Over the years we have traveled to different countries throughout the world to revive the effort of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and remind the Muslims of their responsibilities and good qualities. The word 'dawah' (invitation) is actually a term that originates way back to all prophets of mankind and to our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Many times, Muslims who have relocated to other countries have forgotten Islam. So, by our visiting these countries we hope to correct ourselves, remind the local Muslims to establish five amals (activities) and reintroduce the essentials of Islam, and be better Muslims and establish the local effort.
Although many brothers representing a vast array of ethnicities have been fortunate to take part in this dawah effort of visiting and spreading the Word of Allah, I was part of the group travelling to Colombia, which consisted of 7 brothers from the Bay Area. For the next 10 weeks, these brothers and I would form a bond together; we would share the same small living space, we would cook together, eat together, experience the same hardships and tribulations and along the way, forge a friendship and brotherhood that many times can last a lifetime. So, when we finally got our visas and scheduling taken care of, the brothers and I said our goodbyes to our families. We departed from San Francisco to Mexico and arrived in Colombia.
We were the first group ever from the Bay Area to have visited Colombia so we were a bit apprehensive. Not having any contact information or prior routes to our destination, we were quite aware of the fact that Colombia has a huge drug cartel that patrols the streets. Our looking different was sure to take notice. But we put our trust in Allah that everything would go well. Being that we have had our share of discrimination in the United States, we were not quick to condemn a people by the actions of a few. Judging the country of Colombia by the drug cartels was wrong, and we would not permit ourselves to become prejudiced with fear.
The statistics for Islam in Colombia estimates a total Muslim population of 10,000, representing 0.02 percent of the population. There are a number of Islamic organizations in Colombia, including Islamic centers in San Andrés, Bogotá, Maicao, Guajira, Nariño, and Santa Marta. There are also primary and secondary Islamic schools in Bogotá and Maicao. Maicao plays host to the continent's second largest mosque, the Mosque of Omar Ibn Al-Khattab.
The Muslim presence in Colombia is vast and varied. A large wave of immigrants came from the Middle East in the 1940s, making their permanent home in the town of Maicao in northern Colombia. These immigrants were mostly Muslim and were attracted by the thriving commerce of the town, which was benefiting from the neighboring Venezuelan oil bonanza. It is estimated that Colombia has a population of 840,000 Lebanese immigrants.
We arrived at 11pm in Bogata. The next morning we went to the mosque. It was here that we spent the next 5 days of our trip. The days here were busily involved visiting the local Muslim community. In addition to Colombian Muslims who were of Middle Eastern descent, there were also Indo-Pakistani Muslims and Muslims who were native Colombian. We were fortunate to meet and befriend Brother Nelson, a Colombian convert, the President of the Islamic Center in Bogata. Brother Nelson was an extremely hospitable host, showing us around the city and taking us to visit the Muslims that he knew. Another Colombian convert, an English teacher named Brother Luis, was our guide throughout the rest of our stay in Colombia.
When news spread throughout the community that visitors had arrived, Muslims from America, Muslims from near and far were eager to come and listen to talks about Islam and the reviving of the effort of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Other Muslims from neighboring cities invited us to visit them. So we rented a large van and decided to travel to Medellin. It was decided that Brother Nelson and three other local Colombians would join us on our trip; we were appreciative of having Brothers who were familiar with the country to navigate our way around. The local brothers cautioned us that the problem of guerrillas was very real that we would need to travel by day to avoid any danger, and that the government would close many of the roads and highways at dusk to further protect the citizens. We prepared ourselves to be leaving the next morning after prayer. In all, we felt very successful of our short time spent in Bogata. In addition to meeting and befriending a great Muslim community, four Columbians converted to Islam, including a Flamingo band leader David (Dawud) and a 70 year old grandmother.
To be continued next week Courtesy of www.islamicbulletin.com
Reproduced from Arab News