While a university student, I became overwhelmingly interested in exploring all religions. One of the reasons was that I began to read the Bible. Unfortunately, each time I read the Bible, I found matters that contradicted one another or just didn’t make sense, until I reached the point where I no longer believed in any religion and thought to myself, “I will continue to worship God in my own way.” That lasted for two years. Then everything changed when I found a website about Islam and saw a “Dialogue between a Christian and a Muslim.”
It was the first time I had heard the words “Muslim,”“Islam,” and “Quran.” The first thing I wanted to do was find a Quran so that I could study it completely, and alhamdulillah (all praise is due to Allah), when I had it in my hands, not even three days had passed before I was convinced that I wanted to state the testimony of faith. When I read the Quran, I immediately knew that it was a book that could not have been written by a human being, since I could feel that Allah knew everything about humanity through the statements that spoke directly to all of us. I had no doubt that this was the Last Message, like Prophet Muhammad had said, peace be upon him, and that he was the final one of the series of prophets and messengers sent by Allah to mankind.
Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He, blessed me by giving me the opportunity to go study in Medina, Saudi Arabia, after my mother and my brothers accepted Islam three months after me. I stayed there for eight years and I studied Islamic Law, or Shariah. Those were the best years of my life, and even better when my wife came to live with me and our son, Ismael, was born.
I returned to Mexico three years ago and there is much to be done as far as dawah is concerned, but Allah, the Majestic, has blessed us with a good group of brothers and sisters who are willing to work for His Cause, eager to sacrifice from our wealth and our time to propagate this beautiful Message through classes, conferences, gatherings, and other efforts. I feel that we are being successful in our endeavors, alhamdulillah.
The History of Islam in Mexico
Islam is relatively new in Mexico because, contrary to other countries in the Americas where mass migrations from Islamic countries have been welcomed, in this country there are many obstacles in place that restrict this from happening. People of different cultures are viewed as a threat to the traditional way of life in Mexico.
In addition, the Catholic religion has always played an important role in Mexico, on both a political and social level. One of three countries in the world with the greatest number of Catholics, there are a many churches in Mexico. Given the pervasive and strict adherence to the Catholic tradition, immigrants lose their language, culture, and religion. Once they marry non-Muslims and send their children to schools that provide a Catholic education, Islam gradually is abandoned in the home for good. There are stories of Muslim families whose grandchildren became priests or nuns.
At the end of the 1970s, immigration policies became more flexible, allowing the influx of foreigners, but very little is known about how many of the newcomers were Muslims and whether or not they maintained the practice of their religion. With the introduction of diplomatic representation from Islamic countries, the perception of Muslims and local Islamic communities in Mexico became more tolerant. As early as the mid 80s, one of the embassies began to host Friday prayers. The construction of the first mosque in Mexico began during this time, founded by the Shia community in the city of Torreon.
Dawah in Mexico
With regard to the initiation of dawah (propagation) in Mexico, Omar Weston has played a vital role. He started one of the very first Islamic web pages in Spanish, founded an Islamic Center in the capital, and currently directs a center outside the city of Morelos. Also noteworthy are the Muslims of Chiapas and the diverse groups that exist among them; they are, unfortunately, divided by sectarian problems. In Mexico there are approximately 5000 Muslims and five to ten mosques at the most. The majority of immigrants come with a long-term goal of establishing a business and eventually returning to their home countries. They are not interested in establishing an Islamic school or a mosque so that their children remain devoted to the religion. They think, “For what? Soon I’ll be going back to where I came from.”
Given that mindset, there is no cemetery for Muslims or a well-organized mosque to offer necessary education and services to the people. There are few educated Muslims who can properly teach the religion and at the present time, I am the only individual in Mexico who holds a degree in Islamic Studies (and I consider myself only a student of the religion). Yet, more and more individuals come to us every day, wanting to find out about Islam, or have already made a decision to embrace Islam.
Alhamdulillah, there is great opportunity for dawah at the universities, and local fairs and events where the beauty of Islam can be introduced to Mexicans. We can provide them with a restored hope of returning to Allah through surrender and peace.