological grounds rather than on their achievements at school or in sports. Love should not be confused with unlimited permissiveness or with closed eyes towards a child's faults. Criticizing certain faults of the child should not diminish the love by the parents.
Children are not bom knowing everything right or wrong in social norms. They need clear guidelines about good and bad behavior, Islamic and un-Islamic way of life. The greatest effect is of the parent's attitude and example rather than the words in a book. If children see their parents not practicing what they themselves are told to practice they become rebellious and non-believers (in the value system). A typical example is of alcoholism in the American scene. Children are told it is bad for you until you are 18, while it is not bad for the parents. Therefore children seeing this as hypocrisy, rebel and get alcohol, not from a liquor store, but from their own home or from a friend at parties. Therefore, parents should set the same standards for themselves as they set for their children, and share with them information of all kinds whether related to the outside world or inside the family. It is not the knowledge which hurts, but the lack of it or misuse of it which causes problems.
Parents should help children make appropriate decisions and be responsible for their decisions. Younger children can only make decisions about the present (i.e. what clothes to wear that day), but grown-ups can make decisions that may affect their future, under parental guidance (i.e. selection of career, school and hobbies). Children left to grow on their own, will regret a lack of direction they had in their childhood. Children should be taught how to be responsible by being given the chance to share household work, keep their desk and room clean and how to handle their "own" money. Let them spend all their money and suffer from the lack of it. A sense of deprivation once in awhile is good for them as long as the reason for deprivation is explained well.
Problems with parents If the parents are authoritarian, the child becomes fearful of making mistakes, starts lying for the fear of being punished and feels insecure. Unfortunately, abused children become abusers when they grow up. The parent should remember that the only absolute authority in the house is the Will of God, and everyone has to submit to His Will, in order to expect submission from a younger person. If the parents are emotionally disturbed and depressed themselves they will not have time for the children, leading them to withdraw, become depressed or develop anti-social activities. If the parents are perfectionists and expect the child to be perfect all the time, the child will have two options. Either he or she will live up to the expectations, or will develop opposite tendencies, i.e. a teenager keeping his or her room messy to get back at the "ever cleaning" mom. Parents should not make "all" the choices for their children, but help in their individual growth. The over-protective, anxious parent cannot raise a confident child ready to deal with the real life. This child will feel danger everywhere. While the child has to be supervised, he or she does not need the physical presence of the parent at all time. They should raise a strong child, strong enough to carry on their work if they meet a sudden death themselves. The parent who cannot say no to a child, spoils him or her by providing him or her with every wish every time. This child will demand whatever he or she wants immediately and put on a manipulative show to get it. One parent complained how their five year old will stop breathing until she got what she wanted. The parents have to learn to control their love and discipline themselves in order to discipline their children The child's necessary desires should be met according to the means of the family, but a time may come when a firm no should be put into practice. Parents who take sides in sibling rivalry encourage jealousy and hate. They should not prefer boys over girls or the reverse and fair complexion over dark ones, bright ones over less bright, but try to be fair to all of them and neutral in their fights.
How parents can communicate with their children
Neither party can influence the other unless they communicate. This is a serious problem in American families. One father told me that at best all his teenage daughter would say to him would be "Hi" one or two times a day. This can be substituted by a "peace be upon you," (as-salam alaykum) in a Muslim family in which parents and teenagers are not getting along well. One should avoid getting into this stage of strained communication.
Find a time and place to talk to your children. Children are sometimes in a "bad mood" upon returning from school, loaded with home work, as are parents in the afternoon with a busy day at work. The best time to have a chat is during breakfast and evening dinner together. Better than this is allotting ten minutes after either the evening or night prescribed prayer or even better, after the dawn prescribed prayer, if time pemits. During this session, the parent can inform the children of all the good things they did that day and ask the children the same and share their problems. When you do argue, do it patiently, one person speaking at a time. Be specific and separate emotions from facts. Speak in a low voice. Screaming decreases the intake of the message. Finding fault may make you look like a winner, but remember, just as we want God to forget and forgive our faults, we should do the same for others. Practice active listening to each other's view, even if you don't agree. For religious issues consult the Quran or the Traditions together, rather than quoting from your memory. Refrain from sarcasm, name calling, humiliation, pointing your finger, etc. Read God's injunction about these again and again in Surah Al-Hujurat (49th Surah). Encourage each other even in areas of shortcomings, rather than making fun or making a negative remark. If your child brings a B report, then instead of, "I doubt you will ever improve or pass your exam," say "A 'B' is better than a 'C', and I am sure you are talented enough to do better. Perhaps I can help you in the areas that you have difficulties at school?"
Influencing the behaviour through daily household chores
The purpose of giving them some chores, is to keep them busy as well as teach them some responsibility. Initially it may be boring, but it will eventually become routine. The assignment should be according to age (and not the sex of the child) and should include setting the table to begin with, then washing dishes, laundry, taking out the garbage or just helping in the garden. However, children should not be forced into doing things, otherwise they will rebel. By the same token, they should not be penalized for mistakes. The best payment for a job is a smile, hug, thank you or praising the child to others, rather than money. While it may be all right to give an allowance, it should not be tied to the job. Otherwise the child will want money for everything. An eleven year old told his mom, "You need to know only three things about kids. Don't hit them too much, don't yell at them too much, and don't do too much for them."
How about infants and pre-schoolers?
While studies mainly refer to children ages 6-16 years, the small ones should not be neglected. In fact, in the first year of life, it is the behavior of the parent (especially the mother) which is so crucial and has nearly 90 percent influence. Then, as the child grows, identification with the parent of the same sex may make the influence of that parent more important. The boys watch their father more closely doing mechanical work and girls observe moms carefully doing household work. Sometimes it may be reversed. It is at this time that parents can inject love and respect into children by their example of mutual love and respect for each other and for the children. It is also at this age that doing things together including playing, watching TV, reading, etc. will help establish the foundations (trust, self-confidence, ability, etc.) of open communication. In terms of practice of religion, it comes from observing their parents and doing the practices together. If nice manners are programmed into them before they are introduced to the general population, it is doubtful they would get the infection of misbehavior.
Bill of rights for Muslim children
Muslim children have the right to learn and practice Islam even if one of their parents is a non-Muslim, or non-practicing Muslim. They have a right to be treated as a person, in an environment that is conducive to their growth and maturity and to become useful citizens. They have a right to receive love, care, discipline, and protection from their parents. They have a right to receive education, and financial protection for the future.
Bill of rights for Muslim parents
Parents have a right to receive love, respect and affection from their children as mentioned in the Quran. Parents have a right to educate and discipline their children as men- tioned in the Quran and shown by the example of Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] Parents have a right to know more about their children, and moni- tor other influences affecting them. Parents have a right to say no to unusual financial and other demands of children.
Finally, I end this article with a verse from the Quran.
"Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them any word of contempt, nor repulse them, but address them in terms of honor, and out of kindness lower to them your wings of submission, and say, 'My Lord, have mercy on them as they cared for me in my childhood"' (17:23-24).
10 Common Questions People Ask About Islam
By Shabir Ally
Based on the booklet "Common Questions People Ask About Islam".
1. What does Jihad mean?
The essential meaning of Jihad is the spiritual, psychological, and physical effort we exert to be close to God and thus achieve a just and harmonious society. Jihad literally means "striving" or "struggle" and is shorthand for Jihad fi Sabeel Allah (struggle for God's cause). In a sense, every Muslim is a Mujahid, one who strives for God and justice.
Al-Ghazali captured the essence of Jihad when he said: "The real Jihad is the warfare against (one's own) passions. Dr. Ibrahim Abu-Rabi calls Jihad "the execution of effort against evil in the self and every manifestation of evil in society." In a way, Jihad is the Muslim's purest sacrifice: a struggle to live a perfect life and completely submit to God.
Another form of Jihad is the striving to translate the Word of God into action. If one has experienced God and received guidance from the Qur'an, one struggles to apply that guidance in daily life. So the larger, more prevalent meaning of Jihad is the spiritual struggle of the soul. In this case, Jihad is always present for the believer whether there is an external enemy or not. We should never reduce Jihad to violence.
A third level of Jihad is popularly known as "holy war." The classic passage is found in the Qur'an:
It is crucial to note here that what is condoned is defensive warfare; Islam cannot justify aggressive war. Muhammad and the Tradition are also against killing non-combatants, torturing of prisoners, the destruction of crops, animals and homes. Adapted from Ira 6. Zepp, Jr., A Muslim Primer (1992, Wakefield Editions, US) pp.133-135.
Robert Ellwood of the University of Southern California has the following to say about the Muslim concept of Jihad:
2. What are some of the rights given to women in Islam?
In a time when women were devalued and female infants were buried alive, the Qur'an raised the value of women and prohibited female infanticide. Due to the Qur'an, this practice was abolished, but in recent times advances in the science of genetic selection has encouraged some unbelievers to practice a modern form of female infanticide.
The Qur'an also abolished the practice whereby inheritance went to only the oldest male heir. Instead, a woman can inherit from her father, her husband, and her childless brother (see Qur'an 4:7, 32, 176).
In Islam when a woman gets married she does not surrender her maiden name, but maintains her distinct identity. Some Muslim women have adopted the surnames of their husbands, but this is due to cultural influence, not Islam.
In a Muslim marriage the groom gives a dowry to the bride, not to her father. This becomes her private property to keep or spend, and is not subject to the dictates of her male relatives. Any money she earns or receives is similarly her very own.
Under Islamic Law a woman cannot be married without her consent. She has final approval on a marriage partner and she can repudiate a marriage arranged without her consent. She also has the right to initiate a separation from marriage if her rights under marriage are not being granted. Widows have the right to remarry, and they are in fact encouraged to do so.
The Qur'an places on men the responsibility of protecting and maintaining their female relatives. This relieves women of the need to earn their own living. It also means that a man must provide for his wife even if she has money of her own. She is not obligated to spend her money in the maintenance of her family. Incidentally, a woman is also not required to cook for her family, although she may do so out of love and compassion. The example of our noble prophet, on whom be peace, is that although he was such a great leader, he assisted in the housecleaning and mended his own clothes.
In return for the added responsibility, the Qur'an gives men the degree of leadership (see Qur'an 2:228; 4:34). This does not mean that men should dominate women, but rather that they should deal with them in kindness, mercy, and love (see Qur'an 4:19; 30:21).
3. What does Islam say about Domestic violence?
Allah knows that life is not always a bowl of cherries. And so He stipulates that a man must be kind to his wife even if he happens to dislike her (Qur'an 4:19). Allah offers a good reason as to why men should not dislike their wives. Allah says that He has placed much good in women (Qur'an 4:19). In this regard the prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, said that no believing man should hold a grudge against a believing woman. So what is a husband to do if he dislikes some things about his wife? This is bound to occur, since no human being is perfect. The prophet instructed that men should look for the agreeable traits in their wives rather than focus on their faults. (See Saheeh Muslim, chapter on advice relating to women).
The prophet also advised men that if they wish to benefit from marriage they should accept their wives as they are rather than try to straighten them out and thus end up in divorce. In the following verse of the Qur'an, Allah warns men that if they retain their wives in marriage it should not be to take advantage of them. The verse reads:
Once the prophet, on whom be peace, was asked what are the obligations of husbands toward their wives. He replied:
The prophet equated perfect belief with good treatment to one's wife when he said:
Finally, the prophet, the best example of conduct said:
Some of the last words of the prophet delivered during the farewell pilgrimage enjoins that men should hold themselves accountable before Allah concerning the question of how they treat their wives. Therefore his advice to all men, is as follows:
4. Jesus said that he is the way and that no one can come to God except through him. What do Muslims say about that?
Jesus had said that his true followers will hold on to his teachings, then they will know the truth, and the truth will set them free (see John 8:31-32). God did reveal His truth in these last times. And true followers of Jesus will readily accept that truth, for they will find it in agreement with the unadulterated teachings of Jesus. In these last times God has sent a messenger and declared that anyone who claims to love Him must follow His messenger, on whom be peace. God directs His messenger as follows:
Now this messenger, Muhammad, on whom be peace, has brought God's final message for all of humankind. If we love God we must follow him. He brought the truth which Jesus said his true followers will recognize. The truth sets people free from unreasonable doctrines and dogmas.
Confusion arises in the minds of some who imagine that Jesus is the only way for peoples of all times and all places. Clearly, the Old Testament prophets directed people to Yahweh, the only God. They showed therefore the way to Yahweh. In fact, people were calling on the name of Yahweh since the time of Adam (see Genesis 4:1).
Jesus was the way for his time; now Muhammad is the way. We believe in both of them, and we worship the one God whom they both worshipped. These men showed us the way to worship God. Jesus, for example, fell on his knees and worshipped God (see Luke 22:4 1). He also fell on his face and worshipped God (see Matthew 26:39). Muhammad too adopted similar postures of humility in worshipping God. Likewise is the practice of the true imitators of Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon both of them.
Finally, we should recall that Jesus is the way, not the destination. He spoke of one who is greater than himself (see John 14:28). And he said that, that one alone is the only true God (see John 17:3).
God has sent numerous prophets and messengers. Each in his time was the way to God. No one can approach God in a way contrary to the way of God's messenger. This is why God said that He will call to account anyone who does not listen to His prophet who will speak in His name (see Deuteronomy 18:19).
The prophets themselves were humble servants of God. They did not try to prove themselves superior to others. It would be wrong for their followers to argue over who is superior. Once a Muslim and a Jew were arguing. The Muslim said that Muhammad is superior over all the people. The Jew said that Moses is superior over all the people. When this was related to the prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, he said:
Once the prophet was asked, "Who is the most honorable among the people?" He replied, "The most God-fearing". When he was asked to name a specific individual, he replied:
This humility was shared by other prophets too. The prophet Jesus, on whom be peace, is reported to have said:
But John the Baptist was also humble. He did not claim that greatness for himself. He spoke of a greater one who was to come after him. He is quoted as saying:
When God sent the angel Gabriel to take the prophet Muhammad to the Aqsa Mosque one night, the prophet, on whom be peace, led the prayers there, and the other prophets followed his lead. He also related the truth that on the Day of Judgement he will lead the banner of Praise under which will be all the other prophets. But the prophet Muhammad did not boast about this. He instructed Muslims that they should not praise him as the people praised Jesus, son of Mary. He said:
What is important is not to try and prove one prophet superior over another, but to believe in both of them. The prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, said:
6. Muslims say that the Qur'an is a Miracle. What is so miraculous about a book?
The prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, did not know how to read or write. Yet the Qur'an which was being revealed to him was (and still is) the highest pinnacle of literary beauty and excellence in the Arabic Language. It was beyond the ability of the prophet to produce this book. And God declares that it is beyond the ability of all of humankind and spirit-kind to produce a book like the Qur'an.
The Qur'an was revealed piece by piece over a period of twenty-three years. During this time, God challenged humankind four times to produce a book like the Qur'an, and they couldn't do it. When the prophet and his followers were being persecuted in Mecca, God showed the persecutors a simple way by which they can wipe out the message of the Qur'an. God stated that this book cannot be produced by men or spirit creatures. Obviously, if they pooled together their abilities and composed a book like the Qur'an they would have proved the Qur'an to be false in its claim. But they couldn't. And here is what the Qur'an claims:
Although people ardently wished to block the message of the Qur'an and they tried every thing they could to stifle it, yet they did not try this obvious strategy. Why? Because it cannot be done. So God reduced the challenge for them: never mind the whole book; produce just ten chapters if you can. This challenge is mentioned in Surah 11:13 in the Qur'an. Again they couldn't do it. And they were the literary giants of their day. They held fairs to promote their own literary masterpieces. They hung their prized compositions on the door of the house of pilgrimage for all to see. But they could not match the stunning verses of the Qur'an.
God reduced the challenge further still (see Qur'an 10:38). If they cannot produce ten chapters then how about one chapter? Just one! And they couldn't do it, so they eventually pulled down their proud exhibits from where they were hung. The Qur'an had proved its point: this is no man-made book.
Yet they tried everything to banish the Qur'an from the face of the earth. They even made an attempt on the life of the prophet. He fled to Madinah, another city. And there the Qur'an kept coming to him piece by piece. The challenge was repeated yet again. This time God reduced the emphasis as if to say, okay you couldn't produce a chapter like it; now produce a chapter even remotely like
7. Why does the Qur'an agree with the Bible in some things and disagree in other things?
The Bible has had more impact on western civilization than any other book. The Bible's emphasis on the belief in the one and only God has helped millions of people to turn away from worshipping idols and other false gods. Famous commandments like 'you shall not murder' have become universal principles. Many of the Bible's moral principles have helped to convert some of the worst people into compassionate, good citizens.
Obviously, if the Qur'an were to disagree with these moral and theological truths the Qur'an would have to teach the opposite of truth. This the Qur'an does not do. Where the Bible is true the Qur'an is also true, since they agree on many fundamental truths. This agreement, however, does not mean that one book copied out of another as some individuals are quick to conclude. This we have already demonstrated in our answer to Question 6. The reason the Qur'an agrees with the truths in the Bible is that those truths and the Qur'anic passages all come from the same source, namely God. Since He alone revealed the Qur'an and all the truths of the Bible, it is only logical that the truth will be one, regardless in which book it is found.
When the Qur'an disagrees with the Bible it is also for a reason. The Qur'an was revealed at a time when people knew the art of writing, and so designated scribes were able to write down the revelation immediately to ensure its preservation in written form. At the time people were also accustomed to memorizing eloquent compositions. With God's help they began a practice of memorizing the Qur'an, thus ensuring its preservation also in the hearts of millions of believers throughout history. Due to these two preservation methods, the Qur'an available all over the world today is the same in its original language whether you buy a copy in Canada, Australia, or China.
Therefore the Qur'an can be trusted in its entirety, and a believer can confidently say, "All of it is from our Lord" as the Qur'an states in 3:7. God has promised that He will safeguard the book (Qur'an 15:9). He further says that no falsehood can get into the Qur'an (Qur'an 41:42). He tells us that He sent the Qur'an to confirm the truth of what is in the previous scriptures and also to expose the errors that crept into those scriptures (Qur'an 5:48). So one reason the Qur'an differs from the Bible can be understood best in light of the transmission history of the two books.
Another type of difference between the two books pertains to the specific instructions that God gave. God always gives instructions which are suitable for the varying conditions of human life. Some of the instructions in the Bible, were meant for a particular historical circumstance, and are therefore no longer applicable. Since the Qur'an is newer, it contains God's latest instructions which are still applicable to our present conditions, and which provide the best solution for some of life's most pressing problems today.
8. Why is it that Muslims do not accept the doctrine of original sin?
Adam and Eve were created with the potential to do either good or evil. They had a free choice either to obey God or disobey Him. They did not realize how deceptive the devil was, and so prompted by him, they made the wrong choice. Will God remain forever angry with them over that one mistake? No! Instead, God taught them how to repair their relationship with Him by praying for forgiveness. Muslims still often recite the same prayer, as follows:
What we obtain from that incident is not original sin, but original forgiveness, and an original lesson on how to seek that forgiveness. God set the precedent that He will forgive those who turn to Him in sincere repentance. We will all find ourselves in a similar situation as Adam and Eve. The prophet, on whom be peace, said that every child of Adam is a sinner, and the best of them are those who turn back to God in sincere repentance.
This shows that God does not demand absolute perfection from us humans. That would be an impossible demand, since God alone is absolutely perfect. To err is human. God wants us to know that he will accept us as we are, shortcomings and all, as long as we are trying our best to obey Him. Even in our human situations, it is well understood that absolute perfection is not to be demanded from anyone. Suppose teachers were to demand that all students must score 100% on all their tests, and that if they make even one mistake they will not pass. No one of sound mind will demand this, for it is clearly beyond human capacity. Similarly, God does not demand from people what is beyond their capacity (see Qur'an 2:226).
Some will say that Adam was created perfect and that when he sinned he ruined that perfection. This suggestion makes no sense. If perfection meant that Adam had no ability to choose between good and evil, then how did he exercise that choice which he supposedly did not have? And if he had the ability to choose, as Muslims believe, then why would God remain forever angry with him for his first mistake? Humankind was then in its infancy. We needed someone to pick us up when we fall, not someone to bulldoze us with a tremendous burden of sin and guilt.
Some will say that God could not forgive Adam even if He wanted to do so, since God is Just and He must exact justice. This is as if to say that justice is contrary to mercy, and that God is so fenced in by His own law that He has no freedom to do what He wants to do. How silly! The truth is that God warns us of His punishment, but He also promises forgiveness for those who sincerely repent. If He decides to save sinners, who is there to say He cannot do what He wishes?
9. You said that every child of Adam is a sinner. Does that mean we are born with sin?
The saying "every child of Adam is a sinner" means that every human being is a sinner, sin being an inevitable outcome of a fallible human nature. No matter how righteous a person is, he or she may at times disobey God through ignorance or forgetfulness. The prophet, on whom be peace, meant to emphasize that the best person is the one who seeks forgiveness for his or her sins. Furthermore, he said that one who repents from sin is like one without sin. God says in the Qur'an that He will replace the evil deeds with good for those who repent, believe, and do righteous deeds (see Qur'an 25:70).
Another saying of the prophet indicates that God actually intended that humans will be a species that commit sins so they can turn to Him and He would forgive them (see Sahih Muslim, Eng. Trans., vol.4, nos. 6620-2). This is a much better explanation than the popular conception according to which God at first sees that humans are good, then God discovers that they are wicked and so, being sorry that He made them in the first place, God eventually decides to wipe them off the face of the earth; but then he changes His mind again and lets them eventually procreate and fill the earth although they are still sinful as ever. The better explanation is that God knew in advance that we would sin, and we turned out just the way God planned. God does not discover new things - He knows everything always.
So, simply put, the Islamic belief is that people are not born in sin but they will eventually commit sins for which they should sincerely repent, and God will wipe out their sins. People do not inherit sins. Sin is something you do wrong. You couldn't have done anything before you were born, therefore you were born without sin. The Qur'an teaches that God does not hold us responsible for what others did before we were born, and no innocent person would carry the guilt of another (see Qur'an 4:111; 6:164). This coincides with our own sense of justice. No one considers it right to blame children for the sins of their ancestors, or to punish the innocent so that the guilty may go free.
10. Dr. Robert Morey proves in his book that Allah is the name of the moon god worshipped in Arabia before Islam. Is he right?
Dr. Morey quoted from the Encyclopedia Britannica to support his case. But in fact the Encyclopedia says:
Dr. Morey also quoted from H.A.R Gibb to support his case. But Gibb actually says the opposite. In his book Mohammedanism, Gibb says on page 26 that both Muhammad and his opponents believed in "the existence of a supreme God Allah." Gibb further explained this on pages 37-38 (see Mohammedanism by H.A.R. Gibb, Oxford University Press, 1969). Dr. Morey should have checked his references more carefully before his book went into print.
Dr. Morey said that Alfred Guillaume agrees with him, and he refers to page 7 of Alfred Guillaume's book entitled Islam. But here is what Alfred Guillaume actually says on page 7 of his book:
How could Dr. Morey misquote like this? Furthermore, Dr. Morey quoted from page 28 of a book by another non-Muslim writer Caesar Farah. But when we refer to that book we find that Dr. Morey gave only a partial quotation which leaves out the main discussion. The book actually says that the God who was called Il by the Babylonians and El by the Israelites was called ilah, al- ilah, and eventually Allah in Arabia (see Islam: beliefs and Observances, by Caesar Farah, Barron's Educational Series, 4th Edition, p.28). Farah says further on page 31 that before Islam the pagans had already believed that Allah is the supreme deity. Of course they had 360 idols, but, contrary to Dr. Morey's assertion, Allah was never one of the 360 idols. As Caesar Farah points out on page 56, the prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, personally destroyed those idols.
Dr. Morey also quoted from William Montgomery Watt. But Watt says on page 26 of his book that the Arabic word Allah is similar to the Greek term ho theos which we know is the way God is referred to in the New Testament (see Muhammad; Prophet and Statesman by William Montgomery Watt, Oxford University Press, 1964, p.26).
Dr. Morey also quoted from Kenneth Cragg's book entitled The Call of the Minaret. However, on page 36 of Kenneth Cragg's book we find the following:
Dr. Morey should know that as a scholar he has the academic obligation to quote honestly. He should also know that as a follower of Jesus, on whom be peace, he has an obligation to speak the truth.
10 Tips on How to Be a Successful Husband
By Muhammad AlShareef
1. Dress up for your wife, look clean and smell good.When was the last time us men went shopping for designer pajamas? Just like the husband wants his wife to look nice for him, she also wants her husband to dress up for her too. Remember that Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - would always start with Miswak when returning home and always loved the sweetest smells.
2. Use the cutest names for your wife. Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - had nicknames for his wives, ones that they loved. Call your wife by the most beloved names to her, and avoid using names that hurt their feelings.
3. Don't treat her like a fly. We never think about a fly in our daily lives until it 'bugs' us. Similarly, a wife will do well all day - which brings no attention from the husband - until she does something to 'bug' him. Don't treat her like this; recognize all the good that she does and focus on that.
4. If you see wrong from your wife, try being silent and do not comment! This is one of the ways Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - used when he would see something inappropriate from his wives - radi Allahu 'anhunn. It's a technique that few Muslim men have mastered.
5. Smile at your wife whenever you see her and embrace her often. Smiling is Sadaqah and your wife is not exempt from the Muslim Ummah. Imagine life with her constantly seeing you smiling. Remember also those Ahadith when Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - would kiss his wife before leaving for Salah, even if he was fasting.
6. Thank her for all that she does for you. Then thank her again! Take for example a dinner at your house. She makes the food, cleans the home, and a dozen other tasks to prepare. And sometimes the only acknowledgement she receives is that there needed to be more salt in the soup. Don't let that be; thank her!
7. Ask her to write down the last ten things you did for her that made her happy. Then go and do them again. It may be hard to recognize what gives your wife pleasure. You don't have to play a guessing game, ask her and work on repeating those times in your life.
8. Don't belittle her desires. Comfort her. Sometimes the men may look down upon the requests of their wives. Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam set the example for us in an incident when Safiyyah - radi Allahu 'anha - was crying because, as she said, he had put her on a slow camel. He wiped her tears, comforted her, and brought her the camel.
9. Be humorous and Play games with your wife. Look at how Rasul Allah - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - would race his wife Aisha - radi Allahu 'anha - in the desert. When was the last time we did something like that?
10. Always remember the words of Allah's Messenger - sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam: "The best of you are those who treat their families the best. And I am the best amongst you to my family." Try to be the best!
In conclusion: Never forget to make Dua to Allah - azza wa jall - to make your marriage successful. And Allah ta'ala knows best !!
Muhammad (570 AD - 632 AD)
By Michael H. Hart
Source: Hart, Michael H. "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Revised and Updated for the Nineties." New York: Citadel Press Book. Revised edition. November 1992. Copyrighted.
My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels. Of humble origins, Muhammad founded and promulgated one of the world's great religions, and became an immensely effective political leader. Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive. The majority of the persons in this book had the advantage of being born and raised in centers of civilization, highly cultured or politically pivotal nations. Muhammad, however, was born in the year 570, in the city of Mecca, in southern Arabia, at that time a backward area of the world, far from the centers of trade, art, and learning.
Orphaned at age six, he was reared in modest surroundings. Islamic tradition tells us that he was illiterate. His economic position improved when, at age twenty-five, he married a wealthy widow. Nevertheless, as he approached forty, there was little outward indication that he was a remarkable person. Most Arabs at that time were pagans, who believed in many gods. There were, however, in Mecca, a small number of Jews and Christians; it was from them no doubt that Muhammad first learned of a single, omnipotent God who ruled the entire universe. When he was forty years old, Muhammad became convinced that this one true God (Allah) was speaking to him, and had chosen him to spread the true faith. For three years, Muhammad preached only to close friends and associates. Then, about 613, he began preaching in public.
As he slowly gained converts, the Meccan authorities came to consider him a dangerous nuisance. In 622, fearing for his safety, Muhammad fled to Medina (a city some 200 miles north of Mecca), where he had been offered a position of considerable political power. This flight, called the Hegira, was the turning point of the Prophet's life. In Mecca, he had had few followers. In Medina, he had many more, and he soon acquired an influence that made him a virtual dictator. During the next few years, while Muhammad's following grew rapidly, a series of battles were fought between Medina and Mecca. This was ended in 630 with Muhammad's triumphant return to Mecca as conqueror. The remaining two and one-half years of his life witnessed the rapid conversion of the Arab tribes to the new religion.
When Muhammad died, in 632, he was the effective ruler of all of southern Arabia. The Bedouin tribesmen of Arabia had a reputation as fierce warriors. But their number was small; and plagued by disunity and internecine warfare, they had been no match for the larger armies of the kingdoms in the settled agricultural areas to the north. However, unified by Muhammad for the first time in history, and inspired by their fervent belief in the one true God, these small Arab armies now embarked upon one of the most astonishing series of conquests in human history. To the northeast of Arabia lay the large Neo-Persian Empire of the Sassanids; to the northwest lay the Byzantine, or Eastern Roman Empire, centered in Constantinople. Numerically, the Arabs were no match for their opponents. On the field of battle, though, the inspired Arabs rapidly conquered all of Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine. By 642, Egypt had been wrested from the Byzantine Empire, while the Persian armies had been crushed at the key battles of Qadisiya in 637, and Nehavend in 642.
But even these enormous conquests-which were made under the leadership of Muhammad's close friends and immediate successors, Abu Bakr and 'Umar ibn al-Khattab -did not mark the end of the Arab advance. By 711, the Arab armies had swept completely across North Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. There they turned north and, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, overwhelmed the Visigothic kingdom in Spain. For a while, it must have seemed that the Moslems would overwhelm all of Christian Europe. However, in 732, at the famous Battle of Tours, a Moslem army, which had advanced into the center of France, was at last defeated by the Franks. Nevertheless, in a scant century of fighting, these Bedouin tribesmen, inspired by the word of the Prophet, had carved out an empire stretching from the borders of India to the Atlantic Ocean-the largest empire that the world had yet seen. And everywhere that the armies conquered, large-scale conversion to the new faith eventually followed.
Now, not all of these conquests proved permanent. The Persians, though they have remained faithful to the religion of the Prophet, have since regained their independence from the Arabs. And in Spain, more than seven centuries of warfare finally resulted in the Christians reconquering the entire peninsula. However, Mesopotamia and Egypt, the two cradles of ancient civilization, have remained Arab, as has the entire coast of North Africa. The new religion, of course, continued to spread, in the intervening centuries, far beyond the borders of the original Moslem conquests. Currently it has tens of millions of adherents in Africa and Central Asia and even more in Pakistan and northern India, and in Indonesia. In Indonesia, the new faith has been a unifying factor. In the Indian subcontinent, however, the conflict between Moslems and Hindus is still a major obstacle to unity. How, then, is one to assess the overall impact of Muhammad on human history?
Like all religions, Islam exerts an enormous influence upon the lives of its followers. It is for this reason that the founders of the world's great religions all figure prominently in this book. Since there are roughly twice as many Christians as Moslems in the world, it may initially seem strange that Muhammad has been ranked higher than Jesus.There are two principal reasons for that decision. First, Muhammad played a far more important role in the development of Islam than Jesus did in the development of Christianity. Although Jesus was responsible for the main ethical and moral precepts of Christianity (insofar as these differed from Judaism), St. Paul was the main developer of Christian theology, its principal proselytizer, and the author of a large portion of the New Testament. Muhammad, however, was responsible for both the theology of Islam and its main ethical and moral principles. In addition, he played the key role in proselytizing the new faith, and in establishing the religious practices of Islam. Most of these utterances were copied faithfully during Muhammad's lifetime and were collected together in authoritative form not long after his death. The Koran therefore, closely represents Muhammad's ideas and teachings and to a considerable extent his exact words. No such detailed compilation of the teachings of Christ has survived.
Since the Koran is at least as important to Moslems as the Bible is to Christians, the influence of Muhammed through the medium of the Koran has been enormous. It is probable that the relative influence of Muhammad on Islam has been larger than the combined influence of Jesus Christ and St. Paul on Christianity. On the purely religious level, then, it seems likely that Muhammad has been as influential in human history as Jesus. Furthermore, Muhammad (unlike Jesus) was a secular as well as a religious leader. In fact, as the driving force behind the Arab conquests, he may well rank as the most influential political leader of all time. Of many important historical events, one might say that they were inevitable and would have occurred even without the particular political leader who guided them. For example, the South American colonies would probably have won their independence from Spain even if Simon Bolivar had never lived. But this cannot be said of the Arab conquests. Nothing similar had occurred before Muhammad, and there is no reason to believe that the conquests would have been achieved without him. The only comparable conquests in human history are those of the Mongols in the thirteenth century, which were primarily due to the influence of Genghis Khan. These conquests, however, though more extensive than those of the Arabs, did not prove permanent, and today the only areas occupied by the Mongols are those that they held prior to the time of Genghis Khan.
It is far different with the conquests of the Arabs. From Iraq to Morocco, there extends a whole chain of Arab nations united not merely by their faith in Islam, but also by their Arabic language, history, and culture. The centrality of the Koran in the Moslem religion and the fact that it is written in Arabic have probably prevented the Arab language from breaking up into mutually unintelligible dialects, which might otherwise have occurred in the intervening thirteen centuries. Differences and divisions between these Arab states exist, of course, and they are considerable, but the partial disunity should not blind us to the important elements of unity that have continued to exist. For instance, neither Iran nor Indonesia, both oil-producing states and both Islamic in religion, joined in the oil embargo of the winter of 1973-74. It is no coincidence that all of the Arab states, and only the Arab states, participated in the embargo. We see, then, that the Arab conquests of the seventh century have continued to play an important role in human history, down to the present day. It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.