The Struggles of Latina Muslimahs
By Rebecca Abuqaoud
What They have Accomplished and their Vision for the Future in Chicago
What a great blessing for the many Latinas who have entered into the fold of Islam! They were searching for the truth – to quench their thirst for truth in order to satisfy their spirituality. In searching for the truth, they found this unique religion called “Islam.” Through Islam, these Latinas found answers to questions that in the past did not make sense. For many new Muslims, life in Islam is now more precious and more meaningful. Islam elevates the spirituality of a person because a Muslim recognizes the importance of the relationship between a person and his/her Creator.
However, in the process, in the path of Islam, Latina Muslims encounter challenges and difficulties. They face challenges in their transition of leaving traditional customs in order to adjust to a new Islamic way of life. One of the challenges that they face is a society, or world, full of stereotypes and misconceptions about what the true Islam really is. Due to these stereotypes and misconceptions, many Latina Muslims do not have the support and understanding of their families, friends, and coworkers when they embrace Islam.
For many new Latina Muslims, their adjustment to an Islamic culture is a big struggle. Latina Muslims struggle because they modify their dress code, adopting the headscarf into their daily lives. They modify their eating habits by not considering pork in their diet. They abandon some traditional customs, such as celebrating Christmas. They struggle because in order to accomplish the Islamic way of life, they must cut their different social circles where in the past before Islam, they were comfortable and well accepted. Therefore, many new Latina Muslims go through a process of isolation. Sometimes when they go to some Islamic communities, they are received with indifference or suspicion. Because many Latina Muslims struggle, they know what Jihad is. They struggle, and they are still struggling.
The beauty of Islam is that many Latina Muslims have become role models in this society. After incorporating Islam into their daily lives, they started to impact others around them. A curious non-Muslim Latino may ask a Muslimah, “Why do you wear a headscarf if you are a Latina? Why don’t you eat pork? Why don’t you celebrate Christmas?”
Many Latina Muslimahs are delivering Da’wah in this form. When a curious mind asks these types of questions, the Latina Muslim comes up with answers to their questions. In such cases, Latina Muslims are ‘the window to Islam’ to their non-Muslim families, friends, coworkers, and to other Latinos. Thus, non-Muslims can see Islam through these converts, or reverts. Through Muslimahs who are positive role models, non-Muslims can see the true Islam. They can see Islam through their struggle, faith, eeman for the sake of Allah; and this is what Islam stands for.
Many Latina Muslims have adjusted well to their Islamic way of life. They consider the importance of constantly learning and practicing Islam in the proper way. In the past few years, the Latina Muslims in Chicago started to get together with the purpose of strengthen their eeman and to increase their Islamic knowledge, to feed their spirituality, and to establish a family.
They have held special, annual events that include presentations about Islamic topics, a special welcome to the new Muslimah converts, and engaging in a social Islamic environment by having dinner together. After the second annual event in 2002, sisters requested Islamic classes in Spanish on a regular basis. In North Chicago, Latina Muslims have had regular and consistent Islamic classes in Spanish since March 29, 2003. These classes are delivered twice a month at the Muslim Community Center, which is located at 4380 North Elston Ave. in Chicago, Illinois. For over a year, Islamic classes in Spanish for sisters have been available every Sunday at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois.
Occasionally, the two communities from North and South Chicago come together to form a bigger family, to have Islamic presentations, to socialize in a hospitable environment, and to share different Latino and Middle Eastern dishes. Non-Latina Muslimahs from many nationalities attend these events including Egyptians, Filipinos, Pakistanis, Palestinians, and Jordanians. Non-Muslim women attend these gatherings, and we accept this opportunity for Da’wah.
In North Chicago, the Latina Muslims have sponsored programs in English. They have the opportunity to invite all sisters from different ethnic backgrounds. Latina Muslims have a great experience by learning and feeling included among the larger Islamic community. Regular Islamic classes and programs provided this group of Latina Muslims with a stable Islamic environment, in which they could share their common background as converts, or reverts. They have social gatherings. They have Iftar together in Ramadan, and new Muslimahs have learnd to celebrate Eid. The new Muslimahs have learned the true meaning of fasting during the month of Ramadan.
On March 12, a new Islamic program for children was introduced. While sisters are attending Islamic classes, their children are attending classes, too. Thus, two Islamic classes occur at the same time. One class is for the sisters and another for the children in a separated room.
This year the Latina Muslims in North Chicago have a 2005-2006 agenda full of activities. The agenda includes consistent, regular Islamic classes in Spanish, outreach bilingual programs, and Arabic classes for children and their mothers. Arabic classes for children started last August 27. The objective is to learn the Arabic grammar in order to understand and read the Surahs in Arabic. InshaAllah, the goals set in the 2005-2006 agenda will be achieved, and our goals will assist in the continuation of the spread of Islam.