Hispanic Muslim Legacy
by Khadijah Rivera
means to me.
To be qualified is to know GOD?
I was raised as a Roman Catholic from a very strict and practicing Hispanic
family. To even think of leaving the aristocratic Catholics was considered a
sin. I had been raised by nuns in Private schools. They taught me that one did
not have the luxury of questioning the Bible or even the Catechism that was
engraved in our memory banks as children. I once had the audacity to ask my
teacher why we did not study the Bible her answer was a blunt: "You might
misinterpret it” As an adult I once asked the very same question of priest and
once again I received a similar response. Another words, they had led me to
believe that only qualified officials of the church could not only teach but
also understand "God's Word". How sad I thought and soon after I began to search
for an answer.
The strongest component of Catholicism was the belief in the Trinity. It
believed that there were three Gods of equal weight in the heavens, and that
upon birth we inherited a Mortal sin. So, right from the start we were sinners
and needed repentance or a sacrament to clear away this sin. As a parent it was
hard not to question if the smile of innocence behind an infant could hide a
deadly sin. What if the infant died before performing the Catholic rite of
Baptism? Did that mean he/ she would go to hell? And if Jesus Christ had not
died in the cross for the sins of Man did that mean that we would all have Fire
as our ultimate destiny? But even as complex as they made religion to be
Reverting to Islam would be complicated by my childhood training that Jesus
Christ was my savior and salvation. To pray to anyone but him would be
blasphemy. I therefore studied several religions when I left my church and its
rigid teachings. But they were all Christian and not much different from the
original one. Of course they all believed that the papal aristocracy was
nonsense and I praised them for that. But they could not justify Jesus Christ in
a sensible nor logical manner. Point in fact ask three Christians of different
denominations to explain the Trinity or better yet, ask them if Jesus is the son
of GOD? Ask them what version of the Bible do they read and you will also find
astonishing variations. I actually turned away from religion completely for many
years and became a leftist. I left the religious dogma and found a replacement.
A replacement to religious dogma?
In my college years I opened up to a radical way of saving the world. I believed
that if we could promote change in the political realm, then we could bring
equality and economics that would ultimately change and save the physical world.
I was an American activist going from marches to study groups of Dialectical
Materialism, Maoism and Socialism. All this journey proved was that I was still
empty for it left a gap in my very existence. I had one thing in common with the
Christians and one thing opposite the ones I was attempting to emulate. :" I
loved God!". I just needed a vehicle to surrender.
For years I watched closely the events in Iran and yet the student movement that
I was following could not afford me a way to make change in that country. I
joined student marches and met with like minded idealist. While we sat in brain
storm sessions planning our next poster spread in Manhattan, an old man sitting
on a rug in Paris dictated a revolution. He told the dictator Shah of Iran to
leave because he was coming back to Iran, and guess what, he left! I began to
study this man's political assessment , but the more I read about what he
proposed to resolve in Iran the more I understood the religion of Islam. At no
time was I looking for a new religion as I was a diehard Christian who was not
even practicing it. But this became a turning point in my life . I had to evolve
as a human, in order to evolve as a Muslim.
Surrender to GOD
Therefore on October 22,1983 I took my vows of submission as a Sunni Muslim with
sincerity to ONE GOD. Allahu Akbar. I have been a practicing Muslimah for over
22 years and have never regretted it. In fact in the face of tyranny and
prejudice I have become stronger and more resolved to not only raise a family of
Muslims but alas to become a Daii and spread the good word among Hispanics.
After the tragedy of 9-11 many Muslimahs removed their veils for fear of
assaults. I was destined to die a Muslimah if need be, for my only defense was
faith! Al Hamdulilah Neither did I remove the veil nor hide . I stood up and
went on live Television to speak to Hispanic on Telemundo and the noted
Christina Show from Miami. I had become modest, but resonant Muslimah. Rather
than roll over I made uproar about the injustices done to Muslims.
The faith of Islam has brought me strength in the face of adversity and inner
peace which I never had. It was not difficult for my extended family to accept
my new found faith. But for my immediate family it was very difficult. I lost
all my non Muslim friends that I had grown up with, but found an extended family
in Islam. I no longer pray to a saint in order to request intervention with
Jesus Christ, son of God!. I now understand that if I follow the true teachings
of all the prophets and the Ten Commandments that there can only be ONE GOD.
"Thou shalt not bear false Gods before me." Therefore, my destiny with Islam is
fulfilled. I worship Allah swt directly , as it should be.
by Khadijah rivera