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Fasting New Muslims

Qur’anic Gems: Juz’ 14

Welcome to a new interesting episode of the Qur’anic Gems series with Nouman Khan.

In this episode, Nouman reflects on the verses number 98 and 99 of Surat An-Nahl (the sixteenth chapter of the Qur’an).

He begins his talk by mentioning the etiquettes of reciting the Qur’an and how could we avoid the whispers of Satan.

Follow us on this fascinating episode to know why Allah directs us to seek His refuge from Satan when reciting the Qur’an.

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Fasting New Muslims

Instagramadan 1: Finding the Love That We Need

The primary function of the month of Ramadan is to gain taqwa (God-consciousness); meaning to have a true and meaningful relationship with Allah (Exalted be He), to fill your heart with true meaningful love…

How could we gain this taqwa? What does fasting has truly to do with taqwa?

Why food and drink is prohibited during the daylight hours of Ramadan? Our hearts have finite capacity, so how could we empty them out of love of other things to fill them with real feelings? And what are they?

Watch the 1st episode of the series of Instagramadan series by Brother AbdelRahman Murphy and learn how to empty our hearts out of the things that stand in the way of having real relationship with Allah…

The Love That We Need

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Fasting New Muslims

Instagramadan 10: Know How Much He Loved You

Do you know how much the Prophet loved you? In the last verses of Surah Al-Tawbah, Allah describes the qualities of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) relationship with us:

Now has come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that you should perish: ardently anxious is he over you: to the Believers is he most kind and merciful. But if they turn away, Say: “Allah suffices me: there is no god but He: On Him is my trust,- He the Lord of the Throne (of Glory) Supreme!”  (At-Tawbah 9:128,129)

Three characteristics that highlight how much he loved us, asking us the question: do we do our best to love him in return? This month, let’s work on learning and loving the man who loved us so much (may peace and blessings be upon him).

Watch the 10th episode of the  series of Instagramadan series by Brother AbdelRahman Murphy and learn about the Prophet’s love for us…

Do You Know How Much He Loved You?

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

Why I Decided to Submit

By Angela Collins

Islam is the only religion that communicates total submission to our Creator

Islam is the only religion that communicates total submission to our Creator

I accept that I cannot control the events that occur in my life or in the lives of others.

Islam is the only religion that communicates total submission to our Creator; the Creator of all people and of all things.

As a Muslim I know that everything I do first begins with an intention and then I must transform that intention into an effort in order to carry out what has already been decreed. This wisdom defines my path to be a better person to myself, my family, my community and to all of my brothers and sisters here on earth.

In essence Allah (the One God) opened my heart, Islam gave me the direction, and now I live to serve out the guidance lent by my Creator for happiness here on earth and, if Allah wills, in the hereafter.

While religion is a resource to help guide ourselves to good behavior through our spirituality, there is no prerequisite that it should be farfetched in mental comprehension. I am a recent convert. Catholicism is the religion followed by my forefathers. At the age of 14, I refused the trinity concept and narrowed what I saw as a complicated tale of ‘three in one’ down to ‘two in one’ and started attending a Baptist church.

Throughout my life, I have searched for understanding, but when it came to my faith I truly was confused about why God would come as a human being and would allow himself to die for the sins of only those privileged enough to believe in his, or his son’s, crucifixion. I found this explanation extravagant and shared my doubts with pastors and scholars who gave every effort to communicate the Christian belief to my understanding. I asked myself: ’Why would my religion need to be so complex?’

When I reached adulthood, I decided to make it very simple. There was just one, our Creator and that was it. No other explanation could rationally make sense.

The True Religion of God

I see Islam as a religion that came to clarify the errors of human beings who changed the original word of God to fit their interests. Islam is simple: God is God. God created us and we worship God and God alone. God sent Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed to deliver his message to guide all people.

In Islam, Jesus is the only prophet who never died which is why he is the only messenger who will come back before the Day of Judgment to lead the people of the books: (the Torah, the Injeel (Bible), the book of Psalms and the Qur’an). The Qur’an is the final book that has never been altered to fit the changing interest of people throughout history.

Islam confirms that you are not awarded passage into heaven just because you say you are Muslim. And you may not go straight to heaven just because you believe that God is monotheistic. You go to heaven based on your intentions and actions following the message taught to us by the messengers themselves and confirmed by the original books of God. Heaven is not an exclusive club for those who merely follow what their fathers taught them. Instead it is your responsibility, especially as a Muslim, to constantly search for truth, understanding and to read and think.

After reading every chapter in the Qur’an twice and taking detailed notes, I believe that this masterpiece could only have come from my Creator. Without a doubt the author of this book knows more about me than I know about myself.

It is no secret that Islam is seriously misunderstood and disliked by many here in my homeland, the United States. My conversion to this ‘controversial’ religion has my family and friends puzzled. It is my sincere belief that Allah led me to Islam by enhancing my passion in exploring unfamiliar perspectives through foreign travel. I have a genuine interest in building bridges with all people everywhere rather than promoting my own ideology as the only system that can work for all people.

While culture shock is a mild term to express the drastically different life styles of Muslims in the Middle East, I saw great beauty in the generosity of people, the cohesiveness of families and the immediate acceptance of a girl so foreign in her ways. Even so, in the present I face a culture shock within my own predominantly Middle Eastern Muslim community. I do understand the challenges a Muslim born into their religion faces to dissect their own culture within it.

After finding myself in Islam, I am able to adhere to the teachings supported by the Qur’an and Hadith while also managing to bypass the cultural manifestations taught by Muslims born into their religion. Islam is multi-cultural and is a system that can be adopted in any environment at any point in time.

I can confidently say that if Allah had not breathed Islam into my soul, I would have never found Angela. Well, today, here I am: Angela, a Muslim American: the soul who persistently searched for her Creator and has found the Creator of all that is in the universe and beyond, in Islam.

_________________________

Source: islamicity.com

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New Muslims Reflections

Don’t Let Her Leave Islam!

 

“She is a Muslim now.” “Don’t let her leave Islam.” “Would you??”

Missing something in their lives – a great one indeed – so many people revert to Islam? But, what happens after that? The truth is many of them leave it?

So, why do so many of them leave Islam? Why do these many formerly lost hearts let go of the solace they have found?

Based on a true story, the video below tells the bitter facts …

httpv://youtu.be/vlvHjbbKX-4

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Fasting New Muslims

New Muslims Filling Post-Ramadan Emptiness

Ramadan is over. The excitement of `Eid is over. You are a revert Muslim and maybe it was your first `Eid. There were times when you were not sure you were going to make it and even times when you were not sure of anything much at all. It was 30 days of extreme physical and mental tests, long nights of prayer and lonely hours (at least in my case) of a dry throat.

Ramadan

Remind yourself why you felt blessed during Ramadan and why you did it in the first place.

Now on completion you will never forget those 30 days; every year from now on will mean something more than you ever could have imagined. They will forever be embedded in your heart and mind as a testimony to your resolve and unshaking belief in the Shahadah, which you know beyond a doubt that you now firmly believe in.

And then in that joy comes the ‘crash’ – the sense of emptiness, of abyss. You climbed so high to achieve the long fasts and Tarawih of Ramadan and now everywhere you look is down. At the top, the climb seems nowhere near as bad as the descent. And if you are feeling like that, trust me I was the same in 2012 in China, knowing I would go back to Spain, which isn’t the most Muslim-friendly place. This thought then filled my heart with a little bit of dread and then the desperation set in.

What do I do now? What does Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) want from me? What do I do at iftar (not fasting)? How do I maintain that sense of community?

With the end of Ramadan, it was like my ‘Muslimness’ was draining away and no sense of scrambling would get it back. That sense of knowing Allah when refusing a cup of tea until the final bowel of Maghrib (sunset) because you’re a Muslim, or the near militant avoidance of the use of bad language or the refusal to listen to non-Muslim worship during Ramadan was gone. Even the wearing of the prayer hat (all Muslims in China wear it as part of their identity), at least not until next year.

And in that desperation, I did the only thing I could do. I turned to Allah (Exalted be He) once more. Not because I was a ‘good Muslim’ but because I didn’t know what else to do. I could not ask my family and within a short time the Muslims I had come to know in China were literally going to be on the other side of the world.

At this moment I knelt in my long prayer clothing with my hood up on my pink prayer mat and opened my ears wide. What did Allah need to say to me? It was my first Ramadan and it was all over. How could I fill the emptiness? The answers did not come all at once. One did but the others come later, some even during my second Ramadan.

First thing to remember is that you are not chasing a spiritual high but you are running after Allah, the One true God.

Any Muslim looking to emulate a spiritual high will be highly disappointed and will only be drunk in it. The ‘high’ is the blessing one gets for seeking Allah. The minute you stop seeking Him is the minute the food spoils and makes you sick. The blessing fades and turns abruptly into a nightmare because as writer Yasmin Mogahed says:

“You can only run in one direction. So you are either running to God, or you are running to something else…”

So with that in mind, how does one stay in the blessing of Ramadan?

1- Remind yourself why you felt blessed during Ramadan and why you did it in the first place. In my case I did not do it because it was a pillar of Islam, but I did it to feel closer to Allah and to understand my path better. So I read the Qur’an more comprehensively, prayed more frequently, actively bought Islamic books on family life and marriage (seeing as it is the other half of the deen) to read in Ramadan and after it.

In other words I surrounded myself with things that would allow me to have a better relationship with Allah and the Ummah. In doing so, I received Allah’s blessing and actively felt blessed. If I had to give one piece of advice this post-Ramadan I would say: write down or talk to a brother or sister about your blessings and how you wish to walk in them in the coming year. This means, at least it did in my case, a brainstorming session (or two or three) with your best friends or family.

2- Reflect on Allah’s greatness every time you say “Allahu Akbar” and what He inspired you to achieve. I am not one to write things down but rather a person who ‘meditates’ on such things. Doing my quiet times on the bus (which were not actually quiet, given how crowded a place China is), I made it part of my worship.

In this worship, I processed what had happened to me doing Ramadan and was happening to me now, after `Eid. I asked friends of mine what they thought of ‘my Ramadan’, which was a rather revealing though a not too comfortable experience that told me a lot about myself and my relationship with Islam (my good and bad attitudes).

If you are a revert or even a born Muslim it is actually very worthwhile to ask a non-Muslim person you trust to give their honest opinion as they see things that Muslims may not always notice, given that they are themselves focusing on prayer and fasting themselves! Allah’s greatness can be reflected everywhere (unless it is strictly haram) and in every person (obviously to a varying degree) so don’t make the mistake of only asking the holiest person you meet!

3- Ask Allah what He wants you to do with your new found skills of post-Ramadan (in my case more patience and a greater awareness of poverty and physical hardship). I did a lot of du`aa’ following Ramadan and asked Allah about the things I had read, the people I had meet and the skills I had learned. I also went out and actively did something about it.

Du`aa’ is only the beginning and changes little if you do not act on it. Du`aa’ is participatory; it is not a monologue and involves interaction with Allah and subsequently other people, in order that Allah can show you how to make your pure heartfelt desires a reality. Think Action Plan, in blocks or a series of steps (I prefer not to have a timeframe as I lose motivation.)

4- Remember your brothers and sisters are exactly that and did not just adopt you doing Ramadan. Invest time in building and maintaining halal (permitted by Allah) relationships with them. Frequent halal shops, buying only what you need that day so you have to return the next one. Make time, not excuses, no matter how far the mosque is, (trust me all of mine are far) to get there on a daily basis. Actively look for opportunities to interact or offer your support to someone.

5- Continue to frequently consult the new websites from where you obtained Qur’anic insights to live a highly productive and spiritual Ramadan.

blessing of Ramadan

Keep up any one of the routines you established during Ramadan

6- Keep up any one of the routines you established during Ramadan – continuity is key. If you made it your goal in Ramadan 2012 to pray all five prayers no matter where you were or to pray at the mosque daily in Ramadan 2013, keep up the habit! If you found time during Ramadan to go the gym and work a full-time job, you will still have that time when after Ramadan. It might mean, as it did in my case, that you make it your business to know every mosque in the city or that you book appointments and work schedule (or even leisure activities) around prayer times but believe me, it is worth it. I just think of all the exercise and fat I burn cycling to the masjid and the less time I have to sit wasting time on my computer.

7- Ask Allah what you need to work on after Ramadan which you didn’t have time to perfect during Ramadan. In my first Ramadan the focus was more physical, given the shock my body had. The focus of my second one was consistent masjid attendance. I am sure the next thing I must work on is patience. In this year’s post-Ramadan I will, in sha’ Allah, be looking at what frustrates me and how I can avoid that feeling of frustration. In my case prayer is the number solution and actually my best non-Muslim friend gives me my prayer mat when I am annoyed! Attack what you need to work on from two angles, find out the source or the reason behind the need to change, develop and/or grow and facilitate the solution.

Allah says:

O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient. (Al-Baqarah 2:153)

In your post-Ramadan, there will be times where you don’t feel spiritual at all. You might even feel fed-up and irritable, having slipped up and lost your newly created habits, be it gym attendance, masjid attendance, reduction in the number of swear words you allow to pass your lips etc. Pray about it, commit the issue to Allah. Make yourself accountable to a Muslim of the same sex (i.e. not your wife or husband though they should know you are doing it and who with), not to revel in it but to genuinely seek Allah’s Will on the matter. Ask him/her to commit to doing du`aa’ for you too and be patient and steadfast.

Lastly, remember if you forget to take prescribed medicine it normally says on the instruction leaflet, not to take a double dose but rather resume the medicine again as soon as you remember or as soon as you can. This is what I encourage you to do when and if you should slip up. Commit to prayer, be patient with yourself and as soon as you can resume your normal ‘Ramadan’ behavior. For this is now you, not the man or woman before Ramadan but the one after!

So with these tips, prepare yourself to have a different but equally enriching post-Ramadan experience until the next one, in sha’ Allah.

_________________________

Source: productivemuslim.com.

This article was written by Kai Ibrahim, a British revert who observed Ramadan on his own in Spain and Poland in 2013, and in Spain and China 2012, in the hope to inspire and encourage reverts and other Muslims to keep up the spirituality post-Ramadan until the next one. He also hopes that the article will encourage Muslim families to adopt a revert Muslim now that Ramadan is over and keep them smiling into the next one!

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

Conversion to Islam Fills a Religious Void

By Marina Bolotnikova

Pittsburgh's Muslim Movement

Converting to Islam is almost like a coming home feeling. It gave me a great sense of tranquility and peace, and helped stabilizing my life.

Converts come from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds, and most say Islam agreed with them on a deep, intuitive level.

Philip and Sherry Snow grew up Catholic in predominantly Christian towns on opposite sides of the country. Today, Philip and Sherry go by Ibrahim and Safiye, live on the North Side with their four children, and are devout adherents to Islam.

When Sherry met Philip, a convert to Islam, online in 1996, she had been questioning her Catholic faith but had no interest in learning about his religion.

“I went through the whole gamut of stereotypes that I had heard about Muslims,” she said. But as she learned about Islam from Philip, she realized not just that her preconceptions about the religion were wrong, but also that Islam filled the gaps she perceived in Christianity.

Mr. Snow, who works as an arborist, and Ms. Snow, a graphic designer, are two of a large and diverse community of Muslim converts in Pittsburgh. This week, the Holy Islamic Month of Ramadan will draw close, calling for increased piety from Muslims around the world.

Muslims believe that God revealed the Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan. For many converts, successful completion of the obligation to fast during Ramadan is one of the most tangible changes in their transition to Islam.

“I officially converted when I completed Ramadan correctly,” said Julie Webb, outreach coordinator at the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh.

Though it is difficult to track precise rates of conversion to Islam, about 20 percent of American Muslims are converts. Converts come from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds, and most report that Islam agreed with them on a deep, intuitive level.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that Islam was nothing that I thought it was. As I started learning more, I realized Islam appealed more to what I already believe about God,” Ms. Snow said.

“Being raised Catholic, they teach about the Trinity, and the Trinity never resonated with me. It never made sense. When I found out Muslims believe that God is just one, this made more sense to me.”

After three years learning about Islam from Mr. Snow, reading the Qur’an and learning about other belief systems, Ms. Snow knew that Islam was the one that agreed with her understanding of the world.

She recited the Shahadah (a declaration of belief in the oneness of God –Allah- and acceptance of the Prophet Muhammad as His Messenger) on Halloween 1999. For non-Muslims, public profession of the Shahadah signals one’s conversion to the faith, and many take an Islamic name at the time of their conversion. Ms. Snow used the name Safiye along with her given name.

After her conversion, Ms. Snow flew from New Jersey to California to meet him for the first time. Within a week, they were married.

Mr. Snow, who converted to Islam six years before his wife, had been learning about the faith for more than a decade from Muslim friends and Qur’an study. The first time he learned about Islamic beliefs, from a Libyan friend, the religion immediately resonated with him.

“We were driving through Utah at around 1 in the morning, and when I asked him what was the dominant faith in Libya, he started talking about Islam. It was that night that my heart embraced Islam. I was so thrilled at what he was telling me. I let out a laugh of release. I laughed out of comfort and joy at what he described to me,” he said.

Like his wife, Mr. Snow found in Islam answers to questions that Christianity could not provide to him. “Whenever I asked questions (about Christianity), I noticed there was an agitation, a frustration. Oftentimes they would get angry at me for posing a question. Muslims were never irritated by questions,” he said.

Pittsburgh’s Muslim Movement

Historically, Pittsburgh has been no stranger to Islamic conversion. In the 1930s, Muslim converts established the First Muslim Mosque of Pittsburgh, one of the first mosques in the United States to be founded by converts.

“Pittsburgh has a great history of conversion to Islam,” said Patrick Bowen, who specializes in Islam in the United States at the University of Denver. “African-American Sunni mosques mushroomed in the middle of the 20th century, and Pittsburgh was the main center. The largest concentration (of Muslim converts) was in the Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio region.”

The majority of American Muslim converts are African-American. Today, the First Muslim Mosque of Pittsburgh is one of many mosques in the Pittsburgh area that serve predominantly African-American converts, said Salaah Brooks, who has served as the mosque’s imam, or religious leader, since 1999. The mosque adheres to Salafism, an orthodox strain of Islam.

“I was 14 or 15 when I converted. I felt a spiritual void, and I began learning as much as I could about God. … After speaking with Muslims, it became clear to me that it was the void I was trying to fill,” Imam Brooks said.

“We believe that every person is born with an innate knowledge that Allah is their creator. Hence, He has exclusive right to be worshipped Alone. So converting to Islam is almost like a coming home feeling. … It gave me a great sense of tranquility and peace and helped stabilize my life,” he said.

Imam Brooks’ family was supportive of his transition to Islam, mostly due to the positive effects his faith had on his life. Eventually, his mother converted, too.

“Islam is not a strange faith in the African-American community,” said Imam Brooks. “A person who converts often has an uncle, a cousin or someone in their family who has converted.”

“Islam has a very strong social justice message that many African-American converts are attracted to.”

Other converts have chosen to attend mosques that serve primarily immigrant and non-convert communities, including the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, the largest mosque in the region.

“The international component of Muslims in Pittsburgh is unmatched,” said Ms. Webb. Many larger cities have Muslim communities large enough for particular ethnic groups to form their own mosques, Ms. Webb said, but Pittsburgh is just small enough that mosques like ICP draw people from a wide spectrum of nationalities. And because Islam is one of the largest and most diverse religions in the world, integration has proven both rewarding and confusing for new converts.

“Because there are so many different cultures in Islam, there are so many beautiful rituals that come out of them, you have to be confident enough to ask the imam if it’s something you really have to do. It takes time to navigate through all the different cultures. … A convert needs to understand what it means to be involved with an international community of believers,” Ms. Webb said. “You have to have an anthropological heart.”

Converts have strived not just to integrate with native-born Muslims, but also to gain acceptance from friends, family and strangers.

“I noticed when I became Muslim, my friends started a kind of distancing themselves from me,” Ms. Snow said. “I was sad and figured if they were uncomfortable with that, they didn’t really know me. When I put on the head scarf to show my devotion, other people revealed their true selves.

“When 9/11 happened, it was scary for a little while. People were reacting explosively. One time when I was driving two guys pulled over next to me and made an exploding sound in my window. I had to modify my dress so that I just wore a hoodie and it was not obvious that I was a Muslim woman on the road,” she said.

“I went into an interview with one employer who at the end said, ‘Will you wear that thing on your head every day?’ But honestly, I do not want to work for those kinds of people. I was glad I had my scarf on. He obviously was not judging me on my ability,” she said.

But asked whether the events of 9/11 and the prejudices of others affected their devotion, converts said emphatically that they did not. “I did not see the geopolitical concern in any way having to do with my faith. It’s disturbing to all Muslims I know to hear of the acts done in the name of Islam,” Ms. Webb said.

“I haven’t found anything to waver my faith once I realized what Islam had,” Ms. Snow said. “It’s not that I’m not learning about what other people believe, but I’ve never found anything stronger.”

“There is plenty of times I don’t feel like an outstanding Muslim. I feel I probably don’t worship as much as I could, am not as patient as I could be,” she said. “Islam is perfect but Muslims are not.”

_________________________

Source: post-gazette.com.

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Without Islam My Life Would Have Been a Lie

By Muhammad Schieber

islam myWhen I was 23 years old I had just graduated from community college and I entered the University. During this period of my life, I was at a bit of a personal crossroads.

During my teenage years I had been a bit rebellious, experimenting with drinking and drugs, a typical American teenage rebellion. All this stopped during the summer of my 20th year when I nearly drowned in an alcohol fueled canoe trip.

However, simply staying away from life’s evils wasn’t providing the meaning and the understanding of life that I required. I had been raised Roman Catholic, but the Trinitarian doctrine and the concept of somebody needing to die for my sins never really made sense to me. I had dabbled in some new age stuff, some Buddhism and Hinduism as well.

As part of my Asian Studies minor, I enrolled in a course entitled “Islamic Fundamentalism.” The course was a graduate level seminar that was focused on whether or not the term “fundamentalist” was useful or applicable to Muslims. I had had a very general idea about Islam at that point.

After that course I was hooked, I switched my major to Comparative Religion and took every course I could about Islam. I pride myself on being a very critical thinker. I struggled over the next couple of years to find a way to discredit Islam or disprove it, but in the end I couldn’t. It became a truth I could no longer deny. For me to live any other way would be to live a lie. That was 19 and a half long years ago, Alhamdulillah.

_________________________

 

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I Was Looking for a Better Life and I Found Islam

sky_nature_purity

I was looking for something better for me and for my kids

How did a daughter of a drug cartel find Islam? How was the beginning; how did she get started searching for a meaning in her life?

What did she find? How did Islam change her life? What have it made of her? How does she live now as a Muslim?

Here’s here story in her own words…

Where did your journey to Islam begin?

My journey to Islam started when a couple of friends of mine wanted to take me to mosque. I was hanging up with Muslim friends, and Alhamdulillah I met I sister who is very dear and near to me. It was here who took me to the masjid.

But me wanting to go to the masjid came from looking for something better for my kids, because my life was very disorganized. I came from a household where my mother was a drug addict, and my father was in the Colombian cartel. He got thirty years in jail. My mother died from a heroin overdose.

So, my lifestyle was similar to them as I was going down that path. I didn’t want to leave my kids the way my mother left us. So the more I reflected on that the more it pushed me to look for something different. One of Muslim friends told me then that being Muslim is about believing in One God, and that was appeasing to me; worshipping only One God, there’s no statues. And I got curious. That’s how it started.

How did your family react to your change?

My family didn’t react in a positive way to me being Muslim. It was me saying La ilaha illa Allah (There’s no god but Allah) that bothered them. Because they are catholic to the sense that …

Watch the new Muslim sister answer these questions presenting her amazing journey into Islam:

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Conversion Stories New Muslims

Why Do So Many US Latinos Choose Islam?

By Tim Padgett

Latino Muslims

In religious terms, Latinos, like Gonzalez, say Islam provides a simpler, more direct form of worship than Catholicism does.

Just as the U.S. Latino population is on the rise, Hispanics are now the nation’s largest minority, so is the number of Latino Muslims. And it’s not just a result of Arab Latin Americans emigrating to the United States.

According to organizations like WhyIslam.org, Latinos are one of the fastest growing segments of the Muslim community. About six percent of U.S. Muslims are now Latino, and as many as a fifth of new converts to Islam nationwide are Latino.

The American Muslim Association of North America (A.M.A.N.A.), based in North Miami, says heavily Hispanic South Florida in particular is home to a rising number of Latino Muslims.

Not that conversion to Islam is easy in Latino society, as Marina Gonzalez knows. A Nicaraguan-American nurse in Miami, Gonzalez converted five years ago and wears the hijab, the Muslim women’s head garb. At first her family stopped talking to her.

“They (were) calling me Talibana,” Gonzalez recalls. “My mother, she didn’t like to go (out) with me because I wear the hijab.”

But now her mother “understands. When I go to my parents’ house they turn off the TV when I have to pray. I’m so happy.”

Najib Sowma’s first name was Dario before he converted six years ago. Today he’s a leading member of the Al-Ihsaan mosque in South Miami-Dade. But his Cuban mother was initially shocked.

“Now her views have changed,” says Sowma.

“Prior to me being Muslim to who I am now, she sees a big difference in my character.”

Spain’s Islam

If it’s a surprise that many Latinos are moving from a predominantly Roman Catholic culture to an originally Arab faith, perhaps it shouldn’t be. For one thing, like African-Americans in the 1960s, Latinos are discovering their own historical and cultural ties to Islam and the Arab world. And that starts with what most defines Latinos: Spanish.

“Our language is nurtured by more than 4,000 words that come from Arabic,” says Wilfredo Ruiz, a Puerto Rican-born Muslim who converted a decade ago and is a lawyer for the South Florida chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.

“Every word in Spanish that starts with ‘al,’ for example, like alcalde, alcantarilla, almohada.”

That’s because Arab Muslims ruled Spain for some 800 years during the Middle Ages, and made the Iberian Peninsula one of the most advanced civilizations of its time. A millennium later, Ruiz says that past is an inescapable part of the Hispanic DNA.

“What most Latinos who have embraced Islam find most amazing is their cultural affinity to the Muslim culture,” says Ruiz.

“It’s like rediscovering your past. That area of our past has been hidden from us.”

Ruiz points out that both Latinos and Arabs highly value the extended family and traditions like offering hospitality to strangers. In religious terms, Latinos, like Gonzalez, say Islam provides a simpler, more direct form of worship than Catholicism does. They also feel more structure than they see in the evangelical churches so many Latinos join today.

“The connection I have with God now is better than before,” says Gonzalez.

Yet many take comfort in the overlap between Catholicism and Islam. Muslims, for example, venerate the Virgin Mary as well as Jesus, at least as a prophet.

“At the beginning when I was reading the Qur’an I said, “Oh, (Muslims) believe in the hereafter, in angels,’” says Liliana Parodi, a Peruvian-American surgical technician in Miami who converted 24 years ago.

“You know, it’s not so much difference.”

Women Converts

More Latina women convert to Islam than Latino men do. Islam is admittedly questioned for its segregation of women. But Latinas like Parodi say it’s hypocritical for a male-dominated Catholic Church – which forbids women priests, birth control and divorce – and an ultra-macho Latino society, whose Spanish-language television networks still portray women as spitfire sexpots, to criticize their new faith in that regard.

“I tell them, ‘Look at yourself,’” says Parodi. “The sad part is (when they) see women as objects.”

A decade ago, the nation’s image of a Latino Muslim was unfortunately Jose Padilla, the so-called “Dirty Bomber” who was convicted for aiding terrorists. But for Ruiz, who was also a Navy chaplain, much has changed since then, and Latinos are less fearful now of converting.

“They soon come to learn that (Muslims) abhor violence,” Ruiz says.

“We have the same aspirations for social justice as a Christian or a Jew does.”

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Source: wlrn.org

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