Dawah Beneath the Palm Tree
By Khadijah Rivera
Throughout our illustrious Islamic history, various messengers were sent to different lands to spread the teachings of Al Islam. The beginning of a convert’s Islamic duty is to spread the message in their own land! As Hispanic Americans, we believe we should utilize our gift of a second language to teach our brethren right here in the USA, our adopted homeland. Hispanic Muslims are generally pious people who have taken religion seriously throughout history. Our ancestors have always sought a deeper commitment to a higher truth.
The horrendous tragedy of September 11th brought out the worst in many Americans. I experienced verbal abuse and housing discrimination in Miami. Someone spit on my face. All my experiences have made me stronger. I am proud to be a Muslimah and to live my life as a Muslim. Many Latinas who embrace Islam lack assistance from their Islamic community or their Muslim husbands. PIEDAD (Propagacion Islamica para la Educasion de devosion a Ala’ el Divino) mobilized to address issues affecting female converts. We have helped young and older Muslimahs. Since 1987, we have held various seminars with the assistance of the International Islamic Federation of Student Organization (IIFSO). Our Miami Muslim community has helped us support great speakers including Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Jamal Badawi, Aisha Mohammad, Dr. T B Irving, and Dr. Omar Kasule. These lectures were presented in New York, Virginia, Illinois, and Texas.
At one time, we had five toll-free phone lines throughout the USA to provide Islamic related information and referrals and contacts at local masjids. PIEDAD has outstanding sheikhs and imams assisting 24/7. We have run newspaper ads to provide free literature and to encourage non-Muslims to contact us with questions. Within a year, we distributed 10,000 pieces of literature to correction facilities, Islamic centers, and da’wah groups throughout the USA. Although we are best-known for our seminars, our one-on-one da’wah has proven to be our most effective dawah method. When working with woman, we offer our own experiences as converts to show patience and perseverance.
Certainly, da’wah is enriching but also involves lots of frustration. I remember the day I met Br Yasin. He was 17 years old. He wanted us to convince his family to allow him to go to Afghanistan. We make plans but Allah swt also makes plans. His parents were afraid of his new religion and believed Islam was fanaticism that could get his son killed. We spent what seemed to be hours trying to explain to this humble couple the virtues of Islam. They complained how their son had taken down their portraits and the Christmas tree. His parents thought he was totally crazy! Why he didn’t even eat! We asked him if he was eating at night. “Oh yes,” answered his father, “He is like a little mouse and eats when we are in bed.” We then explained the virtues of fasting. Clearly, this brother was truly in the Deen. At this point, we stopped and listened closely. They needed their son home. We asked how Yasin was before he embraced Islam.
“Oh,” the father said, “I was getting him out of jail constantly, he was stealing hubcaps and getting drunk.”
“And now?” I asked.
“Oh no,” with realization in his breath, “not now!”
That day, Yasin’s father converted to Al Islam during Jumaah. Soon, Yasin’s nieces and his mother would also convert. Islam is as beautiful as it is wondrous. I sincerely look past differences of religion, color, or ethnicity. I sincerely feel a human kinship. I want to reach out to assist anyone in need. Although I was a female executive in New York, only Islam would bring me happiness and an inner glow of supreme peace. As I relax beneath a palm tree, I imagine the future of Islam in America.