What legacy do I leave

Recently, I pared the Islamic section of an old cemetery.  My father is there. It is a beautiful peaceful place with hundreds maybe thousands of Muslim tombstones. Some simple, others ornate yet each one has a quick synopsis of a life. They all have a few Qura’n versus, some have a crescent and star, and others display “Please pray fatiha.”  As I made my rounds as close to death as we may get while still alive, I wondered how can I be proud of my sins and many shortcomings after being guided.  I will take advice of Islam and hide them and pray as my Lord will slightly cover them up here as he will do it again at judgement time.

How can I squeeze in what stood out in this Islamic life? Should I put the books I’ve read, the friendships, the marriages, some good some failed, the heartbreaks, the failures, or accomplishments. Student of history, defender of Latino heritage, and amateur musician. What in a few lines will sum up what I want future people to pass by and say that’s great well for right now I am a draft open to change.  I came to Islam in my youth seeking spiritual enlightenment and fuller social justice and racial ethnic equality.  I embraced Sunnism and never swerved from it although the times were wicked and misguided with countless cults. I never left my Sunni path realizing that true Sunnism included mainline Sufism.  I knew that the great masters of the inner path with at their lead Abdul-Qadir Jilani and all of the other Sunni leaders true.

I tried to protect and help Muslims and all decent people. I know that I was a grave sinner but I knew even more that I have a greater Lord almighty who over looks and forgives again and again.  I wish I had organized my time here better if I could do it again I would have memorized the Quran. I would have spent more time in Mecca and Medina. I would have been more tolerant and kinder but tougher on myself less on others. Well as you see I already need seven or eight stones and the inscriptions are very expensive they charge by the letter.  In a nutshell I would say that at the end of the day, I believed in all of this stuff hereafter, resurrection, Heaven, and Hell. I firmly believed the Lord of everything in the revealed book on creation and angels, the devil and that the ancient teachings of the old and new testaments and their confirmation in the Quran are the deepest truths of my life that it takes a lifetime to go through all of this. Fads come and go. Ideologies and cults are a dime a dozen but our religious foundation is the deepest part of us. Yes, I do believe all this and now just got to hold on and get ready to make this same cemetery my home until end of the world.

A final thought I want on my stone is that a former ghetto dweller had the audacity to think yes I knew more and was more correct than all the big shot philosophers and silly scholars who couldn’t put this story together, who failed to recognize the prophet hood of Muhammad and truth of the Quran that for all their brilliance they were trapped in word games and chasing after cheap thrills and whatever that it was God who put this truth into our confused heads and do.  We should treasure it and gratefully hold on each day.  Last note to our Muslim crowds today beware of the fame seekers, the glory hunters, the poster crowd. Although it really is to myself maybe I’m a little jealous today everyone is celebrating the work of the genius Imam Alghazali rightfully so. We had a terrible translation of the same book 40 years ago as kids. We would try to figure out what the great imam was getting at but one of the main trusts of his work was to avoid fame and glory, that the worst thing you can do is to profit by religion for worldly purposes.  We figured that out from our beat up cheap copies. Ironically Imam Ghazali taught Sufi Islam to get away from the world.  Today his teachings are being used for the opposite purpose.  Well as I said I’m preaching for myself, and it looks like I’ve filled a couple of full sections of the cemetery with my tombstones. Final note, most of my family – two sisters, mother, and father – all accepted Islam from the worst example possible, me which proves the greatness of God almighty.  Oh don’t forget the next generation is waiting for you to come and go…

By Yahya Figueroa

Alternative Views

By Yahya Figueroa

Strangely our brothers and sisters following the Salafi model love photos and publicity although many of the same minhaj believe photos to be haram, such as pictures of women with exposed faces.  I think it speaks to our confusion that these same ladies embrace modest dressing yet their behavior desires to be heard and mixed gender company does not seem to fit into their overall very strict interpretation.

Let  us frankly state the obvious. We are in America. Our history, cultural background and approach to life are very different than the model that is being selectively chosen for us.

I am uncomfortable with I feel to be a list for fame and recognition among the stars in this current movement.

Perhaps it is generational.

There is a push toward conversion fatwa but what happens when these people enter Islam?

Where is basic support, encouragement, and follow up? To the best of my knowledge there is none. It truly is as a current political phrase had it – all talk no action.

What of Muslim elderly or prisoners or poor homeless etc? No plan, no care.

So again I am challenging my current Muslim activists. Less fame and glory. More care for the weak and needy among our people and people in general regardless of caste color or creed.

Back on the Driver’s Seat

By Yahya Figueroa

Intellectual fads and cultural truism are very hard to detect. These false trends often have a grain of truth but the final product is distorted truths and fabulous falsehoods. The larger society has in so many ways lost its mind morally and intellectually.

Our minority groups are usually in the rear but here they have seemingly joined full scale adopting the lies of our time.

What happened to the most basic shared truths of the Bible and Quran? Ideas of monotheism against  paganism, ancient and modern, the belief in revealed truths such as the sanctity of life and final judgement with accountability for our deeds or the revealed truth of the same origin of all of the human race.

The condemnation of theft cheating immorality and yes shared notions of family marriage and a basic sense of normal, it seems these most simple basic beliefs are outdated.

Too often when we approach religion we wonder into hair splitting and debates of the most arcane types as the world seems to implode around us.

We watch helplessly as our families dissolve our communities and are up in arms against each other.

I challenge myself today by asking what is it that is so important in what I believe. How does it make a difference for me and others? Does my life have a mission, a core value that is worth calling to or am I just making a lot of noise?

Some of us have now spent an entire life within western Islam. We lived from humble beginnings, sweet innocent days of spiritual searching with revolutionary desire to change the worst parts of our society then we watched in horror as the worst aspects of the third world were brought here to our land.

Amazingly, we have allowed the late comers to reduce us to silence. Yes, people who came here to escape the horror of their failed lands are now the captains of this ship with the same foolish notions and collapsed plans.

Let us reclaim those days of joyous Islamic spirituality and yes, confront the self-appointed leaders who fail to notice their legacy of failure.

Spiritual searching and social activism are a powerful combination whose time has come again.

 

Alianza Islamica – Oasis in El Barrio

By Jorge “Fabel” Pabon aka Brother Shukriy

As salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu,

Alianza Islamica helped form the Muslim I am today. After embracing Islam in August of 1989, I began to mosque hop (going from one mosque to another) in an effort to find my rightful place in an Islamic community. My journey began with visits to Masjid Taqwa Wa Jihad in the Bronx, Masjid Malcolm Shabazz in Harlem, the Islamic Center on 72nd and on 96th street and the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem. I also visited several mosques in Brooklyn in search of a spiritual home base and family. I was a new shahada and was soaking in tons of information regarding the deen of Islam. I read many books, viewed a fair amount of videos and spoke to many Muslims in regards to the faith. I was gradually becoming more acquainted with my new spiritual undertaking. At this point, the majority of my influences were African-American Muslims. Transitioning from a somewhat reckless pre-Muslim aggressive lifestyle in the streets of NYC, I was finally on my way towards a path of peace and purpose.

Still in search of a spiritual home, I started to spend more time learning principles of Islam at the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood. The Imam at M.I.B., Al-Hajj Talib Abdur-Rashid, was facilitating several Islamic courses at the masjid. These courses helped me to understand certain concepts in Islam. I would attend the courses after I got out of work in the evenings. One particular day in 1992, I was done with work and decided to eat at a Dominican owned restaurant on 105th street and Lexington Ave. Once I was done with my dinner I started walking uptown on Lexington Ave. Two blocks into my walk, between 107th & 108th street, I saw a storefront with a sign that read ALIANZA ISLAMICA INC. I was absolutely amazed that I had never seen this place. I cased it from outside, looking through the storefront window. I couldn’t believe my eyes! There seemed to be Puerto Rican Muslims inside the center. At this point, I only knew Puerto Ricans who were part of the 5% Nation and members of Dr. York’s Ansaaru Allah Community, both of which I studied from prior to embracing Islam. Finally, I wanted to go inside and further investigate so I knocked on the door wearing my Universal Zulu Nation patches/colors and a Puerto Rican flag on the front of my jacket. I was warmly greeted and politely asked to enter. It seemed as if I walked into an oasis in the middle of El Barrio! I immediately felt a sense of commonality and belonging. I had no idea that Alianza Islamica existed and had been formulating since the 1970s. This was all new to me. After breaking bread with some of the brothers in English, Spanish & Spanglish, I felt I found my new Muslim family.

My visits to Alianza Islamica intensified as I started taking Islamic courses and getting involved with their social services and various aspects of their mission. The courses were very educational and helped me to understand my identity as a Nuyorican (New Yorker of Puerto Rican decent) Muslim. This was very important as I found that many reverts were becoming Arabized. They felt they had to adopt Arab culture and dress – confusing one culture (of many) with the religion hence losing their cultural identity. Alianza Islamica introduced me to the studies of the Moors in Spain (Andalusia). Immediately I began to connect our cultural dots and gained an understanding of our deeper Islamic inheritance while maintaining my Nuyorican identity. As a member of the Universal Zulu Nation, I was already involved in social justice and community activism. Alianza Islamica also served the community in many ways. It was a natural progression for me to help them in these efforts. I was pleased to see the multitude of services they provided for the community (for both Muslims and non-Muslims) including: Islamic studies, spiritual counseling, family counseling, GED programs, self-defense courses, sewing courses, HIV support and awareness, Puerto Rican studies, nutrition courses, survival courses, support for battered women, security services, neighborhood watch (taking a stance against the neighborhood drug dealers), Millati Islami services, administering shahadas, marriages, akikas, jenazahs, Eid celebrations, community events and the list goes on & on. Considering the limited space in the facilities, there was an unbelievable amount of activity going on. Alianza Islamica was a force to be reckoned with.

I quickly started to assume responsibilities within the ranks at Alianza Islamica. As an artist, I assisted with making signs, designs, banners, etc.  As a dancer and entertainer, I helped with some of the talent and certain activities at our Eid celebrations. I also began to video tape and document some of our activities. Eventually, I became a member of Alianza Islamica’s planning committee and ashura. We planned our weekly events which included fundraising operations, community activities, building strategies, etc. I was honored to serve in this capacity and did all I could to support our cause.

My wife and I were married at Alianza Islamica. Several of my close friends took their shahada (embraced Islam) there. It was a safe haven for us. The space was always vibrant and full of activity. Babies were born and brothers & sisters passed/transitioned. The cycles of life were in motion and revolved around our humble Islamic Center and Masjid. We were/are family in many regards. Although we don’t have a physical space at the moment, Alianza Islamica lives in each of the members that continue to hold our mission close to their hearts. We made history by becoming the first Spanish-Speaking Islamic Center and Mosque in Spanish Harlem. We continue to do so. May Allah (swt) guide and protect us throughout our journey and service to our communities.

I’d like to thank the leadership within Alianza Islamica for all they taught me. In particular, Hajj Yahya Figueroa Abdul-Latif, Muhammad Ibn Americo Mendez, Abdullahi Rodriguez, Rahim Ocasio, Amin Madera, Ibrahim Gonzalez, Shayk Ali Laraki and Sister Maryum. I pray that Allah is pleased with their efforts and helps us preserve our history for generations to come.

 

A Lifetime Of Reclaiming Our Islamic Heritage

By Yahya Abdul Latif Figueroa

Director, Alianza Islamica

Beginnings and starting points are always difficult to determine and become obscured in the pages of bygone days. How and when movements and ideas bloom is never easy to pinpoint.  Historical studies of the same period rarely agree on key issues. Nonetheless, the following lines hope to set the record straight on an important matter and provide an accurate picture regarding the spread of Islam among Latinos and the birth of the first circle that exclusively worked among Spanish speakers in the US.

The 1960s and 70s were decades of momentous turmoil and upheaval among minority communities in the US. It was the age of reclaiming lost identities, the assertion of ethnic pride, and the rediscovery of cultural roots. It was also a time of soul-searching and the discovery of new spiritual paths and religions. Small groups of minority American blacks and Latinos turned to Islam. These were the days of the Nation of Islam, the Moorish Science Temple, the Ahmadiyya, and the Ansarullah community, as well as the legion of American Muslims who embraced authentic Sunni Islam due to the influence of the late Malcolm X, rejecting Elijah Muhammad’s heretical claim to prophethood and asserting the belief in Muhammad (PBUH) as the seal of the Prophets.  Uniquely Sunni groups arose against this background giving rise to independent small communities working within their inner city neighborhoods. The most well-known were the Dar-ul-Islam Movement at Herkimer Place in Brooklyn and the Mosque of the Islamic Brotherhood (MIB) in Harlem.

In 1987, a small Latino group of Muslims formed Alianza Islamica and its nucleus of members gathered and set forth a plan to incorporate and open a mosque/cultural/dawah center. During the decade of the 90s, its heyday, it had become a well-oiled machine, eventually establishing La Mezquita del Barrio, the first one of its kind we were aware of.

Alianza was born in Spanish Harlem, the very heart of the Latino community in New York City. It was no coincidence that Alianza took root in the very center of one of the oldest and most iconic Latino communities in the US.  From the very start Alianza sought to combat the social conditions faced by our people with the dynamic spiritual teachings of Islam. Based in the center of Hispanic intellectual and cultural life, Alianza was forced to participate in a bold and fresh manner.  Not only did we dialogue with other faiths but we challenged the various ideologies and social movements of the time presenting an Islamic alternative.

It was a spiritual cultural center aiming to revive and rediscover the soulful treasures of Al Andalus.  In its most successful period we served approximately 100 families, many of them single disenfranchised young people. Hundreds of other transients were touched profoundly as well. We believed that we had a special approach to Islam and that the cultural glory of Andalusia was extremely relevant to the needs of our people.  Many of our most supportive participants were non-Latinos as our center provided refuge for all seeking help. Our neighborhoods suffered from much of the dysfunction of urban life, discrimination and lack of opportunity, most often the product of discriminatory policies. Thus Alianza had a rare mission to present Islamic teachings against this very troubled background.

We sought to bring a down to earth vision of Islam, certain that this message could alleviate the problems we faced.  We offered family counseling and community support. Different courses presented the basic Islamic sciences, Fiqh, Quran and Hadith and classics of spirituality, especially those of Al Andalus. Due to the community we served, many came with troubled pasts. Alianza sought to serve this population and aid in the recovery of broken souls and families.  Wholesome companionship, brother and sisterhood distinguished our efforts.  For many, conversion to Islam had brought trauma to their families and we sought to fill that gap. We celebrated the Islamic holidays offering communal meals and joyous occasions for those with no extended families.  Conversions to Islam occurred regularly, and community life pulsed with all its customary trappings: communal prayer, weddings, and celebrations of birth and the solemnity of death. In addition, Alianza reached out to the Harlem community and participated in community affairs with their non-Muslim neighbors.

Alianza Islamica continued to function until 2005, long after 9/11, and for various reasons the center came to a halt. Many of the members recall fondly those “golden days” of our activities and long to become active once again, seeking a fresh start.

Nonetheless, Alianza is delighted by IslaminSpanish’s Centro Islamico and embraces it as an extension of our humble beginning. We hope it enhances the basic message of Alianza, as a force for the unique spiritual culture of historical Andalus and skillfully avoid the excesses and failures of many Islamic movements of our time.  We, also, hope that it forges a truly unique movement to transmit the timeless guidance of Allah, the Most High, as embodied in the paragon of books, al Qur’an, and the Sunnah of His Prophet (PBUH) among Latinos. Let us boldly proclaim our timely vision based upon our glorious past and new opportunities that are ours here in the US.

Finally, Alianza would like to acknowledge the inspirational debt owed to the early American Sunni, primarily African-American communities of New York; the Dar ul Islam Movement and the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood, as well as the foundational influence of the DC-based Islamic Party of North America in our a special mission to the Hispanic community.

A Life in American Islam 

By Faqir Ibrahim (Teacher at Alianza Islamica)

Many of us have lived a lifetime in Islam in the United States.  We are completing our sixth decade –what a spiritual adventure it has been!  With all of the assaults upon the glorious nature of our faith, false maligning and sad misreading’s by fellow Muslims world-wide I would never be anywhere else and my prayer daily is that my faith be preserved and that I die and be resurrected as I lived as a Muslim, Sunni, Sufi-

Amin.

Islam is daily assaulted both by Islamophobia critics as well as deluded monsters calling themselves  Islamicts; ironically theses hating factions agree on their distorted vision of the Quran and Sharia and join hands in portraying the ugliest, cruelest distortions of our religion. But let me recall why myself and so many others have no doubt that our faith is true and enlightened, that Islam means civilization, tolerance compassion and liberation.  So to both factions of false media Islam let us assure them, you both live in a fantasy world removed from history and destined to failure.

The a historical media Islam inhabits a spot oblivious to the vicious colonial past , it denies its legacy of brutal racism first by religion and then equally violent scientific theories of white supremacy justifying the ravishing of the world.  Indeed much of the insane lashing out in the 3rd world today is the final stages of that 300 year history.  Islam has been perceived for the past few centuries as both the unity of God as well as the unity of the human race.  The Quran preaches that all human beings are from the same origin.  Its colors, tribes and languages are variations from our father Adam.  How simple to recall this shared message of The Bible and Quran yet how easily twisted into exploitive social system from which today the world shudders.  What must be stressed is that just as belief in Allah requires an act of faith, yes there are rational indications of divine maintenance of creation, none the less ultimately each person must decide whether  the call to believe in God is true or not.  No less is this the case regarding the unity of our human species.  Let us not forget that official science as well as University teachings was the ranking of mankind by race with whites on top and blacks at the lowest run g.  So it requires the strength of faith to adopt the Quran glorious teaching regarding our shared humanity.

Islam is the middle path between the extremes of Judaism and Christianity.  Perhaps the clearest example of the balanced stance of Islam was the question of Jesus.  Where the Jews on one hand out rightly rejected him and ultimately sought his condemnation and death, the Christians on the other hand went to the absurdity of declaring the Messiah to be the living God defying all of the monotheism of the bible and ancient Semitic teachings.  The middle stance of the Quran held in many of the most baffling issues of the human race.  So Jesus was a messenger in the long line of semetic prophets yet clearly not God or His son. Divorce and remarriage and countless other issues where the Quran corrected and guided to the sanest and most pervasive stance.  In each case of major issues we find that Islam miraculously took the middle path free of extremes.  Indeed Muslim history reveals that every sect of Islam was a revival of some ancient balanced position.   So for us in the west let us gladly embrace our Islamic lifetime based upon a vision of Islam that is not exclusively that of the East but rather one the Quran says is neither East nor West .

A few books related to the above article:

The mismeasure of man  Stephen Jay Gould   History of American Scientific racial theories

The King Incorporated  Neal Ascherson    A telling of some of the most brutal aspects colonialism

The Eternal Message of Muhammad, Abdul Al Rahman Azzam

“I was given a copy of the eternal message” Malcolm X   although first published in 1954 this book remains relevant and offers a broad view of Islam and modern history.

Pastor Pat Robertson

By Ibrahim A Aziz (Imam/Chaplain)) Retired

I am writing the following few lines in a spirit of reconciliation, religious understanding and good will.  The other evening I happened upon your CBN show and you once again presented your extremist views on Islam and attempted to malign my faith and falsely accuse Muslims in general, rather than the terrorists whom are despicable by all standards especially Islamic ones.  Oddly enough you praised Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Sisi and stated that President Elect Trump will take a much clearer stance than President Obama in helping Muslim Nations against extremists.  You failed to mention that President Sisi is a believing Muslim and is in the forefront of the battle against the criminal terrorists.  I am certain that President Sisi believes that his battle against the extremists is to defend both the honor of his Islamic faith as well as his country.  That he as former President Mubarak embraces the Christians of Egypt and envisioned a nation shared by all faiths based upon of the tolerance of Islam.   President Mubarak reached out to the world years before 9/11 warning of the coming storm of fury—sadly his clarion call fell on deaf ears. He had witnessed the assignation of Anwar Sadat and stressed that the same nefarious thugs would spread their terrorism around the world.  It was as he predicted the same gang whom masterminded the attack on the world trade towers and US pentagon.

You offered your mistaken position that Islam is not a religion of peace; rather you maliciously declared it a religion of war, stating that the Quran is the force behind the malignancy of the terrorists.   Strangely enough you espouse a version of terrorist Islam; you seem to also harbor with the terrorists the idea of a Christian crusade to crush Muslims.   With no knowledge of Arabic you inaccurately mistranslate Islam as submission which is only accurate if one intends submission to God and his Omnipotent will.  I am hard pressed to think that you can define Christianity as other than loving submission rather than demonic rebellion against the Lord of all Being and His most basic commandments of decency.

Arabic shares the Semitic structure of Hebrew and as is universally known the greeting of Salamu Alikum means Peace be upon you and could hardly translate as submission be upon you.  Hebrew shares a similar greeting of Peace be upon you.

I am an American Muslim of now a half century; I proudly accept my faith and defend it against the current hostile and often hateful speech which is being irresponsibly spread around by people such as yourself who should know better.

Islam shares with all religions especially the Monotheisms a glorious history and yet being practiced by fallible humans has some incidents which may not always be blameless.

Let me remind you in I hope a friendly manner that the last 3 centuries have been dominated by Europe and its culture inspired by its Christian heritage.  I will not dishonor the Churches and their teachings which Islam has always defended although of course having a different position on many of the fundamentals of current Biblical faith.

The late Father Massigon pointed out that Islam in his view, which played a large part in Vatican 2, was much closer to  Christianity than Judaism which rejected Jesus Christ and his Mother and maligned them both whereas the Quran and Muslims believe and revere  both of them.  Indeed as you must know the Virgin Mary is the only female to have an entire chapter of the Quran dedicated to her story.   To believe in Jesus Christ is as mandatory for Muslim faith as is belief in the Prophet Muhammad.  Indeed Islam shares with you the belief in the Basic Bible tales of Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Jonah, Abraham, Joseph, John the Baptist, Solomon and King David.  Of course the Quran stresses life after death and final judgement.  The basic commandments are shared by all of us and that is why the great medieval thinkers Thomas Aquinas and Rabbi Maimonides philosophically lived in a world of Islamic Arabic thoughts and ideas.  Most historians hold that the benefits of modern science are indebted to Arabic scholarship that was passed on to Europe.  The world of Islam is so closely woven to the Bible that even until today pictures of life in the time of Jesus are taken of current Palestinian Bedouins.

I feel in good faith I should not continue to allow reckless, false denigration of the noble religion of Islam or the Glorious character of the Prophet Muhammad and his monumental accomplishments for Islam and the entire world.

I embarrassingly remind you that many of the atrocities of the past few centuries have come out of Christian lands –although I know that the religion of Jesus Christ has no accountability for these crimes.  Perhaps you have forgotten:

The inquisition against both Muslims and Jews, torture, execution and finally expulsion from all of Spain.

The transatlantic slave trade and the horror of centuries of bondage and its lingering impact.  The assault upon Africa was especially brutal due to perception of blacks as the least human of all races furthest removed from whites.  This would be shared both by Christians based upon their interpretation of the Bible, and scientific racists using pseudo-science…

The colonization and destruction of indigenous cultures worldwide, China, India, Middle East, Africa and South America.  Include in this the brutal assault upon the American Natives.

Many scholars hold that the hopeless situation of worldwide inequity between the first and developing worlds was put in place by these forces and have left a perpetual heritage of poverty and underdevelopment.

The two world wars both Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin were baptized Christians.

The Holocaust and the rise and spread of philosophical racism.

The acceptance of doctrines of “scientific” racism leading to US segregation and South African Apartheid.

The unleashing of philosophical atheism inspired by European thinkers from Christian background, Darwinism, Communism, Nazism and Atheistic Secular Humanism.

Development of modes of production that severely create permanent underclasses and widened the gap between rich and poor.  These same machines of development have unleashed ecological forces that threaten the environment.  Much of this came about by the exploitation of colonialism.

The widespread adoption of immorality as valid life styles, sexual cohabitation free of matrimony or marriage redefined in ways unimaginable to traditional cultures worldwide.

The whole sale validation of alcoholism and drug addiction.  The exploitative practice of usury which has enslaved many of the world’s poorest.

The spread of pornographic culture and its normalization and adoption of immoral codes of dress and behavior as a part of normal life.

Finally the spread of doctrines and lifestyles that seek to destroy the very the fiber of mankind as we know him/her throughout all of human history.

I am aware of many of the blessings to all of us that have also came  in these centuries—I think that they are based upon our shared Judeo-Christian-Islamic heritage.  All three of us benefited from the cultural genius of the Greeks and Romans.

So Pastor, I humbly request that you cease your propaganda war against Islam and Muslims, join in with President Sisi and the majority of Muslim nations and simple Muslims against the terrorists and see them as an aberration rather than a normal aspect of Islam.   Please cease the virulent attacks upon Islam that seek to flame the fires of mass hate and may lead some to violence.

Alianza Islamica and Andalusia, part 3

By Yahya Abdul-Latif Figueroa

Director, Alianza Islamica

In these next few lines I want to boldly assert that Alianza was truly unique as a voice of Spanish Islam and that its vision and mission must be reclaimed and built again.  I want to stress that other groups today that are attempting to monopolize a Spanish Islamic message are simply copying the failed message of some Middle Eastern patterns and that these groups are cut off from the brilliance of an Islamic message that may make a true difference in the world of today.  Finally I want to recall members of our small community whom have left this world and have returned to their Lord.

To the best of our knowledge, Alianza was the first group of Spanish speakers to have built a small, distinct Muslim group in Harlem NY with the clear vision that they wanted to build upon the understanding of Islam over the long centuries of Muslims in Spain.  We learned as we lived together as a group and strove to bring the spiritual message of our heritage to shine light upon the often very troubled conditions of life here in the US.  That meant the many issues of poverty, disease family dysfunction and attempts to raise children in the difficult situation that we had inherited from our families whom as along with the many Afro-American members and neighbors, friends and brothers and sisters was our reality.  This was an Islam of survival and growth.

Today many of our “Muslim” groups are an elitist bunch whom lives among ideas, often not very good ones, yet compassion and service of others is not high on their deluded agendas.  Often they have brought from the failed Middle Eastern version a caste approach where the pampered university crowd is placed in authority for no great reason other than the privilege they have claimed and we have too often afforded them.   Alianza was then and will revive a message of social relevance alongside our proud Islamic spiritual understanding.   We will not adopt the various failures that can only bring more of the same and even worse.

Two examples of our experiment are worth noting. Each deserves a full biography. This is simply an introduction to their lives.  Both were active supports and leaders in the activities of our small beautiful community.

Amin Madera-He was a worshiper, simple, humble and a source of inner strength for those fortunate enough to have known him.  Amin was not sophisticated or learned yet he loved Islam and was convinced that Alianza was the very place that Allah Almighty had opened the doors to Islam for him.   There were many more sophisticated and better off places throughout the city of NY, yet nowhere was as appropriate to bring  brother-sisterhood to him and to offer a loving environment that met his spiritual and communal needs.   Amin battled with disease that he had contracted in his earlier life. Alianza provided him the brotherhood and friendship needed to carry his burden.  He passed away among these same friends whom laid him to rest in Islamic fashion which was among his last great desires.   Cheerful, hopeful, trusting in the plan of our Glorious Lord he returned peacefully to his final home.

The second person from our circle I must mention was Sharif Abdul Karim, scholar and intellectual master of the old Arabic sciences and yet at home in the world of current intellectual pursuit.   Sharif was university trained and had done graduate studies at a prominent NY institution.  He was one of many African-American member supporters of our community and for years shared his great learning with us in many of the standard fields, Tafser, hadith, fiqh and his favorite Spiritual culture.  A giant in the world of ideas his brilliance was matched by his humility and lack of desire for fame and publicity-this is one of the most glaring shortcomings of many of the current leaders whom sell religion and lust  after notoriety.  Sharif had stayed at the Azhar university for a number of years and had also spent years in Mecca studying and collecting classical Arabic books.  It is no exaggeration to state that at his death he had one of the largest Arabic libraries in the country.  Sharif had mastered bringing difficult ideas and treasures of the old books to a level that the simplest soul could benefit from.

Sharif and Amin are no longer here but their legacy of profound brotherhood and spiritual greatness remain guides for us in our commitment to revive the message of Alianza Islamica of Harlem NY.

Reclaiming our Heritage, part 2

By Yahya Abdul-Latif Figueroa

Director, Alianza Islamica

Reclaiming heritage lends itself to the false impression of dwelling on the past. The next few lines are about the future flowing from the past. Hopefully a reopening to a humble beginning that accomplished a number of great starts yet confronted many challenges and now must map a way forward that can build on that past and hopefully sidestep the errors and continue to shed new light and hope for our future. Part one of this article recalled a number of accomplishments and sought to, briefly establish the development of Alianza, and mentioned some challenges that ultimately led to hurdles that could not be overcome at that time.

We recalled the tensions that confronted Muslims worldwide leading ultimately to the horror of 9/11, a philosophy of despair overwhelmed with hopelessness and a vision of mass suicide. Muslims in modern times have sought ways to modernize while remaining faithful to their culture. Alianza faced the same dilemma with the added complexity of being new Muslims in the very center of the most complex modern city in the world.

From the very beginning Alianza faced the concern of some Muslims that they had segregated themselves from the larger Muslim community. We responded in two ways:

That the essential message of the Quran stresses the universal brotherhood of all people. Racism which holds that one race is superior to others is a uniquely modern European invention which has spread havoc worldwide.

Racist ideology is as opposed to Islam as is paganism or polytheism. Indeed we believe that racism is related to these false concepts of the deity. On the other hand, there is a healthy recognition of the unique culture of Andalusia and we believe it can navigate Muslims not only in the US but indeed worldwide as it did for centuries.

Recall that from our long lost homeland came the leadership of Ibn Hazm, Ibn Rushd and Ibn Arabi. Ours was a land of grand jurists, Quran masters, philosophers and perhaps the greatest Sufi masters of all time. Leave for the time the flight of Ibn Arabi and turn to the very sober orthodox message of Ibn Abbad of Ronda and you glimpse the greatness of our past which must not be silenced by the ignorance and fanatics of our post-colonial setting. Andalusia is a heritage we must grasp with courage and leave the crippled version of Islam that has reduced the Muslim world to shambles in so many places. We learn that much of the destruction of Andalusia came about through racial and ethnic conflict. The beauty of old Spain did not pay full attention to peasants and the poor and in time financial instability eroded the fabric of life. These are dangers that we face as well today. We face the destruction of the basics of faith that the entire Andalusian world shared – firm faith in monotheism, prophethood, life after death and basic morality. These are no longer held as certainties.

A few forward looking suggestions. An all-out effort to explore the rich treasures of Andalusian spirituality and thought. This will require experts in all of the traditional braches of Andalusian learning—not least the Arabic treasures which number among the vastest in Arabic writings. A commitment to forge a political-cultural vision for our people based on past wisdom yet fully able to engage and challenge the many false trends and philosophies among Muslims and others. Finally the ability to tackle the terrible social and economic instability which most of our people share with much of the third world.

An Andalusia of Heart and Soul, part 1

By Yahya Figueroa Abdul-Latif

Director, Alianza Islamica

What was Andalusia?  Islam has come full circle in the west today.  Daily we hear of various horrible events atrocities unfairly attributed to the noble Quran and Blessed Prophet (PBUH).  The insane terrorists and Islamophobic media and politicians share the same distorted propaganda against our faith.  A full range of bad –shocking and horrible images are paraded daily.  Yet against this background Islam still grows and its brilliance of faith continues to amazingly win people.  Just as in the origin of Islam a tiny obscure circle of people has grown into a formidable community throughout the west.  This faith nation is made of many ethnic and racial groups all of them haunted by the ugly specter of the radical madmen whom are destroying much of the Muslim homeland.

We Spanish speaking-cultural, Latino Muslims have also been thrown into this world wind and are with Allah’s grace expanding rapidly.

This is why we are confronted with a most burning issue, the reality of our direction and choice of our future.  Will we simply jump on the bandwagon of the current troubled Islamic model and poorly translate from one language and culture onto another? Or will we insist that our path is Andalusian, which is neither East nor West, but a spiritual reality?

In the first image a few of our brightest will simply go to the Muslim lands and  master the formal structure of prayers and religious formalities and  bring back with them the current ideals and aspirations of Arabia, Pakistan or wherever they may happen to go.

But what Alianza Islamica of Spanish Harlem has always sought to do was to truly identify and revive the spirit of Old Andalusia, a land that brought forth many of the leading religious as well as secular giants of Islam and indeed of the entire world.  Will we simply poorly translate (which is already nearly impossible) the same worn out failed models throughout the troubled Muslim world uncritically, mechanically and then expect that it can achieve something for our people other than the misery that surrounds so much of the Muslim world today.  I am arguing, pleading that we exert ourselves to be true descendants of Andalusia and discover the marvels of that time and place that was a beacon of faith, learning, true science, tolerance and enlightenment.  We believe that it was Andalusia that opened to the modern world the classics of ancient times by way of Arabic translations from Greek and eventually inspired the founding of the new world itself.  If Spanish Islam in the West has any authentic future it can only be by recovering its Andalusian heritage and building upon that.  The other sad alternative is to march blindly to the tunes of the fanatics and spiritually deaf and dumb whose final message seems to be homicidal suicides and ancient blood cults.

I boldly hope that we may even provide for the coming generations in the Muslim homelands and minorities in Europe a message of hope and a path to a liberating future.  Yet this road to New Andalusia is not simple nor can it be the project of a few self-obsessed fame seekers.

We must not forget the inherent contradiction of that land which was a major factor in its decline—the failure to achieve harmony among the competing ethnic and racial groups that made up our homeland.  The same dynamic we witness here today: some racial ethnic groups dominate all the others with no concern for the well-being of society.  In time those conflicts lead to the total collapse of Muslim culture and the retaking of Andalusia by non-Muslims who did not maintain the tolerant vision which Andalusia was famous for.

Will our Spanish Islam be a vision, a dream of the highest form of spirituality and social order or merely a faulty translation from one failed society to another which we as a  minority here are already  most vulnerable?   A choice is ahead of us, a living vibrant future or a sad repeating of a failed vision.

A few spiritual gems from Andalusian Spirituality:

Beware of fame seekers whom use religion for power and wealth—sellers of religion.  Their true desire is to be on stage in front of the crowd exploiting them for money, women and praise of people.

Again from the Andalusian Classics:

This one quoting the Holy Prophet (PBUH):  Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended. Whoever migrates with an intention for Allah and His messenger, the migration will be for the sake of Allah and his Messenger. And whoever migrates for worldly gain or to marry a woman, then his migration will be for the sake of whatever he migrated for.

You don’t always have to be talking to be heard.

You don’t always have to be center stage to be seen.