Just before leaving, a young Colombian man who had recently accepted Islam came to the mosque accompanied by his father. His father said that since his son had converted to Islam, his son started respecting him and behaving differently — kinder and more thoughtful. The father mentioned that he had wanted to see for himself the reasons behind this change in his son. This young man ended up traveling with us on our journey and by the end of our trip, he was so thankful for the knowledge that he had gained and for the experience that made him a more patient person — qualities he said were sure to please his father.
Now accompanying our group as we traveled was Nelson and four other Colombian brothers. We were now a group of 12 brothers traveling by van to the city of Medellin. Some brothers slept in the van while others put their sleeping bags outside and slept. We continued on our journey and saw a sign that said San Francisco.
We finally arrived in the city of Medellin. We were warmly welcomed by the local Muslims who were so excited to have a foreign group visiting them. Our stay in Medellin was busily spent visiting the Muslim community which consisted of families from the Caribbean and some native Pakistanis, in addition to native Colombians. The community in Medellin is very active. We continued by van on our way to Cartagena and passed by the city of Bucaramanga. We finally arrived in Cartagena and then took small canoes to the nearby island of Playa Blanca, which was inhabited by Muslim fishermen. We were surprised to see how Islam had reached this island in Colombia. The island was beautiful, with the reflection of the brilliant sun shining on the sand and sea. The ocean had the most striking colors of blue you had ever seen. Located on this island, there was a small house that had been converted to a mosque. The local imam there was a Colombian convert who had donated his house for a mosque. Brother Carlos was so strong in his dawah efforts that he had introduced 40 houses in a radius around the mosque to Islam. He had even been interviewed by the local TV station. Brother Carlos said if a person had good qualities and was honest and generous, then your friends and neighbors will look to those qualities and want to emulate them. His house got too small to accommodate the growing population of Muslims so he built a larger prayer place (musala). We visited the local Muslim fishermen and they were so happy to see us; the fact that we had come to visit them from so far had truly touched them. They constantly supplied us with fresh coconuts and other delicious tropical fruit. We passed the warm evenings gathering with the local Muslims, sipping delicious coconut juice and reminding the Muslims about their duties and obligations to keeping Islam active. Most of the people on this island were fisherman by profession and very humble people. Their main diet consisted of fish. Since we were considered their special guests, they crossed the island just to bring back halal meat so as we would not tire from eating fish. This has been an experience that we'll never forget.
When we were leaving, the fishermen were in tears and asked us to stay longer, but our remaining days were few and we had already extended our stay on the island of Cartagena. We said, "Ojalá we will come back." "InshAllah we will return." Ojalá is a term used in the Spanish language which was originated by the Muslims of Spain about 800 years ago. The Spanish phrase, ojalá (que), and the Portuguese phrase, oxalá (que), both meaning "I hope (that)," "would (that)," "would to God (that)," etc., are both derived from the Arabic insha'Allâh. When asked why they use the word "Ojalá," they will say that they use it as an expression for something in the future. When the Spaniards shout olé at the bullfighter or the flamenco dancer, they echo the Muslim invocation of God, Allah! In fact, thousands of Spanish words have their origins in the language of the Muslims whose stay in Spain lasted eight centuries. Examples which can be easily appreciated without much knowledge of Spanish are sugar, azúcar, originally assukar; and cotton, in Spanish algodÃ³n, from al-qutun. Olive in Spanish is aceituna, and olive oil aceite, from the Arabic for olive, alzeitun. When Spaniards bid one another farewell and say "Hasta mañana" they are, quite unconsciously as with most of these words, using the Arabic hattá which still means what it did in the Middle Ages when it entered Spanish — "until." Many of the brothers were surprised to discover that the people of Colombia were using so many words as part of their language.
From Cartagena, we were expected to visit the Muslims in Maicao. There are about 10,000 Arabs in this city — both Muslims and Christians. However, due to limited time we would not be able to visit them. We had to think of getting back to Bogota, which was about 1046 km from where we were. We had limited daytime travel and police blocks, so we made consultation and decided to head back south and stopped in Barranquilla. We went through security checkpoints; the government has set up these programs aimed at eradicating drugs. Although 90 percent of the cocaine entering the US is processed in Colombia, Colombia has made real progress to weaken drug trafficking organization.
Throughout our trip the Colombian Muslims were beautiful people to meet — friendly and hospitable. The Islamic quality of honoring the guests has surely not been lost in this beautiful country. We were welcomed, embraced and made to feel at home. From our wonderful experience in Colombia, we now have a love and attachment to Colombia and can't wait to come back!
n Courtesy of www.islamicbulletin.com
Reproduced from Arab News