Latino Muslims, Other, USA

Latino Muslim Survey Report

Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the US Muslim population. According to some estimates, there are between 55,000 and 198,000 Latinos practicing Islam in the country. At a time when President Donald Trump has issued a ban on Muslim refugees from seven countries and fortified Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, the group has become particularly vulnerable. However, research explaining why many Latinos have converted to Islam or shedding light on the group’s experiences in the United States remains scarce. Hoping to fill this gap, Gastón Espinosa, Professor of Religious Studies at Claremont Mckenna College, conducted the first-ever, large-scale survey research of Latino Muslims.

This Comprehensive Study Sheds Light on the Latino Muslim Experience

The term Latino Islamidad may not yet be mainstream, but a new report explores why a growing number of U.S. Latinos convert to Islam in hopes of understanding what it means to be a Latino Muslim today. The report is published in last month’s Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion.

Findings come from the Latino Muslims Survey (LMS), the most comprehensive social science oriented study of U.S. Latino Muslims, which examines an intersection of religious beliefs and practices; spiritual, moral, social, and ethical views; and the social, civic, and political attitudes of self-identified Latinos and Muslims. Findings are based on an online, bilingual survey of U.S. Latino Muslims conducted from Sept. 8 to Dec. 15, 2014. More than 560 Latino Muslims participated in the nationwide survey.

New report explores the identity of Latino Muslims in the United States

Latino Muslims have emerged in a religious landscape that is “diverse and fluid” and in a public discourse that too often frames Latinos and Muslims as foreign and problematic in the U.S. (PEW 2014). This was nowhere more evident than in the wake of the 2016 Election when President Donald Trump issued a 90-day ban on Muslim immigration from seven countries, citing national safety concerns regarding the vetting process. While Latino Muslims were not part of this ban, because of their religion, immigration status, similar physical characteristics, and/or intermarriage, many Latinos (Muslim and non-Muslim) felt the ban reinforced negative stereotypes and created a hostile environment to live, work, and raise their families. For this reason – along with talk about building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, Latino Muslims worked across racial, class, and religious lines to oppose the ban and “anti-immigrant” policies.

At one interfaith rally in San Antonio in January 2017, three Latino Muslim children held up a sign that read: “All this Cuteness Courtesy of Latino Muslim Immigrants: No Ban, No Wall” (Davis 2017, Natiral 2017). These stories of Latino Muslims help to denaturalize popular assumptions about religion in public life, such as that all Latinos are Catholic, all Muslims are Arabs, and all Americans are Christian. They also raise important questions about the complex relationship between Latinos, Muslims, conversion and the growth and role of Islam in the new religious U.S.

Latino Muslims in the United States: Reversion, Politics, and Islamidad (Download the full report)
Books, USA

Want to Learn More About Muslims? Pick Up a Book. Or 10

By Saadia Faruqi, Dec 16, 2016

Wear Your Voice magazine

Media stereotypes and misinformation about Muslims are nothing new. But in a post-election world, Muslims are finding more allies who often want to help but don’t know much about us. More and more of our fellow Americans have questions and need answers.

In on online forum recently, someone asked me about books I would recommend to those wishing to learn about Muslims. I’m happy that people want to learn — even though I think meeting Muslims is far more valuable than reading about them — but searching in the sea of available choices can be difficult and dangerous. For instance, search for “Muslim” or “Islam” on Amazon, and the array of books that pop up is worrying. Not because there are so many, but because many of them are horrifyingly inaccurate and often downright false.

Many books that promise “the truth” about Muslims are actually full of hatred and bigotry. You can learn about Sharia from authors who have no clue what it means, or about the tenets of Islam from authors whose bias can be seen from a mile away. You might think a website called “the religion of peace” would be somewhat positive, but it turns out to spew vile hatred against a billion people who actually practice Islam as a religion of peace and love.

But knowledge is power, so here’s my list of books you can and should read if you want to know more about Muslims and Islam. It’s the list I recommend to my students when I train law enforcement and educational institutions, or speak at churches and synagogues. It’s a list of my favorites thus far.



No God but God by Reza Aslan is an oldie but goody about the origins of Islam. If you want to know how the religion of Islam started, what the early Muslims were like and how the landscape changed politically, culturally and in terms of faith as Islam spread across the world, this book is for you.

My favorite part about this book is the fact that Aslan writes as a scholar, not as a Muslim, so you don’t get any of the religious fervor of belief that often turns away non-Muslims. Buy it online here.



The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists by Khaled Abou El Fadl is a comprehensive account of how Muslims in some parts of the world turned away from rational thought and began dabbling in literal interpretations, extremism and sometimes violence. It is really an excellent way to understand some of the political upheavals we are seeing in Muslim countries today, including the rise of militant ideologies. Buy it online here.



Generation M by Shelina Janmohamed is a survey of Muslim youth: what they think, feel and do that makes them a unique force in the world today. They are millennials with a religious twist, and this book paints a vivid picture of them as they grapple with entrepreneurship, technology, fashion, food, consumerism, climate change and so much more. Buy it online here.



The Story of the Quran by Ingrid Mattson is a short book, but it clarifies the religious, cultural and even political significance of Islam’s holy book, the Quran. What role does this book play in a Muslim’s life, who wrote it, what feeling do we have for it? All these questions and more are answered by Mattson, who is a religious scholar and teacher. Buy it online here.



Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time by Karen Armstrong is a must-read biography of the person revered by all Muslims. Armstrong has written several books about Islam, and all are worth reading, but this one is helpful for those who do not know much about the Prophet. It is an unbiased, historical book that is much-needed today, regardless of your religious beliefs. Buy it online here.



1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilizations by Salim Al-Hassanni is a must-read for all the critics of Islam who wonder what Muslims have ever given this world. It’s a National Geographic presentation — it also offers a kids’ version — that showcases all the various scientific and technological creations dreamed up by Muslims and still in use today. Hint: Muslim contributions are invaluable! Buy it online here.



Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas by Sylviane A. Diouf shatters stereotypes that all Muslims are Arab, South Asian or newly arrived in this country. It offers meticulous research showing the arrival of Islam with African slaves and the struggle for religious survival. Buy it online here.



Muslims and the Making of America by Amir Hussain is another book about Muslims in America, but from a surprisingly different perspective. Hussain highlights the aspects of American popular culture where Muslims have made an indelible mark: music, politics, architecture and sports. It’s a short read but highly informative. Buy it online here.



I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim is a series of essays written by 40 American Muslim women about their experiences in their faith journey. Although their religion may be the same, their personal narratives and backgrounds are completely different, showing the diversity of Islam in a beautiful and eye-opening way. There is also a partner essay collection about Muslim American men. Buy it online here.



The Fear of Islam: An Introduction of Islamophobia in the West by Todd H. Green is a comprehensive reader on Islamophobia, or an irrational fear of Muslims. From the historical origins of this phenomenon to current issues including media stereotypes, this book will help educate and inform without being preachy. Buy here.

Jan - Mar 2010, USA

Islamic Classes in New York and Chicago

—New York—

Introduccion al Islam en Espanol
Class Dates: February 10th, 2010 – May 5th, 2010
Timings: Wednesdays, 7:00pm – 8:30pm
Location: The IC


Class Description: El propósito de esta clase será proveer conocimientos básicos sobre la religión del Islam, empezando por los seis principios de la fe Islámica y los cinco pilares de la misma. De igual forma, buscaremos entablar una conversación productiva sobre asuntos que atañen a los musulmanes hispanoparlantes hoy en día. Cuáles son los retos y posibilidades que enfrentamos los musulmanes latinos en relación a nuestras familias, nuestras comunidades, y la comunidad musulmana norteamericana en especifico? Cómo podemos aprender de las experiencias de nuestros hermanos y hermanas de fe?

This class will aim to cover the basics tenets of Islam, as well as to provide a venue for discussing some of the challenges Hispanic/Latino Muslims face today. The class will be held in Spanish, and it is open to Spanish speaking Muslims, their families, friends, and all those who wish to learn about Islam and Latino Muslims while practicing their Spanish language. Bienvenidos!

Instructor: Janan Delgado is an Ecuadorian graduate student at NYU’s Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern and Islamic studies. Born and raised in Ecuador, she moved to Egypt at age eighteen to study Arabic and Islamic sciences at Al-Azhar University and Al-Fajr Center for Arabic Language. After earning a degree in Arabic language, Janan enrolled in the American University in Cairo, where she acquired a BA in Political Science in 2007.

She is currently writing her MA thesis in Maliki Law on Child Custody in Al-Andalus and North Africa.

The Islamic Center at NYU is dedicated to fostering a sense of awareness, activism and scholarship amongst the Muslim community both on and off campus. For more information about our clubs, events, staff and podcasts, please visit: http://www.icnyu.org/


Circulo de Estudios Islamicos en Chicago


presentados en el MCC, Muslim Community Center (en el 2do piso), cada primer y tercer Sabado del mes.

El siguiente circulo de inshaAllah sera el SABADO 20 DE FEBRERO DEL 2010


Maestra: hermana, Damaliya Salim
Libro de estudio: Quran Made Easy por Shabir A. Belim
META de estudio: inshaAllah poder leer las Surahs/el Coran

Moderadora: hermana, Rebecca Abuqaoud
Libro de estudio:El Nectar Sellado por (Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum)
Sheikh Safi-ur Rahman al Mubarkpuri
META de estudio:inshaAllah, aprender y saber la biografia, las
ensenanzas del Profeta Muhammad (Paz y bendicion sean con el)

Rebecca Abuqaoud
Program Coordinator
Circulo de Estudios Islamicos

July - Sept 2009, USA

Another American Muslim Perspective

The United States has its share of visitors every year. Some men and women are here to work, others come to study, while others are tourists; I am here to stay. Like it or not, I am bound to the land through my work and memories. The constant reminder that my religion is under siege here in the United States has not wavered my loyalties to my country. Islam and the United States had a shotgun wedding on September 11, 2001. Separated by centuries of misunderstanding and neglect, the two are now struggling to understand each other over night. The suspicions and lack of trust between Muslims and the United States government has the ability to escalate into nationwide civil unrest; that is, unless a strong effort to diffuse the existing tension is supported by the American people. Unlike the visitors who are passing through, I am here for the duration of my life. The responsibility of fixing what went wrong between Islam and the United States falls to the Muslims, who are already home.

I do not believe it is impossible to mend the relationship between Islam and the United States government. The task seems epic in complexity, and still it is a challenge waiting to be overcome by those who will champion our cause. The need for accurate recognition of Islam in the West has never been stronger. This is not the time to shy away, hoping everything will turn out all right. As an American Muslim, I have the responsibility of spanning the gap of intolerance that has been left unchecked between my faith and my country. It is time to get involved in shaping the future of the United States policy towards Islam. It is time to take sensible action to improve our public image. We can speak out in our local communities against those who would use Islam as a punch line to hide their malevolent intentions. Educated Muslims in the United States must leave the safety of their own homes, and go out into the world to teach true Islam to those who will listen. Personally I recommend targeting the media machine that fires the negative propaganda war against Islam. Reform the Medias speculative reporting, and positive change will begin to take hold. Show the western media a united Muslim front against intolerance, racism, and religious oppression. Every man and woman in the United States is entitled to their inalienable rights to practice their faith in peace. Are Muslims so different that our own rights can be overlooked, because of public ignorance towards our religion?

All relationships have compromises. It is easy to blame the United Stated government for the Western outlook on Islam. Truth is Muslims are as much at fault for our current plight as anyone else. Too many times I have heard an immigrant Muslim put down the United States because they are upset about something. As an American Muslim, I agree with a person’s right to their views; on the other hand, I will not join them in putting down my country. The parallel to this scenario would be me visiting a foreign country and publicly expressing disgust for their policies and people. That’s not right, in fact it’s disrespectful. It is easy for me to tell people visiting the United States, who dislike the country, to “Get Out!” This one-sided demand would not resolve anything; in fact I would be taking a step in the wrong direction. Instead of asking people to leave, I say, “Please stay and learn more about my culture and my country.” Ostracizing people who don’t agree with me only builds intolerance. To the Muslims who are just visiting, I ask you to remember why you left behind the people and places you knew to begin your life again in the United States? If you are leaving and going back home share your positive memories of the United States with your family, friends, and neighbors. Tell them about the civil liberties you enjoyed, show them pictures of our neighborhoods, and tell them about the people you met here. Encourage those who want to visit to come here and experience our way of life for themselves. To think we are all bad people who wish to control the world is completely inaccurate. Generalization always leads to myths and misguided rumors. Americans are very diverse in our faith, ethnicity, and experiences that the only thing keeping us together is our laws and constitution. Treat us as individuals – each one a possibility to make a new friend or confidant.

There are reasons why people become disillusioned by the United States. Maybe they have lost a family member or their business failed because of an American? Are these reasons to hate an entire country of several million individuals? Sometimes problems arise that seem to have no alternative answer, other than, violent retaliation. It is exactly at this time that Muslims should seek guidance from the Qur’an. Ask yourself is violence your only means of expression, keeping in mind that killing someone else does not resurrect the dead, and taking a life does not produce new capital over night. Islam condemns the wholesale slaughter of innocent lives. A pilot might be guilty of taking an innocent life. That man should be punished, not thousands of lives that had nothing to do with the incident. On the other hand, the Islamophobia Americans carry around is unjustified. Their suspicions and intolerance for a religion they do not understand must be remedied with facts. Speaking for myself, I don’t want to hurt anyone, and I don’t want war. The United States and Islam have reached an impasse. The only way out of this stalemate is to reason with another, to hear each other’s grievances, and to work together to mend our civil and religious misunderstandings.

Men and women, who hate the United States as a whole, do so without moral boundaries. Muhammad Atta believed he would strike a righteous blow for Islam against the United States when he piloted a plane into the World Trade Center. Atta must have shown some concern for the Muslims aboard the same plane he was flying. He must have stopped to think about the Muslim working inside the towers that morning. Even after pondering the outcome of his actions on innocent Muslim lives, he continued with his plans. He was destined to make his point, and no one was going to deter him from completing his political agenda. How many Muslim families lost a loved one during the terrible events on September the 11th? I don’t believe one of those Muslim victims woke up that morning and thought “Today I am going to martyr myself by sitting in my office and having a jetliner end my life.” This is the story we don’t hear about. When extremists take justice into their own hands, they are blinded by their single mindedness and lose sight of their intended target. Here in the United States a Muslim runs the same risk of losing his or her life to an extremist attack, as does a Gentile or a Jew. If you live within the borders of the United States and applaud the actions of extremist cells that call themselves warriors of god, you are inviting death on yourself and your family.

It may be hard for others to accept my views on the United States. Why should I support a government that seems bent on causing strife to Muslim countries? I do not support the killing of innocent people, especially if they are Muslim or my countrymen. What I do support is the removal of tyrants and the introduction of the democratic way of life to countries that have been denied its shelter. Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power. Any man, who would sanction the use of cyanide and mustard gas against non-combatants, like he did on the town of Halabaja in 1988, does not deserve to remain in power. Speak with Iraqi citizens and with Kurdish refugees, they will tell you the real story about Saddam controlled Iraq. The first four Muslim Caliphates were all founded as democracies. Is it a fantasy to want a democratic government for the Iraqi? Governments around the world know the level of human suffering in Iraq, and they did nothing to prevent the horrors and atrocities that went on under Hussein’s rule. I do not believe Saddam Hussein was a good Muslim or that he governed Iraq as a Muslim state. With the creation of a new democratic Iraqi government, the people will once again have an opportunity to be led by Muslims with a strong base in Islam. I have to support my country because I have lived under its rule and experienced a life of freedom unheard of in some parts of the world. If United States intervention in the Middle East means that Iraqis will have an opportunity to experience life as I have, then yes, I support my government’s decision to give Iraq back to its people.

Currently, the United States is lashing out against its perceived enemies. After the 9/11 attacks, Americans pleaded with their leadership by demanding action be taken for the destruction of the Twin Towers. The government replied by creating a campaign against well-known extremists. If the government had done nothing, extremists around the world would have seen that as a sign of weakness. This would have encouraged those contemplating terror attacks on the United States to implement their plans. The Taliban were targeted because of their close links to extremist groups. They were defeated, and a new Afghani government was instated to help build the country back to its former self. Under the false pretext of weapons of mass destruction, the United States attacked Iraq. We were wrong to use the treat of biological and nuclear weapons as the reason to instigate a war. What the United States should have said from the very beginning is “We are going to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and give the Iraqi people back their right to rule themselves as they see fit.” The campaign in Iraq will soon be over. A new Iraqi government has since been instated. The Iraqi people have a new constitution, economic embargoes have been lifted, and foreign political sanctions against the country have ended. Iraq has a bright, prosperous future to look forward to – a future in which it is led by qualified Muslim leaders who seek peace with the West and peace within its own borders.

The United States government is not perfect, which is why we have laws to aid us in replacing those who abuse their power. As a Muslim, I feel my rights to practice Islam are being compromised by bigotry and prejudice, but it’s not being taken away. This is a far cry from what is currently happening to people in other countries struggling for religious recognition. Take, for instance, the believers of Falun Gong in China. Whereas I may endure hate crimes in the future, Falun Gong believers have to endure imprisonment, the horrors of torture, brain washing, and the inevitable denouncement of their faith to please their government. I consider myself lucky to live in a country where the government does not force me to give up my religion under treat of death. This is why I support my government and why I must show solidarity with my leaders.

I believe American suffers from imperial hubris. The governing body believes it can fix the world’s problems by simply waving money around, dispatching troops, or sweeping unmentionables out of the way. The global community has bred this overseer mentality into the United States for almost a century. How many times in the past has a foreign sovereignty requested aid from the United States to resolve its domestic problems? Let us not forget WWI, WWII, or Kuwait. I doubt the world would be a safer place if the United States decided to close its borders to outside influences and recall their overseas military forces. Remember the countries of the world have been oppressed by European, Middle Eastern, and Asian powers far longer then they have from the United States. The United States is slowly learning how to cooperate with Muslim countries. Eventually the wars will end, and peace will prevail. The more the United States interacts with the Middle East, the more insight it will gain on Islam. With time new laws will be drafted, and new policies will be created to help the two coexist peacefully, Insha’Allah.

I hope the United States is fighting a war against oppression and political extremists, not a war against Islam. There is a distinction between political extremists and every day Muslims, just like there is a difference between Islam and Middle Eastern culture. The United States momentum generated out of fear and ignorance towards Islam must be curbed through the intervention of its citizens. The responsibility of American Muslims is to focus our resources into educating our leaders, politicians, and children. We have to show them the true face of Islam. The only thing I can do to alleviate the suffering of Muslims and United States personnel overseas is by pressing my government to reevaluate its objectives and to bring the war to an end as soon as possible. Regardless of my personal views on the United States government, I am not at liberty to turn my back on her, not when she needs me the most. I am an American Muslim, and I love my country.

April - June 2009, USA

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
9:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Royce 362
Los Angeles, CA 90095

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.

A Forgotten Presence: Muslim Migrants in early 20th Century South America
María del Mar Logroño Carbona, Assistant Professor, History Department, Florida State University

Boundaries and Passages: Migrants and Converts in the Muslim Communities in Brazil
Paulo G. Pinto, Ph.D. in Anthropology from Boston University. Professor at the Graduate Program in Anthropology and Political Science and Director of the Center for Middle East Studies (NEOM) at the Fluminense Federal University — Brazil

Islam in Cuba
Luis Mesa Delmonte, Researcher and Academic Coordinator at the Center for the Study of Asia and Africa (CEAA), Colegio de Mexico, Mexico

Conversion Stories: Testimonies of Faith
Jonathan Friedlander, Assistant Director/Outreach Director, UCLA Near Eastern Studies Center

Being a new Muslim in Mexico: Conversion as Class Mobility
Camila Pastor de Maria y Campos, Ph.D Candidate, UCLA Department of Anthropology,

Cost: Free and Open to the Public

For more information please contact:
Gloria Tovar
Tel: (310) 825-4571

Sponsor(s): Center for Near Eastern Studies, Latin American Institute

UCLA Latin American Institute
The UCLA Latin American Institute, situated in a major U.S. gateway to the region, is committed to excellence in its exchange of knowledge with students, specialists, and the surrounding community. The Institute equips leaders and scholars with the information and skills required for understanding complex Latin American societies.

© 2009 The Regents of the University of California

April - June 2009, USA

Historical Trip to Puerto Rico Unites Islanders to the Mainland

By Imam Yusef Maisonet and Sr Khadijah Rivera

June 4, 2009


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.

At the Vega Alta mosque

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.

Masjid in San Juan, Monte Heiras

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.
2. No Puerto Rican imam is available on the entire island.
3. Urgent need for Islamic Literature mostly Qur’ans and Prayer Books.
4. Daiis and Daiyettes-Need for brothers and sisters willing to give Dawah in Puerto Rico, and wanting to have some kind of bridge between, the Indigenous Puerto Rican Muslims and Latinos in mainland USA.

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.

Masjid in Hatillo, Puerto Rico

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.

From right to left: Hajji Amr Wilfredo Ruiz, Yasser Reyes, and a new Muslim Abdullah

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,” Mission accomplished “ 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 “Latino Renaissance”. 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:

Latino Islam
Imam Yusef Maisonet
1319 Bay Ave
Mobile, Al 36605

April - June 2007, Dawah, Latino Muslims, Organizations, USA

LADO Timeline of Accomplishments


September 1997Latino American Dawah Organization (LADO) is founded to promote Islam among Latinos in the United States.
October 1997LADO begins to formalize its mission statement and the means for accomplishing its mission.
October 1997LADO selects “¡A su LADO!” as its slogan.
October 1997LADO establishes first LADO website.
October 1997LADO establishes first LADO online newsletter.
1998-2000LADO makes alliances with organizations on a local level.
January 2001LADO initiates Latino Muslim Census.
July 2001LADO attends the 2nd Annual Latino Muslim Conference.
July 2001LADO is endorsed by ISNA and ICNA.
August 2001LADO is in the news and Islamic Horizons Magazine.
July 2001LADO begins working with ISNA’s Latino Coordinating Committee.
October 2001LADO begins collecting a book on Latino conversion stories.
October 2001LADO forges relationship with various Muslim organizations.
October 2001LADO establishes YahooGroup.
Dec 2001 – Sept 2002LADO members in various newspaper and magazine articles.
January 2002LADO overhauls its website and online newsletter to better serve the needs of the Latino Muslim community.
July 2002LADO attends the 3rd Annual Latino Muslim Conference.
July/August 2002LADO coordinates first, ever Muslim magazine issue dedicated to American Latino Muslims. Islamic Horizons: July/August 2002 issue.
July/August 2002LADO releases the first comprehensive article about Latino Muslims in America in Islamic Horizons Magazine.
September 2002LADO members speak at 39th Annual ISNA Convention.
March 2003LADO forges closer relationships with Latino Muslim organizations.
July 2003LADO attends the 4th Annual Latino Muslim Conference.
September 2003LADO members speak at 40th Annual ISNA Convention.
December 2003LADO clarifies its mission statement, dawah objectives, and guiding principles in response to the rapid growth of Latino Muslims.
June 2004LADO establishes chat room and guestbook.
July 2004LADO attends the 5th Annual Latino Muslim Conference.
September 2004LADO members speak at 41th Annual ISNA Convention.
October 2004LADO members speak at 2nd annual Hispanic Muslim Day event in New Jersey.
Nov/December 2004LADO coordinates the first, ever Latino Muslims magazine issue by The Message International dedicated to Latino Muslims. The Message International: November/December 2004 issue.
Nov/December 2004LADO releases extensive article in English and Spanish about Latino Muslims in The Message International.
May 2005LADO unveils its redesigned website.
July 2005LADO attends the 6th Annual Latino Muslim Conference.
September 2005LADO members speak at 42th Annual ISNA Convention.
October 2005LADO members speak at 3rd annual Hispanic Muslim Day event in New Jersey.
Nov/December 2005LADO coordinates the second Latino Muslims magazine issue by The Message International dedicated to Latino Muslims. The Message International: November/December 2005 issue.
Nov/December 2005LADO releases article about the founding of LADO in The Message International.
Oct - Dec 2006, USA

Historical Mosque in Phoenix, Arizona Commemorates 25 Years

By Mahasin Shamsid-Deen

Masjid Jauharatul-Islam, (The Jewel of Islam), the first mosque built totally along Islam design by indigenous American Muslims commemorates its 25th year on June 19, 2006. Activities to celebrate the anniversary will take place on Sunday, June 18, 2006.

On Friday, June 19, 1981 the dedication for the new mosque was held at its location at 102 W. South Mountain Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona. Delegations from all over the United States and from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Canada, Morocco, China, Malaysia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Turkey, Fiji Islands and Iraq attended the dedication ceremonies.

Masjid Jauharatul-Islam started as the Phoenix Mosque and Islamic Institute Project. It was a project initiated by the religious head of the community at that time, Imam Abdur-Rahim Shamsid-Deen who was part of the then named World Community of Al-Islam in the West. He, along with the late Dr. Jamil Diab the then honorary council of Jordan and a soldier studying at Arizona State University Major Sulaiman ali Al-Shaye organized the project.

In 1978, Imam Shamsid-Deen new to his position as the Imam wanted to move the indigenous Muslim community of Phoenix out of store-front ghetto buildings into something that would “nurture the increasing thirst for knowledge and understanding of one of the world’s largest religions.”

This galvanized one senior citizen in the Muslim community Frank Mu’min to
search out with the help of a realtor in the community Wazir Karim and purchase about
four acres of land in South Phoenix and donate it to the Muslim community. The

Muslims then purchased an additional four acres and broke ground to begin building in November of 1980.

A contractor in the mosque at the time, Lamar Hassan hired American and Mexican workers to begin the construction. Ummil-Kheer Shamsid-Deen, the late wife of Imam Shamsid-Deen was an interior designer who designed the women’s bath, library, offices and inside of masjid. Architectural services were donated by Baseem Hakim and a structural engineer Kamal Amin and landscaping was performed by Malik Abdullah.

Although started by Muslims indigenous to the United States part of the newly Islamic orthodox organization led by Imam W.D. Mohammed, the World Community of Al-Islam in the West (later American Muslim Mission) – the project soon became a universal Muslim initiative. Many Muslims who had recently immigrated to the United States who lived in Phoenix and attended the mosque with Imam Shamsid-Deen as the leader became a part of the project. Imam Shamsid-Deen welcomed and encouraged this ethnic diversity as being representative of the universality of Islam. “It is important and significant that all Muslims who live here in the Phoenix area not only feel that they can be part of this initiative, but realize that simply because they are Muslim they “are’ part of this project.” Imam Shamsid-Deen said.

Upon the completion of Masjid Jauharatul-Islam (Jewel of Islam) the Adhan was put on loud speaker from the minaret and could be heard for up to four blocks in this south Phoenix neighborhood. The first family to respond to that call was appropriately enough – a Mexican American family that lived on the street. Here a young father came to the masjid door to inquire about the sound he had heard. Since he was new to the neighborhood he wondered if it was a “call’ like a bell that was to tell the people to gather at this place. Alhumdulilah the answer was – yes it is! He and his family became the first to embrace Islam at the newly built Masjid.

Although many mosques and Islamic centers exist in the United States, Masjid Jauharatul-Islam (the Jewel of Islam) is the first built from the ground up totally along Islamic design. All other mosques in the United States at that time were renovated buildings with Islamic styled domes and minarets added later or like the mosque in Grand Rapids, Michigan built by newly arrived immigrants to the United States.

Besides Masjid Jauharatul-Islam, the Phoenix Mosque and Institute Project used the residual monies raised for the building of the mosque in South Phoenix to build the Islamic Cultural Center in Tempe, Arizona just outside of Arizona State University. Imam Shamsid-Deen and the late Dr. Jamil Diab as close friends and associates wanted to build a mosque that was similar to the sacred mosque in Jerusalem where Dr. Diab and his family had been displaced to Jordan. Thus the Islamic Cultural Center in Tempe has a design very similar to the Dome of the Rock. This structure was almost exclusively built by the contractor Lamar Hassan and his sons.

At Masjid Jauharatul Islam the sounds of the adhan wailing “Allahu-Akbar” wafts over the loud speaker announcing Maghrib prayer from the minaret as the setting sun paints the sky with a rainbow of colors. The beautiful red, orange, rose, purple, blue and lavender glow of the sun reflects off the masjid like a clean canvas as the last yellow brightness is picked up and reflected in the silver balls of the minaret.

As awesome as this masjid is at sunset, its beauty is just as magnificent at midday. The whiteness of the stucco building rising on eight acres of desert land brings it into prominence against the beige, brown and peach desert landscape. The three silver balls on the stem of the minaret glisten like diamond jewels in the sun against the backdrop of Rocky Mountains and cerulean blue skies. The walkway leading to the inside and courtyard is flanked by lines of Orange, Grapefruit and Lemon trees that scent the air and brush the senses with the sweet smell of honey and blossoms. The wide, wooden front door is outlined in 3-D with blue and white marble tile inscribed with “Allah u Akbar” in Arabic calligraphy.

Upon entering, one steps into a cool courtyard strategically built to not only be cooler than the surrounding desert but to also capture any breeze. In the middle of the square courtyard lies velvety thick green grass surrounded by various flowering plants and an orange clay water fountain from Mexico gurgling cool water in the center.

As one walks along the blue, marble tiled walkway, there are stucco arches outlined with blue and white hand swirled tiles donated from families from Turkey and strong oak doors leading to the entrance of the masjid prayer area. On the opposite side, the walkway leads to another area of thoughtful introspection called the “jannah'(heaven). Here there is a blue clay water fountain, Orange, Lemon and Lime trees, plush, overgrown rose bushes with pink, red, white, yellow or orange petals forming the flowers and flecks of light caught by the three balls of the minaret above glistening off the stucco walls. The mixture of scents from the rose bushes and citrus plants along with tiny white blossoms from the trees often floating through the area enhance the spiritual senses. Beyond the walls of this area rises the backdrop of South Mountain to create a picture perfect scene.

Inside the masjid prayer (mussalah) are large stucco columns and green shag carpeting almost as thick as the grass in the courtyard. On top of this carpeting are woven rugs from Iran and Afghanistan in rich colors of brown, beige and maroon with geometric designs. A carved out Mihrab is along the front center wall with a window of gold and black “Allah -u-Akbar” installed along the top. Six elaborate chandeliers donated from the Tung family of China hang from the ceiling to sparkle and pick up the flecks of stone in the stucco walls and the words in the Mihrab.

Latino Muslims, Oct - Dec 2006, USA

Latina Muslims in New York City

By Nichola Saminather

November 18, 2005

When Pamela “” now Aisha “” Munoz came to the United States from Bolivia five years ago in search of her true self, she didn’t imagine that it would involve a radical conversion away from her Roman Catholic roots.

Today, 17 months after she accepted Islam, she sits serenely on a metal bench in the bustling Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst, with her black hijab wrapped securely around her head. She has, she says, finally found what she was seeking.

Without the hijab “” the Muslim headscarf — she could be any 23-year-old Latina. Her shy, yet ready smile reveals the metal lines of retainers, giving her an air of vulnerability, of being thrust into adulthood before she was quite prepared to take it on.

In the cold weather, the fact that she is wearing jeans and a black long-sleeved turtleneck is not odd. But come summer, or when she takes the two children she baby sits to the swimming pool, her covered arms and legs stand out among the bikini- and shorts-clad women, even when she is not wearing her hijab. On the telephone, she speaks softly and respectfully, her South American accent at distinct odds with the Arabic expressions “” Salaam Alaikum, meaning peace be with you, and Insha Allah, meaning God-willing “” that pepper her conversations.

But Munoz says she is far more comfortable now than she ever was before she took her shahadah “” testifying that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammad is the prophet of Allah, required for conversion to Islam. “I was always looking for a place to establish myself,” Munoz said. “I met some sisters, and they told me more about the religion. I fit in well. This is my place.”

And apparently, she is not the only Latina who feels at home in Islam. While the U.S. Census Bureau does not include religion in its survey questions, Islamic organizations such as the Council for American Islamic Relations and the Islamic Society of North America estimate that there are about 40,000 Latino Muslims, 0.6 per cent of the entire population. And this number is growing daily.

“It’s a strange phenomenon,” says Juan Alvarado “” who also goes by his Muslim name of Shafiq Muhammad “” one of the founders of LADO, the Latin American Dawah (invite) Organisation, which offers help and support to new Hispanic Muslims. “When I first became a Muslim in 1992, Hispanic Muslims were very few and far between. Now I hear about Hispanics converting or interested in converting every single day.”

Alvarado surmises that increasing interest in the religion after Sept. 11 may have given rise to increasing interest in Islam. “People are more aware of the Islamic world. People were like, “There’s this whole world we don’t know; we want to know why they attacked us; does it actually say that in the Quran?'”

Shamsia Ali, deputy Imam at the Islamic Cultural Center in Manhattan, which offers classes and support to people interested in Islam, said that 75 percent of the 153 people who have converted at the Center over the past year are young Latinas. They come from a religious background anyway, he said, so they are more inclined to religiosity. And they study Islam seriously, think about the ways of the religion, and decide that it is good for them to follow.

As for such a large number of converts being women, Ali said this is because, contrary to popular belief, Islam offers respect, care and protection for women.

Margarita Ng, Chinese by origin, but born and brought up in Venezuela until her move to the United States in 1992, agreed. Ng, 31, who took her shahadah three months ago, said one of the factors that attracted her to Islam was that women are considered equal to men, and, in some instances, even higher than men. “In the Hadith (Prophet Mohammed’s sayings), it says to respect your mother, respect your mother, respect your mother, and then respect your father,” she explained.

Ng, a real estate agent in New York, said she knows her husband “” when she gets married “” will be the head of her household. “But there’s always give and take in a relationship,” she said. “Just because he’s the head of the household doesn’t mean the woman has no say.”

And the requirements to cover the head and body do not make Islam oppressive, Ng said. Rather, it’s a means of protecting a woman. If a woman covers herself properly, it commands respect, she said.

Munoz agreed. “In Spanish, we say “libertina,’ someone who goes beyond just freedom,” she said. She proceeded to give an example. “One day, in the summer, I was wearing my veil. And there was another girl next to me, wearing a very, very short skirt. A guy behind her came up and touched her. He didn’t even look at me. When people dress like that, it asks for violation.”

Arelis Rodriguez, whose mother is Puerto Rican and father is from the Dominican Republic, is also a recent convert to Islam. Even before she took her shahadah three months ago, Rodriguez said she started to change things about herself, as she began reading voraciously about Islam after being introduced to it by a friend. She stopped drinking and partying and started to cover up more, she said.

And although Rodriguez, like Ng, only wears her hijab to the mosque now, she said she intends to start wearing it all the time after she changes her job, which she intends to do soon.

“It’s a bit difficult now where I work,” said Rodriguez, an accountant on Long Island. “I go out to clients and they wouldn’t be comfortable with me in my suit wearing a hijab.”

Rodriguez said she plans to find another job soon, where she will tell her employers from the beginning that she is a Muslim and about her intention of wearing her hijab to work.

These considerations make it more difficult for women to be Muslims, Alvarado said. Alvarado has two sons now, and said he is glad he has no daughters.

“Sisters have a hard time with people making fun of them or looking at them, staring at them,” Alvarado said. “Boys get to dress in regular clothes, so with the exception of their names, no one would think they’re Muslim. It makes it easier for us.”

The dressing issue, however, is not very high on the scale of problems. A bigger concern for many converts is how their own families react. Rodriguez has not told her parents that she has converted, although they seem to have figured it out on their own, as they see the changes in her lifestyle. Two of her sisters are supportive, and her mother has learned to accept it, she said.

Ng’s family wanted to kick her out of their home when she told them about her conversion, and only recently has her mother somewhat relented. “My dad’s given up,” she said.

Munoz said she found difficult to tell her family initially, but that they have accepted her conversion, although they themselves have not converted.

And although Alvarado brings up his sons as Muslims, his wife has refused to leave Catholicism for Islam.

The three women also face another problem “” their futures. Munoz is pursuing an associate’s degree in New Media Technology at LaGuardia Community College, and wants to return to Bolivia when she has finished. But, she will not date or marry a man who is not a Muslim, and there are very few Muslims in her home country. “I was thinking about this last night,” she said with a puzzled look. “What am I going to do?” And, sounding resigned, she answered her own question: “I don’t know.”

Getting married in the U.S. before moving to Bolivia is an option, she mused. But if she meets a Muslim man in the U.S., he might be from another country and want her to move back home with him. Or he might want to stay on in the U.S. and not move to Bolivia. “I know I have to start my own family,” she said. “But at the same time, what about my family?”

Ng’s story is complicated as well “” although she has grown up in Venezuela and the United States, her family will not accept anyone who is not Chinese. But, she will not marry anyone who is not Muslim, and a combination of the two is unlikely.

Rodriguez has told her family that she will only marry a Muslim man. “On this, they’ve been very, very supportive,” she said. “As long as I’m with someone who makes me happy, they’re fine.”

And wouldn’t the man’s family have trouble accepting her, as a Hispanic Muslim?

“I want to marry someone very religious,” Rodriguez replied. “If they are that way, then they should not have a problem. Islam encourages acceptance of others who are different.”

But one thing they all know “” whatever happens, wherever they go, Islam goes with them.

July - Sept 2006, USA

Una Jornada en Chicago

Un Aprendizaje a base de experiencia

Por Rebecca Abuqaoud

Paz y bendicion,

Mi participacion en la organizacion de programas como las Confraternidades Anuales, Clases Islamicas en Espanol para las hermanas y otros eventos de Dawah en la comunidad me han dejado una gran leccion de vida que en ocasiones comparto con mis hermanas cuando nos reunimos. Con el transcurrir del tiempo he aprendido que la vision y metas se logra a base de mucho esfuerzo y dedicacion con optimismo.

Una vez lei el pamfleto La Vision, publicada por The Instituto of Islamic Information and Education. De este pamfleto aprendi que los musulmanes deben reconocer la importancia de la educacion, motivacion y mobilizacion en la comunidad. En un parrafo de La Vision decia:”Las comunidades sin una vision estan destinados a la ignominia viviendo como sujetos a esos que tienen una vision.” “La vision es la motivacion para el progreso.” Es importante tener una gran vision para la comunidad. “La vision y optimismo combinados con esfuerzo, paciencia y perseverancia daban el exito.” “Cada cambio venia de una u otra persona de vision que a pesar de que sean reidos por la ignorancia de los pesimistas.” “Una vision debe ser trasladado en un plan y un proyecto y ser implementado.”

Muchas frases que lei de esta literatura impactaron en mi vida profundamente que en momentos de desanimo me alentaron y animaron antes de dejarme llevar por el pesimismo. Y es por eso que la Surah 3:200 donde menciona la paciencia, perseverancia, constancia y el temor a Dios, se ha vuelto mi frase favorita. Es asi que de alli surgio una formula a las que yo llame las 4Cs.

La primera C es el compromiso con Allah SWT, pensar que cada proyecto o plan que nos proponemos es con el afan de agradar a Allah. La segunda C es comunicacion. Comunicar es muy esencial e importante en la comunidad. Comunicar y expresar las necesidades que se ve, intercambiar ideas para proyectos y programas son necesarios para llevarlos a cabo. La comunicacion via telefonica, electronica, escrita, por correo, etc. es vital. Es una de las formas que hemos usado para enviar invitaciones a nuestros programas. La tercera C es constancia. La constancia es muy importante para sacar a flote y continuar con las metas por realizar. Hubo ocasiones en que bajo la asistencia de estudiantes para las clases Islamicas. Hubo una vez en la estabamos reunidas, una hermana y yo pero a pesar de ello continuamos hacia adelante. Mi anhelo era que a pesar de la baja de asistencia no nos desalentamos. Fueron retos para nosotras las hermanas porque tomamos conciencia en la importancia de aprender el Islam. Aprendi que de tiempo en tiempo venian nuevas gentes con ganas de saber y aprender el Islam. Y que el circulo de estudio era ya como un hogar que esperaba a las nuevas hermanas. La cuarta C es la consistencia, era importante tener las clases consistentemente. Hubo un tiempo que la maestra que nos impartia las clases no podia venir por compromisos con su trabajo. Y eso no fue razon para cancelar las clases. Me propuse a estudiar mas a fondo el Coran y la Sunnah adecuadamente para poder compartir temas Islamicos para las clases de las hermanas. Este circulo de estudio para mi ha sido y es una gran escuela que me ha ensenado la responsabilidad de presentar temas Islamicos documentados y basados en Coran y Sunnah. La dedicacion y disciplina tambien fueron ingredientes basicos para esta responsabilidad de presentacion de temas Islamicos. Alhamdulillah, hace dos anos aproximadamente estuve presentando temas para las hermanas.

Tambien desde el ano pasado desde Setiembre del 2005, tenemos un nuevo presentador de temas Islamicos y es el hermano Sharif Garcia. El tomo cursos intensivos de Dawah en el III&E; Chicago, IL.

Las hermanas Latinas Musulmanes han tomado un rol muy activo en la educacion Islamica de ellas mismas y la comunidad. Recientemente en las clases Islamicas en Espanol se ha implementado presentaciones orales en el salon. Las estudiantes escogen su tema de presentacion. Ellas han aprendido que los temas Islamicos son presentados basados en Coran y Sunnah.

En los pasados meses de Febrero y Marzo del 2006, las estudiantes tuvieron examenes por escrito. Yo estoy encargada de formular las preguntas para los examenes. En dos archivadores he ido colectando y documentando todos los programas, bolantes, cartas, boletin informativo, eventos y metas por escrito en las cuales me he envuelto personalmente imprimiendolos. En un archivo estan las actividades y agenda del ano 2001-2004 y en otro archivo esta documentado cronologicamente las actividades y agenda del 2005 hasta el presente 2006. Insha’Allah, estos planes, metas y agenda llena de actividades se realizen y sigan hacia adelante.


Durante mi aprendizaje a base de experiencia, he observado que las hermanas que se integran y conviven en la comunidad Islamica se ven mas saludables espiritualmente a comparacion de las hermanas que se aislan o se alejan de la comunidad Islamica. Ellas permanecen pesimistas piensan que el Islam es muy dificil de realizar. Sin embargo, las hermanas que se integran en la comunidad permanecen mas optimistas, se ajustan y asimilan incorporando el Islam en sus vidas. Hay que notar que las hermanas Latinas Musulmanes tienen que abandonar ciertas costumbres y tradiciones que son parte de la cultura Latina. Uno de los cambios de una Latina Musulmana es cuando se viste de una manera Islamica, cubriendose el pelo con una panoleta o Hijab. Las musulmanes nuevas que se ponen el Hijab pasan por una serie de etapas sicologicas. Esto se debe a los estereotipos negativos que la sociedad tiene acerca de la mujer Musulmana. Cuando ellas van por la calle con su Hijab puesto, cubriendose el pelo y usando ropas holgadas ponen a prueba su fe y ven como la sociedad les trata.

Las hermanas comparten sus experiencias en los cambios de estilo de vida a medida que van incorporando el Islam en sus vidas. Escuchar sus necesidades, experiencias y el poner atencion a ello crea una atmosfera de hermandad. El ser escuchado y el tener apoyo mutuo es terapeutico.


Despues de ver los resultados positivos de cada programa, se ha visualizado tener Las Confraternidades Anuales de las hermanas cada ano, donde se presenta e introduce a las nuevas hermanas en Islam. Se enfatiza y remarka en la importancia de una especial bienvenida y que se sientan integradas en la familia musulmana. Tambien con el establecimiento de las Clases Islamicas en Espanol, se les recomienda a las nuevas hermanas que continuen con el aprendizaje del Islam.

El proveer y establecer un ambiente Islamico para el revertido o revertida al Islam es vital y necesario. Insha’Allah, esta vision continue y pase a las proximas y nuevas generaciones. El Islam prevalece, Subhana’Allah!


Actualmente las hermanas de C.A.L.A.M. estan organizando La Gran Sexta Confraternidad Anual. Insha’Allah, esto se llevara a cabo el 27 de Mayo del 2006 en el Muslim Community Center.

En este evento se presentara temas y situaciones relacionado con la mujer Musulmana. El primer tema tratara de los desafios de la mujer contemporanea musulmana y esto abarcara estereotipos y conceptos erroneos. Este tema sera presentado por la hermana Mary C. Ali. El segundo tema sera La Virgen Maria y este tema sera presentado por la hermana Amina Sayeed. La tercera parte de presentacion sera por las hermanas miembros de C.A.L.A.M. Ellas estaran presentando el tema de la mujer musulmana y los desafios que afrontan en la sociedad como son los estereotipos y conceptos erroneos. Esta presentacion especificamente sera en Espanol por aproximadamente 25 minutos. Y tambien incluira presentar el tema de la Virgen Maria en Espanol.

En este ano 2006, la hermana Diana Pena esta envuelta en la organizacion de este programa con la gran colaboracion de las hermanas de la clases Islamicas. El programa en general sera en Ingles y parcialmente en Espanol. El objetivo es invitar a las mujeres no Musulmanas e informarles de la belleza del Islam. Tambien estaran invitadas todas las hermanas de diferentes etnias, teniendo una gran diversidad etnica. Queremos que la comunidad Islamica conozca a las hermanas nuevas en el Islam. Las Latinas Musulmanas les encanta congregarse e integrarse en la comunidad Islamica. Insha’Allah, este evento sea exitoso y de gran bendicion.

Gratitud y Agradecimiento

Primeramente, gracias a Allah SWT, El Todopoderoso por su Misericordia y bendiciones a los varios programas y eventos sin Su Ayuda y Guia no seria posible el progreso de planes y metas en cada momento de nuestra preparacion.

Mi agradecimiento profundo y sincero a las hermanas que me alentaron y apoyaron mucho en los programas que me envolvi y ellas han sido parte de ello. Trabajar en equipo con ellas ha sido y es de gran bendicion en mi vida. Gracias! hermana Fatima Natour, Mary Ali, Saraliz Kazmi, Vilma Lopez, Ruth Saleh, Celia Snowber, Idalia Nieves, Raquel Organista, Carmen Garcia y a la hermana Diana Pena. Que Allah SWT les bendiga mucho por su gran contribucion en la comunidad Musulmana.

April - June 2006, USA

The Great Sixth Annual Sisterhood Event in Chicago

By Rebecca AbuQaoud

An unforgettable reunion of women reflected their togetherness and unity in cooperation, effort, organization, and preparation. Because of their togetherness and unity, they had an amazing event. Some brothers also joined the sisters to help in the arrangement on the day of the sister’s event.

Around three o’clock in the afternoon, a group of sisters and brothers set up the tables, arranging and preparing the Red Banquet Room for the special occasion. At the entrance, next to the main door, a big banner read – “Chicago Association of Latino American Muslims.” Meanwhile, bright lights inside the banquet room indicated a grand display of a long food table with coffee, desserts, beverages and several round tables covered with orange table clothes, each table had a green jar of water. Next to the door, there was a table of Islamic literature in English and Spanish. A projector was set up for a Power Point presentation. As the time approached for the event to begin, all the arrangements were completed on time, and a great audience of women were congregated ready to enjoy the event.

The Great Sixth Annual event took place on Saturday, May 27 2006 at the Muslim Community Center in Chicago, IL. The program began at 4:05 PM, and it was delivered in English and Spanish. The event was organized and sponsored by the Chicago Association of Latino American Muslims (CALAM). Sister Ruth Saleh and I hosted the program. First, we welcomed the audience, which represented the splendor of diversity. There were Americans, Arabs, Pakistanis, Latinas, and more. After welcoming the sisters, Surah Al-Fatihah was recited in Arabic, English, and Spanish by Sisters Ruth Saleh and Vilma Lopez.

After the introduction, the audience was reminded that Latina Muslim sisters have been always getting together, and they have been attending the mosques. Thus, six years ago, a group of Latina sisters started to get together formally, annually and regularly. They first started meeting in a house then at the MCC (Muslim Community Center). They started to get together with the purpose of learning Islam, welcoming and integrating the new sisters in Islam. It is very important for the new sisters and all Muslims to be part of the family, be part of the Islamic Community, or Ummah. Insha’Allah, new sisters will be introduced, and the sisters can greet and welcome them at dinnertime or social time.

The program continued by introducing Sister Mary Ali, one of the speakers. Sister Ali has a long history of Dawah. She is qualified in Islamic studies in addition to her academic degree. She has always been a great support to the Latina Muslim sisters.

During her presentation entitled ‘The Challenges of Contemporary Muslim Women’, Sister Ali displayed a list of ten rights of the Muslim woman. One of the rights that she mentioned was that in Islam, a woman has the basic freedom of expression based on recognition of her individual personality.

She shared a personal experience. She worked outside the house and earned her own salary. Her husband told her that she could keep her earned salary, and he would not take her money. He explained that in Islam and the Qu’ran this issue is very clear – “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because they support them for their means.” (S-4:34)

Sister Ali saved her money and bought a computer. Her family got the benefit by using the computer. Sister Ali explained that a woman who contributes to the family something that is not her obligation she earns a double reward in front of Allah SWT. Meanwhile, a man who fulfills his familial obligations earns one reward in front of Allah SWT.

Another fascinating point that Sister Ali mentioned was the translation of Surah 4:34. Surah 4:34 states “..As those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill- conduct, admonish them (first), next refuse to share theirs beds, (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance); for Allah is most High and Great (above you all).” Because the word “beating” is used in this verse, she was intrigued by this word for several years. How could the case be to beat the wife as the last alternative if she is disobedient?

After studying the Arabic language, Sister Ali had a better understanding of the Arabic word ‘edrib’ which was translated as ‘beat’. She learned that the word ‘edrib’ has other meanings, which do not necessarily have anything to do with “to beat.”

She referred to various hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) encouraged his followers to treat their wives with kindness, respect, and discouraged extreme repulsive behaviors. She explained that the teachings of the Messenger of Allah cannot contradict the Quran, the revelation of Allah SWT. On the other hand, the word ‘beating’ found in Surah 4:34 is a matter of translation. Sister Mary Ali highlighted points that contradict traditional misconceptions of women in Islam.

After Sister Mary Ali’s presentation, the new sisters in Islam were given a special welcome. Sisters Carmen Garcia, Elizabeth Rodriguez, and Luzdary Galeano stood up when their names were called. They were introduced to the audience. Three new sisters were absent when they were called from the sister’s list.

The program continued with an announcement about Islamic classes in Spanish for sisters. This announcement segment was remarkable because it emphasized how the Latina Muslim sisters took an active role in educating themselves. The sisters at the MCC started a new structured plan of Islamic studies recently. Since last September 2005, they have upgraded their Islamic studies from ISLAM 101 to ISLAM 205. The objective of the new structured plan is to study more deeply each Islamic topic beyond the basic.

Islamic classes in Spanish for sisters were provided at the MCC and at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, IL. Islamic classes at the MCC began three years ago on every other Saturday. While the Islamic classes at the Mosque Foundation started two years ago on every Sunday.

In this segment of the program, dedicated students who consistently attended the Islamic classes, passed their tests, or completed their assignments were recognized and acknowledged for their effort and achievement. A bright smile came from the audience when the names of the students were called. The teachers, Sisters Vilma Lopez and Celia Snowber, gave gifts to the dedicated students. Sisters Idalia Nieves, Carmen Garcia, and Magdalena Hanafi received their gifts. Teachers and students hugged one another among the many smiles and some tears of emotion found in the audience.

The next segment of the program was a sisters’ presentation by members of CALAM. This specific presentation was held in Spanish. The idea of presenting in Spanish was considered in order to benefit the Spanish-speaking ladies that did not understand English fully. Thus, Spanish-speaking ladies could grasp and have a better understanding of the topic. This event was a Dawah-oriented program.

Sisters Diana Pena, Celia Snowber, and I presented the Spanish version of “The Challenges of Contemporary Muslim Women” and “The Virgin Mary.” Sister Diana Pena and I discussed the most common misconceptions that contemporary Muslim women face.

On the screen, five points of our presentation were displayed.

MISCONCEPTION # 1. The Muslim woman is oppressed.
FACT.- The woman in Islam is liberated.

MISCONCEPTION # 2. The Muslim woman is inferior.
FACT.- The message of Islam is that men and women are morally and spiritually equal in front of Allah SWT.

MISCONCEPTION # 3. The Muslim woman is old fashion.
FACT.- Her headscarf (Hijab) is the liberation and her identity as a Muslim woman.

MISCONCEPTION # 4. The Muslim woman has no rights.
FACT.- The Muslim woman has the right to education, property, inheritance, to own a business or manage her business, and has a right to paid work.

MISCONCEPTION # 5. The Muslim woman has no role in the politics and economy.
FACT.- The woman in Islam has a role in the politics and economy.

I began my part of the presentation by asking two questions to the audience, “Is the Muslim woman oppressed? And, is the woman in Islam oppressed?”

I wanted the audience to understand the difference between these two questions because both questions have different answers. I also asked the audience, “How long ago did the women’s liberation start according to history?”

I continued by presenting the status of women from the Colonial period to the most recent period of American history. In brief, according to history “the discrimination against women in any public capacity was deeply rooted in American culture.” “A wife’s legal status was definitely inferior to that of her husband. For example, she was not permitted to vote; the control of her property passed at the time of marriage to her husband.” (Rippa, An American History 222.)

Before 1830 in the United States, colleges and universities were strictly for men; women were denied these institutions. (Rippa, 224) In 1920, women won the right to vote. Thus, according to U.S. history, the women’s liberation movement began in the 20th century. On the other hand, the women’s liberation movement began in the seventh century (610 D.C.) when Allah SWT revealed to Prophet Muhammad for 23 years through the Angel Jibrail. The Qu’ran and Hadith or Sunnah (Traditions of the Prophet) are the sources from which every Muslim woman derives her rights and duties.

I explained how Islam elevates the status of women. I cited various hadith in which the position of woman as wife and mother are held in high-esteem. I also mentioned about how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) encouraged women to understand the importance to education. Once the Prophet said, “The acquisition of knowledge is a mandate for every Muslim (male and female).”

I mentioned that great Muslim women made important achievements and greatly influenced the early history of Islam. Aishah, the wife of the Prophet, was an extraordinary woman who had a remarkable memory. Due to her extraordinary intelligence, she excelled in the understanding of the Shariah (Islamic Laws), economy, medicine, mathematic, Arab history, and its genealogy. On several occasions, she was consulted in the various fields mentioned above. Another remarkable woman was Shifa’ bint Abdullah for her political intelligence. In fact, Caliph Umar often consulted with her for her valuable knowledge. She had the responsibility of running the affairs of the state related to trade and commerce. (Ghadanfar, 13-14.)

I had a list of wonderful and important women in Islam who excelled in character, conduct, and whose influence made a great contribution in early Islamic history. I realized I was running out of time for my presentation, so I did not mention their names. I continued by citing the Qu’ran chapters 4:7, 4:124, and 74:38 to clarify misconception # 2 – ‘The Muslim woman is inferior.’ Indeed, the message of Islam is that men and women are fundamental moral and spiritually equal. I reinforced this statement by mentioning one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who once said, “All people are equal. They are equal as the teeth on a comb.”

The third point of my presentation was to correct the wrong notion that ‘the Muslim woman has no role in the politics and economy.’ I again referred to prominent Muslim women Aishah and Shifa bint Abdullah for their roles, one in the economy and the other in politics and finances. In Islam, women are an important and integral part of society. Women are encouraged in Islam to contribute their ideas and opinions. In many hadith, women directly ask Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and offer their opinions regarding religion, economics, and social matters. In addition, women in Islam have had the right to vote since fourteen centuries ago.

I concluded by mentioning that while it is true that many women are oppressed by men and by certain cultural beliefs, Islam is not responsible for this oppression. After stating my response to the various stereotypes, I would say that the woman in Islam is not inferior, nor oppressed; on the other hand, the woman in Islam is liberated!

Sister Diana Pena discussed two common misconceptions that a Muslim woman faces. First, “a Muslim woman with Hijab (headscarf) is old fashion.” In the West, the veil or headscarf is seen as a symbol of submission or oppression. Sister Pena explained that her veil or headscarf is her liberation and submission to Allah SWT. She remarked that her hijab was her identity as a Muslim woman. She did not feel out of fashion at all when she wears a hijab that compliments her outfit. In addition, she found a difference in treatment. Men treat her more respectfully when she wears hijab.

She shared a personal experience that encouraged her to wear her hijab daily. Her teenage daughter refused wearing hijab. Her daughter asked Sister Diana, “How can I wear the hijab if you don’t wear it?” Since that episode in her life, she thought that she would be a good example for her daughter. Sister Diana Pena was very proud and happy to mention that both mother and daughter now wear hijab at all times.

Sister Diana mentioned how in soap operas the main character of the women is reflected in how they dress. The villain dresses very revealing and provocative while the woman with good character dresses very conservative.

Her second point of presentation was to clarify another misconception of Muslim woman: “The Muslim woman has no rights.” Major women’s rights were displayed on a screen. Sister Pena clearly emphasized the rights of women in Islam. She also read the ten rights in Spanish that Sister Mary Ali has previously mentioned. In short, women in Islam have the right to education, property, inheritance, to own and manage a business, and to paid work.

Sisters Celia Snowber and Ameena Sayeed presented the fascinating story of the Virgin Mary. Sister Snowber mentioned three amazing points of the story. First, she explained that the Virgin Mary was blessed before she was born. This part of the story is cited in Surah 3:35-36. Second, Sister Snowber explained that Zakariya had custody of Mary. Her third point is very amazing. When Zakariya would enter the chamber to see Mary, she was always well supplied, and she was found with fruits that were out of season. Sister Snowber cited Sura 3:37 in which Zakariya asks, “Oh Mary! Whence comes this to you?” Mary responds, “From Allah: for Allah provides sustenance to whom He pleases, without measure.”

Sister Snowber said that Zakariya started to reflect about how the Virgin Mary was provided with Allah’s sustenance and had fruits out of season. Then, Zakariya prayed for some child from Allah. Although he and his wife were very old, he had the possibility of being granted from Allah the gift of a child. Because Allah listened to his supplication, Zakariya and his wife had their son, Yahya. Yahya is known as ‘John the Baptist’ in the Bible.

The Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus (AS), was a virtuous woman who reminds us that sustenance without measure comes from Allah SWT.

After Sister Celia Snowber’s presentation, the program continued with a segment for questions and answers. One lady from the audience asked why a Muslim woman cannot marry a non-Muslim. A sister from the audience responded that when a Muslim woman marries a non-Muslim, the Muslim woman is unable to exercise her rights as a woman in Islam. The non-Muslim husband is unable to understand her beliefs. And, the husband usually has leadership over the woman in a marriage. More questions were related to ‘hijab.’

After the answer and question segment, the time for Asar prayer had arrived. After the sisters went to pray, the program continued with Sister Ameena Sayeed’s presentation. Sister Sayeed is an excellent speaker who has spent extensive time studying Islam under qualified scholars around the world. In addition, she is a professionally trained educator with experience in teaching and school management.

She presented the story of the Virgin Mary in English. She did her best not to repeat the same points already presented by Sister Celia Snowber. Sister Sayeed emphasized the commonalities that non-Muslim and Muslim women share regardless of faith or ethnic background. This point was very fascinating because Christians and Muslims believe in the Virgin Mary. In fact, both Christians, especially Roman Catholics, and Muslims share a common fascination with the Virgin Mary for similar reasons.

After Sister Ameena Sayeed’s presentation, Sister Vilma Lopez made a Du’a to conclude the program. However, the event continued with the audience witnessing a Shahada, or the declaration of faith. A young Mexican lady embraced Islam! She had already made up her mind to take Shahada before the event. She waited for the event because she wanted other sisters to be with her during her most important decision in life. After she took Shahada, the audience of about fifty women repeated “‘Takbir!’ ‘Allahu Akbar!'” and stood up. The sisters went up to congratulate and hug their new sister in Islam.

This moment was very emotional. Many sisters wept. Witnessing a Shahada was a moment of tremendous celebration and joy. After this exciting and emotional moment, the sisters enjoyed a delicious dinner. Alhamdulillah!

Many Muslim women came together to put their energy and enthusiasm into making the event a wonderful reunion of women. They gathered to engage the hearts and minds of the attendees. Certainly, Islam elevates the status of women. Seeing the new sisters in Islam was a great joy. Many are very dedicated students in Islam. The most exciting moment of the event was seeing the joy of the sisters when the young lady took Shahada. This moment left a very vivid and profound memory in the hearts of the women. The sisters were reminded that Islam brought their hearts and minds together. Subhana’Allah!

A Note of Appreciation

We would like to express our gratitude and appreciation to Sister Diana Pena who was very involved in the entire arrangement and organization of the annual sisterhood event. Our gratitude and appreciation also goes out to Sister Norma Belbachir and her husband, Rasheed Belbachir. They helped in the promotion of the sisterhood event by printing a great deal of flyers. We would like to thank Sister Mary Ali for reserving the Red Banquet Room. In addition, we must send a big ‘thank you’ to the Muslim Community Center for providing a room for the Latina Muslims.

We would like to thank Sister Elizabeth Rodriguez for contributing toward the promotion of the event by sending letters of invitation. Our gratitude and appreciation goes out to Sisters Esmeralda Munoz and Sarah Belmontez for the beautiful arrangement of the tables. A special thank you goes out to brothers Ricardo Pena and Muhammad. Finally, our gratitude and appreciation goes out to all the sisters who brought exquisite dishes and desserts.

Works Cited

1. Rippa Alexander S. “Education In A Free Society: An American History.” New York: Longman, 1992.

2. Sarwar Ghulam. “ISLAM: Beliefs and Teachings.” London: Muslim E.T., 2000.

3. Ghadanfar Mahmood Ahmad. “Great Women In Islam: Who Were Given The Good News of Paradise.” London:Darussalam, 2001.

4. Abdalati Hammudah. “Luces Sobre El Islam.” Riyadh: I.I.P.H., 1997.

Gran Confraternidad Para Las Latinas Musulmanas

Por Rebecca AbuQaoud

Una manana de invierno recibi una llamada telefonica de la hermana Fatima. Una hermana que trabajaba en el Comite de Dawah de la Mosque Foundation en Bridgeview, IL. Me dijo que habia oido del programa reciente que las hermanas habian tenido en Chicago. Y me dijo: ‘hermana, ud. que es activa hable con el Shekh de su mezquita, digale que hay varias hermanas Latinas musulmanes que necesitan educarse mas del Islam y que empiecen las clases en Espanol.’

La hermana Fatima Natour tambien estaba coordinando para iniciar las clases Islamicas en Espanol en el Mosque Foundation.

Su llamada telefonica para mi fue impactante porque yo habia estado posponiendo por varios meses esta idea de iniciar las clases Islamicas en Espanol. Algunas hermanas me habian manifestado que seria bueno y necesario tener clases Islamicas por lo menos dos meses por mes. Este interes de las hermanas se manifesto despues del programa: La Segunda Confraternidad Anual para Las Hermanas Latinas Musulmanes. Este evento se llevo a cabo el 14 de Setiembre del ano 2002 en el Muslim Community Center.

La primera Reunion o Confraternidad Anual se llevo a cabo en mi casa el 8 de Setiembre del 2001. Para los preparativos de esta reunion de hermanas, previamente extendi una invitacion a la hermana Mary Ali para la presentacion de un tema para las hermanas. Llame a las hermanas que tenia en una lista de cuaderno. Envie cartas de invitacion a las hermanas por correo. Aquella carta se titulaba “Gran Confraternidad para las Hermanas Latinas Musulmanes” y al final del mensaje mencionaba que era una vision, insha’Allah, de reunirnos anualmente.

Para esta reunion alrededor de 18 mujeres nos reunimos en la sala de mi casa. Tuvimos un tema Islamico que se trataba de Los Deberes y Derechos de la esposa en el Islam presentada por la hermana Mary Ali. Despues de la presentacion de la hermana M. Ali, cenamos juntas. Comparti con las hermanas la comida que habia cocinado que fue macarroni, guiso vegetariano mixto y pollo con arroz.

Lo que mas me agrado ver como laas hermanas formulaban preguntas a la hermana Mary mientras teniamos la cena. Fueron momentos de aprendizaje, convivencia y hermandad. Yo estaba feliz por haber compartido aquella primera reunion con mis hermanas en casa y mi anhelo era que se repitiera otra vez.

Para la Segunda Confraternidad Anual, tuve la gran colaboracion de la hermana Saraliz Kazmi. A ella la conoci por primera vez cuando vino a mi casa. Yo habia invitado a algunas hermanas a mi casa para leer el Coran juntas y compartir te con galletas. Para aquella reunion solo vino Saraliz. Ella tenia un ano de ser Musulmana y yo tenia tres anos de ser Musulmana. Compartirmos nuestras experiencias como musulmana y como el Islam habia impactado nuestras vidas.

Saraliz estaba fascinada de enterarse de que habia varias musulmanas Latinas en Chicago. Le ensene una lista de hermanas que yo tenia apuntada en un cuaderno y le conte de como me fue en la primera reunion en mi casa con las hermanas. Ella anhelaba tambien conocer a las demas hermanas, pues ella pensaba que era la unica Latina Musulmana. Yo tambien le dije que cuando me converti al Islam, yo pense que seria la unica Latina en la mezquita, pues estabamos equivocadas. Masha’Allah, ya habia varias Musulmanas Latinas. Le dije que me gustaria tener otra Gran Confraternidad de hermanas, pero que seria bueno tener comida o cena. La cena da la sensacion de que habra fiesta le comente a Saraliz y que la proxima reunion seria bueno hacer en un local mas grande.

Saraliz me expreso que le encantaria colaborar y ayudarme a organizar la gran reunion de hermanas. Y asi fue, ella y yo intercambiamos ideas de como programar La Segunda Confraternidad Anual de Hermanas Latinas Musulmanas. Tuvimos dos objetivos primordiales. El primer objetivo fue dar la especial bienvenida y felicitar a las nuevas en el Islam. Este objetivo surgio debido a que vimos y percibimos que las convertidas musulmanas no tenian el suficiente apoyo en integrarse a la comunidad Islamica. El segundo objetivo fue tener un tema que impulse y motive a la mujer Musulmana a tener un papel importante en la comunidad. Nos pusimos a coordinar la importancia de preparar cartas de invitacion a las hermanas comunicandoles del motivo de la confraternidad anual de hermanas.

Le envie por fax a Saraliz una lista de hermanas que en aquella vez eran 22 hermanas. Ella se encargo de enviar las cartas de invitacion por correo. Tambien logro encontrar patrocinadores que donaron comida para la cena. Los restaurantes Pita House de Lombard, IL y Sabri Nihari Restaurant de Lombard, IL, donaron comida para la cena de aquel evento.

Saraliz tambien se encargo de imprimir una presentable y organizada agenda del programa. En la portada del programa, hay dos damas saludandose y decia: ‘Gran Confraternidad Para Las Latinas Musulmanas (Gran Reunion For Muslim Latinas, 2nd Annual Event). Y dentro del programa estaba la agenda que decia:

Salam Alaikum!
5:00 PM Bienvenida e Introduccion
* Presentacion de las hermanas nuevas
5:30 PM Sister Mary C. Ali
Tema: La Importancia de la Mujer Musulmana en el Principio del Islam y Cual es
El Rol de la Mujer Musulmana.
6:45 PM Tiempo Social – Cena

Ambas nos encargamos tambien de hacer las llamadas telefonicas animandoles y recordandoles la importancia del programa de la reunion de hermanas. Y aquel ansiado y preparado dia llego, un Sabado 14 de Setiembre del 2002. Alrededor de 22 hermanas nos reunimos en el Muslim Community Center de la avenida Elston. Y se llevo a cabo el programa como se habia planificado. Dando la bienvenida a todas las hermanas y presentando a las nuevas en el Islam. Cinco hermanas nuevas se presentaron y sus nombres fueron llamados para verlas. Como presentadora del programa, tuve la oportunidad de mencionar en la importancia de saludar y acercarse a las hermanas nuevas a la hora de la cena, de intercambiar numeros de telefono e invitarles para romper el Ayuno juntas pues Ramadan ya se acercaba.

La hermana Mary C. Ali presento el tema para las hermanas. Fue un tema muy motivador y alentador porque menciono que nosotras las mujeres podemos organizar programas de Dawah para las mujeres y que podemos traducir materiales Islamicos al Espanol. Enfatizo en la importancia de nuestro papel como musulmanas en la comunidad. Despues de su presentacion, la audiencia tuvo la oportunidad de hacer preguntas. Aquella vez en medio de las preguntas y respuestas de las hermanas pude captar el entusiasmo de las hermanas de integrarnos en la comunidad musulmana. Alguien dijo por alli, que nosotras las Latinas estabamos esparcidas y seria bueno juntarnos con el fin de aprender de la religion.

Casi de cerrar y finalizar el programa para irnos a cenar, una joven Mexicana se levanto de su asiento para decirnos que le gustaria aceptar Islam en su vida. Aquella joven tomo su Shajad y fueron momentos de regocijo para nosotras que estuvimos presente en su decision.

Este evento fue grandemente bendecido, gracias a Allah que dio frutos. Porque a raiz de esta reunion de mujeres, surgio el interes de iniciar las clases Islamicas en Espanol para las hermanas. Hubo el programa de Ramadan y Ayuno organizada por la hermana Ruth Saleh. Este evento se llevo a cabo el 26 de Octubre del 2002 en el Universal School de Bridgeview, IL. Este evento tuvo gran concurrencia donde se congregaron las hermanas del Sur y Norte de Chicago.

Tambien presencie y asisti a principios del ano 2003 a varias reuniones de Dawah delegado por el hermano Yahya Lopez, quien se encargo de invitar y reunir a los hermanos y hermanas Latinos Musulmanes. El proposito de estas reuniones era de hacer Dawah en la comunidad Hispana.


Las Clases Islamicas en Espanol para las hermanas se inauguro un sabado, 29 de Marzo del 2003 en el MCC, Muslim Community Center en el 4380 de N. Elston Ave. Chicago, IL.

Los preparativos antes de la inauguracion de las clases Islamicas en Espanol llevaron aproximadamente un mes y medio. Mencione el interes de las hermanas por tener las clases Islamicas a la hermana Vilma Lopez. Ella habia impartido clases Islamicas en espanol en el ano 2000 por algunos meses que por razones desconocidas no continuaron las clases.

Debido a la experiencia en la ensenanza de la hermana Vilma, le invite a impartir temas Islamicos a las hermanas. Le mencione que las hermanas nuevas eran las que mas estaban animadas por tener clases. La hermana Vilma acepto con mucho gusto la invitacion en la presentacion de los temas. Ella y yo coordinamos para enviar bolantes, cartas de invitacion, hacer llamadas telefonicas a las hermanas anunciadonles de las clases Islamicas en Espanol. Esta invitacion se extendio a las hermanas que residian en el norte de Chicago y suburbios cercanos.

En la carta de invitacion se adjunto un plan de leccion de Pasos Basicos y a esto se llamo ISLAM 101. Este plan de leccion se dividio en cuatro partes. La parte A incluia El Concepto del Islam, Los Cinco Pilares del Islam y La Importancia de aprender y Memorizar la Oracion Fatiha. La Parte B incluia, La Vida del Profeta Muhamad (Paz y Bendicion sean sobre el), y esta partes a su vez estaba subdividido con una serie de preguntas como: Donde Nacio?, Quienes fueron sus padres?, A que edad fue escogido como Profeta?. La Parte C incluia Coran, y esta parte tambien estaba subdividido en una serie de preguntas: Cuando se revelo el Coran?, Cuanto tiempo llevo en revelarse el Coran?, y La Primera surah revelada. La Parte D incluia Hadices: Que son Hadices?, Los Hadices auntenticos y Hadiz Qudsi.

Para este plan de lecciones, la hermana Vilma y yo, nos reunimos para coordinar y escribir esta serie de pasos a seguir para el inicio de las clases. Pense en la importancia de incluir una carta motivacional de porque tener clases Islamicas. En la carta que redacte mencione que sugerieran temas de interes que les gustaria tratar. Tambien mencione que la mujer desempena diferentes roles en la sociedad. Ella es la hija, la madre, la estudiante, la maestra, la trabajadora, la amiga, la vecina y que en el Islam estamos incentivadas a sobresalir en cada papel que la mujer desempena en la sociedad. Tambien mencione en un parrafo de la carta que muchas de nosotras que hemos abrazado el Islam o nos hemos convertido al Islam vamos aprendiendo poco a poco y vamos incorporando a nuestra vida cotidiana aquello prescrito por Allah. Que gratificante es aprender!!!

La hermana Vilma y yo estabamos muy entusiasmadas con este proyecto de las clases para las hermanas. Teniamos un local donde llevar a cabo las clases. Cada detalle de los preparativos de la clase ya era anticipado. Le habia mencionado a la hermana Vilma que ya teniamos un salon donde tener las clases. Que debido al interes de las hermanas por las clases, le pedi a la hermana Mary Ali si podria ayudarnos a reservar un salon para las clases. El presidente de Dawah de la MCC, ya habia reservado un salon para las hermanas me informo la hermana Mary. Alhamdulillah! ya teniamos un lugar de estudio.

Despues de anunciar las Clases Islamicas en Espanol para las hermanas, llego la tal anunciada 29 de Marzo del 2003. A las 4 de la tarde, quince hermanas y entre ellas no musulmanas, nos reunimos en el Muslim Community Center. Aquella tarde se inicio las clases dando la bienvenida a las presentes. Cada una de ellas se presento diciendo su nombre, nacionalidad y cuanto tiempo ya eran musulmanas.

La hermana Vilmaa presento el tema de los Cinco Pilares del Islam. Cuando llego la hora de la oracion, nos fuimos juntas para orar. Luego de la oracion regresamos al salon para continuar y concluir la clase de ese dia. Despues de concluir la clase tuvimos cafe y postres y nos despedimos recordandonos que nos reuniremos cada otro Sabado para la clase.

Alhamdulillah! Gracias a Allah, han transcurrido tres anos consecutivos que tenemo las clases Islamicas en Espanol cada otro Sabado. Aunque algunas veces se ha cancelado o pospuesto, las clases continuan consistentemente. Es algo que habiamos planeado y conversado con la hermana Vilma que las clases tenian que ser consistentes aunque hubiera baja de asistencia.

El ano 2003 fue un ano repleto de bendiciones, gracias a Allah, Altisimo. Para ese ano se programo tener gran reunion de hermanas. Tuvimos otra confraternidad anual organizado por las hermanas Latinas Musulmanes. Las hermanas del Sur de Chicago, y de los suburbios cercano de Bridgeview,IL., fueron invitadas para este programa. Ellas siempre estuvieron presentes acompanandonos desde las primeras reuniones anuales.

Para ese evento la hermana Mary C. Ali fue invitada para traernos un tema titulado: El Concepto de Jihab. Se envio cartas de invitacion por correo a todas las hermanas que teniamos en la lista, anunciandoles del evento de las hermanas. El objetivo era educar e informar de este mal entendido concepto de Jihab por musulmanes y no musulmanes. Se promovio la invitacion a mujeres no musulmanas y tambien se extendio invitacion a todas las hermanas de toda nacionalidad. El programa fue presentado en Ingles. Las hermanas de las clases Islamicas en Espanol trajeron sus platillos para tener cena al final del programa.

Cuando llego la epoca de Verano las hermanas de la clase planificamos tener un picnic familiar. Los ninos y los esposos de las hermanas se reunieron en un gran parque, donde tuvimos barbecue y mucha comidad, alhamdulillah!

Para la epoca de Ramadan y Ayuno, las hermanas coordinamos tener Iftar o romper el ayuno en diferentes casas. Para mi era una experiencia bella pasar el mes de Ramadan con las hermanas rompiendo juntas. El mes de Ramadan tenia un sabor mas especial para mi, pues antes sentia que lo hacia aisladamente. Senti un fervor y una atmosfera de convivencia con mis hermanas. Aquel ano tambien las hermanas se pusieron de acuerdo para pasar en vigilia en la Noche Laylatul Qader coordinada por la hermana Leticia Chehayber que ya era el segundo ano consecutivo que lo organizaba en su casa.

Dos semanas antes que concluyera el Mes de Ramadan, los hermanos Latinos Musulmanes habian sugerido tener un Eid Festival. Los hermanos Yahya Lopez y Ricardo Pena fueron los que coordinaron y organizaron el Eid Festival con la colaboracion de las hermanas quienes se encargaron de traer los platillos y tener un Buffet. Los familiares de las hermanas y hermanos y la comunidad en general fueron invitados para este gran evento. Los ninos tuvieron regalos y pinata. Y es asi que se llevo a cabo el Primer Eid Festival organizado por Latinos Musulmanes en el Muslim Community Center, el 29 de Noviembre del 2003.

El ano 2004, tambien fue otro ano muy bendecido porque aquel ano, se establecio la organizacion C.A.L.A.M. con la fundacion de el hermano Ricardo Pena y su esposa la hermana Diana Pena. C.A.L.A.M. significa Chicago Association of Latino American Muslims. El hermano Ricardo Pena selecciono este nombre para la organizacion. Tambien abrio un website: latinomuslims.com. En este website se pone los programas y eventos organizado por Latinos Musulmanes y especialmente programas que acontecen en Chicago.

Los hermanos Yahya Lopez y Ricardo Pena organizaron un picnic orientado a Dawah en el mes de Agosto de aquel ano. Esto se llevo a cabo en la entrada del Islamic Foundation en Villa Park, IL. Fue un programa muy bendecido. Masha’Allah, ellos llevan a cabo eventos de Dawah al aire libre cada ano en la comunidad Hispana.

Cada programa o evento lleva una previa preparacion y coordinacion donde detras de cada programa hay un gran esfuerzo por alcanzar metas. Que Allah SWT bendiga grandemente a los hermanos Yahya Lopez y Ricardo Pena quienes tuvieron la iniciativa de hacer Dawah en la comunidad Hispana. El resultado de sus esfuerzos es cada ano se realiza los Eid Festivals. Para estos eventos las familias de Latinos Musulmanes son invitados. Entre las familias hay no musulmanes y ellos pueden presenciar como los musulmanes celebran eid. Tambien hermanos y hermanas de diferentes etnias atienden a estos eventos. Ya es tradicional los eventos de Eid Festival y esta vez auspiciada por la organizacion C.A.L.A.M.

Las hermanas tambien continuan trabajando juntas para alcanzar metas. Alhamdulillah, desde que se inicio los programas de las Confraternidades Anuales, Ramadan y Ayuno, estos se llevan a cabo cada ano y se planifica anticipadamente.

En estas ocasiones las hermanas de la comunidad del norte y sur de Chicago se reunen para compartir y disfrutar de dichos eventos.

Tambien se organiza otra serie de programas que estan orientado a educar, fortalecer el conocimiento Islamic, a extender Dawah, a ir integrando a los nuevos musulmanes a la comunidad.

A partir del nacimiento de la organizacion C.A.L.A.M. varios programas orientados a la educacion Islamica y a la extension de Dawah se ha auspiciado y promovido por esta organizacion. C.A.L.A.M. es una organizacion que esta orientado a extender Dawah viendo la necesidad de los latinos musulmanes a integrarse a la comunidad Islamica.

Actualmente las Clases Islamicas en espanol impartidas en el Muslim Community Center (MCC), esta auspiciada por la organizacion C.A.L.A.M. Tambien hay clases Islamicas en espanol en el Mosque Foundation en Bridgeview, IL por mas de dos anos. Estas clases son impartidas por la hermana Celia Snowber cada domingo.


Estoy muy agradecida a Allah SWT por sus bendiciones en la comunidad Musulmana. Me alegra ver hermanas, hermanos Latinos Musulmanes con el anhelo de cooperacion, compromiso, respeto, honestidad, comprension, compasion, y el anhelo de aferrarse todos juntos a la cuerda de Allah SWT. Dice Allah en Surah 3:103 “Oh creyentes! Tened paciencia y sed perseverantes y luchad constantemente (contra el enemigo) y temed a Dios con el fin que tengais exito.”

Indudablemente Allah SWT nos esta bendiciendo considerando estas advertencias de Allah de temor hacia El. Allah da exito a los que le temen y obedecen a El. Si somos pacientes, perseverantes, luchando constantemente para servirle y agradarle a El. Porque toda la alabanza y la Gloria es hacia El.

Alhamdulillah! Ya han transcurrido tres anos consecutivos de Clases Islamicas en Espanol para las hermanas en el Muslim Community Center. Han sido tres anos constantes de esfuerzo y dedicacion de parte de las hermanas de aprender mas del Islam, de fortalecer su fe y confianza en Allah SWT.

El ano pasado 2005, a partir del mes de Setiembre, las Clases Islamicas en Espanol se elevo del ISLAM 101 a ISLAM 205. Se considero la importancia de estudiar cada tema Islamico mas minuciosamente. Un tema de estudio lleva varias semanas de presentacion. Anteriormente se presentaba un tema para un determinado dia. Tenemos un plan de tomar cursos intensivos que insha’Allah, nos ayudara a nuestro crecimiento en conocimiento Islamico. Para este plan de estudio me encargue de preparar un paquete que incluye una serie de cursos intensivos que se tomara en un periodo de tiempo. Otro objetivo es que los estudiantes que tomen los cursos intensivos y terminen satisfactoriamente de acuerdo a los requisitos necesarios obtendran Diplomas o certificados de C.A.L.A.M. cuando esta organizacion este oficialmente registrada.

April - June 2006, Latino Muslims, USA

Latino Muslims in Chicago

By Juan Galvan

I have personally been blessed to have met several Latino Muslims from Chicago. I met Brother Ricardo Pena, Sister Diana Pena, and Brother Yahya Lopez in 2002 at the ISNA Latino Muslims Conference. Husband and wife, Brother Ricardo and Sister Diana, have been involved in the local Chicago Muslim community volunteering, for example, with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). Brother Yahya Lopez is responsible for translating much of the Spanish Islamic literature distributed by the Institute of Islamic Information and Education (III&E). A year later, I would meet Brother Edmund Arroyo who works extensively with the Nawawi Foundation. I would later meet Sisters Ruth Saleh in Dallas and Rebecca AbuQaoud in Chicago. These two sisters have been working together in organizing Latina Muslims in Chicago for over a decade.

It is perhaps quite logical that in time they would all come together to help found the Chicago Association of Latino American Muslims (CALAM). Latino Muslims in Chicago are a small but growing community. Latino Muslims in Chicago estimate that there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 to 1,000 Latino Muslims in the Chicago area but they do not know for sure. Latino Muslims in Chicago are from all kinds of Latino backgrounds from Mexican, Puerto Rican, Columbian to Brazilian, Peruvian, and more. Quite remarkably, Chicago with its rich history of Islam among Americans, particularly among African-Americans, has added a new chapter to that history with the inclusion of Latino Muslims.

The Chicago Association of Latino American Muslims (CALAM) is an organization dedicated to conveying the message of Islam to the Latino community in Chicago. CALAM organizes events, participates in local Latino festivals, distributes literature, and holds Islamic study classes. CALAM is an acronym that is phonetically equivalent to the Arabic word “Qalam”, which means “pen”. It is a very significant word for them in many ways.

The pen was mentioned in the very first revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In the Quran 96:1-5, God states, “Read! In the name of your Lord and Cherisher who created – Created man out of a clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And your Lord is Most Bountiful, He Who taught (the use of) the Pen, Taught man that which he did not know.”

These blessed verses are the famous first five verses revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) at a time when he did not know he was to be appointed a Prophet and Messenger of God. Indeed, Islam was first introduced, even to him, with these very words. God “taught” Muhammad “that which he did not know.” He taught him that which is written by the Pen – our Holy Quran. And, today the Quran is preserved in the hearts and minds of Muslims.

Therefore, CALAM is a quite fitting name for these Latino Muslims who seek to introduce Islam to those who do not know, as the Quran eloquently explains. The pen, for them, represents knowledge, wisdom, and enlightenment. CALAM hopes to bring what the pen represents to Latinos. Embodied in this instrument is the concept and purpose for their organization. Consequently, the pen is the symbol they use for their logo.

From this commitment, CALAM encourages Muslims to travel the middle road and to avoid extremes, which is not limited to so-called “Islamic extremism.” They place an emphasis on traveling the middle road when it comes to our Deen, that is, our way of life. They encourage Muslims to be steadfast in what they believe and to be understanding when their brothers and sisters have a different opinion.

They encourage non-Muslims to explore Islam by exploring God in general. They believe that it makes no difference what the religions of this world have to offer if a person doubts the existence of God in the first place. After coming to the conclusion that the universe cannot exist without a Creator, they encourage a person to seek for God’s guidance by exploring Islam with sincerity. Only God knows what will happen after that. God guides whom He will.

CALAM is best known for their annual Latino Eid festivals. CALAM organizes festivals to celebrate the two most important holidays for Muslims, Eid Al’Fitr and Eid Al’Adha. CALAM organizes these two events because they believe that it is important for those with common backgrounds to connect and celebrate on these holidays. They also want to express the importance of these holidays to their children. They always make sure the children have a great time playing games and receiving presents. They also weave the Latino culture into the festival by bringing a variety of Latino foods in a potluck style dinner. And, of course, for the children, they bring out a piñata! The event has grown in tremendous popularity. Although they call it the “Latino Eid Festival,” all are welcome, and the event is by no means limited to Latinos.

The founders of CALAM hope to see it grow into an organization that can stand on its own in a significant way. They have learned what a true challenge it is to establish a Latino Muslim organization. They have been making slow progress because they are lacking serious funding and the dedication of free time by various members. On the positive side, they see their numbers growing more and more every year. Overall, they believe that founding CALAM has been a challenging yet rewarding experience. While the members of CALAM sustain its activities for the most part, with limited resources, they can only do so much. Some founders of CALAM fear that the dedication of its members will whither away. They know much work needs to be done towards introducing Islam to the Latino community and believe that Latino Muslims are the best capable for the job. Even if CALAM does not grow as an organization, they at least hope to keep up with what they are doing now. Insha’Allah.

Organizations such as CALAM are certainly needed to dispel common myths about Islam. A couple of summers ago, CALAM had a table under the community organization tent at the Puerto Rican Festival. They displayed a large banner with their organization’s name and website address. Signs were displayed that explained a few interesting facts that typically catch the interest of Latinos and that most Latinos do not know about, such as our belief in the Biblical Prophets. They also set literature out on the table to give away free.

One day at this five-day festival, a Puerto Rican lady stopped at their table. Without reading any of the signs posted, she asked who they were and what they were doing. Members kindly explained that they were a community of Latino Muslims and that they were there to introduce Islam to their fellow Latinos in an effort to build bridges of understanding in these times of confusion about Islam. Upon explaining that to her she said, “Oh…well…Muslims don’t believe in God. Right?” Moments such as these exemplify just how much work Latino Muslims have to accomplish.

May our Creator bless the Latino Muslims of Chicago with all that is needed to allow them to continue in their wonderful endeavor.

Jan - Mar 2006, USA

The Hui Against All Odds: Exemplars for American Muslims

By Abd al-Rahman Benavidez

In the summer of 2002, the Nawawi Foundation organized and lead a group of some one hundred American Muslims on a tour throughout China that included five provinces across the vast continent from the capital Beijing to the heartland Xian and finishing at the great metropolitan and commercial city Shanghai. More meaningful than a tour, it was a journey that focused on the little known ethnic Chinese Muslims, or Hui, and their monuments dating back to the ancient Islamic civilization established by their ancestors.

One may ask: of all the places and people to visit, why China and the Chinese Muslims? Each one of us imagined what China would be like at the onset of the rihla (journey), and each of us hoped to experience something special that would make a rewarding and memorable impression for many years to come. For some maybe, it was a longing to pray in an ancient mosque or to sit and drink tea in the home of a Chinese Muslim family. For someone else it was perhaps the wish of bargaining in an old market for that one of a kind handmade silk rug. However, Dr. Umar Abd-Allah, chairman of the Nawawi Foundation, capsulated our purpose well when he told a group of Hui: “We have not come to teach you but to learn from you”. And so it was precisely for this reason that we traveled to that region of the world fulfilling, in sha Allah, the well-known prophetic tradition regarding the attainment of knowledge in China: “Seek knowledge even unto China.”

Toshiba Digital Camera

Although we knew almost nothing about the ancient Chinese Muslim civilization we were about to visit, we had surety in the timeless words of the Messenger of God (sa), and so sought inspiration from a people who achieved what we hope to realize in the United States. Indeed, the achievement of the Hui is particularly informative for us today given that they established a successful Islamic society that blossomed within a highly sophisticated non-Muslim civilization. The Chinese Muslims embraced a religion that emerged from Arabia, but they never lost their sense of cultural and ethnic identity. They maintained the sanctity of their indigenous roots and ancient symbols and created a culture and civilization that was both Chinese and Islamic. The Hui took into careful consideration the ethos of China’s ancient cultural wisdom together with the spirit of Islam and produced an identity that was not only indigenous but also distinct from Arab or Persian Islam.

Furthermore, Chinese Muslim culture distinguished the name of their faith with one that was in accordance with China’s philosophical tradition. Rather than referring to their faith as the religion of Islam, the Hui called it: qing zhen jiào (the religion of the pure and real) [more on this]. It was perhaps the cultural familiarity along with the success of the Hui in society that prompted the Tang dynasty (618-907) to accept Islam as an official Chinese religion of the empire-unlike Christianity, which was considered foreign. Throughout the various dynasties up to the last, the Hui, although minorities, had self-governing powers.

Unfortunately, our knowledge of the Hui and their achievements is nominal. Their legacy has been largely ignored by historiographers, thus little has been written about them. We may never fully understand this important story of our Islamic legacy. Records along with human life were destroyed when Chairman Mao came into power and founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949. All manifestations of religion were oppressed, including Islam. Places of worship, schools, and other institutions were closed. It is estimated that some 29,000 mosques were destroyed while many others were used as warehouses. Today, the government’s attitude toward religion is different. The Hui are permitted to practice Islam but they are held with suspect. Although much about the Hui is unknown to us, the magnificent monuments their predecessors left behind are not negligible. I was fortunate to catch a glimpse of the art and architecture crafted by the hands of God’s worshippers.

On the Great Wall of China.

The first mosque we visited was in Beijing. Located on the street that bears the name of the mosque, the Nuije Mosque was built in 996 and is the oldest and largest in the city. Surrounded by a stonewall, the mosque is unassuming within the bustling capital. Unlike the lofty minarets of the Ottoman mosques (of Anatolian inspiration) that are visible to the eye from several kilometers, they are absent in the Nuije Mosque. Not only are there no minarets, but also there are no domes. In fact, the mosque resembles a Buddhist temple. The roof is constructed in the style called zaojing, a traditional roof design found throughout the land. The mosque’s vibrant colors and gardens beautified the courtyard while bringing tranquility to the heart. However, the differences between the mosque and temple soon became apparent after we entered the prayer hall. The ancient hall is not decorated with human representations but instead with both Chinese and Arabic calligraphy, characteristics that would reoccur throughout the journey.

Once we finished praying, I wandered about the courtyard knowing it would probably be my last visit. I then heard faint murmurs coming from a small hall within the courtyard and decided to probe the matter. Feeling apprehensive, I peeked through the window to find some twenty elders sitting around a table learning how to recite the Quran. It seems they were the unfortunate victims of a law that banned the studying and teaching of the Quran but who had decided to reconnect themselves with the Book of God. Despite the ancient history behind the mosque, believing men and women bow down in prostration to Allah to this day.

The humility and generosity displayed to us by our hosts is what I believe had the greatest impact upon us all. They were characteristics derived from the love of their religion as revealed to us by a poem in praise of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) sung to us by a choir of shy students from the Gansu province. In a region of the world unbeknownst to us was the name of God and His Messenger (sa) being remembered and praised by a people who until recently were persecuted for mentioning these very names. No matter the province or mosque we visited next, every community had something to offer: sweet watermelon or even a smile.

As a write, I can’t help but still feel the humility that radiated from the faces of the people I encountered. After every visit to a mosque, we would leave the prayer hall to find carved up watermelon waiting for us on tables in the courtyard, gifts provided by the community. None us will forget the afternoon when we trekked along a dusty road in the city of Langxia to reach one of the few schools in the country dedicated to teaching Islam. As we approached the school, we passed by a tiny old woman wearing a tattered headscarf who, after being told by one of the locals who we were, began to weep in the middle of the road. She was overcome with joy to know that so many strangers from another land came to visit her community. Her city was also known as Little Mecca, home to some 300 thousand Muslims.

Two Chicago sisters with Chinese Muslim sisters.

The next “Muslim” experience took place in Xian. The city was the ancient capital for eleven dynasties, including the Tang, and was the starting point of the Silk Road. Hence, the former imperial city contains some of the world’s art and architectural treasures that includes the Terracotta Warriors. Xian is home to a community of 60,000 Muslims, which supports several mosques, a primary school, shops, and restaurants; and therefore constituting an integral part of Xian’s daily life-for over 1250 years. Arabic writing above the entrance of many restaurants verifies their Muslim ownership. The majority of the community resides in the Huajue Xiang district, and in the heart of the community lies the Great Mosque of Xian. According to the historical record that is a stone tablet still preserved within the mosque, it was constructed in 742 C.E. In the shape of a rectangular from east to west, the complex occupies an area of 13,000 square meters and is subdivided into four courtyards.

The mosque is approached via a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with shops and restaurants with signs in the window that read in Arabic halal. The entrance is through an ornamented wooden archway with glazed roof-tiles, and just ahead, an engraved sign in calligraphy informs us that we have entered “The Court of Heaven”. Like the Nuije Mosque, the design of the Great Mosque is completely Chinese in character. Behind the engraving are two stone tables erected with decorations of carved dragons, which give an account of the mosque’s repairs at the imperial orders of emperors from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Indeed, ancient symbols are present throughout they courtyard: the lotus, pagoda, and dragons. In the center of the courtyard is what appears to be a pagoda but is actually a minaret, called the “Introspection Tower”. The two-story structure is also Chinese in character with three layers of upturned eaves and an octagonal roof. Also, in the courtyard is a kiosk named “One God Pavilion” that is hexagonal in shape and designed with upturned eaves. Noteworthy is a calligraphic inscription written by a high official of the Ming Dynasty that proclaims: “One God”. Ibrahim Abusharif, a member from our group, reflected on the Great Mosque and wrote, “The overall look of the architecture is in the shape of a phoenix with open wings”.

Br. Edmund Arroyo with Chinese Muslims.

At the eastern end of the courtyard is the Prayer Hall. A just description of the hall is beyond words. Abusharif states, “Your first impulse is to pray”. Few and far between, areas of worship such as this hall have the power to remove disharmony within the soul and bring stillness to the heart. We didn’t want to leave. All of us kept looking around awestruck by the walls decorated with hundreds of intricately carved wooden panels comprising the entire Quran with translation and commentary.

Upon leaving the ancient house of worship, we were to experience one more surprise. A small group of us passed by one of the halls in the courtyard and was invited in by a caretaker. Soon after the imam walked in, who was apparently informed of the presence of a large contingency of Americans wandering throughout the mosque. He must have been in his late sixties and had a somewhat serious demeanor, but this did not refrain him from being hospitable and open with us. He invited us to sit down with him, and the erudite Dr. Umar was our diplomat representing us in this cultural dialogue between the two worlds.

The imam told us the fantastic story of how the Great Mosque was nearly destroyed by the Red Army during the Cultural Revolution. At the time, he was a young and new imam. All of us sat with excitement listening to the story told in Chinese, which was translated into Arabic and then explained in English. The community received word that the army was marching toward the city with the orders to destroy religious monuments. To prevent the mosque’s destruction, all of the men from the community decided to surround it and defend it with their lives. However, the imam had a different plan. He called the men to back away and let the army, consisting young peasants, enter the courtyard whereby he asked the soldiers if they were interested in hearing the story of how the Great Mosque was constructed. He had the soldiers so enthralled that when he finished the story the requested to hear more stories to which the imam replied: “Yes, but not today. Come back tomorrow and I will tell you more.” The intended result not only avoided bloodshed but also disengaged the soldiers’ drive; and when they left, they apparently did not have the energy to return to finish the job.

Br. Benavidez is wearing the light colored shirt, behind the guy with the baby.
Oct - Dec 2005, Ramadan, USA

Latina Iftar in Houston, Texas

By Susy Tekunan

VOA Indonesia

Two reporters of VOA Indonesia met with LADO sisters on October 7, 2005. It was during Ramadhan, and the sisters were having an Iftar Dinner at one of the sister’s house. We conducted an interview with some members but mostly with Zulayka Martinez who we think could represent the group with her story as the only Muslim in her family.

Before the day of this event, we visited with brother Mujahid and his family at his residence to speak with him about how his life changed after he became a Muslim. Mujahid, his wife, and his father are all Columbian-American converts to Islam. Based on the interviews and footage, we produced a story about the growing number of Latino Muslims in the United States.

The website address for VOA Indonesia is http://www.voanews.com/indonesian.

July - Sept 2005, USA

U.S. Muslim Religious Council Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam’s absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.

Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram or forbidden – and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not “martyrs.”

The Qur’an, Islam’s revealed text, states: “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]”it is as thoughhe has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32)

Prophet Muhammad said there is no excuse for committing unjust acts: “Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good ifpeople do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

God mandates moderation in faith and in all aspects of life when He states in the Qur’an: “Wemade you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with the example of your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind.” (Qur’an, 2:143)

In another verse, God explains our duties as human beings when he says: “Let there arise from among you a band of people who invite to righteousness, and enjoin good and forbidevil.” (Qur’an, 3:104)

Islam teaches us to act in a caring manner to all of God’s creation. The Prophet Muhammad, who is described in the Qur’an as “a mercy to the worlds” said: “All creation is the family ofGod, and the person most beloved by God (is the one) who is kind and caring toward His family.”

In the light of the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:

1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.
2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.
3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives of all civilians.

We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur’an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. We urge all people to resolve all conflicts in just and peaceful manners.

We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of ourcountry, the United States, and its people. We pray for the safety and security of allinhabitants of our planet. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and all around the globe.

July 28, 2005


Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Chairman
Dr. Deina Abdulkadir
Shaikh Muhammad Nur Abdallah
Dr. Taha Jabir Alalwani
Shaikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti
Shaikhah Zainab Alwani
Dr. Jamal Badawi
Dr. Ihsan Bagby
Dr. Nazih Hammad
Shaikh Yahya Hindi
Dr. Abdul Hakim Jackson
Dr. Mukhtar Maghraoui
Dr. Akbar Muhammad
Shaikh Hassan Qazwini
Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah
Dr. Muhammad Adam Sheikh
Dr. Ahmad Shleibak
Dr. Salah Soltan

173 Muslim organizations, mosques and imams have endorsed the preceding fatwa as of August 4, 2005 (see below). More signatory organizations are to be added in the following days. To add your American Muslim organization to the list, please email your name, title, and affiliation to cair@cair-net.org.


Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
Muslim American Society (MAS)
Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)
Mosque Cares, Imam W D Muhammad
Muslim Student Association of the US & Canada (MSA)
Association of Muslim Social Scientists
American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin
American Muslim Alliance
Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers
Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations
Council of Shia Muslim Scholars of North America
Islamic Networks Group & Affiliates
Islamic Resource Group
Islamic Schools League of America
Islamic Sharia Advisory Institute of North America
Kashmiri American Council
Latino American Dawah Organization
Minaret of Freedom Institute
Muslim Ummah of North America
Project Islamic HOPE
United Muslims of America
USA Halal Chamber of Commerce, Inc & The Islamic Center for Halal Certification


Afghan Cultural Center
Al Nur Islamic Center, Rashid Ahmed, Director
All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Mohamed Magid, Imam
Al-Mu’minun Islamic Center, Samuel Ansari
American Islamic Academy, Shaykh Al-Tayyab
American Moslem Society, Mahdi Ali, Imam
American Muslim Voice
Assadiq Islamic Educational Foundation, Sayed Mohammad Jawad Qazwini, Imam
Auburn Islamic Center, Mark Hamza Dougherty, President
Bay County Islamic Society Inc, Hashem Mubrak,
Belleville Mosque and Islamic Education Center, Dr. Abdul W. Kazi,
Blossom Valley Muslim Community Center, Allaedin Ezzedin, Imam
Campus Mosque of Scranton, Imam
Cincinnati Islamic Center, Ilyas Nashid, Imam
Concerned Muslims of Greater Cleveland (CMGC)
Council of Masajid, Cleveland
Daar-ul-Islam Masjid, Muhammad Nur Abdallah
Dalton Islamic Center, Hammad El-Ameen, President
Darassalam, Mohammed M. Safa
Discover Islam Foundation, Muhammad Quadir,
Ershad Institute
Elmhurst Islamic Center, Riaz Ahmad, Mufti
First Cleveland Mosque, Abbas Ahmad, Imam
Fox Valley Islamic Society, Delwar Mian, Secretary
Foundation for Islamic Education, Sheikh Mustafa Ahmad
Greenway Islamic Center, Didmar Faja
Hidaya Foundation
Howard County Muslim Council, Anwer Hasan, President
Indian Muslim Relief & Charities
IntraCity Muslim Action Network (IMAN), Ohio
Islamic Association of Cary, Shakil Ahmed
Islamic Association of Greater Shreveport, Sayed Jumaa Salam
Islamic Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Riaz Hussain, Treasurer
Islamic Association of West Virginia, Mohamad Jamal Daoudi, Imam
Islamic Center of America, Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini, Imam
Islamic Center of Blacksburg Islamic Center of Boca Raton, Jalal Khan, Imam
Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau, Shafiq Malik, Imam
Islamic Center of Carbondale, Muhammad Kamran, President
Islamic Center of Cleveland, Fawaz Damra, Imam
Islamic Center of Contra Costa, Abdul Quddus Saleh, Imam
Islamic Center of Des Moines, Ibrahim Dremali, Imam
Islamic Center of Fremont, Mubashir Ahmed, President
Islamic Center of Little Rock, Islam Mossaad, Imam
Islamic Center of Marietta, Amjad Taufique, President
Islamic Center of Maryland, Amin Ezzeddine, Imam
Islamic Center of New England, Talal Eid, Imam
Islamic Center of New Mexico, Isam Rajab, Imam
Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, Zaid Malik, Imam
Islamic Center of Oakland
Islamic Center of Old Bridge, Alvi Fakhruddin, Imam
Islamic Center of Omaha, Dr. Ahmad Az-Zaare, Imam
Islamic Center of Passaic County, Mohammad Qatanani, Imam
Islamic Center of Pleasanton/Dublin
Islamic Center of Portland, Samir Horani, Board Member
Islamic Center of Raleigh, Mohammed Bainonie, Imam
Islamic Center Of Reseda, Ali Shakoor, Imam
Islamic Center of Somerset, Husein Turki
Islamic Center of South Florida, Hassan Sabri, Imam
Islamic Center of Southern California, Jamil Momand, Chairman
Islamic Center of Tampa, Ziad Taha, Director
Islamic Center of Virginia, Shaheed Coovadia, Imam
Islamic Council of Ohio, Sohail Khan, Secretary
Islamic Education Center, Dr. Ahmad Sakr, Director
Islamic Educational Center of North Hudson, Mohamed Alhayek, Imam
Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio, Siraj Haji
Islamic Foundation of South Florida, Rashid Ahmad, Imam
Islamic House of Wisdom, Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi
Islamic Jaffaria Association, Mohamed Banglori, Imam
Islamic Learning and Practicing, Dr. Misbah Eldereiny
Islamic Movement of Florida, Moneer Khan, Imam
Islamic Mosque of Cleveland (Masjid al-Islam)
Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Shakeel Syed, Executive Director
Islamic Society of Annapolis, Mohammad Arrafa, Imam
Islamic Society of Akron and KentIslamic Society of Baltimore, Abid Husain, General Secretary
Islamic Society of Boston, Shaykh Besyouni Nehela
Islamic Society of Central Florida, Mohammed al Masri, Imam
Islamic Society of East Bay, Dr. Mohamed Rajabally
Islamic Society of Essex County, Ismail Elshikh, Imam
Islamic Society of Greater Columbus, Dr. M. N. Tarazi, President
Islamic Society of Greater Houston, Rodwan M. Saleh, President
Islamic Society of Greater Kansas City, Shahir Safi, President
Islamic Society of Michiana, Mohammed Sirajuddin, Imam
Islamic Society of Orange County, Ismail Majoo, President
Islamic Society of Pinellas County, Haitham Barazangi, Imam
Islamic Society of Salt Lake City, Ali Mohammed, Imam
Islamic Society of San Fransisco, Souleiman Ghali, President
Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area, Muhammad Sultan, Imam
Islamic Society of Washington Area, Faizul Khan, Imam
Kalamazoo Islamic Center, Tariq Jameel, President
Long Beach Islamic Center, Tarek Mohamed
Masjid AbuBakr AlSiddique, Abdur Rahman Bashir, Imam
Masjid Al Heyder, Hafiz Inayadullah
Masjid Al Muminun, Furqan Muhammad, Imam
Masjid Al-Ansar, Nasir Ahmad, Imam
Masjid Al-Faizal, Roshan Ali, Imam
Masjid Al-Hijrah, Kamruz Hosein
Masjid Al-Ihsan, Tarik Chebbi, Imam
Masjid Al-Kauthar, Rudolph Ali, Imam
Masjid Al-Nahl , Rashad Mujahid, Imam
Masjid Al-Noor, Danish Siddiqui, President
Masjid Al-Rasul, Mujahid Abdul-Karim, Imam
Masjid Al-Taqwa, Abdul Karim Salih, Imam
Masjid An-Noor, Mohamed Zakaria Badat, Imam
Masjid Annour Islamic Community, Mohammad Afzaluddin, Imam
Masjid Centralia, Dr. Zahir Ansari
Masjid Dar-ul-Argum Masjid Darul Huda, Abdul Hameed, Director
Masjid Jama Al Mumineen, Khalil Hussain, Imam
Masjid Mohammed, Said Mohammed Masjid Muttaqeen, Usman Rahman
Masjid Saad Foundation, Ziad Abu Hummos, President
Masjid Sahmsuddin, Foad Farahi, Imam
Mecca Learning Center
Miami Gardens Masjid, Abdul Hamid Samra, Imam
Muslims Association of Cleveland East (MACE)
Muslim Association of Virginia, Rafi Uddin Ahmed, President
Muslim Center of Middlesex County, Abubakr Nadwi
Muslim Children Education & Civic Center, Abdul Wahid
Muslim Community Association of the Peninsula
Muslim Community Association of the San Francisco Bay Area
Muslim Community Center, Azad Ejaz, President
Muslim Community Center of San Francisco
Muslim Community of Knoxville, Dr. Mohammad Islam, President
Muslim Community of North East Tennessee, Taneem Aziz, President
Muslim Community of Palm Beach County, Murtaza Kakli, President
Muslim Community Services, Inc., M. Rezar Rahman
Muslim Federation of New Jersey, Saif Ul-Nabi, Qari
Mustafa Center, M. Zia, Imam
Nur Ul Islam, Roshan Ali, Imam
Omar Mosque, Nimer Judeh
Palm Beach Mosque, Osman Chowdhury, President
Salaam Cleveland (Greater Cleveland Muslim Women’s Association)
Salaam in the Ummah (Peace in the Hood), Ohio
San Ramon Valley Islamic Center
Shi’a Islam Student Association, George Mason University, Seyede Katayon Kasmai, Founder
Siddiquia Jamia Masjid, Tariq Khawaja
South Bay Islamic Association, Tahir Anwar, Imam
South Valley Islamic Center, Ilyas Anwar, Imam
The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, Abdul Malik Mujahid, Imam
The Mosque Foundation, Sheikh Kifah Mustapha
The Muslim Community Center, Sheikh Elkheir Elkheir
United Sisterhood, Ohio
Uqbah Mosque Foundation, Ramez Islambouli, President
Vallejo Islamic Center, Mohamed Yunus
Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee
Yaseen Foundation and the Muslim Community Center
Zaytuna Institute

April - June 2005, Latino Muslims, Muslim converts, Organizations, Other, USA

The LADO Genesis

By Juan Alvarado

Evolution of the Latino American Dawah Organization

Since childhood I always noticed that I was spiritual to say the least. I was baptized, did my communion and confirmation. I was even an altar boy. By the time I was 19, I renounced Christianity once and for all due to my lack of belief in the basic teachings of Christianity. However, I continued my search for truth. This search led me to read on a non-stop basis, something that I still do. After studying Islam for a couple of years, I was sufficiently comfortable that I decided to convert in 1992. The only twist in my conversion story is that I took two shahadas rather than one because of my experience with a Black Nationalist movement called the Ansar cult, or the Nubian Islamic Hebrews. Thankfully, a Latino Muslim brother noted my error and gave me a book by Bilal Philips about the Ansars called, “The Ansar Cult in America.” I lasted two years in this movement before taking my shahada with Alianza Islamica in El Barrio in Spanish Harlem.

In the late nineties, I was a savvy Internet chatterbox. I would look for any Islamic chat rooms and message boards on AOL. Their message boards were very active at that time. The Islam message boards used to have 100 posts a day – from Muslims, talking about Islam, which is certainly not the case now. I’d say the year was 1996. There were many people online; each person had many opinions. We would discuss Middle Eastern and world politics and all aspects about Islam – the permissible and forbidden, questions and answers, rebuttals, etc. In this melee of ideas, many non-Muslims visited just to disrespect Islam saying some of the most audacious things. However, many non-Muslims were interested in Islam or at the very least were tolerant and respectful of our different beliefs. They were there to learn about Islam, Muslims, Islamic culture, the Middle East and/or specific Islamic countries.

During those times, I was happy to have met many, very good people. I learned much about Islam from many knowledgeable Muslims. I also learned about the bad things that happen within cultures that claim to be Islamic but are not. As a Muslim revert, I can only hope to show others the beauty of Islam and somehow incline them toward Islam. In the Qur’an 16:125, Allah SWT states, “Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.” Allah SWT guides whom He wills. I love Islam, and I would like others to love Islam, too. As such, I have tried to find ways to disseminate Islam. I have come across non-Muslims interested in Islam, and I have spoken with them at length trying to answer all of their questions. I have had some great online/written conversations, too.

Among the good people that I met was a young lady interested in Islam. She was a Bronx native like myself named Samantha Sanchez. She was not yet a Muslim. She was a graduate student writing her master’s thesis about Hispanics coming to Islam. I was one of her thesis interviewees. Samantha’s inspiration to seriously begin learning more about Islam happened after coming across an acquaintance on campus. Samantha couldn’t believe her eyes. While standing in the middle of a Jesuit college campus, she was dressed in modest clothing with her hair covered. “How? When? Why?” Samantha asked herself. From that moment on, she was hooked, but not on Islam. She was hooked on finding out why a Latina would choose Islam.

After answering those questions, the Latina Muslimah told Samantha that she would give her a book about Islam. They promised to stay in touch. After reading that book, she made an intense study of the Qur’an and Islam. She also contacted various new Muslims online including myself. After many conversations, I noted that Samantha was clearly seeing the light of Islam. I don’t remember exactly when she decided to become a Muslim. There is no doubt she was on a quest for the truth. I encouraged her in her quest as I would anyone interested in Islam. We must in any case thank Allah SWT for opening her heart and giving our Ummah such an educated lady. We continued our online friendship and conversations for more than a year.

Saraji Umm Zaid met Samantha through another sister who had met her on the AOL message boards. Saraji was very active on the Islam message boards. She was one of the most intelligent Muslims on the boards. She would answer tough questions, respond to various misconceptions, and give advice to anyone interested in Islam. Although Saraji made her shahada as a teen in private, someone insisted that her first shahada needed witnesses for it to be valid with Allah SWT. She renewed her shahada with a Latina sister from New Jersey in 1997. A few days later Saraji found out that Samantha had made her shahada on the same day at the large Islamic Center in Queens.

Little by little, a group of Muslims had developed, which had the ambition of spreading this deen to others. Together, we immediately recognized the need for some type of group that would cater Islam to the unique Hispanic community within the United States. We were not quite sure how we could accomplish this. Nevertheless, we exchanged thoughts, articles, and topics of interest through e-mail. This was in effect our first Latino Muslims e-mail newslist. We all recognized that communication would be a prerequisite for the cooperation needed to begin a national grassroots organization among Hispanics. In the beginning, we were in a quandary as to what we could do. Many ideas were up in the air. We came to an agreement that we needed an organization that would encourage Latino Muslims from around the United States to work together to fulfill their common needs. By identifying those needs, the organization would struggle diligently to fill the void. Consequently, the organization and anyone interested in dawah to Latinos would have a sense of direction.

Our hope was to establish an organization that would give credence and assistance needed to succeed. Insh’Allah. For example, an organization of this scope would help bring more participants into dawah work. Our requests about the need for Spanish Islamic literature would also be more likely to be acknowledged. At the time, very little attention was paid to any converts to Islam, let alone Latinos. We wanted it to be an organization where Latinos could speak for themselves. As Saraji said, “I wanted something established so that by the time my daughter was old enough to think for herself and notice how the world works, she would see Latinos represented in the Ummah.” On a more personal level, we hoped that by working with this type of organization we would become better Muslims, as our ideals would be put into practice. Each of us could contribute our own unique skills and knowledge.

Next, we needed to come up with a name. We wanted to choose something that would express our ethnic and religious identity as Latinos/Hispanics and as Muslims. We also wanted to emphasize that this would be an Islamic organization whose primary purpose would be dawah and education to Latinos. The word ‘lado’ came to Saraji’s mind after a few hours of trying to think of an acronym that would mean something in Spanish. From the word ‘lado’, she came up with Latino American Dawah Organization. Today, our organization is known by most Muslims as simply “LADO” and as “The LADO Group.” In Spanish, LADO is known as “El Grupo LADO.” The acronym LADO means ‘side’ in Spanish.

Samantha came up with “¡A su LADO!” as a motto, which in English means “At your side!” By 2001, the motto evolved to become the following: “¡Puro Latino! ¡Puro Islam! ¡A su LADO!” Far from being an exclusive club, membership is open to all Muslims regardless of race. Members are also actively encouraged to assist, join, and even begin other Muslim organizations. LADO emphasizes a full-fledged, comprehensive dawah effort toward Latinos. Encouraging Latino Muslims to organize to enhance dawah opportunities is one aspect of that effort. Hence, “¡Puro Latino!” With dawah, though, comes responsibility. By continuously learning and practicing Islam, we seek to become better Muslims and hence preserve the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Hence, “¡Puro Islam!” And of course, LADO is at your side!

LADO is a grassroots organization founded in September 1997 by a handful of Latino converts to Islam in New York City. “¡A su LADO!” is the essence of our mission statement. LADO’s mission is “to promote Islam among the Latino community within the United States by becoming better-educated Muslims and by working with like-minded Muslims.” We openly acknowledge and emphasize the importance of education and cooperation as a prerequisite to dawah efforts. In Islam, the most important way of identifying ourselves is by belief. Therefore, part of our mission statement includes a statement of Islamic faith. Patiently, we will work with what we have today, actively working for a better tomorrow. As stated in the Qur’an 13:11, “Verily Allah will not change the condition of people until they change it themselves.”

Thousands of miles away, a person with a similar story to ours became interested in LADO. Juan Galvan was introduced to Islam after seeing a Hispanic Muslim in prostration. Juan wondered, “What’s this Hispanic guy doing praying to Allah?” Juan had many questions, which the brother patiently answered. Juan instinctively knew that this was what he was looking for because it answered life’s unanswerable questions. However, he would continue studying Islam for three more years before officially embracing Islam. After taking his shahada, he pondered why there seemed to be few Latino Muslims in Texas. From these types of questions came his eagerness to serve Allah SWT.

After deciding to work with LADO in 2001, Juan Galvan began finding Muslims to work with him by contacting various Muslims from Texas and around the United States. One Latina Muslimah from Oklahoma couldn’t believe Juan wanted to be part of a national Muslim organization. She sent him an e-mail stating that Islam is about beauty in small deeds. She said that the best way to be a good caller to Islam is to be a good Muslim. Like most new Muslims, her conversion was marked with small, good deeds along the way. Her journey toward Islam began in college when a classmate answered her questions about Islam. Her questions led to deeper discussions about Islam. She was given Islamic literature. She was invited and later driven to a mosque. She was taught how to wear hijab. After taking shahada, she was taught how to pray. She has received and continues to receive many words of encouragement. Most Muslims consider the conversion of each non-Muslim special and beautiful. This Latina was concerned that large Muslim organizations would cheapen that beauty. Our intention is not to make conversion less special but rather to show the beauty of Islam to more people, so that they may also see the beauty of Islam. And, there are many things that one person cannot do alone.

As LADO members, we seek only the pleasure of Allah. We pursue opportunities only for Allah, not for LADO or for our own selves. Like the disciples of Jesus PBUH said in the Qur’an, “We are Allah’s helpers. We believe in Allah. And do bear witness that we are Muslims.” (3:52). We seek to aid all Muslims and non-Muslims by sharing the beauty of Islam as expressed in our mission statement. LADO disseminates Islam by providing Islamic literature in the form of books, brochures, and other media in English, Spanish and whenever possible, Portuguese. Because few materials are available to the Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking communities, we emphasize this aspect of Islamic diffusion. In addition to educating anyone about Islam, we will also guide whom we can to the right resources. As a way of educating our own selves and others, we are committed to attending, visiting, and working with mosques, attending special Islamic events, interfaith talks, various lectures, translating existing literature, and writing articles and editorials among other things.

In addition to its other dawah contributions, LADO has been recognized for its very beneficial website. Our first attempt at a website was really Samantha’s. We thought a website would be the most cost efficient way of offering free information about Islam. She used her free personal AOL homepage as our preliminary website. We then added information to the website as we saw fit. Today, the LADO website is available at www.latinodawah.org. The website contains LADO’s online newsletter, useful links on Islamic information and websites, and a library with Islamic resources for beginners in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. From the LADO ‘Contact Us’ page, you can find Latino Muslims from around the country. From the LADO website, you can join the LADO Yahoogroup. The purpose of our newslist is to provide a way for networking, discussing Islam, current events, and Latino Muslim issues and upcoming events.

We have always believed that there was more to dawah to Latinos than simply translating some pamphlets into Spanish. Certainly, Islamic literature in the Spanish language is extremely important. Who can, for example, deny the importance of Spanish Islamic audio literature? However, we also need to address the emotional needs of new or potential Muslims. Our dawah efforts have attempted to address these needs in various ways. For example, Saraji offers practical advice for new Muslims in her article: “How do I tell my parents and family I’ve become a Muslim?” I attempt to address common misconceptions about Islam in a lighthearted way in my article: “Is Your God Black?” Saraji recalls that the mother of one Latina Muslimah complained because her daughter stopped eating her pastels. Pastels and tortillas do not necessarily have to be haram, or prohibited in Islam. We have been fortunate to address these kinds of misconceptions among Latinos. Many articles by Latino Muslims can be found on LADO’s online newsletter.

Life’s twists and turns are strange. After some time, I lost touch with Samantha and the other LADO people. After regaining Internet service, I either forgot all of the people’s e-mail addresses or they had been changed. Years later, while working for the Los Angeles Times, I came across an article in the New York Times mentioning LADO and Samantha. Alhamdulillah, I was able to contact her and Juan to find that LADO continued. I have found a good ‘virtual’ friend and brother with Galvan. I am only one of the many Latino Muslims who are grateful for the opportunity to have met other Latino Muslims through LADO. We will continue to emphasize the universal principle of brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam. Insha’Allah. We are trying to break down the barriers that separate Latino Muslims, Latino non-Muslims, and the general Muslim community. This is certainly a great endeavor. I have since contributed to LADO whenever I can. And, the rest as they say is history.

Since it’s founding, the Latino American Dawah Organization has had its focus on promoting Islam to anyone interested with emphasis on the Hispanic community. Since then LADO has had the opportunity to speak with many non-Muslims interested in Islam. We have also had the opportunity to work with Muslims from all walks of life. Insha’Allah (or ojalá), we will continue to encourage potential Muslims to learn more about Islam and provide information about Islam. Insha’Allah, we will also become better Muslims while we’re at it. In Qur’an 110: 2-3, Allah SWT states, “When God’s help and victory have arrived, and you have seen people entering God’s religion in droves, then glorify your Lord’s praise and ask His forgiveness.” Every Hispanic Muslim hopes that their lost Islamic heritage, which was taken from them, can once again be revived, rekindled, and reborn.

Oct - Dec 2003, USA

Dallas Mosque Open House in Photos

By Juan Galvan

Assalaam alaykum,
On October 18, Latino Muslims from the Dallas area hosted a mosque open house in Spanish at the Dallas Central Mosque. The open house was organized by Latino Muslim brothers and sisters who meet every Saturday for a halaqa session at the mosque.

Upon entering the mosque, I quickly noticed flags from various South American and Caribbean countries. I was pleasantly surprised to a Mexican flag in a Texas mosque. Seeing the various flags was one more reminder of just how much our religion is unifying people from every part of the world.

After signing in at the registration table, visitors were given a name tag and program. Literature was also available at the registration table. From left-to-right is an African-American brother, Daniel Montenegro, and me. Daniel and some sisters welcomed visitors as they entered the mosque. Daniel along with other Latino Muslims gave visitors a tour of the mosque. Can you spot the young sister? MashaAllah.

These two Latino Muslims presented in the mosque’s gymnasium. Br. Mujahid Fletcher spoke about his conversion to Islam. Born in Columbia, he moved to Houston as a child. Sr. Ericka Perez spoke about women in Islam. She is a Mexican-American from the Dallas area. Presentations along with a question and answer session were repeated three times during the day for new visitors.

Five dawah tables were manned by Latino brothers and sisters in the gymnasium. Visitors could speak with Latino Muslims in either English or Spanish. Each desk had brochures and other Islamic literature in English and Spanish. Latino and nonLatino nonMuslims both benefited from the dawah tables. Carlos Puerto, leader of the Dallas Latino Muslim group, was among those who manned the dawah tables.

Comida! Food! Latina Muslims served drinks, snow cones, cotton candy, and taquitos. The cake reads, “Bienvenidos,” which means welcome. After eating a snow cone, I had a slice of cake. The cake was wonderful.

The mosque open house was a beautiful experience. I simply cannot describe my emotions. As more Latinos embrace Islam, you can expect to see even more Spanish open houses at mosques. I can hardly wait!

July - Sept 2003, USA

First Annual Hispanic Muslim Day

By Shinoa Matos
CommUnity Magazine

July 27, 2003, North Hudson, NJ – On a beautiful Sunday morning (Alhamudullah), North Hudson’s Islamic Educational Center hosted a Latino Muslim event filled with lectures, open discussions, free literature, and dinner to celebrate Islam as part of their Latino heritage.

With a huge Latino / Hispanic population in the area, the local Masjid held the event to explain Islam’s deep root in Latino culture and thus how the two are very similar from holding the same values ​​regarding morals and family to the Arabic origins of many Spanish words .

After Zhuhr prayer, over 60-70 brothers and sisters from all nationalities as well as many non-Muslims filled the main hall as moderators informed them of what the day’s event held. Each person was given a folder filled with flyers and brochures both in English and Spanish, touching on many specific subjects such as “What is Islam?”, “Jesus in Islam” and more. Those who did not understand Spanish were given electronic earpieces where they could listen to a translator in English.

Sister Mariam Santos Garcia walked everyone through a PowerPoint presentation reflecting on Islamic Spain, the prosperity and knowledge that grew out of that specific period, and the legacy it left behind. “Islam is part of our heritage and we must stand up and be proud of that” said Garcia. Refreshments were handed out as Omar Pacheco special guest spoke on his life in Argentina, his conversion, and towards the later part of the day, held a Q&A with the audience and Imam Mohamed Al Hayek, the Imam of the Mosque.

In between speakers, a youth Choir performed songs in Arabic and English encompassing their faith in the One God (Subhanna Watallah) and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him). Daycare was provided on another floor so parents could enjoy the event at ease. The Islamic Center is located at 4613 Cottage Place (47th Street between Kennedy and Bergenline Avenues) Union City, NJ 07306.

July - Sept 2003, Latino Muslims, USA

The Latino Muslims Conference in Dallas

The Latino Muslims Conference in Dalla

By Juan Galvan

“We’re here to stay,” I proclaimed. I said those words three times throughout my speech. Afterwards, I wondered how I could say something so ignorant, corny, and so often. Maybe I was simply nervous and searching for words to fill the silence. I wondered and wondered. If I could change things, I would have said, “We’re Latino Muslims, and we’re here to stay. We will create our future regardless, and we need your help to ensure it’s the best future.” However, our Prophet (pbuh) said to avoid using “if”, and Allah (swt) knows best. ISNA’s Latino Muslims conference was a reminder of the importance of our dawah work. The Latino Muslim conference is part of ISNA’s annual Islam in America Conferences. This year ISNA held the Islam in America Conferences in Dallas, Texas.

After my speech, Br. Benjamin Perez spoke about how he came to Islam. He grew up in New Mexico but now lives in California. He was once a member of the Nation of Islam. Yes, some Latinos are members of the NOI. He even met Malcolm X. Much of his dawah work revolves around working with incarcerated Muslims. Br. Abdul Khabeer Muhammad spoke after Br. Perez. He grew up in Panama and studied in Saudi Arabia. He has translated several important pieces of Islamic literature to Spanish. Omar Weston, an imam from Mexico City, was the moderator of the session. He spoke about Islam in Latin America. I remember the first time I heard him speak. He said, “We go to villages to talk to people about Islam. One Mexican lady said to us, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell us about this before?'”

My speech was about how I got involved in promoting Islam to Latinos. After my conversion, I was obsessed with two questions. Am I the only Latino Muslim? Why aren’t there more of us? As many new Latino converts do, I searched the Internet for “others” like me. I wanted to know how I could help. I began to learn about the various American Muslim organizations. Who is out there? What are they doing? What’s working, and what’s not? What’s needed? What can I do? I wanted to encourage these organizations to get involved in promoting Islam to Latinos, directly or indirectly. I would come to learn about an organization called the Latino American Dawah Organization (LADO). The organization has had a significant impact in bringing Islam to America’s Latinos.

After our session, a sister asked us speakers what we actually do to promote Islam to Latinos. Abdul Khabeer Muhammad’s response was essentially that Latino Muslims actually do a variety of things but you do not really hear about their work. I was thinking to myself, “I write and answer e-mail to questions from Muslims and nonMuslims. I introduced two Latino Muslims from Florida to each other. I also donated some Spanish Qurans to the local mosques.” However, who really cares about these things? Small contributions can assist many people, and if more people help, we will see one huge impact. Small deeds performed daily are better than big deeds performed twice a year. We can all do something.

Although we may all agree that much work needs to be done, we may be unwilling to perform the work for a variety of reasons. While living in Lubbock, I would work each Saturday with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity builds houses for low-income families. While some volunteers were putting together the frame of the house, my friends and I were busy shoveling and wheel barreling bits of concrete. A friend said, “I told my mom I would be building a house today.” We laughed. Although shoveling and wheel barreling seemed meaningless, our contribution was another step toward the completion of the house. Today, a family lives in that house thanks to all the volunteers including the concrete shovelers.

Along with super activities, many Muslims are also looking for super Latino Muslims and their super organizations. Last year I listened to a Dominican Latino Muslim deliver the Friday Khutbah during Jumaah prayer at a local Washington DC mosque. I could not help but look around at the various Muslims, who were mostly immigrant, listening closely in hope of learning from this 21 year old Latino Muslim. I was in awe. He was involved in helping young Muslims learn how to read Quran as well. You also do not hear about the various Latinos who work within their local Muslim Student Associations. I have heard of Latina Muslim MSA presidents in Tennessee and Florida. Another Latino Muslim brother is a MSA high school advisor in the Chicago area. We also overlook the Canadian Latino who converted to Islam but then had to leave his home but regardless of his struggles, he continues to hold firm to his newfound faith. We have not recognized many Latino Muslims but they are all our unsung heroes.

I thank ISNA for organizing the Islam in America conferences. The Latino Muslims conference has given many Latinos from around the country an opportunity to network with other Latinos. We have to let other Muslims know we exist and that we want to help. I fear that isolating ourselves from other people for whatever reasons does a much more disservice to Islam because those people are those who need us the most. At ISNA conferences, you will see a full spectrum of Muslims who want to network and meet other Muslims who share similar ideals. It is always great to meet people through the Internet and then meet them in real life. Even if I were the only Latino Muslim in the world, I would have attended this year to let the general Muslim population know that they are needed. Many Latinos have suggested putting together their own conference, and I certainly encourage more Latino Muslim related events. Of course, we would face the same difficulties that other organizations have experienced in the past. The money and marketing aspects are among the complexities.

I was very happy to share ideas and knowledge with other Muslims. A Latina from Chicago said to me, “Dawah is a huge responsibility. I am terrified about having to face God on the Day of Judgment if I mislead people.” True, we will be judged for what we do, what we do not do, and for our intentions as well. She told me that a Muslim group she once worked with became very political. We all hate politics and controversy, but you will find it in every group. We are all imperfect people trying to fulfill the duties that our Creator has required of us. The more you do the more people who will not like you. At the end of the day, I hope that more nonMuslims dislike me than do Muslims. I knew about her work with Latinas in Chicago. “Sometimes, I’ll call some sisters together, and we’ll have a halaqa,” she said. Although her group does not have a name, I would like to know that I direct Latinas to her when they contact me about their interest in Islam. Many Latino groups similar to this one can be found around the US and networking with these Latino groups is certainly needed.

Islam has the potential for enormous growth in America, particularly among Latino Muslims. Much of our work at this stage consists of spreading our religion, or planting seeds. Some seeds will never sprout, and some seeds will sprout. I see a number of Latino Muslims who are frustrated, and I worry that their frustration and desperation will lead them to seek help from anyone who offers it. During the weekend, my friend Robert said, “Islam is very powerful.” Someone will fulfill our needs because we need them, and they need us. Obstacles we face today should not lead us in a mistaken direction. While walking, we do not usually stop to see the path we have walked. Every step counts, and we do not realize the extent of our actions. We need to call each other with wisdom, patience, and courage.

“Where can I get some Spanish literature?” I was asked. I replied, “You can purchase Spanish literature online. You can also find it at many Islamic bookstores. I will gladly e-mail you a few websites where Spanish literature is available.” I was asked that ‘Where’ question at least three times while at the Latino Muslims table. I was giving away all the literature at the table including brochures, Qurans, and booklets. I hope that whoever received the literature will benefit from it in one-way or another. We should not underemphasize the need to make Islamic literature available to nonMuslims.

While setting up the Latino Muslims table, I ran into this one Latino brother studying in Medina. He is reluctant to speak until he is more knowledgeable about Islam. Another Latino brother from New York is studying in Mecca. I also know of two other Latino brothers studying in the Middle East. I have just given you more reasons to feel optimistic about the potential for Islam among American Latinos. The sky’s the limit. Other brothers from South American countries are also studying in the Middle East. In time, American Muslims will enhance their own Islamic institutions of learning to lessen the need to study overseas.

During the weekend, one nonLatino brother told me that he prints articles from Latino Muslim websites to give to all his nonMuslim friends. His enthusiasm was beautiful. He said, “In time, there will be a Latino Muslim community in Kansas City. Insh’Allah.” I grew up in small towns in the Texas panhandle, and my parents continue to live in a small town in the Texas panhandle. The first time I met a Muslim was in college. I have a question for you to consider. How do you bring Islam to nonMuslims where there are no Muslims? The answer holds much more importance for me than it does for many other converts.

Saturday night I missed hearing a Muslim comedian named Azhar Usman. He was one of the performers at Saturday’s entertainment night. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend. Azhar was quoted in a newspaper as saying: “I am a Muslim. I am an American Muslim. American and Muslim at the same time. He prays and eats hamburgers!” While imitating a recent convert, Azhar says, “Man, you sure it’s called Is-lam? I can’t drink. I can’t be with girls. I can’t even have a ham sandwich. It should be called Is- hard. ” During one of my speeches, I said, “Soon after the attacks, my dad asked my mom, ‘What’d he get himself into?’ They hadn’t heard from me in a while so they were a little concerned. I reminded my parents that Muslims aren’t a gang of fifty members. ” After the speech, a sister commented, “It’s like your parents thought you had joined a cholo gang.” True, Islam is not a cholo gang, but I have met a Latino Muslim who was a former cholo gang member.

While at the Latino Muslims table, a vice-president for Astrolabe Productions approached me. He asked, “Do you think there’s much interest from the Latino Muslim community for a Spanish version of Yusuf Islam’s” Life of the Last Prophet “CD. Yusuf Islam is the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens. Of course, I got excited. Yusuf Islam’s CD in Spanish? Wow! He told me that Yusuf Islam’s CD has already been translated into some other languages. If I had the money, I would have written him a check for all production costs associated with the project. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find an audio cassette or CD about the principles of Islam in Spanish.

In the afternoon session, a couple of Muslim sisters Gihan AlGindy, an Egyptian American, and Reham Nasr, a Pakistani American, presented a speech about Latino Muslims. They talked about who Latinos are, reasons for their conversion, and made suggestions for dawah to them. They were interrupted a few times throughout their speech. We all have to be as accurate as possible when discussing Latinos and Christianity. After making a correction, one Latina sister added, “You aren’t Latino.” She replied, “I was born like this. But I can still help.” Although it’s great to hear speeches from Latino Muslims, we cannot expect Latinos to do all the work. Many Latino Muslims had an opportunity to present and chose not to do so. I was very happy that they spoke. They gave interesting and helpful information.

After their presentation, Aisha Samad Matias, Cuban American, spoke. She is a Latina professor from New York City. Her speech was very interesting. She spoke mostly about the Spanish Inquisition. She mentioned that Muslims were persecuted for refusing to eat pork, for taking daily bathes, or for eating only with their right hands. These were all proof of one’s Islam. In high school, I concluded that the Spanish Inquisition was essentially a Salem witch trial situation in Spanish history. I thought that those most affected were witches and sorcerers. During the Inquisition, Jews and Muslims were forced to either convert or leave the country. She told me that she intends to speak about Latino Muslims as part of her course on Latino history.

As I was being introduced, I whispered to the Muslim sitting next to me, “I don’t want to present now.” I did not want to be rudely interrupted and especially not humiliated during my speech. I am shy and sensitive. Furthermore, the time allotted to the session had already passed, and I was a bit exhausted. Alhamdulila, I mustered up the courage to speak. I discussed Latino Muslims, in general. During my speech, I said, “We Latino Muslims are educating the next generation of Latino Muslims to become a stronger generation. In a few generations, Latino Muslim scholars will be found in most major cities in America.” Afterward, I could see faces light up with excitement throughout the audience. We have to give Latino Muslims hope about our tomorrow. I am very optimistic about the future of Islam in America. As always,

Jan - Mar 2003, USA

Islamic scholarship in America

Posted on July 2, 2000

By Nicole Ballivian

With the rise of oriental studies in the West, a birth of Islamic universities and higher learning institutions are now setting its roots in America. Throughout Western history, Islamic scholarship began before the establishment of any of the modern sciences, even before the implementation of a curriculum of sociology, psychology, and political science.

Unknown to the vast majority of the Muslim world, the West has played a major role in contributing extensively to the preservation of Islamic sciences. The first, most comprehensive collection of ahadith or written documentation of Islamic practice was found in the Netherlands. The first official chair of Islamic studies was set up in 1312 in Vienna, Austria. A constituent of prominent Western Islamic scholars, American or otherwise working within American academic institutions, who have researched, published and taught some of the most comprehensive Islamic work include Sherman Jackson, Mahmoud Ayoub, Khaled Blankenship, Wael al Khalaq, Edward Said and John Esposito.

The new wave of Islamic orientalism is but a result of post modernity and a re-enchantment of science. Today, at the close of the twentieth century, almost all American universities are offering courses on Islam.

In the last decade, the world has witnessed the burgeoning of American-Islamic universities throughout the US, offering not only Islamic studies but trying to establish academic understanding and co-operation between the Islamic world and the West. Among the two most prominent of these American-Islamic institutions are The Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, California, and the American Open University (AOU) in Falls Church, Virginia. The two institutions offer different programs and curricula activities and have different modes of instruction. AOU has an accredited, distance learning, undergraduate and graduate program, and Zaytuna has a traditionally Islamic, non-western curriculum mode of “ijaza-style” program, of which courses may also be used for college credit.

The AOU is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Islamic higher education, making graduate studies accessible to every home through distance learning. The university offers 5 programs: Bachelors Degree in Islamic Studies (English medium); Bachelors Degree in Islamic Studies (Arabic medium); Ph.D. in Islamic Studies (Arabic medium); Masters Degree in Islamic Studies (Arabic medium), accredited by Al-Azhar University of Cairo; and Diploma in Islamic Education, a program designed for the training of academics.

AOU’s main objective is for students to retain Shariah-related knowledge and carry out missionary work through Islamic means. The university also advocates moderation and resists “westernization” and “religious extremism”. The AOU’s distance learning program is based on the goal to provide educational services for all those who want to further their education and to reconcile living realities with knowledge.

Media via the Internet, videos and audiotapes are provided for the students to partake in classroom sessions with professors. The Bachelors Degree program requires a completion of 132 credit hours (53 courses) and a comprehensive exam. The AOU curriculum comprises five fields of study: Aqeedah, Qur’an, Sunnah, Fiqh, and Arabic. AOU was established in 1995 with a total of 150 students in its primary programs. Currently, AOU’s accreditation to Al-Azhar University celebrates its success with the enrolment of 2, 000 students from 24 countries, including the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Australia and Asia.

AOU’s professors are highly accomplished scholars from all over the United States and they include Yassir Fazaqa of California, Dr. Anwar Hajjaj of Virginia, Ali Suleiman Ali of Michigan, Dr. Robert Cooper of California and Dr. Ahmad Schleibak of Georgia. The founder of AOU is Sheikh Jafar Idris, well known for his publications, teachings and participation in various Islamic educational institutions such as the Institute for Islamic and Arab Sciences of America.

The Zaytuna Institute is a non-profit, non-political institute committed to the “dissemination of traditional Islam as understood by the rightly guided scholars of the people of Sunnah and Jama’a”. Zaytuna was established to provide Islamic scholarship and to prepare students to identify areas where they can contribute to the Muslim Ummah. Zaytuna neither offers a western accredited degree nor follows the western educational system. It focuses on specific areas of study and promotes a lasting Muslim revival. Zaytuna believes that Islam is misunderstood largely due to the breakdown in traditional education and the collapse of a cohesive Islamic world view that had been conventionally shared by the vast majority of Muslims.

Zaytuna’s growing campus is located in northern California and its core curriculum includes Arabic, Aqida, Fiqh, Tassawuf, Usuul al-Fiqh, Sciences of the Quran, Hadith, Sirah of the Prophet, Islamic History and a study entitled “The Present Situation of Muslims”. The founder of Zaytuna is Hamza Yusuf, one of the most distinguished Islamic scholars in the West.

Yusuf, known for his publications, lectures and teaching events held at an international level, studied Arabic and Islam in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco and West Africa and received teaching certificates in various Islamic subjects from some of the most well-known institutes. Yusuf has also translated several classical texts from Arabic and is currently teaching at Zaytuna. Sheikh Muhammad Yaqoubi, who is also a professor at Zaytuna, holds an ijaza in 6 books of ahadith and has a long history of Islamic teaching.

Although Zaytuna functions as an Islamic higher learning institution, it does not offer degree programs. Zaytuna is currently pursuing accreditation for using its courses in alliance with other US universities’ Islamic Studies Departments. Zaytuna is a traditional Islamic school, with the aims of not only producing distinguished scholars but of reviving traditional Islamic learning, which has been overshadowed by other models of teaching. Zaytuna’s teaching style goes back to the time of the Prophet’s companions (sahaba), where teaching is based on certain manners and character. The “ijaza” style of teaching, as used in Damascus, is the direct mentoring of a scholar to a student.

As each student progresses, the scholar examines the student’s readiness to disseminate Islamic teaching. This style of teaching is highly interactive and thorough. Established in 1995, Zaytuna, at present, has 250 students. It not only offers Islamic studies but holds “deen (religious) intensive” seminars throughout the year.

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