Back in 2000 when I accepted Islam, I used to think that I was the only Muslim Latina in the world! I learned about Islam through an Egyptian family and met Muslims from other countries like Palestine and Pakistan, and even came across some American Muslims. However, it wasn’t until almost two years later that I met a handful of others like myself, Latin-American converts living in the US. When I finally visited Puerto Rico, where I was born and lived for the first eight years of my life, as a Muslim, I was surprised to learn that there were about nine mosques on the tiny island – which is smaller than Rhode Island – and thousands of Muslims. Although the majority of Muslims living in Puerto Rico are Arab immigrants, there is also an ever-growing number of converts.
In Islam deeds are judged by their intentions, hence the aim of righteous actions should be pleasing God in order to obtain Paradise in the Hereafter. If a person’s objective is to gain fame or fortune or to satisfy his ego, then he will be left with what he intended and his rewards will only go as far as this life
Now with a greater sense of determination, I continued my search for more Latino Muslims, so we could share our experiences, our struggles with non-Muslim family members, our quest for knowledge, our joys of finding Islam, and our frustration of being misunderstood by both our blood relatives and brothers and sisters in faith. As time went on, I met more and more Latino Muslims and we began trying to form an Islamic identity true to the legacy which our Muslim ancestors in Spain left behind centuries ago. This issue of The Message International is a tribute to that legacy and an appeal for our new brothers and sisters to leave behind a legacy of their own.
But what is a legacy? Celebrities, sports icons, thinkers, or political figures of the past are remembered for some contribution they have made to their respective field or to society as a whole. A doctor or scientist may be remembered for discovering a beneficial drug, a king may be honored for having been a powerful ruler, a musician revered for their impact on popular culture, a baseball player idolized for the number of home runs he batted during his career; whatever the case may be, a legacy is built upon some type of influence. In Islam, a person is honored because of his or her piety and good actions, and their good deeds are immortalized in the minds of the people due to their contributions to society and to Islamic history. This is the legacy of a Muslim.
By the same token, Muslims must remember to strive in the Cause of Allah only for the sake of pleasing Him and not to please or impress people, or even with the intention of leaving a legacy of fame. A legacy should be the consequence of one’s sincere, heartfelt conviction and actions, not the result of striving for it. The point here is that the focus should not be on the appearance of one’s striving or its outcome. The focus must be on purifying our intentions and deepening our eman. Faithful and righteous action emerges naturally out of that. There is a hadith in Sahih Bukhari about a man who fought in a battle alongside the Muslims, who, although the people praised his bravery, the Prophet said he was destined for the Hellfire. The companions were surprised because they had witnessed his seemingly flawless courage, yet news reached them that after he was wounded, the man had killed himself, confirming the prediction. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “A man may seem to the people as if he were practicing the deeds of the people of Paradise while in fact he is from the people of the Hellfire; another may seem to the people as if he were practicing the deeds of the people of Hellfire, while in fact he is from the people of Paradise.”
In Islam deeds are judged by their intentions, hence the aim of righteous actions should be pleasing God in order to obtain Paradise in the Hereafter. If a person’s objective is to gain fame or fortune or to satisfy his ego, then he will be left with what he intended and his rewards will only go as far as this life. Although as Muslims we hope to leave behind a legacy of goodness on this earth as a result of our piety, the goal is not to be deceived into focusing on what we are building in this world, but rather what we are investing for the Hereafter.
We pray that Allah accepts our good deeds and forgives our sins and pardons our mistakes, and that He admits us to Paradise so that we may be reunited with the pious. Amen.