Jan - Mar 2005, Latino Muslims

The Rise of Latino Muslims

By Juan Galvan

The Message International
November-December 2004

In the Qur’an, Allah (swt) says: “And We did not send any messenger but with the language of his people, so that he might explain to them clearly. Then Allah leaves astray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills. He is the Mighty, the Wise.” (14:4) In the verse, language doesn’t only mean language in its verbal form. Prophets addressed the concerns, values, beliefs, and needs of the people to whom they were sent. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born in Arabia and naturally spoke the language of his people. He knew his people and their customs, and was familiar with how they thought.

The Prophet would send companions to invite tribes and kings to Islam. By conveying the message in a manner in which the non-Muslims understood, they were able to clarify the message of Islam. This is why we educate other Latinos about the important role of the Virgin Mary and Jesus (pbuh) in Islam. This is also why all Muslims must seek to make the message of Islam accessible to non-Muslims in their own language. We are Latinos and Muslims, and we, Latino Muslims, want to call others to this beautiful religion of Islam.

We are Latinos. Latinos are generally identified by considering the person’s descent. Latinos come from many countries. Some people disagree about whether Latinos are only from Spanish-speaking countries, for some South and Central Americans speak only English or Portuguese. Although Latinos don’t always share the same culture, Latinos are generally known for their love of family. All Latinos live in the United States. For example, you will not hear people from Mexico refer to themselves as Latinos or Hispanics. Some Latinos are recent immigrants, while others have had family in the United States for generations. Recent immigrants generally have less command of the English language, whereas those Latinos who have lived here for generations may know little or no Spanish.

We are Muslims. As Muslims, we bear witness that there is no one and nothing worthy of worship except Allah, and we bear witness that Muhammad is His last Prophet and Messenger. We believe in the oneness and uniqueness of Allah, the sole Creator and Sustainer of the universe. We believe that Prophet Muhammad is the best example for humanity. We agree that salvation is gained, with the grace of Allah, through the five daily prayers, fasting the month of Ramadan, giving zakat, and making the pilgrimage to Makkah, if one is capable of doing so. We believe that Allah created the angels and sent honorable Messengers with Divine Books to guide humanity and warn of the Day of Judgment. We believe in Divine Decree, which is the knowledge and consequence of Allah over His creation. We seek perfection in worship, such that we worship Allah as if we see Him, and although we cannot see Him, we undoubtedly believe that He is constantly watching over us.

We are Latino Muslims. In 1997, the American Muslim Council counted approximately 40,000 Hispanic Muslims. Current estimates range from 25,000 up to 75,000. Religious conversion is generally a personal choice. People, places, and events are all significant factors that affect a Latino’s decision to embrace Islam. Most Latino Muslims embraced Islam because they believe the religion is true. Many Hispanics think that leaving Catholicism means rejecting their identity. However, defining culture by religion is not very effective, because our ancestors were Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or pagan. If most American Latinos are Muslim 100 years from now, the typical Latino would consider Islam to be inseparable from Latino culture. The Latino culture of today could become the Latino Muslim culture of tomorrow. Islam sets the framework and direction that this Muslim culture will assume. Taking up Islam means rejecting some old ways, accepting some new ways, and adapting when necessary.

By calling non-Muslims to Islam, we are inviting them to join a universal brotherhood and sisterhood in Islam. We thank all Muslims who assist the growing Latino Muslim community. Any accomplishments are a success for all Muslims, because we Muslims are one ummah. The greatest thing that Latino Muslims offer isn’t literature, events, or speakers, but rather hope, patience, and truth. And we do this by our invitation to peace through submission to our Creator. Knowing that we have given the smallest deed for the sake of Allah (swt) is most rewarding.