The Latino Muslim Voice
The April-June 2009 newsletter features:
Quotes of the Month
By Shinoa Matos
No "freedom" to expose
My body's crevices, belonging to my maker
For you see, not a sliver of sound can be heard
It is you who needs unwrapping
Your curves can do nothing for you
It isn't too late
Turn to Allah
Historical Trip to Puerto Rico Unites Islanders to the Mainland
By Imam Yusef Maisonet and Sr Khadijah Rivera
A man may plan but ALLAH is still the best of planners. Everything comes at the time that it was meant to be. For over 25 years I had dreamed of returning to Puerto Rico. But my work as a Merchant seaman took me to ports in Central and South America with work turned into Dawah. All that time Puerto Rico was in the back of my mind.
Last year I prepared to take that ground breaking trip to Puerto Rico which was brought about by a New York Puerto Rican who felt that there was a lacking on the island of dawah among her people and a lack of Islamic education to the native Latino Muslims of the island. Although, I yearned to feel the rich Boriquen soil beneath my feet we felt some slight hostility there and some obstacles here on the Mainland. It was as if the native Puerto Ricans and the immigrant Muslims on the island could not figure me out. They thought I was out for some selfish reason. Little did they know this old man who had no illustrious reasoning behind going to Puerto Rico except to understand why the spread of Islam was not flourishing considering the rate of reverts here in the USA. But in December of '08, a trip came about to accompany some Latina Sisters to the UAE for American Leadership Program. And there under the Abu Dhabi dessert and under impossible odds three Latinos discussed our dreams for Puerto Rico. Face to face with Sr Shinoa who had written the initial letter and Sr Khadijah who had broadcast it nationally. We discussed the need and how we could make this trip benefit ALL Latinos.
On the 20th of March my dreams came to a reality as I took off to what we call the Island of Enchantment (Isla Del Encanto) Puerto Rico. Did you know that there are more Puerto Ricans living outside Puerto Rico than there are on the Island? For starters, it was a well thought of and considered trip that I discussed and planned with the Latino Muslim Community of the mainland. We agreed that it was time for a Representative of the Latino Community to go on a fact-finding Mission and see how we could bridge the gap between Puerto Rico and the Muslims in the U.S.A. The trip was planned with input from PIEDAD of Florida/Metro NJ, ALMA from Atlanta, LALMA from Los Angeles, the Latino Muslim Community of Chicago and Mobile, AL they fundraised to make this historical trip a reality.
I flew out off Mobile, AL and was later met by a dear friend: Diaab Ali from Shorter, AL who found out about my trip on a visit to Mobile and wanted to share this experience with me. We were met by brother Yasser Reyes and Hajji Wilfredo Amr Ruiz a Lawyer and a Chaplain in the Prison system in Puerto Rico, we had made Hajj together in 2007 but we never saw each other until that day in Puerto Rico. Subhannallah what a plan!
After our salat together we made proceeded to meet with the Muslim youth and the Muslims I had been talking electronically via phone and mail with, to address their concerns.
Palestinian refugees resettled in Puerto Rico and raised families. As their families grew they built Masjids and opened weekend schools for their children. Khutbahs are in Arabic but with little or no translation. Thus leaving an entire Muslim population in the dark in their own land.
Almost immediately we had our first meeting was with the youth in San Juan at the Islamic Center of Puerto Rico. They received me with warm and open arms they described their concerns which were:
1. Khutbas in Arabic only- The Latino Muslims would attend Khutbahs they could not decipher. With so many beautiful masjids throughout the island there were a seeming emptiness that accompanied them. Attending Salatul Jumaah without translation when it is a known fact that the khutbah must be in the language of the people. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States although most Boricuas as they are called speak English. Few speak Arabic.
Diaab Ali and myself we were invited to eat some of those delicious dishes that the island is so famous for. Salat followed and our next appointment for a Masjid in Vega Alta. Here a Palestinian, Imam Zaid offered Khutbahs in Arabic and Spanish and had just begun classes for the youth on Sundays.
After getting much needed rest that evening, we started our day with Fajr in Hatillo and we went to a Puerto Rican Restaurant, Later we went to the next town which is called Camuy to visit my friend Yasser Reyes and Wife Fatima who dared to cook an island delicacy of Fish soup followed by Halal Chicken with Spanish rice (Sabroso). As a Self proclaimed connaiseur of fine Latin dishes it was hard for me to keep all those dishes out of print to make room for our Islamic purpose.
Accompanied by Hajji Wilfredo Amr Ruiz and Sister Migdalia Rivera of Ponce, (Puerto Rico) we headed towards Vega Alta to Masjid Al Faruq to meet with the Imam Zaid. All of us were pleasantly surprised by his dedication and spirituality. While there we met with the sisters and the youth during some classes that were at the mosque and since our visit they have started Arabic classes for the Latinos on Sundays. He is a dedicated Imam and a beautiful human being, may Allah give him Jannah for all of his work. While in Puerto Rico I established him to be the only Imam that I found whole-heartedly caring for the Latino Muslims.
After Camuy we headed for Mayaguez to visit some inmates that br. Wilfredo and br. Yasser had made arrangements for me to visit while I was in Puerto Rico. We went to the youth section first and we were able to give Da'wah to 6 inmates. We also noticed that the both the male and female guards were just as interested to learn about Islam. They treated us with the utmost respect and led us to the bigger population of awaiting inmates. These men were so happy to have a Muslim visitor from the states and gave us their full attention for over an hour for a taleem in Spanish. With Allah's plan, three wonderful brothers took Shahadah; we gave them El Sagrado Coran (Quran), prayer books and lots of other Islamic literature. I later visited several of the 12 mosques located throughout the island and found some to be abandoned. This wrenched my heart to see the possibilities vs. realities of the fall of the empire so to speak.
After a fruitful day we went to another town called Hormiguero to visit my brother and sister from my father's side and my brother had called Hajji Wilfredo to find out what to cook and what not to cook for the Muslims. My brother Miguel and my sister Edna just couldn't contain themselves, so while they cooked (Arroz con gandules with bisteak encebollado) rice with ganduls and steak with a lot of onions, brother Yasser and myself were able to make salat in total peace with plenty of love for Islam, after that my dear friend Yasser broke out with a little Dawah. It was received with warmth and believe me they loved it; the people in Puerto Rico are just waiting for someone to step forward to bring them some truth.
After spending a day like this is Puerto Rico my Brother and Sister just weren't ready to let me go so I had to drive brother Yasser back to Camuy, so that night we drank Puerto Rican coffee which I know to be the best coffee in the world and we exchanged stories about our father. That night I rested peacefully under the palm trees and moonlight of the Caribbean wonderful as it was Mobile, Al is my home.
As I woke and made my Fajr and remembered that I make a commitment to an incarcerated brother back in the states in Jessup, Ga that I would visit his mother who lives in Carolina, Puerto Rico. I started to get dress again, by this time my sister in law was making that Puerto Rican coffee and I just had to drink two cups and tell my brother the news that I was not going to be able to spend the day with him Alhamduillah that he understood and I was able to get on my way to Carolina which is next to San Juan it took me 2 hours driving to get to San Juan to my Hotel to change clothes and also to phone Ms Norma Rivera to let her know that I would visit her about 2 o'clock, it took me longer than I thought to get to her house but I finally found the house and was able to give her a hug and a big kiss from her son whom she had not seen in 18 years! I told her that her son found Islam while incarcerated and had acquired a PhD while in prison and would inshallah regain his freedom by the end of the Year. With this I could finally say,â€ Mission accomplished â€œ on my trip to Puerto Rico.
At the airport I was shopping for some souvenirs, a young lady working there mistook me for a singer and was asking about my names origin, I took this as an opportunity for da'wah. She said she had always desired a Qur'an in Spanish. She also stated that she had never quite accepted the trinity and had secretly always believed in one G-d. It just so happened I had a Spanish / Arabic Qur'an in my briefcase and that was my final good deed in Puerto Rico.
Revisiting my homeland fortified my beliefs that Islam could change the face of our people. It could end racism, gangs and poverty. It could bring about positive changes in our attitude and way of conduct as a people. I love a little pic I found of this sister holding up some plaques and how Islam alters your personality in a positive way.
In order for Islam to flourish in Puerto Rico they need Spanish Language Islamic Literature on all levels. A library in Vega Alta would be a good start. Puerto Ricans need scholars to visit and teach Quran, Fiqh, Seerah, Aqeedah and Hadiths etc. They need the most sincere and bright minds to further their studies overseas and to prepare them to run the masjids and integrate the Muslims with the community at large. Whether we are speaking of interfaith work alongside Christians on service programs or Intrafaith among immigrants and natives. There is a lot of work to be done and it is ONLY the beginning. I would like to see the sisters participate and develop more Islamic weekend schools and possibly a Madrassa. To do this we need dedication and pure intentions to serve and seek ONLY the pleasure of ALLAH swt.
We need a united front with the Latino organizations in the mainland. I am speaking of the ones run by Latinos themselves. We need a concerted effort to make this happen now and by the end of the year to see definitive results. Anyone who wants to contribute books for the library or sponsor a scholar should contact me until we can get a working organization to bridge island to mainland Latinos.
On July 10-11, 2009 The international Museum of Islamic Culture in Jackson, Mississippi will be hosting a national conference workshop entitled â€œLatino Renaissanceâ€. Join me and other Latinos who are reviving and working on the framework of this Renaissance. Be part of the journey!
Start a Library to benefit the Latinos on the island. Send your new or gently used Islamic literature, prayer rugs and videos.
For more information or to contact me at:
Impresiones de la peregrinación Menor (Umra)
Por Marta Khadija
Contestando a la llamada de Alá en una viaje de Reflexión, Inspiración, Renacimiento, y Devoción, el pasado 25 de Mayo de 2009 seis hermanas, un hermano y yo salimos para el Medio Oriente con el propósito de hacer el ritual de Umra, el cual se lleva a cabo en Meca, Arabia Saudita. La mayoría de nosotros visitábamos Meca por primera vez.
Desde la planeación de este viaje empezamos a experimentar una emoción muy grande, La cual fue creciendo a medida que el día de salida se aproximaba.
Viajamos por la aerolínea Emiratos Unidos (Emirates), vuelo directo de los Ángeles a Dubai, el cual tomó dieciséis horas. En Dubai estuvimos 22 horas antes de abordar el avión para Arabia Saudita. Así que, tuvimos la oportunidad de dormir, y hacer un paseo por carro de los lugares más turísticos de esta ciudad moderna. Afortunadamente la aerolínea nos dió un pase gratuito para dormir en un hotel muy cerca del aeropuerto, incluyendo desayuno.
Salimos de Dubai a Arabia Saudita aterrizando en Jedda, este lugar es la entrada a los lugares de la peregrinación. Antes de salir de Dubai o en el avión y antes de aterrizar en Jedda todos los peregrinos se cambian de ropas y de esta manera se entra en el periodo de Ihram incluyendo la intención de realizar Umra.
El periodo de Ihram es considerado periodo de pureza, no se hablan palabras
obscenas, no malos pensamientos. Tal y como se menciona en el Corán el periodo de
Ihram es mandatario para toda persona que va a realizar Hach y Umra:
"Quien emprenda la peregrinación en esos [meses] deberá abstenerse, mientras
dure la peregrinación, del lenguaje obsceno, de toda conducta reprobable y de
disputar; y todo el bien que hagáis, Dios lo conoce..."
Tan pronto como llegamos a Meca y dejamos nuestras pertenencias en el hotel, salimos para la mezquita más grande del mundo: Al-Haram donde se encuentra la Kaba. Todos recitando internamente el Talbiyah: Labaik Allahuma Labaik â€" Aqui estoy Oh Alah Aqui estoy.
La Kaba en el Coran :
La Kaba es la casa sagrada de Allah en medio de la mezquita. La Kaba tiene varios significados: reportado por Al Azraqui de Abu Nuyaih quien dijo: es llamada la Kaaba porque tiene forma de cubo (Kab).
Tambien por su forma de cuadro (Murabba), Ikimah y Muyahid lo dijeron así.
Se dijo que fue llamada Kaba por su elevación sobre el nivel del piso.
Fue llamada Al Bait Al Atiq (la casa emancipada) porque Allah la liberó de caer bajo el control de los tiranos; Abdulah Az Zubair (RA) narró que el profeta dijo: "Es llamada Al Bait Al Atiq (la casa antigüa) porque Allah la liberó (A taqahu) de caer bajo el control de los tiranos, y jamás prevaleció la tiranía sobre ella"
Ver la Kaba por primera vez
La impresión de ver la Kaaba por primera vez es indescriptible. Cada uno de nosotros experimento diferentes emociones, pero las lagrimas empezaron a rodar por nuestra mejillas de manera unánime. Para mi fue una alegría de agradecimiento hacia Alah por darme la oportunidad de estar presente en el lugar mas sagrado para todo musulmán. Me sentí privilegiad por estar presente ante la Kaba. También, sentí la urgencia de pedir perdón por mis faltas intencionales y no intencionales. Durante el Tawaf, las 7 vueltas que se hacen alrededor de la Kaaba, cada uno de nosotros pidió: "Alah concédenos lo mejor de este mundo, lo mejor en el mas allá y protégenos del tormento del infierno." La primera Umra es ofrecida para uno mismo. Al dia siguiente se pueden hacer Tawaf las veces que la persona desee.
Despues de completar el Tawaf, se rezan dos Rakas atrás del Maqam del profeta Ibrahim (P y B). Aquí es donde se hacen las suplicas por todos nuestras amistades, familiares musulmanes y no musulmanes. Durante mi segunda Tawaf, pude tocar la Kaaba haciendo mis suplicas con gran llanto y gratitud.
Paz, tranquilidad y reflexión se pueden experimentar durante Umra debido a que hay menos multitud de peregrinos durante el tiempo fuera de Hajj. Definitivamente sugiero que todo nuevo Musulmán debe hacer Umra primero antes de hacer Hajj. Umra es como una introducción para el ritual más grande de nuestra vida que es Hajj.
Cada mañana se escuchaba desde el hotel el Adhan para rezar la primera oración del dia, Fajr. Todas las actividades se paran para rezar las cinco oraciones del día. No importa donde la persona se encuentre a la hora de rezar, ahí mismo la persona hará su oracion.
El ritual de Umra es mas corto y se realiza en Meca; no incluye los rituales en Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifa y otros. Solo incluye Tawauf- 7 vueltas alrededor de la Kaaba y el ritual de Sa'i-7 vueltas entre Safa y Marwa
Visita a Medina
Medina fue la ciudad donde el profeta Muhammad (sas) encontró refugio, apoyo a sus enseñanzas, fue defendido por la comunidad con sus vidas. Se establece el primer Estado Musulmán. También, la ciudad donde se encuentra su tumba.
Visitar Medina tiene Bendiciones especiales:
El profeta Muhammad(PBUH)hizo una suplica ( según Aisha):
En una narración de Abu Hurayrah menciona que el Profeta Muhammad (sas) dijo:
"La área entre mi casa y mi púlpito (minbar) es uno de los jardines (rawdah) del
Beneficio personal despues de Umra:
El beneficio más grande a mi regreso es poder concentrarme mejor durante mis oraciones, como si estuviese rezando enfrente de la Kaba. Ruego a Alah que esta devoción la experimente por mucho tiempo.
Mi reflexión sobre la suplica que hicimos a Alah en "concédenos lo mejor de este mundo" me doy cuenta que Alah ya me ha otorgado lo mejor de este mundo lo cual es El Corán y la Suna. No importa cual sea nuestra situación económica, posición social, títulos de profesión y cosas materiales. Solo tenemos que leer el Coran mas frecuentemente y llevar a cabo las enseñanzas y consejos de nuestro profeta Muhammad. (Paz y bendiciones para el).
Ruego a Alah que me permita realizar Hach en un futuro muy cercano.
A Day in the Life of a 'Project Downtown Tampa' Volunteer
Homeless Coalition Begins Bi-Annual Census
By Khadijah Rivera
Despite the fact that it's 1:00 o'clock in the morning, I am exhausted, and my bones ache, my mind remains in a whirl-wind of activity from the events of the day, so here I sit, pen in hand.
I spent the day as a volunteer assisting with the Homeless Coalitions' bi-annual census.
The volunteers were organized into teams that would work in shifts. The first shift was slated to begin at 4:00 AM on a day that began with temperatures that had plummeted overnight, and a steady rainfall. I remember feeling thankful that I had volunteered to work the night shift.
As the dinner hour approached, I joined my fellow teammates at a pre-designated deployment site.
Volunteers were equipped with a list of soup kitchens, forms, pens, and instructions for conducting interviews and looking out for one another's safety.
The 'New Life' community, a church with urine soaked carpeting and bedding. There were three coolers filled with food that looked like they had been set out for stray animals. 'New Life' community members actually paid money to stay there, under the guise that food was free. Personally, I would have opted for a park bench.
One of the men I interviewed told me that he had slept in a cardboard box the night before, and had come to the church to warm up and get some free bread. The man had been living in the streets for over six months and was thin and worn down by life.
What amazed me most throughout the night was hearing about the length of time many interviewees had been homeless. The majority had been in the streets for roughly a year-and-a-half. One interviewee, from Detroit, had been homeless for less than a week.
Deeper Into the Night
With the passage of the dinner hour, the homeless disbanded and the census taking process became a little more difficult.
As my team passed along its charted course between Fowler and Fletcher streets, we ferreted out the homeless along railroad tracks, in boarded-up buildings and alleys, using flashlights and blankets to coax them into being interviewed.
We found a couple sleeping in a wooded area who, with the promise of free toiletries, came out to be interviewed.
Just past eleven we found a group of six men bundled up against a warehouse. They were too cold to accept our invitation for an interview. One of the men finally blinked at me and I motioned for a teammate to step in as I approached a motionless, round bundle curled-up against a doorway. The bundle turned out to be a man so cold that he seemed frozen in time.
I found myself making a silent prayer that he would not die like that - abandoned by mankind and lost within himself.
The seven hours spent with my teammates experiencing the isolation, embarrassment, and destitution of Tampa's homeless community has given me much to reflect on.
The bitter taste of the reality of homelessness expressed in this story may not move some, but it has made me all the more grateful to know that as a Muslim, I have a pillar of strength and hope for a future of untold treasures. My life has purpose, and my heart is full of love for God.
The experience of being part of the Tampa community's homeless census taking process has made me all the more appreciative for the compassion God has put in my heart.
The census results will be used to help determine the housing, mental healthcare and employment training needs of the Tampa homeless community.
With the help of area newspaper affiliates and local television stations like Tampa Ten, perhaps those more fortunate will feel compelled to lend a helping hand.
Khadijah Rivera is the Project Downtown Tampa Outreach Coordinator and the director of PIEDAD.
© Khadijah Rivera 2007
Brazil...Few Imams, Closed Mosques
By Hany Salah
CAIRO â€" Though Muslims enjoy a unique atmosphere of tolerance in Brazil, many of their mosques are closed because of the rarity of imams, something that threatens the Islamic identity of many Muslims, particularly the younger generations.
"One third of the mosques are closed due to the absence of imams," Al-Sadiq Al-Othmani, head of the Islamic Affairs Department at the Sao Paulo-based Center of Islamic Da`wah in Latin America, told IslamOnline.net over the phone.
There are mosques in all the major capitals of the Brazilian states and some cities in the interior.
In the city of Sao Paulo there are around ten mosques, including the Mosque Brazil, the first built in Latin America whose construction began in 1929.
"Though there are some 120 mosques in Brazil, there are only 40 imams and preachers," asserts Khaled Taqei Ed-Din, an imam of a Sao Paulo mosque.
"Only few of those imams have finished their university degree in Shari`ah, while the rest are only imams by practice."
Despite the massive buildings and unique designs, two thirds of these mosques are almost deserted, with no signs of life.
"Many mosques do not even hold all five prayers of the day," laments Othmani.
Muslim leaders attribute the crisis to the lack of financial aid to Islamic centers and mosques in Brazil, hampering the training of more mosque leaders.
According to the 2001 census, there are 27,239 Muslims in Brazil.
However, the Islamic Brazilian Federation puts the number at around one and a half million.
The majority of Muslims are descendants of Syrian, Palestinians and Lebanese immigrants who settled in Brazil in the nineteenth century during the World War I and in the 1970s.
Many Iraqis have arrived in the country after the 2003 US-led invasion.
Most Muslims live in the states of Parana, Goias, Riod de Janiero and Sao Paulo, but there are also significant communities in Mato Grosso do Sul and Rio Grande do Sul.
Muslim leaders warn against the serious repercussions of the deafening silence inside many mosques.
"Many of the younger generations know nothing about Islam," Ahmed Othman Mazloum, a preacher of Lebanese origin, told IOL.
"Some are only Muslims by name and others have even expunged anything related to their faith."
Muslim leaders agree that much of the blame lies with their community, which did not exert enough efforts to support the mosque institution and its message.
Othmani suggests that Muslim organizations and groups should strife to recruit qualified, full time imams with financial support from within the community, instead of resorting to volunteer imams.
Professor Mohsen Bin Musa El-Husseini, head of the Islamic Center in Foz du Iguacu, the city which has the second majority of Muslims in Brazil after Sao Paulo, has another solution.
"The Muslim community is in dire need of an Islamic endowment, whose revenue would be dedicated to Muslim institutions," he said.
"This is the only way to preserve the Muslim identity of the future generations."
Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaa`ah (The People of Sunnah and the Community)
The Beginning Point of an Islamic Methodology.
By Dr. Ihsan Bagby
In its mission statement, MANA says that its organization will be based on Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaa`ah (the People of Sunnah and the Community). What does this mean? The term Ahl al-Sunnah wa al- Jamaa`ah is actually an old term that was first used in the second century of the Islamic era.
Firstly the term means that the foundation of all Islamic thought is Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) as found in authentic hadith. The ultimate arbiter and final source of truth are Quran and Sunnah. MANA is committed, therefore, to follow carefully and thoroughly the Quran and Sunnah.
Secondly the term Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaa`ah refers to the Ummah of Islam and in particular the community of scholars and teachers who have struggled (done ijtihad) to interpret and implement the Quran and Sunnah. The myriad scholars of Islam from the first century, through the long centuries of Islamic dominance, to the present century, have produced a large, spectacular body of diverse Islamic opinions that are all sincere efforts to understand Quran and Sunnah. In the first century Ibn Umar was known as rigid while Ibn Abbas was thought of as mild. Abu Hanifah and Malik in the second century used a range of methodological principles to interpret Quran and Sunnah, while al-Shafi`i preferred to rely more on hadith. Great scholars such as al-Nawawi and Khalil tried to regularize the opinions of the madhhabs while al-Shatibi and Ibn Taimiyah tried to loosen the hold of the classical schools. Al-Ghazali and Abdul Qadir Jilani tried to re-awaken Muslims to the spiritual side of Islam, sometimes called Sufism.
MANA will respect the diverse opinions of the great scholars of Islam. In other words, Malik and al-Shafi`i are welcome in MANA. Al- Ghazali and Ibn Taimiyah are welcome in MANA. Yes, the opinions of Bin Baz and al-Qaradawi, Sayyid Qutb and al-Albani will be respected and considered. A Muslim who follows a madhhab and a Muslim who does not believe in following a madhhab (as long as it is within the bounds of Quran and Sunnah) are welcome. Sufi and salafi are welcome.
MANA does not want to be defined and pigeon holed as a Maliki or Shafi`i organization, a sufi or salafi organization. We want to learn and benefit from all. When we deal with an issue that requires an organizational decision, we will honor and weigh the diversity of opinions, we will analyze our present circumstances, and then depending upon a process of consultation and consensus, we will make a decision.
MANA's purpose is not to serve as the sole source of correct Islamic teaching. As an alliance, we do not want to dictate how a particular organization teaches salah, for example, but we do want that salah is taught within an authentic understanding of Islamâ€"within the framework of Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaa`ah. Our main purpose as an organization is not to produce a definitive book of salah or aqidah. Our goals are focused on community building, inviting America to Islam and standing up for justice.
Ihsan Bagby is Associate Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Kentucky, and General Secretary of MANA.
The 9th Annual Gathering of Latina Sisters in Chicago
By Ingrid Ascencio d' Farrukh
The 9th Annual Gathering of Latina Sisters in Chicago was held on May 24, 2009 in the Youth Center of the ICCI Masjid. Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) made it possible once again, for this group of women to get together and share an afternoon of topics of interest, delicious food and a warm environment full of hugs and kids. The entire program was held in Spanish, and after the formal welcome and introduction of the event, little Sarita Hashlaman (7 years old) gave a beautiful recitation of Surah Ash-Shams and Ayat Al Kursi to invite the blessings into the occasion. The main theme for this year's event was â€œThe role of the Latina Muslim as contemporary women.â€
The presentation started with the topic of Mrs. Jen Ai Aristizabal on â€œTransition of Cultural Identity.â€ After defining the term identity, the question of what is it that identifies us as Latino women was addressed. There are things such as: language, rhythm, sentimentality, religion, and fervor. In the religious aspect, the Latino of today is really a mixture of the European Catholic, Aboriginal polytheist, and African animistic. The focus of the talk was on the Catholic aspect because it's the most common practiced religion in Latin America today, which has very peculiar practices that distinguishes it from other regions in the world. For example, in Mexico, the native aborigines had their deities replaced with Catholic saints: Tlaloc (god of water) became known as Saint Isidro Labrador, Tonantzin or Xihuacoatl (goddess mother of all other deities) became Virgen De Guadalupe, etc. There were other examples given for the Caribbean region and the known practice of 'santeria', as a result of merging African Yoruba religion with Roman Catholic and Native American traditions. From these examples, we conclude that the Latino is really a hybrid of many other practices, a fusion of characters and flavors. However, the Fitra or innate disposition of human nature has guided us by the will of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) back to Islam - the true, pure state of monotheistic belief.
During our religious conversion, we begin a transitional process of values in which many dilemma arise. The ambivalence or contradictory feelings that were initiated by the cultural shock result in a mental and emotional state of perplexity, as a product of transferring the cultural and spiritual values of one group to another. Therefore, we should not overwhelm ourselves with the transition of our habits and ideas; we should seek Allah's refuge and take Islam one step at a time. It is important to remember that it should be a gradual change. This does not mean we should allow ourselves to be lazy and take a long time to embrace the correct practices. We are obliged to continue our education in our religion and strive for improvement in our behavior, words, and beliefs. However, we must be patient with ourselves and with one another. And, remember that we are not stripping ourselves away from our essence - we are only improving it.
The second presentation was given by Mrs. Ingrid Ascencio on the topic of â€œFriendship and Sisterhood in Islam.â€ She discussed how friendship is one of the most important social aspects in our lives. She also reminded us about the hadith in which the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) mentioned how we must be careful in choosing our friends, because the person inevitably follows the steps of his or her companion. Another example mentioned by the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) was the analogy made of a good friend to a seller of musk while a bad friend is like the one who blows in the blacksmith's bellows.
Friendship has many important aspects. In general, the Muslim must maintain good manners and show kindness to everybody. However, some characteristics or experiences make us naturally inclined towards a certain type of people versus another. It could potentially be due to ties of similar faith, habits, traits, or experiences. Keep in mind that the ties of brotherhood based on the Islamic faith is one of the greatest blessings from Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) since these acquaintances create a social circle. Hopefully, this social circle is formed of believers who are good in character, because they are essential in a support group that lives up to Islamic principles.
We must bear in mind some advice regarding our relations with our friends and brothers/sisters in faith. First, remember to always give the proper greeting of 'salam', because this is the first step that opens the hearts. Also, keep your intention firm in loving each other for Allah's sake, because those who do so have been promised to have the shade of Allah on the Day of Judgment. In addition, the Golden Rule applies, because we must wish for others what we would wish for ourselves. We can keep our hearts clean of disease by following several guidelines such as refraining from gossip, slander, and backbiting, concealing the faults of others, forgiving, and in case of disputes, following the limit of three days to cool off. We are never allowed to break ties or distance ourselves permanently from one another.
We have to remember that in the end the final recompense is not from others, but from Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala), The Most Merciful. Allah will remove our distress and our hardship, and He will have our faults covered in this world if we are this way toward our fellow brothers and sisters.
The final topic â€œModesty in Islamâ€ was presented by Mrs. Celia Snowber. She began by explaining how all the Prophets and Messengers of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) encouraged Haya. Haya is usually translated as modesty and shyness. This concept plays a very important role in the affairs of the Creator and the creation. Modesty in Islam is reflected by a Muslim in his/her way of talk, clothing as well as in his/her public and secret behavior.
Any talk regarding modesty starts in the heart, because the Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) mentioned how modesty is part of faith, and faith resides in the heart. The Muslim must be cautious when talking and must be moderate in his/her conversations. Using obscene words, shouting when angry, and lying are not acceptable qualities in Islam.
Modesty in clothing is described in the Qu'ran (24: 30-31): â€œSay to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty: that will make for greater purity for them: And Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards Allah, that ye may attain Bliss.â€
In these ayat, Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) teaches us how to dress and who are excluded from the hijab. The modesty protects women from being a prisoner, a victim of society, because her clothing not only protects her, but identifies her as a believing woman.
The Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) told his companions to be modest in front of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala). Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) wants you to protect your mind from what you have learned, your stomach from what you have eaten. He requests that we remember death and its tribulations and that we leave the adornments of this life for those who wish goodness in the next life. The daily conduct of a Muslim has to do with rememberance of the presence of Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) in every moment of his/her life, because this awareness is what helps to acquire modesty. The shyness towards our Creator develops when the Muslim understands that Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) knows everything we do and he/she has shame of committing something that would displease the All-Mighty. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhe wa sallam) said that every religion has its characteristics and that the characteristic of Islam is Haya (modesty, shyness).
The evening ended with great gems of knowledge in our hearts and minds and with a renewed sense of sweetness in our faith and in our bonds towards each other. The event came to an end with a closing du'a and the Asr prayer. Wonderful dishes were shared in good-natured company among all the participants and kids.
May Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) keep us growing in love and knowledge of our faith.
The agenda of the program follows:
"La Gran Novena Confraternidad Annual para las hermanas"
A Thank You Note:
Cartographies of Islam in the Americas: Migrants, Converts and Devotion
By UCLA Latin American Institute
Symposium about the growing presence of Islam in Latin American Societies.
Friday, April 03, 2009
Muslim communities in the Americas are made up of migrants- people from historically Muslim regions like the Middle East and South East Asia who have settled in the region, and a growing number of converts. Migrants and their descendants are a majority of Muslims in South America, particularly in Argentina and Brazil. Converts are more visible in Mexico and the Caribbean. In all of these regions however, migrants and converts interact with each other and with global institutions of Islamic dawa- of invitation to the faith, in diverse dynamics of devotion. The expansion of Islam as a 'global faith' faith in recent decades, and the standardization and disciplining of boundaries that have accompanied that trend, contrast with the diversity of regional Muslim practices.
This Symposium brings together scholars from the length and breadth of the Americas to map the growing presence of Islam in the 'New World'. Participants bring a wide array of disciplines to this effort, including history, anthropology and political science, and very different sources- ranging from hemerographic archives, to personal narratives and internet discussion forums, to generate an interdisciplinary vision of this complex social landscape.
Boundaries and Passages: Migrants and Converts in the Muslim Communities in Brazil
Islam in Cuba
Conversion Stories: Testimonies of Faith
Cost: Free and Open to the Public
For more information please contact:
Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, Latin American Institute
UCLA Latin American Institute
Â© 2009 The Regents of the University of California
An Intimate Look at Hip-Hop's Jihad
By Suad Abdul Khabeer
June 23, 2009
‘New Muslim Cool,’ a new PBS documentary, shows how young Muslim Americans in the post-9/11 era are deepening ties between hip-hop and Islam
Real hip-hop heads know that Islam and hip-hop have been longtime friends, feeding off each other’s energy. Muslim ideals of self-respect and social change have inspired some of the greatest emcees, and hip-hop is giving voice to the dreams and daily struggles of a generation of Muslims. This cross-pollination between Islam and hip-hop is vividly illustrated in a new documentary, New Muslim Cool, which premieres tonight on PBS.
Directed by veteran filmmaker Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, New Muslim Cool chronicles three years in the life of Hamza "Jason" Perez, a Puerto Rican Muslim, family man, emcee, interfaith prison chaplain and social activist.
So why is Hamza’s story called the New Muslim Cool? Because he is part of a generation of young Muslims who are coming of age in a post-9/11 America. They are tackling questions of race, faith, freedom and even, as Hamza does, questionable intrusions by the FBI. They unapologetically choose God and country; they are doing American Islam with style.
And then, there’s the music. Citing influences such as Malcolm X and Pedro Albizu Campos, Hamza and his brother, Suliman, bring together the best of who they are. They use hip-hop in the great music traditions of the African Diaspora. The music seeks to speak to the harsh but sweet realities of everyday life; to encourage an elevation of the spirit, and to inspire a commitment to social change.
Set in Pittsburgh, Pa., the film opens with Hamza’s words (played over a hip-hop track by his group, M-Team): “I would always have two consistent dreams my whole life; one, that I was gonna experience death at the age of 21, the other that I was gonna be in jail, and then, both of them came true.”
He describes his conversion to Islam at the age of 21 as a “death of all my past, the negative.” Hamza finds Islam on the same street corners where he hustled as a drug dealer, and as a Muslim, he returns to the streets to offer a way out to the “30 below”: young, black and Latino men under age 30 who see drugs as their only path to the American Dream.
Inspired by his spiritual awakening, Hamza seeks to “move the crowd” as he himself was moved. And in many ways, his story is the quintessential hip-hop track, a journey from the rags of ignorance and desperation to the riches of knowledge and empowerment.
Eventually, Hamza does make it to jail, but it is not as an inmate as he had anticipated. Instead, he winds up as a chaplain providing spiritual guidance to prisoners of all faiths.Yet, Hamza’s story also extends beyond his religious community. His struggles echo the realities of many young Latino and black men. His mother, Gladys Perez, is a single parent who worked two jobs to keep her children in Catholic school and off the streets in a local community that lacked the economic, educational and political resources to support her.
In the face of these familiar circumstances, Hamza, then only known as Jason, chooses a likely path, drug dealing, which he later successfully rejects. Yet, Hamza’s gritty life story also has its softer side. Pushing back against two popular stereotypes—sexist Muslim men and absent “baby daddies”—Hamza is lovingly building a blended family, made up of his two children from a previous marriage and his African-American wife, Rafiah, and her daughter. In the film, he is seen cracking jokes as he rubs his abuela's feet. It is a story resonating beyond Muslim and hip-hop audiences.
At numerous screenings, whether national or international, it is clear that viewers are moved deeply by Hamza’s growth as a Muslim and as a man. Because at its core, the New Muslim Cool is about the struggle to respond to adversity with your better self. It’s about finding beauty in the least expected places. Set over the treble and funk, it tells a story we can all relate to, about the complexities of what it means to be imperfectly human. New Muslim Cool premieres on PBS tonight. Check local listings.
Suad Abdul Khabeer is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University.