April - June 2010, Islam

Shaikh Yahia Suquillo: An Exemplar of Islamic Leadership

By Juan Galvan

My definition of leadership is someone who has the ability through ceaseless commitment to inspire others to be their best. Although the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the greatest leader of all time, I want to share with you the life of a lesser-known hero. Shaikh Yahia Suquillo has truly been an inspiration for many Latino Muslims including myself. Above all else, it has been the life of the Prophet Muhammad that has been his source of inspiration. Like all great Muslim leaders, he is a great leader for his ability to follow the lead of the Prophet Muhammad.

Although he never sought leadership, leadership came upon Sh. Yahia Suquillo by the needs of a community seeking his extraordinary qualities and attributes. Above all else, his knowledge and contributions have thrust leadership upon him. I first heard him speak at the 2001 ISNA Convention. He brought several Spanish brochures about Islam with him. At the time, I didn’t know that I would have the pleasure to personally work with him.

The amazing life of Shaikh Yahia Suquillo has truly been an inspiration to me. Sh. Yahia Suquillo was raised in the capital city of Ecuador, Quito. He got in contact with Islam for the first time at the University of Michigan through a classmate. He has a master’s degree in Islamic Sciences from the University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia. He has been an imam for many years now. He was the first student from Ecuador to have graduated from an Islamic university. He also helped found the first recognized Islamic center in Ecuador. He and his family were the first Ecuadorian family that ever made Hajj in Ecuadorian history.

Shaikh Yahia Suquillo sees himself as a servant of his followers, but he sees himself primarily as a servant of Allah (SWT). I never cease to be amazed by his courage, humbleness, generosity, and gratefulness. As a humble servant, he consults with others on various matters. While reading his article entitled “Islam in Ecuador,” I was impressed by his ability to analyze and provide solutions to the current problems facing Islam and Muslims within his own country. He is eloquent in speech and decisive in action.

He has provided a vision and pushed forward a mission through his writings and speeches. He has continuously demonstrated his personal conviction to that vision. Consequently, his inspired followers have complete trust in his abilities, and satisfaction in his leadership breeds more commitment from his followers. He understands the great responsibility towards his followers as he tries his best to guide them. He has tried his best to treat his followers fairly, respectfully, and with justice. He is kind and forgiving.

When Shaikh Yahia Suquillo first began his dawah efforts, little literature was available in the Spanish language. He understands that dawah in the Spanish language means potentially reaching one-fifth of the global population. Today, Islamic literature in Spanish can be found much more easily. Much of this accomplishment has been a direct result of his efforts. Sh. Yahia Suquillo’s own efforts have resulted in a translation of over forty pieces of Islamic literature into Spanish including books, pamphlets, and audio.

Among the books that he’s translated include “Understanding Islam and Muslims”, “Muhammad in the Bible”, “Muslim Christian Dialogue”, “The Miracles of Qur’an”, and “Human Rights in Islam.” His Spanish, audio CD about the life of the Prophet (PBUH) has brought many Latinos to Islam, and he has more audio projects in the works. Through his hard work, I have learned that obstacles should not prevent Muslims from performing the work that needs to be accomplished. His guiding force has always been the love of Islam.

Though his tireless effort, Shaikh Yahia Suquillo has appealed to people from various backgrounds. His fluency in various languages has been a tremendous asset for everyone involved in Latino dawah. His ability to speak in English, Spanish, and Arabic allows him to be a bridge of communication between Muslims living in Latin America and the United States as well as with the Muslims living in the Muslim world. He calls for greater understanding among Muslims and warns against the dangers of nationalism.

Through his humbleness, I’ve learned that accomplishments by any Muslim are a success for all Muslims, because we Muslims are one community. The Muslim community has been truly blessed to have Sh. Yahia Suquillo as a brother. I am not quite sure how he finds the time and resources to maintain his high level of quantity and quality. Nevertheless, I know that he will continue as he has always with wisdom, optimism, patience, and a smile. He has taught me that we all have to work hard for a prominent future. I have learned much from my friend. He is a man of amazing qualities, and I’ve mentioned only a few of those that I wish to acquire.