My name is Nylka Vargas, and I live in New Jersey. My parents are from Peru and Ecuador. I converted to Islam when I was 20 years old. There are multiple reasons why I converted, the first of which was the salat (prayer). I saw some classmates at school perform the salat in public and I was immediately drawn to its peaceful and disciplined nature.
When I was young, I was hesitant about following certain practices of Christianity, in particular, the belief in salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. It just did not make sense to me. Once I learned about Islam, I felt a deep curiosity and asked many, many questions. My prayers to God to guide me in filling the spiritual void I felt were being answered. After reading some introductory material and various passages of the Quran, I was convinced. In just a few months time, I declared my testimony of faith.
My family slowly accepted my conversion. They came to understood that the decision was mine to make and that the change was a positive one. It is so important to be a good example — true representatives of Islam in our speech, attitudes, and behavior. Alhamdullilah (all praise is to God) for the guidance. I can never be a servant thankful enough for the gift of hidaya (guidance) that lighted my path right when I needed it.
In my journey since, I have found many supportive Muslims and met others with similar stories. At the North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC) in Union City I found a proactive community of Muslims. The open-door policy and programs there facilitated my learning about Islam. I then used my own experience in learning and growing as a Muslim to give back by way of helping others. I met Sister Khadijah Rivera, may Allah shower upon her His Mercy and fill her grave with noor (light), who invited me to join P.I.E.D.A.D (Propagación Islámica para la Educación de Devoción a Alá el Divino), a women’s dawah (outreach) organization. Sr. Khadijah, a great community activist, passed away in 2009 during the blessed days of the month of Dhul Hijjah.
However, Piedad lives on. Sr. Khadijah was a co-founder of this organization that started in the late 1980s as a vehicle to give dawah to Latino Muslims. Later it would expand to include other services. A little while before she passed away, we talked a lot about the direction of Piedad and I am glad to share this story, as it is an honor to continue the legacy of this wonderful organization that was built with little resources more than sincerity. The acronym of the organization, P.I.E.D.A.D., spells out the Spanish word “piedad” which means piety. It reminds us always to strive for piety, God-consciousness, and sincerity in performing charitable acts.
Alhamdullilah, this year was marked by a number of exciting projects: Informational Dawah Tables, Hijab (headcovering) Workshop, Co-Sponsorship of Ladies Spa Day, Purple Hijab Day, Local Eid Toy Drive with Baitul Salaam Network, our new Stay-fit and Healthy Initiative, the NJ Walk/Jog Chapter of Nadoona, and continued Latino Muslim collaboration with the Latino American Dawah Organization (LADO) (www.latinodawah.com).
We’ve also helped many newly converted sisters with the very basics of Islam such as learning how to properly pray. Insha’Allah (God willing), we plan to develop our women’s network, the Latino dawah focused projects, and be at the forefront of community services —all with a heartfelt vision of success for our Muslim ummah (community). May Allah accept our efforts. Ameen.