July – Sept 2002

Islam, July - Sept 2002

Brotherhood: Reviving an Ancient Tradition

By Mustafa Shaheed Davis

Think of true brotherhood as an ancient marvel, a remnant of the past, that exists in few places in the world today. Its an ostensibly lost tradition in “The age of the Self.” The “Survival of the fittest” mentality has spread like a virus to the farthest corners of the earth, thus undermining the natural human inclination towards brotherhood and harmony.

To realize the beauty of true brotherhood, one must first remove this impurity (exaltation of the self) completely from the heart. The eradication of the ‘lower’ self is a process that takes strenuous endeavor, patience, and time, especially if we are striving towards this goal together. Hearts are delicate and can be easily injured, so we need to be aware of our brothers’ feelings in every situation.

Once we understand that dealing with our brothers is a delicate matter we will be better equipped to restrain the proclivity of the lower self when it commands us to evil.

In our attempts at creating bonds that reach far beyond the temporal existence of this world, we need to exhibit a genuine concern for our brothers and their progression as human beings who are trying to reach higher states of existence. This includes being concerned about what concerns them. It is said that when a heart speaks, it is hearts that listen and when the lower self speaks, it is the lower selves that listen. When one is genuine in his intention, his speech will naturally emanate from the heart.

Having a genuine concern for your brother entails that you seek to serve him in his presence, and you protect him in his absence. We should become aware of our brothers’ states, both physical and emotional. We should notice if someone is feeling ‘down’ and exhaust our every effort to help bring him up. If a brother does something considered illaudable (an action contrary to the good character befitting of a Muslim), we do not reprimand him in front of others. We wait for the right time and tell him in a way that he is able to digest while at the same time keeping his dignity.

We will not be perfect, and this is important to understand because we will make many mistakes. In fact, we need to; if we are to become wise men. We should look at our errors, and those of our brothers around us as learning experiences. And a seeker of truth should never turn down the opportunity to increase himself in understanding.

The question may arise as to what one does when he endeavors to demonstrate good character and concern for his brother and he is met with hostility and opposition. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon experience for many. It is not befitting of a seeker to return evil with evil; not if one is trying to purify himself from the inclinations of the lower self. In these circumstances (however difficult they may be) the best thing to do is show humilty, and ask Allah to rectify between you. After all, it is ultimately for the sake of Allah that we are interacting with one another.

Habib Umar bin Hafiz, when speaking about brotherhood asked, “Is not the fact that your brother says ‘La illaha illallah’ enough for you?” In the age of spiritual deprivation we need to search for the commonalities that unite us and bring us together. At times we may forget that we are all striving for the same goal… reaching Allah.

It is only natural, do to our various backgrounds, that we would have different methods of achieving this. If somone were to ask us the best way to travel to Egypt from Yemen, our answers would differ. Some may prefer Egypt Air, others Yemenia, and some Gulf Air depending on their own past experiences. However, if one were to take any one of the aforementioned airlines, he would still end up at the desired destination. Understanding this example helps us realize that there must obviously be many ways to reach Allah, and each person (depending on his personal experience) will choose the path he feels is best for himself. Our diversity is our strength, but only if we see it as such.

We may sometimes forget that the heart is made of soft tissue. This means that it is very sensitive. Harsh words are like swords and they can easily pierce this soft heart causing damage that takes some a lifetime to cure. It is said that physical abuse is less damaging than verbal abuse. Physical wounds heal in time, but the wounds from the tongue sometimes never heal. We should be aware of how we communicate with each other, the words we use, the tone we speak in, and when we speak. Intemperate speech is oftentimes a type of oppression (depending on the circumstance) and we know that the oppressors will come on the Day of Judgment “as grain strewn underfoot that people will walk on,” and we seek refuge in Allah from this.

Brotherhood is something that taps into the good traits of people and helps them to manifest their potential in ways they could not achieve on their own. To be a true brother also means that we need to help ourselves and the best way to help yourself is by serving others. If we work diligently on purifying ourselves and being patient; assist each other in this and carry a genuine concern for our brothers, then we may have a good start towards reviving an ancient tradition and reaching the station of true brotherhood that few in our age have attained”and Allah knows best.

July - Sept 2002, Women in Islam

An Answer: Why Muslim Women Cover

by Samantha Sanchez

Don’t deny it. You have seen a Muslim woman in the street or on television and thought she must be in complete submission. In which case you’d be right…read on to find out why.

Today’s society often looks upon the modestly dressed woman with disdain with ideas that she is an oppressed woman who dons a headcovering because of her husband or some other man in her life. For these people, life that is devoted to modesty and piety is something shameful and unfashionable.

But many of these people need only look in their own scriptures to find references enjoining them to cover as well and to purport themselves in a modest fashion. Certainly today’s clothing in not in keeping with these verses. Halter tops, midriffs, miniskirts and bikinis are body baring, immodest and immoral ways of dressing that only attract attention to women’s sexuality and away from a woman’s morality and spirituality.

In the Old Testament, Num.5:18, when a woman suspected of adultery comes to the Temple to drink the “bitter waters”, the priest uncovers her hair; this implies that ordinarily it was covered. The Mishnah (Kesubos 7:3) calls covering the hair a “Jewish ordinance” (das Yehudis). See also Gemara, 72a; and Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 75:2 and Even Ha-Ezer 21:2. The Talmud states “The sight of a woman’s hair constitutes an erotic stimulus (Berakhot 24A)”. “Jewish women, married or not, should not walk in the marketplace with their hair uncovered (Shulhan Arukh, Even ha-Ezer 21:2)”.

We can also find references for covering the head in the New Testament. Let’s take a closer look at the passage so many people would rather pretend is not in their Bible. Let’s confront the issue regarding head covering today.

“Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoreth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” – I Corinthinas 11:2-16

Particularly of importance is the line which states, “But every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered disgraces her head, for it is the same as if she were shaven” (1 Cor. 11, 5).

Clearly Judaic and Christian Scriptures require women to cover their hair.

If this is so, why would the following verse from the Qur’an startle a Jew or a Christian. Is it not the same idea?

“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons or their sisters’ sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers, turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” (Quran 24:31).

“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Quran 33:59).

The only difference is that with the Christian tradition, one of the reasons given by Paul for women’s covering was to show authority to men. The similarity between the three Abrahamic traditions is that it is a sign of loyalty to God and marker of identity.

Women of today come up with many excuses of why they shouldn’t cover their heads. Worldly fashions should not have any kind of influence on our life. Perhaps the head­ covering does spoil one’s hair­do; but at the same time, for example, women wear high­heel shoes for the sake of beauty. It seems that one can endure discomfort for the sake of beauty, but to do so for the sake of God is impossible.

If a woman is trying to lead a God conscious life and she is Jewish, Christian or Muslim, she knows that God requires her to cover her head from the references that have been cited. Any denial of these references would be a denial of God’s word.

So time for self reflection…are we displaying ourselves wantonly or conducting ourselves as modest women for whom God is central part of our lives and for whom His words we devote ourselves to?

A Muslim woman who covers IS in complete submission – to the One True God and Creator. The next time you see a Muslim woman who covers you should be humbled because she has the courage to display her religion, her belief, and her love for God on the outside as she is commanded.

July - Sept 2002, Other

What’s in a Word

by Yahya ‘Abu Ayah’ Lopez

During my years as a Muslim I have noticed that there has been an evolutionary process in so far as the terminology of words we have used to define the growth of our communities and also in the descriptive expressions we have selected to denote our actual acceptance of the Islamic way of life.

One example of such specialized terms are the names we have used to distinguish ourselves as American Muslims. I remember that when I was introduced to Islam, the Muslim community I first came in contact with called itself “Bilalians.” The beautiful brother whom Allah chose to showcase Islam to me, therefore, called himself a “Bilalian.” It was apparent that the Muslim community he belonged to was identifying itself with the name of the well known and beloved companion called Bilal (may Allah be pleased with him) whose origin was African. In its infancy, if you can remember, this same community had been known as the Nation of Islam. Of course, we all are aware that that very community continued to grow and change, alhamdulila, until the majority of its adherents eventually became known simply as African-American Muslims. In their growth process, as a whole, the way they identified themselves had gone through a transformation over the years.

One other example of such a changing use of terms has been how we have labeled a person’s crossover process from non-believer to Muslim. I recall that back in the early 80’s, when I was first exposed to Al-Islam, as it was known then, the terminology used to denote, or describe, our adoption of the Islamic way of life was referred to as “embraced.” People were said to have embraced Islam or were embracing Islam. At the time, to many, that term seemed to most appropriately convey the condition being experienced by those coming into the new faith. By the act of embracing we held, or gathered, closely in our arms this new, wonderful, liberating and fulfilling religion called Islam as a show, or gesture, of our love, affection and appreciation for it. To us it was the greatest and most exciting path we had ever encountered or known. And so, it was embraced. We hugged it tightly. To use another analogy, it can also be said that we had found something on the road of life that had belonged to us all along and we held on to it as if it was the most precious of stones.

Shortly thereafter another word, which had already existed but had been sparingly used, gained prominence and soon became interchangeable with the previous one mentioned. This word, which was used to define the same process, was called “converted.” It was said that people were converting to Islam. By converting, as far as definitions go, we were changing from one state to another or from one form to another, as the mill converts grain into flour. The flour was technically still grain, but in a different form, or state. Similarly, it was still us who had converted, but now we had been fundamentally transformed by the teachings of Islam into a radically distinctive being. We, in essence, looked, acted, and thought unlike before.

In recent years I have been hearing the word “reverted” used frequently. Converted was still being used, however, and embraced less frequently so. This relatively new expression was used to refer to the same action or condition of entering the Islamic fold. And, as such, people then were reverting to Islam. In other words, they were coming back to Islam. These wandering and tired souls were returning to the original, pre-existing condition, or form, from which they had been separated involuntarily. Our ancestral, or natural, state of being “fitra” was Muslim but, upon birth, we were misdirected away from it. We had been indoctrinated by all our socialization mechanisms (our parents, schools, institutions and peers) towards something else, or alien, other than that primordial state of submission and obedience (Islam). And so, like the salmon who desperately struggles against the turbulent, downstream currents to reach its point of origin, we also endeavored to return back, or revert, so that we too could reach that pure condition.

Although it was apparent that all these three terms had been used independently of each other and as interchangeable substitutes to expound the very same thought, it seemed to me, after careful reflection, that they were, in fact, describing different stations of that same journey. Like the different responsibilities, or roles, of each runner in a relay race, these terms were expressing a different aspect, or component, along the growth process we were experiencing in our pilgrimage into Islam.

Actually, when used together, each one of them complimented the other rather well as they allowed us to see a bigger picture. Allow me to demonstrate.

When we said that we “reverted” back to Islam, we therefore were, in effect, saying that we had returned, migrated back, or come home to our original condition from which we had been tragically separated in years past. After voluntarily returning to that primordial form, we then joyfully “embraced” it. We had realized, via our cognitive evaluation, its true worth and held it tightly within our arms, not wanting to let it go again. Not even dynamite could separate us from it. And so, it followed that through our sustained exposure to this way of life we eventually were to be “converted,” or miraculously altered, by its radically transforming powers into the new beings we were intended to have been all along by the will of our merciful Creator.

Islam, July - Sept 2002

Personality Development in Islam

From “Personality Development in Islam” by Shaykh Salman al-Oudah

Islam did not come to obliterate the personalities of men and turn people into clones of one another, or to make them as if they were all cast from the same mold. Islam came to develop the unique and special characteristics of each individual Muslim so that they can be employed in the service of Islam.

Islam does not seek to turn everyone into a scholar or to make everyone into soldier who brandishes his sword in Allah’s cause. Nor does it seek to turn everyone into devotees who pray all night and fast all day. Quite the contrary, Islam addresses people with what suits their individual temperaments.

Someone who is strong in the time of ignorance remains strong after accepting Islam. A person who is naturally very devout and strongly emotional will find fulfillment in Islam and become engaged in worship and devotion. A man who is brave and strong will find in Islam the duties of jihad. A person with an active mind will find that Islam encourages people to think and to seek knowledge. Perhaps the Prophet (peace be upon him) was alluding to this fact when he said: “Everyone will find easy what he is created for.”

Islam, July - Sept 2002

Fatwas Concerning Terrorism

FATWA no.1
Hijacking planes and kidnapping
Source: Fatwa-Online.com

From that which is known to everyone who has the slightest bit of common sense is that hijacking airplanes and kidnapping children and the like are extremely great crimes, the world over. Their evil effects are far and wide, as is the great harm and inconvenience caused to the innocent; the total effect of which none can comprehend except Allaah.

Likewise, from that which is known is that these crimes are not specific to any particular country over and above another country, nor any specific group over and above another group, rather it encompasses the whole world.

There is no doubt about the effect of these crimes; so it is obligatory upon the governments and those responsible from amongst the scholars and other than them to afford these issues great concern, and to exert themselves as much as possible in ending this evil.

Shaykh Ibn Baaz
K ayfa Nu’aalij Waaqi’unaa al-Aleem – Page 108-109

FATWA no.2
Hijacking planes and ships
Source: Fatwa-Online.com

Question: There are some people who hijack a plane or a ship, and do so to apply pressure upon the country to which this plane or ship is headed. It is possible they threaten to kill the passengers, and in some cases actually kill some of them, until their demands are met. So what is the ruling about such actions, especially since such actions terrify the passengers?

Response: It is upon (every) country to provide sufficient security to prevent the likes of these rebels from taking over (planes or ships). It is upon the (respective) country to provide every airline with security (whilst on their land) which is sufficient to resist any hi jack attempts by the aggressors; just as they should also co-ordinate a full (passenger) inspection prior to (their) boarding. Thus, they should not permit anyone to proceed (to board) until after they have ascertained that no-one is in possession of weapons even if it be (a piece of) metal (bar or the like).

In addition to this, some gangs force the aircraft to divert to another destination, so if there are (amongst the crew or passengers) anyone with sufficient physical training to overpower them, then the rebels’ plans will be destroyed.

So there is no doubt that hijacking is a mistake, ignorance and falsehood. Further, it is a transgression beyond the limits causing terror to the passengers, and threatening them with that which they have no power to carry out, and Allaah knows best.

Shaykh Ibn Jibreen
Kayfa Nu’aalij Waaqi’unaa al-Aleem – Page 113

FATWA no.3
Fatwa-Online has been informed that: “Shaykh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez Aal ash-Shaykh, the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, has asked the people to desist from denouncing any Muslim as kaafir.

The matter should be left to competent religious scholars, the mufti said.

Shaykh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez also said suicide bombings have no basis in the Sharee’ah as it is another form of killing oneself.Hijacking planes and frightening passengers are also against the Sharee’ah, the Shaykh added.”

FATWA no.4
Attacking the enemy by blowing oneself up in a car
Source: www.fatwa-online.com,

Question: What is the ruling regarding acts of jihad by means of suicide, such as attaching explosives to a car and storming the enemy, whereby he knows without a doubt that he shall die as a result of this action?

Response: Indeed, my opinion is that he is regarded as one who has killed himself (committed suicide), and as a result he shall be punished in Hell, for that which is authenticated on the authority of the Prophet (sal-Allaahu `alayhe wa sallam).

{ Indeed, whoever (intentionally) kills himself, then certainly he will be punished in the Fire of Hell, wherein he shall dwell forever }, [Bukhaaree (5778) and Muslim (109 and 110)]].

However, one who is ignorant and does not know, and assumes his action was good and pleasing to Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala), then we hope Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) forgives him for that which he did out of (ignorant) ijtihaad, even though I do not find any excuse for him in the present day. This is because this type of suicide is well known and widespread amongst the people, so it is upon the person to ask the people of knowledge (scholars) regarding it, until the right guidance for him is differentiated from the error.

And from that which is surprising, is that these people kill themselves despite Allaah having fordbidden this, as He (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) says: { And do not kill yourselves. Surely, Allaah is Most Merciful to you }, [Soorah an-Nisaa., Aayah 29].

And many amongst them do not desire anything except revenge of the enemy, by whatever means, be it halaal or haraam. So they only want to satisfy their thirst for revenge.

We ask Allaah to bless us with foresight in His Deen and action(s) which please Him, indeed He is all Powerful over all things.

Islam, July - Sept 2002, Spain

Islamic Education In Spain

By Khadija Mohiuddin

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Kind

Recent developments of Islam in Spain merit attention. Specifically, the revival of Islamic education in Al-Andalus is a unique phenomenon with far-reaching potential for Spanish speaking peoples worldwide.

Post-1975 Spain

Many are surprised to learn that it was not until 1975 in the twentieth century-463 years since the Inquisition-that the legalization of Islam in Spain took place. The delayed passage of this law finally permitted the Spanish citizen to formally declare his or her Islam to the public without any threat to his or her safety and well-being.

During this time (the ’70s) there was a sizable Muslim immigrant population in Spain that was mainly from Morocco. This was also the period of the so-called “Hippie Era,” and as such, a great many Spaniards, desiring an alternative lifestyle and belief system turned to Islam. From the ’70s through the ’80s many Spaniards began learning more about Islam and accepting it as their faith. Indeed for many Spaniards, coming closer to Islam has meant a rediscovery of their lost heritage. As a result, many Spaniards felt (and may still feel) that rather than converting to Islam they were actually reverting or returning to Islam and reclaiming their buried roots.

Since the 1970s the fledgling Muslim community has considerably grown into a diverse group comprised of ethnic Spanish Muslims and immigrant Muslims. In general, the style (or perhaps, flavor) of Islam-in terms of fiqh and general cultural practices-observed by most Spaniards today is either a Maghrebi (Moroccan) style or a Turkish style. This may be attributed to the influence of the immigrant Moroccan Muslim population in Spain, the fact that current Muslim leaders/teachers received formal education in Maliki fiqh (most frequently observed in Morocco and Mauritania), as well as a result of the country’s relative cultural and geographical proximity to Turkey. In addition to the Moroccan immigrant community, however, there are also many Muslims of Syrian descent that are a component of the Spanish Muslim community. In total-Spaniards and immigrants-there are an estimated 400,000 Muslims in Spain. They are spread throughout the country with noticeable communities in the larger cities of Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Madrid, etc.

The Spanish Muslims are a dynamic group. Individuals have exerted great efforts to study and implement Islam in their lives. One such member of the Spanish Muslim community, Don Antonio Romero-Román (Dr. Abdus Samad), is mayor of the town of Puebla de Don Fadrique and has been instrumental in establishing a Spanish madrasah or institute of learning in Southern Spain. He publicly reverted to Islam after the 1975 law was passed.

The Madrasah: Facultad de Los Estudios Andalusies

The idea of the madrasah was first conceived in the early ’80s in order to set up a community and foster the passage of classical Islamic teachings based on a live chain of narration tracing back to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and to give students a strong background in usool, fiqh, and the Arabic language.

After studying for almost a decade under traditional Maliki and Shafi’i scholars in the Middle East, Dr. Abdus Samad returned to his native Spain in 1993 and began working with his famiy to extend their family farm in order to make it a magnet for Muslim scholars, students, and visitors. The task has now been realized, Alhamdulillah, and the madrasah officially known in Spanish as La Facultad de Estudios Andalusies is located about 125 miles north of Granada and the Al-Hambra in the breathtaking Mountain Valley of Azzaghra (Segura Mountains of Southern Spain). The Azzaghra Mountain is holds special significance to the Muslim experience in Spain; it is symbolic of the Muslim struggle for existence as having been one of the last places where local Muslims retreated to during the days of the Inquisition and where they demonstrated great bravery in defending their Muslim lives.

There is also the Azzagra Cultural Center and restaurant on the premises that attracts local visitors. Students can also enjoy a nearby sports complex, swimming pool, and horseback riding. In addition, students at the madrasah are encouraged to help with the farm’s almond and olive cultivation alongside cultivation of plum, apricot, apple, and walnut trees, which happen to be irrigated by help of ancient Moorish or Muslim underground canals. Farming at the madrasah is done purely along organic lines as Dr. Abdus Samad is deputy president of the Andalusian Green Party.

As it may be observed, there are several extracurricular activities taking place at the madrasah. With no less intensity, in terms of its curriculum the madrasah offers two intensive Arabic programs through its Department of Arabic Language and Islamic Sciences. First, there is the two-year Arabic course, which has received accreditation from the University of Al-Azhar in Cairo, Egypt and the International University in Damascus, Syria. This two-year course also includes supplementary study of various Islamic sciences such as Tafsir (Qur’anic Exegesis), Fiqh-either Maliki or Hanafi, Hadith, History, and Akhlaaq. Students are usually busy with seven hours of instruction per day. The two-year program in the Department of Arabic language and Islamic sciences is designed to give students a strong enough base in the Arabic language to be able to pursue advanced studies in the Arabic language at universities in the Muslim world. The cost of the two-year program is $5600 Euros per year with the academic year beginning in October. Promising students are eligible for scholarships.

Currently there are 40 students enrolled in the program from various countries including Chile, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Argentina. The program in operation right now is witnessing promising student progress. Teachers in the program include the Chilean Yousef Olejado, a student of Shaykh Alawi Mekki, the Maliki fiqh scholar, and two other teachers from Syria. Instruction at the madrasah is ideal for the Spanish-speaking student, however, for the next year the madrasah will additionally accommodate English-speaking students.

In addition to its two-year Arabic program, the madrasah also offers month-long Summer Intensive Arabic programs during the months of July, August, and September. The intensive program offers two levels of Arabic: basic and advanced. Students participating in the summer program will also get to study Tajwid, Fiqh, ‘Aqidah, and History. The summer program is meant for both Spanish and English-speaking students.

For the year 2003 the Facultad de Estudios Andalusies is hoping to offer a four-year undergraduate degree in Arabic. Negotiations are underway with the Complutense University in Madrid for the program to recognized as a full-degree program. Also, interested students may take long-distance courses with the Facultad via the Internet.

In conclusion, the establishment of this Islamic university is a great milestone for Spanish Muslims, Spanish speaking Muslims of Latin America and the United States, Latinos in general, and Muslims all over the world. Its potential to build an educated indigenous Muslim leadership of the Spanish-speaking world has yet to be explored.

To learn more about the madrasah (Facultad de Estudios Andalusies), visit www.al-madrasa.com.

July - Sept 2002, USA

My Trip to the United Nations

By Yasmeen Figueroa

I thought I might share with you my experience at the United Nations in New York. Two students from our University were chosen to attend a conference held at the United Nations. Model U. N is basically an authentic simulation of the debates and deliberations of U.N. bodies such as the General Assembly, the Security Council and other organs in which students (like me =) step into the shoes of ambassadors of the U.N member states. We basically do a whole lot of research and debate some of the world’s most complex problems while learning about the U.N. system. Model UN’s aim is for participants to explore the intricacies of multilateral diplomacy and most important to develop the problem solving skills that will serve in real life situations in the peace making process. In doing so, we write position papers and research as much as we can to be efficient delegates. Later we come up with resolutions to these global issues.

I had such a wonderful time at the conference. I met so many new faces and even more wonderful, I met a Latina Muslimah. She and I hit it off immediately. She reminds me a lot of my mother. Very outgoing, with a vibrant personality. And the funny thing is, she has two daughters one is Khadijah (like my older sis) and the other is Yasmeen (like me!). Isn’t that awesome??? I knew you would agree.

Anyway, at the conference we were also given the privilege to attend some educational sessions regarding some current world issues. There were two UN panel discussion sessions that really stayed in my mind and are of great importance, not to mention very interesting. One was about the Palestinian-Israeli issue, and the other was about Children in Armed Conflict. I learned SOOO much mashaAllah. We had this one guy Saleem Fahmawi (who is the Chief of the Palestinian Decolonization Section) discuss the history of Palestine, and then he gave an update about the status of the people today. This other dude, Ramu Damodaran, talked about how media plays into the situation. He was blunt and honest about how the media is biased and that it controls the world’s sentiments about all kinds of issues. It is at the root of what stirs anger, arouses violence and creates havoc. We all get bits and pieces of the Palestinian/Israeli situation and as Muslims, we usually just feed into any information given to us about Jews especially about how they don’t have right to the land. But, subhanAllah, after hearing the complete breakdown of the history behind it all, no one can disagree that Jews have NO right to the land. It amazes me now how countless promises, treaties, “resolutions,” and the like have been made in support of Jews when they are the transgressors. Anyway, I walked away with a new perspective and a sense of better understanding.

The second issue also brought a new awareness to me. We were shown a slideshow of children in armed conflict. You would have shed warm tears if you saw how many young children are used for meaningless political reasons. I’m talking ages 4 and up. Little kids with cute chubby cheeks fighting in wars! In the past decade alone, more than 2 million children have been ruthlessly killed in armed conflict, and more than 6 million have been seriously injured or permanently disabled. Some of these kids are used as bait or sent as spies to neighboring enemies. A lot of the kids are forced to witness even worse, take part in horrifying acts of violence. Violence that even you and I would probably hurl at the thought of. This one boy was taken from his home and inducted into the army at age 4. He was manipulated and coerced to become a combatant. He was by all means and to all ends brainwashed and conditioned to be a machine. A boy stolen to become inhuman.

At 11, he and his entourage raided his once familiar village, slaughtering all the inhabitants. The most heart wrenching part was when he even killed his mother, brothers, and sisters with no remorse. I thought long about that. How can anyone allow themselves to kill their own, let alone their mother!? But then again when it comes down to it, we all have animal instincts, and the power of the mind can easily overpower that of the heart. After years of conditioning and desensitization, you act like a robot. I guess when you’re taken away from your mother, and you receive no affection, love or self-worth, you loose a piece of your humanness. Your heart no longer beats the same. And I guess that’s exactly what happened to this boy. The worst part is that his fighting involved tribal conflict and was ultimately over land =(. I took a picture of the boy on the screen, because if you saw him, his face, you’d be speechless. He held a huge gun in his hand, the face and body of an angry boy, but the heart of a mad man. The presentation got worse.

For girls, their participation in armed conflict usually entails being forced to provide sexual service. This African girl at the age of 10 was made to witness her mother’s rape and murder, and she herself was forced to serve four years as a concubine for rebel soldiers. She was forced to have sex with at least 12 of the soldiers on a daily basis, subhanallah. Rape is not always incidental to conflict. It can occur on a random and uncontrolled basis usually because of the general disruption of social boundaries. But most the time and in this girl’s case, it functions as a tactical weapon of war to humiliate and weaken the morale of the “enemy.” The girl was pregnant twice, and ended up abandoning her babies, and then tried to commit suicide. After finally managing to escape, she went for treatment at a provincial hospital when she was 15. She had contracted a sexually transmitted infection, was extremely withdrawn and depressed. But alhamdulilah she was able to receive help. Needless to say she will never be the same.

I look at these two situations, and it blows my mind that this sort of stuff is still happening in the 21st century. That with all the money, resources, technology, etc., we still cannot control this chaos. These situations are not alien to Muslims at large. Going to the UN to be reminded of my responsibility was good. It kinda helps me remember that dawah will not be given by any prophets to come. Rather Allah has left it to us. In essence going to the U. N gave me the fuel needed to charge my battery to get a move on change inshaAllah. Although I have a lot of “beef” with the UN, I admire its original dream. My eyes twinkle at the idea of making this world somewhat better. It is my plan inshaAllah to work in Allah’s way. walaikum salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu

Dawah, July - Sept 2002, Latino Muslims

Islam Among Latino Texans

By Juan Galvan

American Latinos offer a unique gift to the Islamic dawah movement in America. Most Americans do not know much about Islam. Americans say that Allah is not mentioned in the Bible. We respond by proclaiming, “Allah, God, and Dios mean ‘God’ in different languages.” Many Americans say that Islam is a religion for only Arabs. We respond by proclaiming, “I am a Latino Muslim.” Unfortunately, Americans confuse Islam with race and nationality. Islam is God’s true, universal religion. Let all Americans wonder, “Why are so many Latinos converting to Islam? What is it about that religion?” Latino Muslims have contributed much to understanding the need for Islam in North America. I personally have experienced the need for Islam in Texas and specifically, among Latino Texans.

While lying on my bed a few days after my reversion to Islam, I thought about the many Latinos in my apartment complex. My thoughts then shifted to the large number of Latinos in my neighborhood, then in Austin, then in Texas, then in the US. According to the American Muslim Council, 20% of all Muslims live in California, 16% in New York, and 3% percent in Texas. According to the latest US census, Latino Texans comprise 32% of the Texas population and comprise 25% of the US Latino population. Success of Islam in Texas depends upon the fastest growing Texas minority group embracing the fastest growing American religion…Islam.

Unfortunately, we Texas Muslims have not created the foundation needed to reach any Texan. Last summer while visiting my family, I could not find a Qur’an or any other Islamic literature in the local library. Texas Muslims must establish educational, social, and political Islamic institutions within all major Texas cities. Texas Muslims are isolated geographically from the more established Islamic communities within the US. More American Muslims live in New Jersey than in Texas. With the exception of Houston, no solid foundation exists for spreading Islam within most cities across Texas. To no surprise, higher reversion rates exist in Houston. All Texans need to be educated about Islam. Islamic literature must be freely available to all Texans. In particular, Latino Texans need Spanish literature including books, audiotapes, videotapes, and instructional CDs.

Most of my family lives in the Texas Panhandle and the Texas Rio Grande Valley region. My parents grew up in the Rio Grande Valley and would later move to the Panhandle to work in cotton fields. I never met a Muslim until I attended Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Like most of America, Texas needs established mosques and trained Imams. Texans need an accredited Islamic university in Houston. We must encourage Latinos to become Imams. The only established mosques in the entire Panhandle are in Amarillo and Lubbock. In the Rio Grande Valley region, the only established mosque is in Weslaco. A mosque must be established in Brownsville. Currently, a couple of Brownsville apartments are used as mosques.

We cannot build a firm basis for Islam in Texas without establishing a support and educational network of Latino and non-Latino Muslims. Knowledgeable Latino Muslims, new Latino Muslims, and Latinos interested in Islam have similar and different needs. An estimated one-third to half of all Muslim converts leave Islam. Latinos interested in Islam fear negative comments, loneliness, rejection, and alienation from friends and family. Living in Texas within the Bible Belt merely complicates life for Latino Muslims even more. When I embraced Islam, I did not know any Latino Muslims in Austin. Texas cities need alternative forms of entertainment for all Muslims. All Muslims must educate themselves and be prepared to explain their faith. We Muslims should not customize our religion to fit our own needs and desires.

Most Muslims and Latinos live in the major cosmopolitan areas of America. This is also true for Texas Latinos and Muslims. Most Texas Muslims live in the Houston and DFW regions. In addition to these two regions, the largest numbers of Texas Latinos live in the San Antonio, El Paso, and Rio Grande Valley regions. Texas Latino dawah efforts should target these larger regions. Latino reversion rates are likely to trickle down to smaller cities.

Islam is the answer to correct the various problems within our American cities. We must let them see the beauty of Islam by those who follow example of the Prophet (pbuh). We must struggle to assist all Americans in need. We should establish orphanages, homeless shelters, and educational centers for Americans. Poverty rates, health conditions, and educational attainment on the Rio Grande Valley region are also among the worst in America. Dawah to Texas Latino prisoners is virtually nonexistent. We American Muslims must work together to end the cycle of poverty and crime that is prevalent within our cities. We must work together to build a solid foundation for Islam in Texas. Many things are possible if we who follow the true path work together.

Islam, July - Sept 2002

Fitrah and Muslim Recidivism: On Faith and Behavior

By Caterina Barone

Fitrah can be described as our innate moral sensibility. Allah, swt, has given us all this gift to guide us against falling into moral depravity. It is our fitrah that allows us to recognize the difference between what is right and wrong. It is what keeps us from succumbing to our base desires. So recognizing that we all have this feature, why is it that some of us fall victim to the whispers of Shaytan, and others are able to stay on the straight path? Is it at all reasonable to assume that when one declares his faith in Allah, he is better able to listen to that moral compass that is our fitrah?

Those who break Allah’s Covenant after it is ratified and who sunder what Allah has ordered to be joined and do mischief on earth: These cause loss (only) to themselves. 2:27

The Jihad of the American convert is in struggling to remain a good Muslim. Here in North America, we live in a society that is broken. Drug use is rampant, pride is instilled in homosexuality, fornication is viewed as a recreational activity, adultery is not shameful and divorce and single parent families are incredibly common. In becoming Muslim, most converts have to leave behind the cultural norms of drinking, dancing and dating. Many do so without much difficulty, but being a student of behavior change, I know that many more struggle with making such a change permanent. Many Muslims, whether born Muslim or convert, struggle with submitting to our natural fitrah.

For nearly a dozen years, I have worked as an HIV counselor and health educator. From my experience I recognize that behavior change is very difficult. People consistently fall into old, comfortable behaviors, even when they are aware that continuing that behavior is detrimental to the body, spirit and soul. At some level, the undesirable behavior has to be satisfying for them to continue. While every Muslim should strive to be the best Muslim, it goes against what we know of human nature to expect someone to become a good Muslim after taking shahada, especially if they have negative behaviors that are ingrained in them and are used to ignoring their fitrah.

I now do this kind of work in the world’s largest penal colony. A great many of the inmates here claim their faith as Muslims. While it has only been a couple of years that I have been in this environment, I have already seen Muslims who have been released from jail, only to return again after a very short period. Of course, this is in no way true of all incarcerated Muslims, but it happens regularly enough to wonder why, in fact, that is.

Behavior change is very difficult and its difficulty should not be underestimated. Western societies and American society in particular is not based on discipline. That is, we are a society that actually condones ignoring our fitrah. We live in a society that says, if you live within certain parameters, you will be left alone. Personal freedoms are valued above the common good. This can not be seen as entirely negative since we all enjoy this freedom in that we are free to practice Islam in whatever way we choose (whether a sect of Sunni, Shia, Salafi or Sufi). It is easy in such a society, however, to succumb to all sorts of bad influences and not be called to task on it. Those of us who can resist temptation are rewarded, while those of us who cannot are punished, incarcerated and sometimes shunned by other Muslims.

It is widely acknowledged in the jail community that inmates declare themselves Muslims for a variety of reasons. Most do so from true belief in Allah and the truth brought by the Prophet, saws, however it is also true that there are others who say that they are Muslims because of the protection it offers, or for better meals or other benefits that are afforded Muslims. Among Correction Officers, Islam is known to have the most outwardly recognizable rituals, so many C.O.s will say that there are Muslims who are just jailhouse Muslims. Says, C.O. Robinson, “You can see that the guys who read the Quran, pray and participate in Ramadan services and eat off the halal trays are Muslim. Others are just using Islam as a protection.” This is nothing new, and had been occurring since the time of revelation. In the introduction to Surah Al-Baqarah, Maududi has this to say about the Muslim societies of Mecca and Medina at the time of revelation:

During this period, a new type of “Muslims,” munafiqin (hypocrites), had begun to appear. Though signs of duplicity had been noticed during the last days at Makkah, they took a different shape at Al-Madinah. At Makkah there were some people who professed Islam to be true but were not prepared to abide by the consequences of this profession and to sacrifice their worldly interests and relations and bear the afflictions which inevitably follow the acceptance of this creed. But at Al-Madinah different kinds of munafiqin (hypocrites) began to appear. There were some who had entered the Islamic fold merely to harm it from within. There were others who were surrounded by Muslims and, therefore, had become “Muslims” to safeguard their worldly interests. They, therefore, continued to have relations with the enemies so that if the latter became successful, their interests should remain secure. There were still others who had no strong conviction of the truth of Islam but had embraced it along with their clans. Lastly, there were those who were intellectually convinced of the truth of Islam but did not have enough moral courage to give up their former traditions, superstitions and personal ambitions and live up to the Islamic moral standards and make sacrifice in its way.

In his book, Struggling to Surrender, Jeffery Lang states: “Our spirituality would stagnate without the potential for error, realization and reform. So vital are these to our development in this earthly stage, that the Prophet reported that if mankind ceased sinning, God would replace it by another creation that would continue to sin and repent and gain His Forgiveness, (Muslim)” p.57

This is interesting because as Muslims, we very often criticize each other for doing things that are wrong or sinful, when in fact it is part of our very nature. While it is important to be self-critical of our community, we sometimes get bogged down in the minutia of the practice. However, there are really very serious problems that face our communities that get little or no attention. Domestic violence, homelessness and drug abuse are all areas that deserve our attention as they have the potential to scourge the American Muslim community. Drug addiction, in particular, is an enormous problem facing recently released Muslims.

Imam Luqman Abdush-Shahid, former director of Ministerial Services at Riker’s Island says that drugs are primarily responsible for the recidivism among Muslims. “I would say that maybe 95% of the inmates that return have a problem with drug use. Even if they were picked up for a robbery, they stole because they were high or wanted to get high.” The statistics for incarceration throughout New York State would certainly support this. In New York, Black and Hispanics make up over 80% of the entire prison population. The same groups comprise over 90% of those committed for drug offences. The difficulty in overcoming a physical addiction, like drugs, alcohol and tobacco, has been well documented. It is compounded by what I would loosely term a psychological or cultural addiction.

Many of those men and women who go in and out of jail, Muslim or not, have very little life skills and are undereducated. It is staggering how many inmates have never held a job, have never balanced a checkbook, have never filled out an application or had a healthy relationship of any length. Many do not have coping skills to deal with life’s ups and downs. Yet it is expected that an inmate leave jail and lead a productive, and for the Muslim, moral life. I see a great percentage of inmates who just want to escape from their feelings and will “self-medicate” with substances or sex or food or crime. It seems that we engage in all sorts of detrimental behavior in an effort to ignore that irritating pull on our fitrah, that nagging feeling that we know we should be seeking out Allah and living a righteous life.

Sr. Aisha, the Administrative Chaplain at the female facility at the complex, feels that Muslim inmates return to the jail environment because they need help in maintaining their Islamic identity in the outer world. Many of the women have no support on the outside and sometimes, the only loving environment they have ever had is in the sisterhood that they find among other incarcerated Muslims. “Regular meals and a safe place to sleep. It is certainly better than some shelters.” Sr. Veronica Hill, a substance abuse counselor at the jail took her shahada while she herself was in prison. “I learned Islam from a sister I knew, and she is doing 25 to life.” The peace that Islam has brought into this sister’s life is evident from her face as she talks about getting closer to Allah, swt. “I love to pray. I love to pray. I just love it.” Like many people, she says that Islam saved her from her former life. Now that she works in a jail, she has made observations about the incarcerated Muslims we encounter here. “They are like to think that they are a better Muslim than so and so. They return to jail often because on the outside, they feel that is expected for them to be perfect Muslims. When they can’t be, they give up and go back to their old ways. Eventually they end up back here, where they can be the “best” Muslim.” It is this drive that I have to be the best Muslim or I shouldn’t try to be Muslim at all mentality gets many converts into trouble. It is very easy to slide down that slippery slope into ignoring that moral guidance that Allah, swt, has given us.

As a Muslim community, we should try to develop programs for recently released inmates. The first three years of an inmate’s release has been shown to be the most vulnerable, especially so for a Muslim. In a 15 state study of prisoners that were released in 1994, 47% were convicted of a new crime and 52% returned to prison or jail. What is interesting to note is that most of these ex-offenders are arrested within 36 months of their release. In a report by Kathleen Murphy of Stateline.org, she quotes Jeremy Travis of the Urban Institute as saying that these figures show that, “states must still focus on behavior when prisoners come back to the community, particularly in the early months after their release.” 2

So what does that mean to us as Muslims? Every day, many Muslim men and women are released from jails and prisons around this country, the vast majority of whom (>80%) are African-American and Latino. What can be done to help recently released Muslims continue to practice the deen to the best of their ability I the outside world? Surely, there will no longer be someone to tell them when to sleep, when to rise, when to pray and eat. It is much more difficult to maintain a Muslim way of life when there are no imposed safeguards. Newly released Muslims need a great deal of support and education. Peter Rabassa, a Latino Muslim correction officer said that the most useful class he has ever taken at Alianza Islamica was a course in Fitrah. “Most people who take shahada have a heart disease and it isn’t cured by saying shahada. Of course Allah wipes it clean, but it can only be cured by changing your moral code and coming nearer to Allah, swt.”

One of the more reliable workshops that I do is called “Temptation vs. Discipline.” It is really an exercise in recognizing our fitrah. There is a popular image of making decisions with an angel on one ear, encouraging right action and a devil on the other, using persuasion to tempt the subject. In the workshop, taught to me by a co-worker who does many discipline-building exercises with inmates, I have one inmate who sits in front of a group and I give him a situation where he must come to a decision. The object is to have other inmates who choose to, go to his right or his left giving him ways to rationalize that decision. The situations range from fairly innocent: “Should I stay home an extra half hour to watch my favorite TV show when I know my boss will be upset if I am late.” To: “I know I should be faithful to my wife, but my co-worker wants to sleep with me.” The ones to the right represent that inmate’s fitrah, while the one on the left represents the whispers of shaytan. It never fails that more inmates will get up to literally “play devil’s advocate” It is unerringly easy to rationalize the less moral choice. If people are unable to reason how to do good, how then can we expect them to make good decisions in real life?

The Muslim community has to, for the sake of the future of the ummah, provide new Muslims and those recently released Muslims, with programs aimed at making a satisfying transition into the community. It has to recognize that it takes practice to learn to listen to our fitrah and heed its call. It is human nature to sin and in doing so, Allah, swt, gives us the opportunity to learn. Behavior change is a long and sometimes painful process. The important thing to know is that it is possible and necessary for human development.

Works used in preparing this article:

Donde Esta la Justicia? A call to action on behalf of the Latino and Latina Youth in the U.S. Justice System http://www.buildingblocksforyouth.org/latino_rpt/fact_eng.html

State Prisoners Often Return, Report Says Kathleen Murphy, Stateline.org http://www.stateline.org/print_story.do?storyId=240988

Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994, June 2002, NCJ 193427 revised 7/19/02 U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Statistics Special Report http://www.usdj.gov

Yahiya Emerick, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam. IN: Alpha Books, 2001

Yahiya Emerick, What Islam is All About. NY: International Book and Tape Supply, 1997

Jeffery Lang, Struggling to Surrender: Some Impressions of an American Convert to Islam. Maryland: Amana Publications, 1995.

July - Sept 2002, Other

In Allah’s name

By Yahya López

Several years ago while attending an iftar dinner (fast breaking during the month of Ramadan) at the house of an acquaintance of a family member of mine, an incident occurred which was frankly quite profound in its very nature and, for me at least, showed a positive and inspiring glimpse of the future of Islam in America. The following is an account of that event.

The brother who had invited us to this iftar and almost all of the guests were immigrants from India or from Indian ancestry. My invitation there was a direct result of that very Indian connection. You see, my sister-in Law’s husband is an Indian from Tanzania. Both our families (wife’s and children), were therefore, requested to attended the iftar that night.

The men and women were separately herded into the preassigned basements of two adjacent, brick, raised ranch, single family homes of a quiet and predominantly Jewish neighborhood in the far northside of Chicago. This iftar had been a joint effort by these two Muslim friends and neighbors who were actually from the same city (Hyderabad) back home in India.

Following the Islamic tradition of the separation of the sexes in such events, my co-brother-in-law, his two boys, and I walked into one of the houses through a side entrance leaving behind us the freezing, bitter winter winds of this mid-January evening. My wife, sister-in-law, and daughter went to basement of the other house. Once inside the door threshold, we took off and carefully placed our shoes at the base of an already overflowing shoe mound that crowded the entrance way. If the size of the shoe pile was any indication, there had already arrived a large amount of guests.

We then descended down the soft and warm carpeted steps of a dimly lit, narrow corridor which led into the large basement apartment. As one penetrated deeper and deeper into the house one could not help but being allured, captivated, and, ultimately seduced, by the saturation levels of exotic and enticing aromas in the air. Whatever spice-filled, Indian delicacies our hosts had prepared for us, they were sure to stimulate and delight our eagerly awaiting taste buds and palates.

Although I knew the host and his neighbor, I felt somewhat apprehensive, self-conscious, and shy as I was entering the basement proper. But, is this not the case when one is being exposed to something new or unfamiliar? I remember thinking that I may not know anyone there. However, once I was submerged among the crowd, and after an initial scan of the surroundings, I found that I knew several people and some of the youth from my travels through the Chicago area masajids and centers in the northside. I noticed that many of them were somewhat surprised, yet genuinely pleased, to see me there. As we indigenous Muslims already have learned, our immigrant brethren are, for the most part, clannish and tribal in their relationships. They generally stay to themselves and look out for themselves. From my collective experience as a Muslim it seemed that in all these kind of events there is always a token non-immigrant Muslim or two. Whether intentional or not Allah knows best.

The basement apartment was actually a very large, open, living area decorated with modest furnishings. There was also the usual wall decors of surah’s and ayah’s from the Holy Qur’aan. The washroom and mechanical room were the only sectioned, or walled, off areas. I would say that fifty people could fit comfortably in this place. As is the natural tendency, many of the brothers there who were familiar with one another busily engaged in lively conversations of small, scattered groups throughout. The youth had also followed this unwritten law and had gathered among themselves. Within moments I shed some of my apprehensions and I then went about greeting and talking to those brothers I recognized.

The time to break the fast soon approached and the host, along with his ansars, began to prepare for the iftar. Blankets and/or plastic covers were placed down the center of the light colored, carpeted floor. Plastic cups, plates, forks and spoons were then lined up atop the covers. Shortly thereafter the fast breaking appetizers were brought into the room. In their wake, they left powerful columns of invisible, yet hypnotizing, scents that weakened our concentration and disrupted the train of thought of our conversations. We then were encouraged to gather around the savory tidbits and wait the call of adhaan which was imminent.

The teenage and young boys heeded the call to assemble, quickened their pace, and amassed themselves around the generous table spread. I imagine that the withholding from worldly appetites must be particularly hard on the youth because they may not fully grasp the inner dimensions, and many blessings and benefits, associated with this immensely important Islamic Pillar of faith. The men, on the other hand, were more self-conscious and deliberate in their response to the invitation.

It is the custom in our Muslim community that everyone first breaks the fast with dates, fruits, water, or other treats, after the adhaan is raised. Then, after indulging for a short while, we make the maghrib prayer. My two nephews, Zakariah (Zak) and Noor Muhammad, had sat on the floor next to me. Their father was still nearby speaking to an acquaintance of his. Across from us sat two young men whose dark complexioned faces were sporting long, black, well groomed beards. They were dressed in unbelievably brilliant white pajamas with black vests and they also had white kufi hat’s on. By their appearance, one could assume that they were two very dedicated Muslims.

The adhaan was finally raised and everyone instantly (as runners who react to the staring gun at a race) lowered their heads and began to indulge upon the goodies. After taking in a few bites himself, my nephew Noor stopped eating, turned to his brother Zak and innocently asked in a loud, nonchalant voice, “did you say bismillah?” We all know that children do not have that full grasp of shame and inhibitions as we adults do and, therefore, they will say the darnest things in the loudest of voices.

Apparently, Noor recalled that he had not said the bismillah, as he had been trained to do by his father, and wondered if his brother had not also. I am a witness that their father had worked tirelessly to engrain this very important requirement into their young minds. Meanwhile, his brother Zak confidently answered, “yeah”. Noor responded with a shortened,”oh,” then uttered his bismillah, lowered his head, and resumed chomping away at his treats. But, his brief, yet profound, query had set off a shock wave that had jolted and shaken all others around his diminutive epicenter.

The simple utterance by this thin, fifty pound lad was heard mostly by those who were sitting closest to him which would include myself. The hands of those who heard him became paralyzed and, as a result, they could not even lift another mouthful. All the grinding and pulverizing motions of our jaws quickly came to a screeching halt. His question had, in effect, taken most of us completely by surprise. We were not expecting such a reminder to come so boldly out of a small boy’s mouth. After all, that is something we constantly remind them off. Is it not? And so, at that very moment, I also stopped eating and recalled that I too had not mentioned Allah’s name over my food either. Inexplicably, I then looked up and caught noticed of the reaction of our neighbors. Many of us looked at each other and we instantly knew that all of us who were looking around had been guilty of the bismillah violation. It was one of those Kodak moments.

With expressions of wonderment and awe, they then turned their heavy heads and cast their bewildered eyes upon him as if this boy had just uttered the most profound, earth-shattering, prophetic truths ever heard by mankind. Everyone seemed to struggle and labor with what had just transpired. Yet, all the reactions I saw that day, I remember most those of the two young gentlemen in shinning white clothe across from me.

Upon hearing the words of Noor Muhammad, who himself had no idea of the magnitude of his comment, the two young men’s eyes opened wide as if they had just seen the apparition of the shaytan itself in front of them. They stopped grazing immediately and raised their heads simultaneously. At that time their collective cheeks were bulging at the seams with food stuffs. One of them actually had a couple of strands of the appetizers dangling out of the sides of his mouth. The look of total shock, abashment, discombobulation, and shame was splashed all over their terrified faces. It was as if they had been caught red-handed in the middle of a federal offense. Apparently, they had also forgotten and there was nowhere to hide. They realized that everyone else around knew they had forgotten as they knew we had also. The agony and disappointment was most visible and particularly excruciating for them because they seemed to be people who were careful with the practice of the deen.

It was evident that they began to struggle with how to react to this boy. On the one hand they appeared to be grateful by his reminder and, on the other hand, embarrassed by the fact that it took a boy to prompt them to comply with this supremely important commandment by the Law-Giver, Allah. The look in their eyes and their body language betrayed the fact that they were perfectly aware of the importance of this Islamic axiom. No doubt this was a feeling and emotion shared by all of us who had heard him.

Almost in concert they both said their bismillah and, along with many others nearby, added a complimentary chorus of “masha Allah’s” (kudos or pats in the back) acknowledging his profound remark. Noor looked up at them as if confused and not completely sure of the reasons for their recognition. He smiled at them and returned to the simple concerns of the life of a child. He was unaware that he had taught us all a very valuable lesson and that he had been the medium of Allah, Almighty’s sign to the rest of us.

Islam, July - Sept 2002

Is your god black?

By Juan Alvarado

There is no doubt about it. As Muslims, we sometimes get the oddest comments and/or questions. Some are meant to be insulting. Others are earnest attempts at finding out the truth of Islam. I’d like to set the record straight with some of the more outrageous things I’ve heard only because it is a shame that people would believe such things. There are many other examples than the ones I’ve provided.

A few years back, an older gentleman, an acquaintance of mine asked, “Do you worship a black god?” Looking back, it seems like a funny question but when it was posed to me I was shocked. I responded calmly, though. I said that he has me confused with the Nation of Islam. I said, “They believe that god is a black man. The real Muslims believe God is the Creator. No one knows what God looks like.” I continued saying, “We believe in Jesus and Moses, too.” And with that, the gentleman walked away.

A repairman who is a close friend came over one day to do some work in my home. I had just reverted a couple of months earlier. While he was installing a ceiling fan he blurted out, “Do you have a Sabbath?” I told him that our special day of prayer is Friday but that we also pray five times daily. I continued telling him that Muslims can work on Fridays, however. Maybe this is an unremarkable example but it is one I thought had some bearing since lots of people seem to think that our religion is like Judaism.

I once visited the home of a personal friend of mine who is not a Muslim. He is of mixed background. His mom is white, and his dad is Puerto Rican. I guess because she felt I might inject some loony belief into her son’s head, my friend’s mother asked me with stoic seriousness, “Do you believe white people are devils?” I told her that this is the misconstrued belief of the Nation of Islam and that they get this belief from a misunderstood verse from the Qur’an (see ayah 20:102). Similarly, I’ve heard others say that whites cannot be Muslims because Islam is a black man’s religion or a religion for colored people. I responded to my friend’s mom, which also answers the others’ comments saying, “There are millions of white Muslims in the world. The Muslims of Kosovo, Bosnia, Turkey, and Chechnya fall into that racial category.”

I had a correspondence through email recently about an article that was listed on a website by an Islam “expert.” The “expert” turned out to be Dr. Robert Morey. I told the webmaster that this “expert” was no expert at all. He is the originator of the falsehood that Muslims worship a moon-god — that Allah is a moon-god. Astaghfirullah! He said that if I could prove what I said, he would take the article off his site. That presented no problem at all. I just emailed him several articles where either he or his clones mention the despicable lie. It would almost be funny if it weren’t so wrong. What Dr. Morey fails to see is that the pre-Islamic moon-deity was called Hubal and not Allah. Furthermore, the Qur’an itself says in ayah 10:5 (in part), “It is He who made the sun a shining thing and the moon.” This of course ruins his argument.

Since the infamous September day, I’ve read some articles in different publications stating that so-called extremists believe that their actions will garner a paradise for them with 72-virgins. I cannot speak for other people but having been a Muslim now for some time, I know that this is not an Islamic belief. There is no doubt that the Qur’an promises the Believers mates in paradise. They are called Houris (houriyaat). A quick glance into any Qur’an will prove otherwise. Just look in the glossary under houri and take a look at each verse — there is no mention of 72-virgins. All I can gather is that this is just more anti-Islamic propaganda so readers beware.

Recently, a reporter asked me why I had rejected Catholicism. Although the answer is multifaceted, one of my qualms is belief in the saints. She asked me what is the matter with the saints. I told her that bowing down to a piece of rock or wood fashioned in a human form is a sin — it is even in the Bible. The reporter then said, “But what about the black stone in Mecca? You bow down to it when you pray.” Despite the apparent similarities, I told her there is a world of difference. I think this question matters, because I’ve heard it before as well. I told her that stone was broken and placed in different sections of the Kaaba. The Kaaba itself had been destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout Islamic history. At one point, a rival Islamic sect stole the stones only to be returned years later.

All of this did not affect the worship of the Muslims. The Kaaba, not the stones, is merely the qiblah or direction of prayer for the Muslims. It is a place where Muslims focus their concentration during prayer. Even the Jews and original Christians had a qiblah — theirs is Jerusalem. The stones mean absolutely nothing in Islamic worship. To worship anything but God takes you out of Islam. We should continue to reflect on the first pillar of Islam, and all that it means. There is nothing worthy of worship but God, and Muhammad is His messenger.

July - Sept 2002, Stories

My Acceptance Story

From the Book of Genesis to Surah Al-Fatihah
By Kenny Yusuf Rodriguez

There is no god but Allah, the One and Only God who was worshipped by Abraham, Jesus, Muhammad and all the prophets (peace be upon them). There is nothing in the earth nor in the skies, whether seen or unseen, large or small, that is deserving of worship other than Allah.

As logical as I see that now, that wasn’t always so clear to me.

Growing up in the middle of New York City in a predominately Latino neighborhood, and at the same time being a byproduct of the 80s generation, I was raised by my mother, my father, and to tell the truth, by what I saw on television. Like most people in our neighborhood, my family and I were nominally Catholic. We would go to church about once a year (if that), and my mother would keep a picture of the Virgin Mary on top of the refrigerator in the kitchen. That’s about the extent of our piety. I once heard someone use the term “Christmas Christians”, and that’s what we are; when it came time for December 25th everybody exchanged gifts and cards, but for the rest of the year religion wasn’t a thing spoken of at the dinner table.

Most of my friends were about as religious as we were. Many of them would defend the Bible and the Church to the death if pushed, but secretly many admitted that they had never even picked up and read a copy of the Bible on their own. Their whole idea of Christianity was formed from what they were taught in Sunday school as little kids, or from whatever they saw on the boob tube.

At around age 14, I became interested in this thing called “Christianity” that everyone around me believed in so much, but nobody ever talked about. When I first began to read the Bible, I noticed something peculiar: many traditions and rituals that were commonly labeled as being “Christian” were nowhere to be found in the Bible. One prime example: many people that I grew up with believed that when a person passes away, after being buried, he or she grows little wings and floats up to heaven as an angel in a sparkling white robe, with a golden harp in hand. That’s what always happened on TV, so it had to be true, right? Come to find out, there is no such phenomenon ever described in the Bible. This perturbed me. Why was this being taught to me both by television and by my elders, when this was nowhere to be found in any religious text, especially in the Bible?

I began to ask people about it, and many of my older friends who happened to be Christian would tell me a totally different story. “When we die, that’s it,” they would say. “There’s nothing else. We get buried in caskets, and we go to sleep for the rest of eternity in our comfy coffins.” Now I was even more confused than before. Both of these descriptions of the afterlife were coming from people who have been Christians for their entire lives, and yet they were totally the opposite from each other. Not only that, but I was totally thrown off when I would open the Bible and read descriptions about the Day of Judgment that had no correlation to the aforementioned stories. So one group said one thing, another group said another thing, and the Bible said something else. What was going on? How could two people who believe in the same religion have totally different pictures of the same event? Shouldn’t the Bible have the final word in the discussion?

It would be years before I would read the following verse in the Qur’an which explained it all to me: “And most of them do not follow (anything) but conjecture; surely conjecture will not avail against the truth. Surely God is aware of what they do.” (English translation, 10:35-36)

Disheartened by the whole thing, I started to read the Bible on my own and I tried my best to follow it word-for-word; I conducted all of my religious practices according to what I found in it. I began to set aside certain days for fasting (Matthew 6:16-18, Acts 12:2-3), I stopped eating pork (Deuteronomy 14:8, Leviticus 11:7-8), and I began to teach myself rudimentary Hebrew to better understand the original language of the Bible. When it came time to go to a church service, I was reluctant to wear a suit and tie. My argument was that Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) never wore suits and ties, so why should I? If anything, he wore a long shawl and sandals when he would visit the temples and synagogues during his time.

Before I ever heard of the Islamic terms “Sajdah” or “Rukoo”, which are commonly translated as “prostration” and “bowing” respectively, I used to prostrate to God with my forehead on the floor when I prayed, because according to the Bible that is how the prophets in the past did (Genesis 17:3, Number 20:6, I Kings 18:42).

Jesus didn’t celebrate Christmas, nor did he tell his followers to do so, so I refrained from it. In fact, he did didn’t even call himself a “Christian”; he was a self-professed follower of Judaism and the laws of Moses established centuries before. If Jesus is the best example to follow, shouldn’t I do the same? As a result, I began to pattern my life after Jesus “the Jew”, as opposed to Jesus “the Christian”.

After doing this for about a year or so, I started to reflect on my situation. I couldn’t be the only Christian in the world that regularly fasts, can I? Am I the only one that doesn’t celebrate Christmas or Easter? I researched the hundreds of Christians sects that exist, from the most orthodox to the most liberal, but none of them appeared correct to me. It seemed like everyone was simply following his or her own ideas of what Christianity was or whatever their parents followed, but not what was in the Bible itself.

I continued in this confused state for a little while longer, until one afternoon when I came across a book that led me to my first step towards Islam. It was a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X that my older brother had purchased a couple of years beforehand for a college course. For some reason, the book jumped out at me. I was never one to read anything other than what was assigned to me in school, so I am still not sure what attracted me to the book. Whatever the reason was, I ended up reading it.

I was pessimistic when I first began, trying to find any excuse not to continue on. But with due time, I become intrigued by Malcolm X’s accounts of New York City in the early half of the 20th century, as well as his eventual rise from a street criminal to a world-renown spokesperson against oppression. Reading his descriptions of his pilgrimage to Makkah was my first taste of Islam.

On completing the book, my curiosity led me to research the history of this strange religion I had scarcely known anything about. After reading up on the basics of Islam, and going through a couple of books on the subject, I quickly came to the conclusion: if I want to truly follow the teachings of Jesus and the Bible, I have to become a Muslim! It sounded self-contradictory to me at first, because I was always taught to equate Jesus with Christianity not Islam. However, it all came together like the pieces to a puzzle. Jesus fasted, and Muslims fast. Jesus never ate pork, and Muslims don’t eat pork. Jesus used to prostrate on the floor when he prayed, and Muslims do the same. In fact, many Muslims even dress like Jesus centuries ago! Islam was the only religion that kept the rituals and teachings of the Biblical prophets alive in practice.

To my surprise, I soon noticed that virtually all Islamic practices can be found in the Bible, including ablution before prayer (Exodus 30:17-21, Acts 21:26) and even the veil of women (I Corinthians 11:5-6). Although these practices were often skewed and abandoned after centuries of neglect, they were all there.

It didn’t take long for me to come to the realization that Jesus was simply a messenger in a long series of prophets, from the first prophet Adam to the last prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them all). They were all sent by Allah to teach the same basic message, that is, the oneness of Allah and the teachings of how we as humans should live our lives in order to please Allah and worship Him in the best manner.

Allah states it best in the Holy Qur’an: “The Messiah, the son of Mary, was no more than a messenger: many were the messengers that passed away before him. His woman was a mother of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah makes His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth.” (English translation, 5:75)

Two years later on December 24th 1999, I officially declared Shahadah at a local mosque, but Allah knows best when I truly professed the Shahadah in my heart.

Praise be to Allah, most of my friends and family were very accepting of my choice, and many noticed the positive change in my attitude and actions right away.

I still remember the first time I entered a mosque. Coming from a Catholic background and attending church services where everyone was either Puerto Rican or Dominican, and to now attend Friday congregational prayers at a mosque where no one is from the same country is quite a change. In my opinion, the best feeling is to walk into a mosque and not know where everyone is from. I have yet to find a place more diverse than a mosque. Only there will one find brothers from the Philippines, Senegal, Bangladesh, Brazil and Palestine, all praying side-by-side to the One God, in the same language, with the same beliefs. The fact that I could pray alongside a person who doesn’t even speak the same language as I do moves me. It shows me that Islam truly transcends culture, language, class, race and any other artificial divisions that humans tend to set up amongst themselves.

Mankind as a whole can benefit from accepting Islam and following the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. I believe that doing so makes one realize that he or she is special; not because of his or her physical looks or financial status, but because one becomes aware that he or she was created by Allah, and specially chosen to be a Muslim. Allah guides whom He wishes to the straight path. I could be anywhere right now, but Allah has willed that I am a Muslim. What a blessing, indeed!

In addition, Islam places a great emphasis on truth and justice, self-discipline, and the pursuit of knowledge; these principles would appeal to anyone.

I am a 20-year-old first generation Dominican-American, and I am currently in my 3rd year in Utica College of Syracuse University. I officially took my Shahadah at age 18 in 1999, but I really became a Muslim at age 15 in 1996.

July - Sept 2002, Latino Muslims

Islamic Literature Needs among American Latinos

By Juan Galvan

I was honored to present alongside some of the best-known Latino Muslims from around America at the Third Annual Conference on Islam Among Latino Americans, which was one of the conferences at the an ISNA Islam in Americas Conference. Along with Samantha Sanchez, Khadijah Rivera, and Zeina Mena, I spoke about the need for Islamic literature in America. After summarizing the other presenters, I discussed aspects of acquisition and distribution of Islamic literature and methods of successfully meeting the literature needs of Latinos around the country. Afterward, the presenters opened the floor for dialogue with the audience.

Individuals and organizations across America understand the central role of Islamic literature when calling people to Islam. As Muslims, we have a responsibility to share Islam with all nonMuslims. As American Muslims, we know that many Latinos live in the United States. And, the US Latino population continues to grow very fast. According to the 2001 Mosque in America Report, the rate of conversion among Latinos is lower than that among Caucasians and African-Americans. Latino Muslims make up less than 1% of the US Muslim population.

A leading barrier for Latinos interested in Islam is the lack of access to Spanish Islamic literature because many Latinos only know Spanish. Much Spanish literature, whether printed, audio, or audiovisual, needs to be developed. Several outstanding Islamic books still lack translation. Although Latinos are the largest minority in the US, few Islamic book companies offer Spanish Islamic literature. Latino Muslims can change the negative perception of Islam within the Latino community. Why are Latinos converting? What is it about that religion? We appreciate the various Muslim organizations that have reached out to the emerging Latino Muslim community.

Approximately half of America’s Latinos can be found in Texas and California. In fact, 90% of American Latinos live in California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, New Mexico, Colorado, and Massachusetts according to the 2000 US Census. 78% of the Latino population lives in the Southwest region, such as New Mexico and Arizona, of the US. In 1997, the American Muslim Council stated that 20% of American Muslims live in California, 16% in New York, and 3% in Texas.

While visiting my family in the Texas Panhandle, I went to the town’s library to see what type of information they had about Islam. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a single piece of Islamic literature. I couldn’t even find an English or Spanish Qur’an. You can probably imagine my reaction at the library when I couldn’t find any literature about Islam. By considering the demographic trends among Latinos, we should focus on literature distribution within the ten states mentioned earlier and on the major cities within each of these ten states. We should focus on cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, New York City, Miami, and Chicago. A large percentage of Latinos and Muslims live in major metropolitan areas in the United States.

We need to discover the most inexpensive and most effective way of meeting the needs of Islamic literature for American Latinos without sacrificing quality. Literature as dawah is composed of two parts. Dawah literature must be acquired and then distributed. There are two primary ways in which individuals and organizations can acquire literature. The first way is through donations of Islamic literature. Free books can be received from individuals, organizations, local mosques, Islamic bookstores, and countries. The second way is to purchase Islamic literature. Individuals and dawah organizations prefer to purchase inexpensive but higher quality Islamic books.

Islamic literature distribution occurs on either a local or national level. On a local level, local individuals and local organizations perform the distribution of literature. On a national level, literature distribution is seriously lacking within the United States. Distribution requires locations for storing the literature. Storing literature is generally less expensive on a local level. Storage on a national level could require a warehouse. Larger-scale distribution also requires funding for postage and handling charges. These charges depend upon the costs associated with distribution. Finding volunteers to distribute literature can be difficult on both a local and national level. An advantage of distribution on a national level is better coordination, mass distribution, and economies of scale.

We, Latino Muslims, hope to find the best means of acquiring and distributing Islamic literature on a national level. There are three possible ways to do this. First, Latinos could try to encourage literature companies to acquire and distribute certain Islamic books for free or inexpensively as possible. However, in reality, it’s difficult to find companies that are financially capable of giving away, an unlimited supply of books. Second, Latinos could unite under an existing nonprofit organization that would serve as an umbrella in assisting Latinos to acquire and distribute literature. Third, Latinos could establish a nonprofit organization by pulling together their resources that would serve as an umbrella, which would assist Latinos to acquire and distribute Spanish literature. The greatest fear of the second option is fear of losing control to another organization. The disadvantage of the third option is the complexity of establishing an organization.

After our presentation, we opened the floor for dialogue with the audience. Many good questions and suggestions were raised. We discussed the possibility of incorporating a nonprofit organization to help meet the need for Spanish and Portuguese literature on a national level. The new organization would be a means for acquiring and distributing literature among current Latino Muslim organizations and other individuals. The new organization would also provide more effective networking opportunities. Current Latino Muslims individuals and organizations would help ensure the success of the new organization. Existing Latino Muslim organizations will continue their own mission and maintain independence from this possible new organization in all other issues. We ask that all American Muslims assist by raising the level of consciousness about literature needs of Latinos in their local masjid.

July - Sept 2002, Spain

Islamic Resurgence in Spain and Beyond

By Samantha Sanchez

The Spanish Inquisition spanned four centuries. Spanish Muslims attempting to escape it fled in two directions – North Africa and the Americas. Those that remained became nominal Catholics. Some practiced their religion n secret. If they were found out they were killed or exiled. In 1610 the last of the so-called nominal Catholics or Moriscos were exiled. The Inquisition practically wiped out the Muslim community in Spain. In fact the revival of Islam in al-Andalus as it was known, has been a cherished ideal since the fall of Grenada in 1492.

The first chance that the Andalusian people had to bring back Islam was when they had their freedom in 1975 with the advent of democracy, sine the Inquisition had legally continued until July 15, 1834. After which social pressures hindered Jews and Muslims from practicing their faiths until 1975.

In 1976, in the city of Cordoba, five brave young men became Muslims through the dawah of Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi. Shaykh as-Sufi is a convert himself and the founder of the Murabitun Movement. These were the first Spaniards to accept Islam since the time of al-Andalus. They were instructed to spread Islam to the people and their efforts drew a large number of new Muslims, and subsequently the establishment of a Muslim community in the city. Their efforts to build a mosque, the first since the Inquisition, were hindered by public and government opposition.

In 1980 Spain put forth The Organic Law of religious freedom. The real rebirth of Islam in Spain, thus, did not begin until 1980 with the formation of the Autonomous Community of Andalus. The Yamaa Islamica of Al-Andalus was established in Seville (capital of present-day Andalusia). This association and the association for the rebirth of Islam were the most important. The Grand Mosque of Cordoba under Muslim rule in Spain was open to Muslims, Jews and Christians. It was the center of academic and spiritual learning. Today, it is a cathedral. Muslim visitors to the former mosque are told by the guides/guards before entering that it is prohibited to pray there.

Islam has slowly but surely flourished in Spain. In 1983-4, the Yamaa Islamica al-Andalus opened centers in Granada, Malaga and Jerez. In 1984, it made its first public demonstration by celebrating the memory of Al-Motamid Ibn Abbad, the last Muslim king in Seville. The act included a public call to prayer. More than 4000 people took part in the demonstration. In 1985 a convention of all Andalucian Muslims was held in the province of Granada. In 1986, YIA opened its center in Cordoba and made it the center of the entire community. Between the years of 1987-88 new centers emerged in Almeria and Murcia. So far we have tracked thirteen years of progress among Muslims in Spain since the Inquisition. However in all of this time, the government of Spain did not recognize Muslims and the Islamic faith. It was not until 1989, that Islam was recognized in Spain and even today though Muslims have official status they enjoy fewer privileges.

Between 1989-1993 several celebrations took place to commemorate Muslim ancestors and erected mosques. In 1992, the Islamic commission of Spain signed an agreement of cooperation with the state. In 1993 a major historic event took place. It was led by Ali Kettani. That is a project was begun of establishing the first ever Islamic University in Spain since the fall of Grenada. It began with the purchase of a building in the vicinity of the grand Mosque. Construction was completed in 1994 and the University, Ibn Rushd, is now authorized to award bachelors degrees in Arabic Studies and Islamic Studies.

Thus, as we can see, although it took several centuries for Islam to resurface in Spain, Islam is now flourishing throughout Spain as more and more converts come to Islam each year. In 1998 there were more than 450,000 Muslims and 45 mosques. Still they suffer persecution. In 1999 30 Muslim girls in Grenada were required to remove their veils for ID card photos. Catholic nuns are not required to do this.

As you recall I stated that Muslims fleeing Spain went in two directions. Those who went to North Africa have, in places such as Morocco and Tunisia, maintained their language to some extent, and some have even returned to Spain. And, then there are those who fled with expeditions to the Americas in the 15th century. These Muslim slaves were obliged to abandon their beliefs under fear of being executed, as you know part of the reason for the expeditions was to conquer new lands for Christianity. Thus, the trace of Islam disappeared in the Americas. It was not until the 16th century when Indian and Pakistanis immigrated to the Americas and the slaves were liberated. A few hundred years later, in 1850-1860, massive immigration of Arabs to the Americas took place. Muslim communities erupted as a result of this. But what about Latino Muslims who live in the Americas? In general there are over 6 million Muslims in Latin America (including immigrant populations). IOLA or the Islamic Organization of Latin America in Argentina serves the purpose of providing information about Islam to Latin Americans. This is the largest organization with this purpose. In Caracas, Venezuela, the largest Mosque is Masjid Sheikh Ibrahim.

In the US, since the 1970s, there has been a resurgence of Islam amongst Latinos. Primarily this has taken place in NY in El Barrio and in Los Angeles. Some Latinos would say that they are reclaiming the Islamic heritage, which we learned about tonight. In 2002, it is estimated that there are 40,000 Latino Muslims in the US. Currently a census is being conducted. This number includes born and converted Latino Muslims. The largest concentrations are in Los Angeles, NY, Chicago, and Washington DC. In each of these places, organizations have emerged along with mosques. One of the first of these was Alianza Islamic in El Barrio, now located in the South Bronx. Now there are nearly ten of such organizations, LADO being the largest of them all with a growing membership. All these organizations have different agendas. Some are to promote Islam in Latin America, others are for prisoners, and again others are for Spanish speakers only. Whatever the current number of Latino Muslims in the US or globally, they are being recognized in the Muslim world and in the media. Over the last few years articles in the Washington Post and other well known newspapers have discussed the emergence of Muslims in Latino communities. This year was the third annual conference by ISNA, of Islam amongst Latino Americans. The Inquisition may have been 4 centuries ago, but today it is clear that Islam cannot be erased from the hearts of Latinos.

July - Sept 2002, Spain

What Happened to Spain and the Spaniards?

By Lidia Ingah

There is a human tendency to follow others in order to fit in a social group or community. This eye-blinded tendency not only lowered humans to the level of animals but also makes humans unhappy. Men and women are naturally thinkers and can generally sense the difference between the good and the bad. As a result, if we do not do what our conscious mind rationally thinks is right, then we disrespect ourselves and a feeling of shame and discontent about ourselves develop. This “going against ourselves” to mimic others has happened and is happening in many communities repetitively. Even worse, this irrational imitation is leading to a chaotic society. A clear example of this type of society is Spain today.

I was born and raised in Mallorca, Spain, and for many years I analyzed the features of this potentially great society. Spaniards are known for being very accommodating and welcoming to foreigners, but the reality is that they have a lazy and passive attitude to communicate their will. They would rather agree to the newcomers’ requests than make an effort to stand up for the defense of their values and way of life.

Every time, I go to Spain to visit my family, my parents inform me of how many people have died in driving accidents due to excessive ingestion of alcoholic drinks. Also, I have noticed a great number of Spaniards dying from cancer and heart disease. This fact is not surprising, since they love to eat barbecued pork ribs, smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and take other illicit drugs.

All these toxic killers’ victims are well aware of how pernicious alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and pork fat consumption are to their health; but they still ingest them. These people are basically killing themselves consciously. Slowly but surely, they are making themselves physically sick.

To the development of diseases cause by physical toxins, we have to add the mental sickness that so many Spaniards suffer. It is not unusual to see young people trying to fight their profound depression. They do not like their life styles, they do not like themselves, but they do not know how to change or what to change to be happier. They feel empty, lost, and sad. Many Spaniards do not believe in God, although they were raised Catholic. They are taught just to believe what the priest says because you are supposed to. They are unable to question anything at a philosophical level. Basically, they are raised to believe what the church preaches and not to worry about thinking too much. This educational system is translated also to all school subjects; that is, the teacher says what the student have to say and think, and the student memorizes and repeats it . Just like a parrot. No brain is required, no ability to choose is required, no understanding is required and, as a result, Spaniard children become order-following machines. Unable to say “no” to something they feel is not right or say “yes” to what they want. Spaniards are not allowed to have their individuality, to work hard to fight for what they believe needs to be changed, to feel fulfilled and happy about themselves. Everything is decided for them. They just need to imitate. Easy task but destructive to their well-being.

Although I am a Spaniard and attended Catholic schools and university, I have always hated to be a follower. I love to decide on my own and act accordingly with what I think is right. I am a very rational type of person, lucky enough to have exceptional parents who accepted that with me the traditional “do it just because I said it” did not work I could never accept that Jesus was God or that all humans beings are born sinners because of the actions of Adam and Eve. God is not human, and I am only responsible for my own actions. Therefore, although I have always been a very religious person, Catholicism just did not make sense to me.

Years after my college graduation, I traveled to California for the first time; and I met who is today my husband, a Muslim student from Indonesia. It was through him that I learned about Islam and how my country had been Muslim for as long as eight centuries (8th to 15th century after Christ). During those years, Muslim Spain, also called Al Andalus, was a very flourishing society. Education was encouraged to all in order to find answers to life’s questions that will let the members of the community to fulfill their desire for understanding things, develop a strong sense of self-esteem, and ultimately, to develop happiness and inner peace. Also, in Al Andalus men and women alike felt very responsible to take care of themselves at a health level: not eating pork, not drinking alcohol, not taking other drugs, nor doing anything that would endanger a person’s health. It was clear to Muslims in Spain that those things were very harmful to them and that the consequences of them would negatively affect the rest of the community: wild and aggressive behavior due to use of alcohol or other drugs and development of deadly diseases as a result of eating pork.

Spaniards in Al Andalus simply loved their lives too much to harm themselves. Moreover, and most importantly, they all had a profound belief in the existence of a main power, a creator of all nature’s creatures, all mighty and powerful, infinitely loving, compassionate and just. This belief provided them with the foundation to live a wonderfully happy life, and to value it, and to be grateful for it, as well as to try to become the best human beings they could possibly be. Everyday they would take time to reflect about their lives and how to improve them, and to ask for guidance and to give thanks for all they had. This was achieved by their five daily prayers that would empower them with a feeling of being loved and protected that can only be understood for those who perform them. Muslim Spaniards had a taste of paradise on Earth. Thank God, they were able to understand and follow the right way of life. Maybe, one day Spaniards will revise their history, and they will learn from their ancestors how to live their lives happily. God-willing.

July - Sept 2002, Quotes of the Month

Quotes of the Month

“Mankind was but one nation, but differed (later). Had it not been for a Word that went forth before from thy Lord, their differences would have been settled between them. They say: ‘Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?’ Say: ‘The Unseen is only for Allah (to know), then wait ye: I too will wait with you.'” – Qur’an 10:19-20.

“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to Justice, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from Justice. Be just: that is next to piety.” – Qur’an 5:8.

The Prophet (PBUH) said, “If anyone of you performs some action, let him master it (ie., do it to the best of his ability).”- Sahih Al-Bukhari.

“He who loves to meet Allah, Allah also loves to meet him…” Sahih Muslim 2.112.

“All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” – George Orwell, “Animal Farm.”