Finding Allah in Texas
By Juan Galvan
In high school, I received a jolt to my long-held belief when a Christian friend told me that the Holy Trinity was not true and that Jesus was not God. “He was wrong” I told myself. Jesus had to be God. God and humanity were disconnected by the sin committed by Adam and Eve. God sent his only ‘begotten’ son to die because He loved us so much. Because only God forgives, Jesus had to be God. I even had the Bible quotes to prove it! Indeed, being a devout Roman Catholic Christian, I have read almost the entire Bible. In high school, I was a lecturer, usher, Eucharistic minister, and CCD teacher. I am the godfather for a nephew and a niece. The idea that Jesus was God made much sense.
I am a Mexican-American who comes from a modest background. I spent my adolescent and teenage years in such small Texas Panhandle towns as Quitaque, Turkey, Lakeview, and Memphis. None of them has a mall, a movie theater, or a McDonald’s. Memphis, Texas, population 2,300, proudly proclaims itself “The Cotton Capital of the World.” In Memphis, if you hear a fire truck or police car, either your neighbor’s house is on fire or your neighbor is being arrested. Growing up in small communities gave me much appreciation for the simplicity in God’s creations.
I graduated from Memphis High School in Memphis, Texas in 1994. I did well in high school and would attend Texas Tech University in Lubbock. In 1998 I began attending the University of Texas at Austin. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in MIS in December 2001. Not bad for a kid who had to hoe cotton most of his junior high and high school summers to pay for his clothes and school supplies! My dad was a cotton ginner. Now, he is a custodian at a junior high school in Pampa, Texas. I had eight siblings, but in 2000 my 17-year old sister died in a car wreck.
I have always had respect for other religions. I would often attend other Christian churches and join interfaith Bible study groups. While in one such group, I told my friend Chris that I was a Catholic. Chris blatantly told me that the Catholic Church was “a false doctrine.” As you can imagine, I defended my religion. Chris accused me of worshipping Mary, Saints, and the Pope. I argued that we only revere them. Around this time, I happened to see a man praying. His knees, hands, and forehead were touching the ground, and he was barefoot. After he finished praying, I introduced myself to him. He said his name was Armando, and that he was a Muslim. I thought to myself: “Ok, freaky, you’re Muslim. You can’t be Muslim. What’s this Hispanic guy doing praying to Allah?” He later told me that Spain was Muslim for over 700 years and that thousands of Spanish words have Arabic roots. The ruins of mosques with Qur’anic writings have been found in Cuba, Mexico, Texas and Nevada.
Most importantly, Armando spoke to me about Islam. I began to realize that my reverence for Mary and Saints was much more than mere reverence. Chris was right. However, we were both worshipping Jesus! Armando said that Jesus was only a prophet and that nothing and no one is worthy of worship but Allah. Allah literally means “The God” in English and “El Dios” in Spanish. Muhammad (pbuh) perfected religion. Islam is the true, universal religion of God.
Many of my questions were answered! What is the purpose of life? How can the Father be the Son? Why can’t God just forgive anyone He wants? What happens to babies who die before baptism? In Qur’an 5:83, Allah states: “And when they (who call themselves Christian) listen to what has been sent down to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of the truth they have recognized. They say: ‘Our Lord! We believe; so write us down among the witnesses.'”
Indeed, my eyes overflowed with tears as I read that verse. Yet I did not embrace Islam until three years after meeting Armando, because I did not want to change. A struggle occurs within everyone, everyday, and everywhere. We struggle to attain what is most important for us. By embracing Islam, we tell Allah (swt) that He is most important and that we are prepared to struggle to do what is right and to avoid what is wrong. I am a Mexican-American Muslim.