Jan – Mar 2006

Islam, Jan - Mar 2006, Quran

Prophet Ibrahim: The father of the Prophets

From Islamicity.com


The birth of a Great Prophet

Ibrahim was born in a house of idolaters, in the kingdom of Babylon. His father Aazar was a well known idol sculptor that his people worshipped. As a young child, Ibrahim used to watch his father sculpting these idols from stones or wood. When his father was done with them, Ibrahim would use them as toys, riding on their backs, and kicking them at times. Then after a while, he would see these same statues in the temple, and people prostrating in front of them! Ibrahim asked his father: “Why do you take these toys to the temple?” His father said: “They are statues that represent our gods. We worship them, we ask favors from them, and we offer them presents.” Ibrahim’s mind rejected this idea, and he felt a repulsion towards the idols.

In search for the Truth

Time went by, and Ibrahim became a young man. He still could not believe that his people were worshipping the statues. He laughed whenever he saw them entering the temple, lowering their heads, silently offering the statues the best of their food, crying and asking forgiveness from them. He started feeling angry towards his people, who could not realize that these are only stones that could neither benefit nor harm them. They could not be gods, they have no power. God is Greater than what his people were worshipping, Most Powerful, Most Magnificent. One could not find Him sitting on a table in a temple!

One night, Ibrahim went up to the mountain, leaned against a rock, and looked up to the sky. He saw a shining star, and told his people: “Could this be my Lord?” But when it set he said: “I don’t like those that set.” The star has disappeared, it could not be God. God is always present. Then he saw the moon rising in splendor and told them: “Could this be my Lord?” But it also set. At daybreak, he saw the sun rising and said: t “Could this be my Lord, this is bigger?” But when the sun set he said: “O my people I am free from all that you join as partners with Allah! I have turned my face towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah.” Our Lord is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything. He has the power to make the stars rise and set. Ibrahim then heard Allah calling him: “O Ibrahim!” Ibrahim said trembling: “Here I am O my Lord!” “Submit to Me! Be a Muslim!” Ibrahim fell on the ground, prostrating and crying, he said: “I submit to the Lord of the universe!” Ibrahim kept prostrating until night came again. He got up and went back to his home, in t peace, full of conviction that Allah has guided him to the Truth.

Ibrahim invites his father to Islam

A new life started for Ibrahim. His mission now was to call his people to the Truth. He would start with his father who was the closest person to him, and whom he loved so much. He said to him in the softest and kindest voice: “O father! Why do you worship that which doesn’t hear, doesn’t see, and cannot avail you in anything? O father, I have got knowledge which you have not, so follow me. I will guide you to a straight path.” His father replied angrily: “Do you reject my gods, O Ibrahim? If you don’t stop I will stone you. Get away from me before I punish you.” Ibrahim said: “Peace be on you! I will ask forgiveness of my Lord for you.”

Ibrahim confronts his people and rejects their idols

He left his father after he lost hope to convert him to the right path, and directed his efforts towards the people of the town, but they rejected his call and threatened him. By Allah, he said, I shall plot a plan to destroy their idols. He knew that a big celebration was coming soon, where everybody would leave town for a big feast on the riverbank. After making sure that nobody was left in town, Ibrahim went towards the temple armed with an ax. Statues of all shapes and sizes were sitting there adorned with decorations. Plates of food were offered to them, but the food was untouched. “Well, why don’t you eat? The food is getting cold.” He said to the statues, joking; then with his ax he destroyed all the statues except one, the biggest of them. He hung the ax around its neck and left.

How big was the shock when the people entered the temple! They gathered inside watching in awe their gods broken in pieces. They wondered who might have done this? Then they all remembered that the young Ibrahim was talking evil of their idols. They brought him to the temple and asked him: “Are you the one who has done this to our gods?” Ibrahim said: “No, this statue, the biggest of them has done it. Ask them if they can speak.” “You know well that these idols don’t speak!” They said impatiently. “Then how come you worship things that can neither speak nor see, nor even fend for themselves? Have you lost your minds?”

They kept silent for a while, for he got a point there. Their minds and their senses were telling them that the Truth is with Ibrahim, but their pride prevented them to accept it, and reject the idols they were worshipping for generations. This they thought would be total defeat. They started yelling at him and shouting: “Burn him! Burn him! Take revenge for your gods!”

The Miracle: Allah saves Ibrahim from the fire.

The decision to burn Ibrahim to death was affirmed by the priests and the king of Babylon, Nimrod. The news spread like a fire in the kingdom, and people were coming from all places to watch the execution. A huge pit was dug up and a large quantity of wood was piled up. Then the biggest fire people ever witnessed was lit. The fire flames were so high up in the sky that the birds could not fly over it for fear of being burned! Ibrahim’s hands and feet were chained, and he was put in a catapult to throw him into the fire. At that time, Angel Jibreel came to him and said: “O Ibrahim! Is there anything you wish for?” Ibrahim could have asked to be saved from the fire, to be taken away, but no, he said: “I only wish that Allah be pleased with me.” The catapult was released, and Ibrahim was thrown in the heart of the fire. But Allah would not allow His Prophet to be killed, He ordered the fire: “O fire! Be coolness and safety for Ibrahim!” And the miracle happened. The fire obeyed and burned only his chains. Ibrahim came out from it as if he was coming out from a garden, peaceful, his face illuminated, and not a trace of smoke on his clothes. People watched in shock and said: “Amazing! Ibrahim’ s God has saved him from the fire!”

Ibrahim debates the Babylonian king, Nimrod

Ibrahim’s notoriety grew bigger after this event and the king of Babylon felt that his throne was in danger, and that he was loosing power, because he was pretending that he was a god. He sent for Ibrahim. He wanted to debate with him and show his people that he, the king is indeed the god, and Ibrahim was a liar. He asked Ibrahim: What can your god do that I cannot?

-My Lord is He Who gives life and death.” Ibrahim said
-I give life and death. I can bring a person from the street and have him executed, and I can grant my pardon to a person who was sentenced to death and save his life.” The king said proudly
-Well my Lord Allah makes the sun rise from the East. Can you make it rise from the West?
The king was confounded. He was beaten at his own game, on his own territory, in front of his own people! Ibrahim left him there speechless and went back to his important mission, calling people to worship the one and only God, Allah.

Allah blesses Ibrahim with a son to become a prophet

Only a woman named Sarah and a man named Lot believed in Allah, and followed Ibrahim. He realized that nobody else would listen to him, and decided to emigrate for the cause of Allah, and to spread His Message elsewhere. Before leaving, he tried once again to convert his father to Islam, but to no avail. Ibrahim said to his father and his people: “We are free of you and of whatever you worship besides Allah. We have rejected you and there has arisen between us and you enmity and hatred forever unless you believe in Allah and Him alone.”

Ibrahim, Lot and Sarah started their long travel. They crossed Babylon, went through Syria and Palestine calling people to Allah, helping the poor and doing good deeds. By that time Ibrahim married Sarah. Their hope was to have children who would spread the Message of Allah after their death. As for Lot, he emigrated to the land of Sodom and settled there.

Time went by and no children were born to Sarah. She realized she was sterile. She accepted her fate and submitted to the will of Allah. Ibrahim and Sarah moved to Egypt where the king gave Sarah a woman to be her servant. The woman’s name was Hajar. Sarah was seeing Ibrahim’ s hair getting white, and it grieved her to see his chance of having any child slipping away. She offered Hajar her servant as a wife to her husband, and prayed Allah to bless Hajar and Ibrahim with a child. And so came Ismail, a baby boy born to Hajar. How unselfish Sarah was! For her, the need to have an offspring who would carry the Message after Ibrahim was greater than her pride. Fourteen years later Allah rewarded Sarah with a son, Ishaq in spite of her old age.

Young Ismail and his mother alone in the desert of Makkah

Ibrahim woke up one day and asked Hajar to prepare herself and baby Ismail for a long travel. Ibrahim and Hajar kept walking, crossed a fertile land followed by barren mountains till they arrived at the Arabian desert. Ibrahim brought Hajar to a high hill called al-Marwa, made her and her baby sit under a tree, placed a bag of dates and some water near her, and set out homeward. Hajar ran after him and said: “Are you going to leave us in this desert where there is no one to keep us company?” She repeated this many times but he would not look back at her. She asked: “Has Allah ordered you to do so?” He said yes. “Then He will not neglect us.” She said. Ibrahim walked away until he got out of their sight, he raised his hands and prayed Allah: “O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley with no cultivation, by Your Sacred House, in order that they may offer prayers. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.”


Hajar went on nursing Ismail and drinking from the water until it was all used up. She became very thirsty and the child was crying. She left him on the al-Marwa hill and hurried to the nearest hill, as-Safa. She stood there and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She descended from as-Safa, crossed the valley running and reached al-Marwa hill. She stood and started looking but could see nobody. She kept running between as-Safa and al-Marwa seven times. When she reached al-Marwa for the last time, she was exhausted, she sat next to the baby. Then she heard a voice. She stood up and said: “O whoever you might be! Have you got something to help me?’ She saw an angel, Angel Jibreel, digging the earth until water flowed! She built a little basin around it. She scooped water with her hands, drank, filled her water-skin, and nursed her baby. The place from which water flowed was Zamzam. Muslims till this day drink from the holy water of Zamzam, and during Hajj they walk between as-Safa and al-Marwa seven times to commemorate this event.

Some Arabs traveling through Makkah saw birds flying around alMarwa. “They must be flying around water.” They said. When they arrived at the water, they found Hajar and asked her: “Would you allow us to stay with you, and use the water from your well?” She agreed and was pleased by their company. The people sent for their families, settled there and became permanent residents. The whole valley became alive. Ismail grew up, learned Arabic, and later married a woman from amongst the Arabs.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim who had not seen his son since he was a baby, came back to Makkah to visit him. Upon arriving, he heard that Hajar had died, but Ismail was still living there. Ibrahim was yearning to see his son whom he loved and missed a lot. He saw Ismail under a tree near Zamzam, sharpening his arrows. When he saw his father, Ismail rose up, hugged him and greeted him. It was the happiest moment for both father and son. But Allah wanted to put them to test, and it was a tough test indeed. During one night, Ibrahim had a dream. He came to Ismail and said: “O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you as a sacrifice to Allah, so what do you think?” They both realized that this was an order from Allah. Ismail said without hesitation: “Do what you are commanded, you shall find me very patient insha Allah.” They had both submitted to the will of Allah. Ibrahim laid his son prostrate, put his forehead on the ground and directed a sharp knife towards his neck. At this very moment, Allah called him: “O Ibrahim! You have fulfilled the dream! Thus do We reward the good doers!” A big sheep was sent down from heaven to be slaughtered instead of Ismail, which Ibrahim did, and they both had a big celebration that day. This event is celebrated every year by all Muslims. It is Eid al-Adha where we slaughter the sacrificial sheep.

Ibrahim and Ismail kept on calling people to worship Allah. At that time there was no place built for the worship of Allah. Ibrahim wished there could be such a place where people would be in peace, and concentrate solely for the worship of Allah. His wish was answered when Allah ordered him to build the Sacred House, the Ka’bah. Ibrahim said to Ismail: “O Ismail, Allah has given me an order, will you help me execute it?” “Yes I will.” Ismail said. “Allah has ordered me to build a house here.” He said, pointing to a hillock higher than the land surrounding it. They went towards the place and started building the foundations of the Ka’bah Ismail brought the stones and Ibrahim built the walls, and when the walls became high, Ismail brought a large stone and put it in front of his father who stood over it and carried on building, while Ismail was handing him the stones. Both of them went on building and going around the Ka’bah, saying: “O our Lord accept this service from us.” When they finished the building, Angel Jibreel descended from heaven and showed Ibrahim the rituals of Hajj. Then Ibrahim stepped on the stone and called on people: “O people obey your Lord.” This large stone which Ibrahim stepped on is still there to this day near the Ka’bah. It is called Makam Ibrahim.

Thus ends the story of Ibrahim, the father of the prophets. From him descended all the prophets who came later, including Muhammad, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam. Ibrahim devoted all his life calling others to the True religion: Islam. Alone he stood against his people, his father, and even the mighty king of Babylon, and never flinched. Yet his method was always to gradually persuade them by bringing irrefutable proofs, that most often embarrassed those who refused to accept the Truth, but as Allah said: “Any whom Allah leaves to stray, there is none to guide!”

Jan - Mar 2006, Other

Consejos Sobre Como Presentar la Mezquita a Los No-musulmán

Por Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)

El Islam en los EEUU

Los musulmanes tienen mucho para ofrecer los EEUU. La riqueza y la variedad de la comunidad musulmana los EEUU tienen una gran potencia “de promover lo bueno y prohibir lo malvado” en esta sociedad. Para lograr esta meta, los musulmanes deben realizar su obligación de representar el Islam precisamente en este país. Una de las mejores maneras de presentar el Islam a las comunidades locales es teniendo un día especial en la mezquita o centro islámico cuando los no-musulmanes pueden visitar.

Abriendo la mezquita

Abriendo la mezquita a los no-musulmanes es una manera eficaz de establecer los canales de la comunicación entre la comunidad musulmana y con gente de otras religiones. La relación que se establece por este programa es una de respecto y de entendimiento. Esta relación ayudará (ojalá) a prevenir la estereotipia de musulmanes y puede incluso servir para guardar crímenes del odio de ocurrir.

Cómo abrir la mezquita

– Prepare a miembros de la comunidad musulmana explicando la necesidad de construir una imagen positiva de la mezquita y sus alrededores. Planee un acontecimiento que presentara la mejor imagen del Islam y de los musulmanes. El formato de abrir la casa es flexible. Líderes seleccionados de la comunidad pueden ser invitados o la comunidad entera puede ser pedida visitar. La casa abierta se puede sostener por la tarde en un día laborable o en un fin de semana o durante Ramadán (el mes de ayuno). La comunidad local puede decidir a qué acercamiento es el mejor.

– Invite a líderes de la comunidad a la mezquita, cerciorándose de incluir el clero, activistas de la comunidad y a oficiales del gobierno local. Recuerde invitar al jefe de la policía, al alcalde y los miembros del consejo de la ciudad. Envíe las invitaciones personales. El tono de la carta debe ser amistoso y simpático. Continué con llamadas telefónicas. Las correspondencias no son suficientes.

– Publique el acontecimiento en los periódicos locales a través de lanzamientos breves y anuncios bien-escritos en la prensa. Llame a CAIR si usted necesita ayuda con el formato de lanzamiento de las noticias. Hay publicidad gratis disponible los calendarios de la página de religión del periódico y avisos del servicio público de la radio o televisión. También aprovéchese de los boletines de noticias de la iglesia y de los tablones de anuncios.

– Informe a sus huéspedes del protocolo de la mezquita antes de que lleguen. La mayoría de gente no desea ser irrespetuosa así que prevenga los malentendidos potenciales informando a los visitantes de las reglas para observar dentro de la mezquita. Esto les hará sentir feliz en la facilidad y les salvará de verguenza. Explique a ellos que el modo de vestir debe ser prudente y relativamente austero. Haga disponible bufandas limpias y cuidadosamente dobladas para las huéspedes femeninas. Explique lo esencial del rezo a los huéspedes y de énfasis en la solemnidad de la ocasión. Informe los huéspedes que uno debe ser musulmán para rezar como un musulmán en la mezquita. Explique la separación de los hombres y las mujeres en la mezquita dando énfasis que la separación no implica la desigualdad. Estas explicaciones simples tendrán un gran efecto en los huéspedes porque indican que la comunidad musulmana es organizada y desea hacerlos cómodos.

– Limpie la mezquita. La primera impresión es la que dura. Las paredes, los pisos, las alfombras, y especialmente los cuartos de baño deben estar impecable. Cada uno pueden unirse en un día de limpieza general de la mezquita. La limpieza es una virtud islámica.

– Instale un área de recepción donde los huéspedes pueden ser recibidos y ser servidos refrescos. Los refrescos no se deben servir en el acontecimiento de un evento en la mezquita durante Ramadán, sino se deben sustituir con la comida iftar después del ayuno. Tenga acomodadores en la puerta para recibir a los huéspedes y para repartir folletos que dan agradecimiento . El área de la recepción debe ser donde la etiqueta de la mezquita se explica. Debe haber un lugar en donde se requiere el hiyab así que las huéspedes femeninas tendrán una ocasión de ponerse sus bufandas. Invite a los huéspedes al rezo y anímeles a que atiendan para ayudar disipar cualquier estereotipo que puedan tener.

– La literatura que se pone disponible para los huéspedes se debe seleccionar cuidadosamente para representar el Islam. Evite literatura excesivamente político dando énfasis a lo importante en el Islam: Paz y la relación entre Dios y el hombre. No empuje los materiales a la gente pero este seguro de tener una mesa con la literatura gratis.

– Asigne acomodadores y anfitriones apropiados, eligiendo a gente que tienen una personalidad saliente y sepan como llevarse con gentes de otras religiones. Acomodadores escoltaría a huéspedes a los anfitriones que les demostrarán la mezquita y permanecerán con ellos para explicar lo que vean. No deje los huéspedes solos para vagar sobre la facilidad. Cerciórese de que reciban a todos los huéspedes con gusto y darle etiquetas de nombre. Atención especial se debe dar a las huéspedes femeninas porque pueden no sentirse segura de donde ellas caben dentro de la mezquita. Tenga hermanas asignadas como anfitriones para las huéspedes femeninas. En el acontecimiento de un evento de iftar, cerciórese de que se sienten juntos los musulmanes con los no-musulmanes para la comida.

Fije letreros de ayuda que indican las diversas entradas al pasillo del rezo claramente para no causar ninguna confusión.

Lo más importante es rogarle a Dios que la reacción de los huéspedes sea una de entendimiento y que Dios pueda abrir sus corazones con este esfuerzo.

¡Al-lahuma Amin! (Dios es el más sabio)

Tips on Mosque Open House Projects

By Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)

Islam in America

Muslims have much to offer America. The richness and variety of the American Muslim community have great potential to “promote what is good and forbid what is evil” in this society. To accomplish this goal, Muslims must carry out their obligation to accurately represent Islam in this country. One of the best ways to introduce Islam to local communities is by having an open house at your mosque or Islamic center.

Mosque Open House

A mosque open house is an effective way to open the channels of communication between the Muslim community and people of other faiths. The relationship that is established by the program is one of respect and understanding. This relationship will help (inshallah) to prevent stereotyping of Muslims and may even serve to keep hate crimes from occurring.

How to Set Up an Open House

– Prepare the members of the Muslim community by explaining the necessity of building a positive image of the mosque in the surrounding area. Plan an event that will present the best image of Islam and Muslims. The format of the open house is flexible. Selected community leaders can be invited or the entire community may be asked to visit. The open house might be held in the evening on a weekday, on a weekend or during Ramadan. It is up to the local community to decide which approach is best.

– Invite community leaders to the mosque, making sure to include clergy, community activists and local government officials. Remember to invite the chief of police, mayor and members of the city council. Send personal letters of invitation. The tone of the letter should be friendly and inviting. Follow up with phone calls. Letters are not enough.

– Publicize the event in the local newspapers through brief and well-written press releases and advertisements. Call CAIR if you need help with news release format. Free advertising is available through newspaper religion page calendars and radio/TV public service announcements. Also take advantage of church newsletters and bulletin boards.

– Inform your guests of the etiquette of the mosque before they arrive. Most people do not wish to be disrespectful so prevent potential misunderstandings by informing visitors of the rules to observe when in the mosque. This will make them feel at ease and will save them, and you, from embarrassment. Explain to them that the mode of dress for the event should be conservative and relatively austere. Make clean and neatly folded scarves available for the female guests. Explain the essentials of prayer to the guests and stress the solemnity of the occasion. Inform the guests that one must be a Muslim in order to pray like a Muslim in the mosque. Explain the separation of men and women in the mosque by stressing that the separation does not imply inequality. These simple explanations will have a great effect on the guests because they indicate that the Muslim community is well organized and wants to make them feel comfortable.

– Clean up the mosque. The first impression that is made is the one that will last. Walls, floors, carpets, and especially bathrooms must be spotless. Everyone can join a “mosque cleanup day” to get the building and grounds into shape. Cleanliness is an Islamic virtue.

– Set up a reception area where guests can be received and be served refreshments. Refreshments should not be served in the event of a Ramadan mosque open house, but should be replaced with the iftar meal. Have greeters at the door to receive the guests and to hand out the “Welcome” pamphlets. The reception area should be where the etiquette of the mosque is explained. There should be a place where hijab is required so the female guests will have a chance to put on their scarves. Invite the guests to the prayer and encourage them to attend to help dispel any stereotypes they may have.

– Literature that is made available to the guests should be carefully selected to represent Islam. Avoid excessively political literature stressing what lies at the heart of Islam: Peace and the relationship between God and man. Do not push materials on people but make sure to have a table of free literature.

– Assign appropriate greeters and hosts, choosing people who have an outgoing personality and know how to interact with people of other faiths. Greeters would escort guests to the hosts who will show them the mosque and stay with them to explain what they see. Do not leave guests alone to wander about the facility. Make sure all the guests are warmly received and given name tags. Special attention should be given to the female guests because they may not be sure where they “fit in.” Have sisters assigned as hosts for the female guests. In the event of an iftar open house, make sure Muslims and non-Muslims are seated together for the meal.

Post helpful signs indicating the different entrances to the prayer hall clearly so as not to cause any confusion. Most importantly, pray that the reaction of the guests will be one of understanding and that God may open their hearts through the endeavour.

Allahuma Amin! (God knows best)

CAIR website: www.cair-net.org

Jan - Mar 2006, Latino Muslims

Latino Activism – Taking it to Another Level

By Yahsmin M.B. BoBo

December 23, 2005

Masjid al Islam hosts an Annual Da’wah March through the streets of Oakland, California. This annual march follows Salatul Jumaa (Friday prayer) after Thanksgiving Day. We take to the streets at this time because we figure that most folks are off from work and relaxing in their homes at this time. The reaction is lovely; we feel supported by the neighborhood.

The purpose of this year’s march was essentially the same as previous marches. However, we also took the opportunity to speak with local liquor storeowners in the inner city who happen to be Muslim. Incidentally, this was right after all the vandalism and controversy here in Oakland. Therefore, our intentions were to interact with the storeowners in a productive and positive way, and yet still let them know that we don’t support their businesses ethically and financially. Some responses, on the part of merchants, were better than others were.

Lacking from this large group of mobilized Muslim protestors this afternoon was a significant Latino presence. There was a small handful, but no more than three or four. Many resolute community activists and families pounded three miles of pavement in a march, scheduled for rain or shine. Oakland houses not only a thriving Muslim community but also thousands of first and second-generation Latinos.

In fact, international schools can be found here whose teachers present bilingual lessons and whose walls are covered in elaborate murals with Malcolm, Che, and Chavez. International Boulevard, also known as East 14th, is a Latino thoroughfare with all sorts of businesses. This was where our march was held. Some of our signs read, “California is Northern Mexico.” In essence, Latinos contribute greatly to Oakland’s struggling economy.

In future demonstrations, a Latino presence should be felt, admired, and continued. Bilingual Muslims are especially needed to communicate the teachings of Islam to the growing population of Latino Americans. We have one official translator in our organization but unfortunately; he wasn’t there that day. Because East Oakland is predominantly Latino, we need more participants from this background. Insha’Allah, we need a Spanish speaking person on the bullhorn, lending vocals to listeners and passerby. This would be highly effective and appreciated.

Those who find themselves swimming in this cultural melting pot seem to share more than just space; they share a commonality of experiences. Alongside Palestinian and African Americans, the Latino experience is paralleled with similar social injustices, oppression, and exploitation. There is an everlasting assurance of social and political camaraderie – even more reason for a liaison to exist and indeed, persist. The political fervor of Latino activism from various persuasions can and should be fused with Islamic movement.

I see the need for Latino Muslims to be very involved in Islamic movement worldwide, as well as domestically. By involvement, I mean in terms of leadership and scholarship. Insha’Allah, I’d also like to be involved with planning trips to the Caribbean and Latin America. We could travel as a delegation to present Islam to the people and their governments, when possible. Of course, such movements have always begun at the local level.

Today, amid the amazement of the non-Muslim passerby, the most awestruck and curious among them were the same students, merchants, and kindhearted neighbors I mentioned earlier. They stood reading our signs and happily, accepted leaflets, as we stomped past yelling, “La ilaha ill lah!” with fists plunged high in the sky. One group of passerby’s turned around to ‘borrow’ a flag we had. These young men loved the energy that was emitting from the crowd of believers.

In short, while we understand that our lives consume most of our time and energy, we also realize just how desperate Latinos are to see Islam in a different light, one outside of what the nightly news conveys to them. They are hungry for it. The Islam we give them will be unadulterated, pure, and practical. It will signify part of their own historical legacies, dating back to Spain and Portugal.

Our daily grind should not stop us from being that liaison, that representative, and yes, even ambassadors of Islam. Likewise, our studies of Islam should not disaccustom us from fully and properly representing this way of life. We must remain accessible to the people; otherwise, the essence of our obligation has been forsaken.

Allahu Akbar!!!

Hajj, Jan - Mar 2006


By Enrique Raheel Rojas

Many people asked me about Hajj when I returned. My Christian parents were glad that I came home alive. However, I did not expect them to realize the full significance of Hajj.

My brother-in-law did his best to stay awake during my retelling of my Hajj experiences. Alhamdulilah; this is or will be the extra experience that a Muslim revert will go through that a born Muslim will not.

What can I say about Hajj other than what the Prophet (pbuh) said, “GO. Go as soon as you can or eliminate the conditions preventing you from going to Hajj.”

When my group landed in Jeddah, I immediately saw how international Islam was. There were several waiting areas sectioned off for pilgrims of different nationalities.

When we reached Mecca, I was moved to find myself surrounded by Muslims. All sizes races and colors.

In the distance, I saw a wall of the Grand Masjid. I felt excitement because inside was the house of Allah. The house I have seen only in pictures.

As I entered the masjid by the main floor, the Kabaa came into view. Through the pillars and the crowds, I saw the black draped house of Allah.

In its magnificence, the Kabaa stood out more real than anything else in the Haram. Within the bouquet of emotions, I felt I felt a strong gratitude for my Lord for inviting me to his house.

I made my Umra with thousands of others. I performed the rights of Hajj as the multitudes did before me.

The stay in Mina.
The afternoon in Arafat.
Sleeping over in Mustalifa.
The stoning of the Jamarats.
And, then finally the fairwell Tawaaf.

I did not want to leave Mecca.
Out of all the places in the world, Mecca is the only place that felt like home.
My heart longs to return.

Home was not home anymore when I returned.
Like a glass of juice made diluted with water, home was now bland.
For many, you do not return the same from Hajj.

Hajj shows you the strength and brotherhood of this religion.
It shows you that Allah does not care what race you are.
Allah invites to His house from amongst all humanity.

Hajj, Jan - Mar 2006

8 tips on preparing for Hajj NOW!

From SoundVision


Any Muslim who can afford it and is in good health must perform Hajj. it’s an obligation not an option.

This once-in-a-lifetime experience for most Muslims requires the utmost preparation and planning beforehand.

Below are some tips to help you start preparing today.

1. Ask Allah

Say Bismillah (In the Name of Allah) and make Dua (supplication) to Allah to help you find the resources and time to perform Hajj this coming year. Only He can make it happen.

2. Discuss vacation time

If you work or have other obligations, you must ensure you get the three weeks to one month off needed to perform Hajj. Check the exact dates of Hajj in the coming year, find out exactly what days you need off (once again, you can talk to your travel agent) and talk to your employer or anyone else who needs to be informed about your plans to give you time off.

3. Start saving up and shopping around

Hajj is an investment. You need to shop around to find a travel agent who can give you the best deal. This is where your meetings with others who have performed Hajj can help.

Look for a Hajj package through a travel agent who offers a wide selection of “packages” for Hajj and who can help you with other details relating to Hajj (i.e. immigration, leading a group through the Hajj, etc.).

4. Start asking about the legal requirements

You need a number of legal documents to perform Hajj.

You will need a visa to go to Saudi Arabia. Find out how long before you have to apply for this, what documents to prepare for it, etc. Make sure your passport has not expired. Be sure to get it, or any other paperwork relating to your residency in your country to be complete before you leave.

Start today by calling your local Saudi Arabian embassy to ask about the requirements and preparing the necessary paperwork. Or you can also ask your travel agent (some who offer Hajj packages also help arrange immigration matters for those customers taking their Hajj package).

5. Read about how to do it

There are a number of guidebooks on how to perform Hajj. One of them is A Handbook of Umra & Hajj by Sarwar Alam Raz (which is also available online).

Know the different rituals of Hajj, how and when they are performed, as well as the things to avoid and things that are recommended to do during Hajj.

6. Keep yourself physically fit

Hajj is one pillar of Islam that is physically demanding. Having to walk in the heat, running from Safa to Marwa, these are just some of the rituals someone performing Hajj will have to do.

Start watching what you eat and walking 30 minutes a day or getting involved in any other kind of Islamically permissible activity you enjoy to keep you physically ready for when you go to Hajj, if Allah wills it. Also, get a medical checkup.

7. Make an appointment with those who have made Hajj

Make a formal appointment by phone or in person with someone who has performed Hajj. If you are planning to meet them in person, ask them to bring their Ihram and other things they used during Hajj.

Use this meeting to get tips and practical advice from them which you won’t find in most guidebooks.

8. Read the Diary of a person who has performed Hajj

If you know of no one who lives near you who has performed Hajj, read the diary of a Hajji by Ishaq Zahid (it’s online and it’s free!) to get the inside story on Hajj from someone who has performed it.

Jan - Mar 2006, Other

Univision Visits IEC

From MyMasjid.org


The Islamic Educational Center of North Hudson (IECNH) hosted nationally syndicated Hispanic television station Univision [channel 41 in the NYC metro area] on Thursday February 23rd at its center in Union City, NJ.

Alex Robayo speaking about Islam post 9-11.

El Centro Islamico de North Hudson tuvo a la emisora reconocida nacionalmente, Univision, el Jueves el 23 de Febrero en su centro en Union City, NJ.

Miriam Mesiji, an Univision field reporter, was investigating the large number of Latin Americans leaving Catholicism into other faiths, namely Islam. She interviewed Sr. Neisy Lara and Flor Maza and discussed their conversion into Islam as well as Islam’s close ties Latin American culture and family values. She also interviewed Br. Alex Robayo regarding his views on Islam and 9-11.

Flor Maza

Miriam Mesiji, una reportera de Univision, estuvo investigando las grandes cantidades de Latinos que han dejado el Catolocismo para otras religiones, inclusivo al Islam. Ella intrevisto a las hermanas Neisy Lara y Flor Maza acerca de su conversion al Islam tanto como los acostumbres Islamico que tienen un parecimiento inexplicable a las tradiciones Latinas. Tambien se intrevisto al hermano Alex Robayo sobre su opinion acerca del 9-11.

Neisy Lara

Miriam Masiji also interviewed Father Anthony Figuereido, a Seton Hall University Catholic Priest, regarding the issues of mass exodus of Latin Americans out of Catholicism and into Islam.

Miriam Masiji tambien intrevisto al Padre Anthony Figuereido del la Universidad Catolica de Seton Hall. El Padre comento acerca del exodo de los Latinos del Catolocismo al Islam.

The IECNH center has programs every Wednesday for individuals interested in learning more about Islam. The center is located on 46th street between Kennedy Blvd and Bergenlive Ave in Union City, NJ. They can be reached at (201) 330 – 0066.

El Centro Islamico tiene programas cada miercoles para los interesados en aprender mas sober el Islam. El centro esta colocado en la Calle 46 entre Kennedy Blvd y Bergenline Ave en Union City, NJ. Tambien se alcanzan al (201)330 – 0066.

Watch the Univision at IEC video, then watch a video about the 3rd Annual Hispanic Muslim Day.

Jan - Mar 2006, Other

Mi experiencia como Latina Musulmana al hacer la Peregrinación a Mecca

Por Rocío Martínez-Mendoza

Soy Musulmana Latina originaria de la Cd de México que actualmente reside en en oeste de Texas. Mi esposo es Marroquí y como resultado nuestra casa esta llena de cultura Latina y Arabe. Mi esposo y yo habiamos estado planeando nuestro viaje de la Peregrinación a Mecca pero no habiamos tenido la oportunidad debido a razones economicas, de visa, o por la espera de nuestro primer bebe. Cuando al final tuvimos esa oportunidad empezamos a planear, mi esposo me dijo desde un principio que este iba a ser un viaje muy especial, diferente a cualquier viaje que habiamos hecho antes; recalco que no era un viaje de vacacion, de placer, ni mucho menos para descansar. Por esta misma razon decidimos viajar ligeros, una maleta chica para los dos. Empece a preparame un par de meses antes leyendo y tratando de memorizar frases y rezos importantes en árabe, los cuales iban a aser útiles desde el momento en el que declararamos nuestra intención de comenzar Umra.

Mezquita Al-Haram en Medina. Vista desde nuestro hotel.

Empezamos nuestro viaje un 11 de enero a las 5 de la manana, necesitabamos hacer escalas en cuatro ciudades diferentes. Como yo ya habia lo leido antes, desde el momento en el que uno declara su intención en el avión y mientras ya uno usa la ropa del ihram, el sentimiento es diferente. Me pregunté varias veces que pensarían todas las personas que no son musulmanas y que nos veian. Que pensarian a cerca de esta multitud de gente rara donde los hombres usan solo dos toallas grandes y todos repiten las mismas palabras una y otra vez en voz alta. Llegamos el 13 de enero a las 11 de la noche. Ya para entonces y gracias al viaje tan largo, cuando estaba convencida que este no era un viaje normal. Debido a la gran cantidad de gente que habia en el aeropuerto y el reducido nombre de personal atendiendo a los peregrinos, el procedimiento de migracion fué demasiado lento.

Llegamos a nuestro hotel en Mecca el 14 de enero a las 7 de la manana. Gracias a Dios viajamos con otras dos parejas amigos de nosotros. Cuando llegamos a nuestro hotel podiamos apreciar la puerta de Abdel-Aziz de la gran Mezquita de Al-Haram. Estaba a no más de 150 pies de distancia de nuestro hotel, lo que gracias a Dios fue una gran bendición. Estabamos ansiososde entrar a la gran Mezquita y hacer Umra. No puedo explicar lo que sentí al estar dentro del lugar donde nustro Profeta y otros Profetas rezaron, pero mas importante el ver en persona la Kaba. Sentí un enorme aire frio y un sentimiento de felicidad. Estaba por primera vez en mi vida, y puede que sea la única vez en mi vida, frente a tal Importante lugar y a donde todos los Musulmanes del mundo se dirigen para rezar cinco veces al dia. Le dí gracias a Dios tantas veces por darme la oportunidad de estar ahi y por la facilidad que fue el llegar. El cansancio y hambre desaparecieron, y lo único en lo que podia pensar era en hacer Umra en la forma en la que nuestro Profeta lo hizo y el suplicarle a Dios una y otra vez.

Entre el dia que hicimos Umra y cuando comenzamos nuestra peregrinacion teniamos alrededor de cicno dias. Cinco dias en los que hicimos nuestros cinco rezos en la gran Mezquita y en los que tratamos de hacer Tawaf (caminata alrededor de Kaba) por lo menos una o dos veces al dia. Caminamos por los alrededores para ver a la ciudad y a la gente. Hicimos amistades y compartimos experiencias. Debido a su importancia, Mecca es un lugar increible y donde se respira paz. Lo unico que una persona desea hacer es visitar la Mezquita y rezar y rezar. Realizamos nuestra Peregrinacion gracias a Dios sin mayores contratiempos. Tratamos de ser ciudadosos tanto con nosotros mismos como con los demas. La peregrinacion es una prueba de paciencia y amabilidad continua, desde el momento de llegada hasta el final.

Se puede percibir la diversidad entre la comunidad Musulmana. Hay gente de cada rincón del mundo. Despues de haber escuchado comentarios de gente que ya ha realizado su peregrinacon, puedo notar que las autoridades Sauditas han hecho un maravillos trabajo de planeación y organización. Creo que si podrian mejorar todo el proceso aumentando el numero de personal y asi poder hacer las cosas mas rápidas y fáciles. Las autoridades de Arabia Saudita deberian mejorar los medios en los que transportan gente de un lugar a otro durante la Peregrinacion. Por ejemplo de Mecca a Medina, y despues a Musdalifa y despues a Arafat y de vuelta a Minna. Las distancias son relativamente muy cortas. Sin embargo, ya que la mayoria de la gente lo hace en vehiculo, lleva horas y horas el llegar al siguiente destino. La vida de los peregrinos se pone en peligro. Algunas veces, caminar entre el smog y ruido de los autobuses es más rapido. Mejorar los medios de transporte definitivamente facilitaria la experiencia de la Peregrinacion. Sin embargo, todos encuentran su camino para llegar de lugar a lugar.

Colina en Arafat donde el Profeta hizo sus suplicas.

Me llamó la atención el ver que la manera en la que construyen en Arabia Saudita es muy similar a la de Mexico y America Latina al igual que en Marruecos. Las casas estan hechas de tabique y despues aplanado de concreto. La distribucion de las calles, areas verdes, espacios publicos dentro de las ciudades es muy similar al de Latino Amercia y Marruecos. Ver por la ventana del hotel y escuchar el llamado al rezo (adan) y escuchar el ruido que provoca la gente es una experiencia única. No podria recalcar mas en lo importante que es el hospedarse en un hotel cerca de las Mezquitas, mas importante que el tener un hotel alejado pero lujoso. Nos podiamos concentrar en nuestros rezos mas que si nos hubieramos quedado en un hotel de lujo con buenas comidas.

Los vendedores de las calles no tenian permitido el vender en las calles. Vehiculos de seguridad manejaban en los alrededores para quitar a los vendedores. Mismos que corrian al ver a los policias para buscar rincones y esconderse o para poner sus puestos en lugares donde la seguridad no vigila. Note que los vendedores en su mayoria, eran mujeres saudis que usaban tunicas negras al igual que niqab y tenian a sus hijos con ellas. Todos los productos eran muy baratos; tales como hijabs, niqabs, juguetes, tapetes para rezar, telas, miswak, entre muchos articulos. Algo que me llamo la atencion fue el no ver articulos locales como artesanias, por lo menos no en la zona que rodeaba las Mezquitas. Todos los productos eran de lugares como China, Turquia, e India. No vi productos hechos a mano y por gente local. A lo mejor en otras partes del pais es mas facil encontrar dichos productos pero definitivamente no en el area de Mecca y Medina.

No podia creer la cantidad tan grande de niños que pide limosna en las calles. Muchos de ellos no tenian o manos o el brazo completo. El lider de nuestro grupo nos dijo que esos niños son de Sudan o de otros paises de Africa principalmente de paises Musulmanes donde les cortan las manos o brazos. Despues los niños son vendidos para convertirse en limosneros y asi obtener dinero de los peregrinos. No podia creer la cantidad tan grande de niños y adolecentes en esta misma condicion. Es muy desepcionante y desgarrador. ¿Como podemos nosotros lo Musulmanes, hacer tal crimen? Espero que Dios nos guie por el camino correcto.

Tambien note que la mayoria de los vendedores en las tiendas son Musulmanes de origen Bangladeshi. Uno de ellos me explico que como su pais esta en una condicion tan mala que se van a Arabia Saudita para obtener mejores oportunidades, aun y cuando no les paguen muy bien y no les den el mismo trato que a los locales. Sin embargo, esto es muy obvio ya que se pueden ver en cualquier negicio o construccion. Muy poca gente Saudi se ven trabajando en este tipo de empleos, se ven mas en oficinas de gobierno u oficinas publicas. Otros se ven por doquier descansando en las calles sin tener ningun trabajo.

Tambien se percibe el gran contraste entre la gran riqueza dentro de las Mezquitas y la gran pobreza fuera de las Mezquitas. Ambas Mezquitas estan cubiertas de detalle, ya sea dorado o de colores varios, o simplemente detalle grabado en las paredes, techos, y columnas. Siempre pense que Arabia Saudita era un pais rico donde la gente comun vivia en condiciones buenas. Me causo desilucion el ver cuanta pobreza se ve en las calles. Un par de calles afuera de la zona de la Mezquita estan sucias, las casas estan viejas y sin mantenimiento, carros viejos contaminan con smog y limosneros se ven en cada ezquina. En general la gente de la clase baja parecen verse extremadamente pobres y sin ninguna educacion. No puedo entender como las Mezquitas pueden tener decoraciones tan exageradas cuando la gente vive en pobreza extrema. Entiendo que las Mezquitas son muy importantes y son iconos religiosos para el pais pero pienso que si nuestro Profeta (pb) estuviera vivo, estaria completamente en desacuerdo al ver tal contraste. Lo mas importante de una Mezquita es el ser un lugar de rezo y por lo tanto deberian limitar las distracciones visuales. Sin embargo, las mezquitas son hermosas, limpias, y muy bien mantenidas. Las autoridades Sauditas tienen seguridad en cada puerta y tambien dentro de las Mezquitas. Se puede sentir uno muy seguro al estar dentro y a cualquier hora del dia.

Una tormenta cayo en el ultimo dia de nuestra Peregrinacion cuando regresabamos de Minna a Meca. Nunca pense que Arabia Saudita tuviera tanta lluvia, por lo tanto, la ciudad no se ve preparada para recibir tal cantidad de lluvia. Tanta lluvia resulto en calles inundadas. El trafico no nos permitio regresar en autobus asi que regresamos a Mecca a pie. En algunas calles el agua nos llegaba a las rodillas. Habia basura por todos lados. Todo el camino de regreso a Mecca pudimos ver accidentes de coches, calles destruidas, asi como negocios en ruinas. Fue un tremendo desastre tanto para locales como para los Peregrinos.

Calles en Meca inundadas despues de la tormenta.

Habia escuado a alguien decir que una persona no es la misma al regresar de la Peregrinacion. No le preste la suficiente atencion a dichas palabras hasta el momento en el que estaba ahi. Inmediatamente me senti una persona diferente, y pense que deberia hacer algo en mi vida. No podria seguir pidiendo perdon por las cosas que deliberadamente hacia mal y despues peda perdon a Dios. El me permite vivir y satisfacer todos mis deseos, y no deberia de ignorar sus grandes bendiciones.

Minaretes de la Mezquita Al-Haram en Mecca.

Esta Peregrinacion ha sido la experiencia mas fuerte que he vivido hasta ahora como Musulmana. No me percate hasta que no regrese de que lo que habia realizado representaba una parte muy significativa en mi vida como Musulmana. Estoy muy agradecida con la oportunidad que Dios nos dio a mi esposo y a mi. Le pido a Dios que acepte nuestra Peregrinacion, si el lo desea. Le pido a Dios nos de el Paraiso a todos especialmente a todos aquellos que murieron debido a las dificultades de la Peregrinacion y del clima.

Que Dios me perdone por cualquier cosa que este incluida en este texto y pudo ofender a alguien. Mi intencion no es la de ofender o insultar a nadie, o las acciones de nadie. Mis comentarios son personales y trato de expresar solo mi opinion. Creo en la igualdad de la gente. Le pido a Dios que algun dia todos podamos vivir en paz y respetandonos los unos a los otros.

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.
Islam, Jan - Mar 2006

Alhamdulilla. Gracias A Dios.

By Juan Galvan

The Message International
November-December 2005


I grew up in the Texas Panhandle. I spent over half my life in two small towns, Turkey and Quitaque. Turkey was named after Turkey Creek. Quitaque was named after an Indian name, which means “horse manure.” I sometimes joke that I am uncultured as a result. The population of both towns is less than 600 and shrinking. In 1972, the Turkey and Quitaque schools consolidated creating Valley School halfway between the two towns. I attended Valley School and have fond memories of life as a Valley Patriot. Of course, our school colors were red, white, and blue. A brother once chuckled after hearing me say, “If I can become Muslim, anyone can become Muslim.”

All Muslim converts have had experiences that brought them closer to Islam. After seeing a Latino Muslim praying salat, I became increasingly interested in Islam. I wondered, “What’s this Latino doing praying to Allah?” I was also amazed to learn about the historical presence of Islam in Spain. From these various experiences came my desire to learn more about Islam. I remember telling an African American Muslim, “Why do you worship Allah? There’s no Allah mentioned in the Bible?” His response was very enlightening. Allah, God, and Dios mean ‘God’ in different languages.

Another African American Muslim gave me several Islamic brochures with titles such as “Concept of God in Islam,” “Concept of Worship in Islam,” and “Who was Jesus (pbuh)?” The last page of each brochure said “Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).” Although I wouldn’t embrace Islam for another three years, I still have those brochures along with comments from a Quran I had borrowed. These simple acts were the greatest gifts I could ever receive, and I wish I could thank them all. I wish I could tell them all that I’ve embraced Islam. Meeting all those Muslims were a part of a series of events that brought me to where I am today.

This was before ICNA initiated the 877-WHY-ISLAM project. This wonderful project has been an excellent resource for non-Muslims and Muslims. The toll free line and website has made Islam assessable to all Americans. Free brochures are only a click away. More WHY-ISLAM billboards and booths are also popping up across the country. Acknowledging the growth of the Spanish-speaking community, the WHY-ISLAM toll free line now provides a Spanish-speaking associate. Latino Muslims also appreciate the selection of Spanish Islamic brochures offered on its website. The WHY-ISLAM website, www.whyislam.org, is currently being translated into Spanish. The book “Towards Understanding Islam” by Syed Abu-A’la Maududi has been translated into Spanish and is now being distributed free to Latinos. There is a dire need for such Spanish books in order to enable Spanish-speakers to gain greater levels of knowledge.

Last year, “The Message International” magazine published a special issue for Latino Muslims in order to reach out to this growing community. “The Message International” is the bi-monthly magazine of Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). It is a great tool for anyone interested in learning about Islam and Muslims. Over five thousand copies of the Latino Muslims issue were distributed free to various Latino Muslims, non-Latino Muslims, mosques, and organizations. The Message is an apt suitable title for a magazine that is well suited for the task of calling all humanity to divine guidance. I have received much encouraging feedback about this special issue for Latino Muslims. One Canadian Muslim stated that she plans to use this issue as a basis for her mosque’s local outreach effort to Latinos. Many Latino Muslims are planning on getting more involved with the Muslim community. Latino Muslims were impressed with the contents of the magazine. They anxiously gave away copies to family and friends. The conversion stories were positive reinforcement; reminding them of the reasons they came to Islam. All the articles provided hope, insight, and encouragement. The issue was distributed at the annual Chicago Latino Muslims Eid-Al-Adha festival. One of the non-Muslim Latinos who received a copy has since read the magazine three times! Certainly, the magazine has touched the hearts of many Muslims and non-Muslims, Latino and non-Latino.

InshaAllah, one day I will speak at the Valley School to tell them that I am now a Muslim and how Islam has made me a better person. I would like to dedicate this issue to all the Muslims who have never been recognized for their efforts on behalf of the Ummah in the United States. This would include Muslims, such as Golam Chowdhury, who was born in Bangladesh. Although he has many commitments to the Austin Muslim community, he found the time to teach me how to perform salat. I am happy to have an opportunity to present the second Latino Muslims issue of The Message International.

Jan - Mar 2006, Quotes of the Month

Quotes of the Month

“Among His Signs in this, that He created you from dust; and then,- behold, ye are men scattered (far and wide)! And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that ye may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect. And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are Signs for those who know.” – Quran 30:20-22.

“(Also) mention in the Book (the story of) Abraham. He was a man of Truth, a prophet. Behold, he said to his father: ‘O my father! Why worship that which heareth not and seeth not, and can profit thee nothing? O my father! to me hath come knowledge which hath not reached thee: so follow me: I will guide thee to a Way that is even and straight.'” – Qur’an 19:41-43.

Allah’s Apostle (PBUH) said, “Islam is based on (the following) five (principles):
1. To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle (i.e. Shahadah).
2. To offer the (compulsory congregational) prayers dutifully and perfectly (i.e. Salat).
3. To pay Zakat (i.e. obligatory charity).
4. To perform Hajj (i.e. Pilgrimage to Mecca).
5. To observe fast during the month of Ramadan (i.e. Sawm).”
– Sahih Bukhari 1.2.7. Narrated by Ibn ‘Umar.

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; and the realist adjusts the sails.” -William Arthur Ward.