Latinos continue to be the fastest growing minority in America and in Islam. If either of those facts come as a surprise, there is much for you to learn about our culture.
Latinos are a people from various countries and backgrounds, bound together by a shared language and principles, as well as a history of being victims of colonization, oppression, and injustice. Latinos have a lot in common with Muslims, and that is perhaps because we are descendants of European, African, and Indigenous Muslims. Islam is in our blood!
Historically, Latino Muslims have sought refuge in Islam because it resonated with our spirituality, morals, family values, social struggles, and traditions. Nowadays, the internet and social media have made information about Islam more accessible to Latinos. The recent social and political climate that appears to be against both Latinos and Muslims in the U.S. has brought both groups together in solidarity.
Who are Latinos/Hispanics?
- Latino: A person who was born or lives in South America, Central America, or Mexico, or a person in the United States whose family is originally from South America, Central America, or Mexico (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
- Latino origin is based on ancestry, lineage, heritage, nationality and/or country of birth, therefore Latino people come from a variety of countries, backgrounds, and social statuses.
- Hispanic: Of, relating to, or being a person of Latin American descent; of or relating to the people, speech, or culture of Spain (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
Where is Latin America?
- There are a total of 21 countries in the world where Spanish is the official language. The bulk of those are in Central and South America, as well as in the Caribbean.
- Brazil is considered part of Latin America, even though their official language is Portuguese.
- Mexico is the only Spanish-speaking country that shares a border with the U.S.
- People from all Spanish-speaking countries are represented throughout the U.S.
Did you know?
- Muslims ruled Spain for eight centuries, from 711 to 1492.
- There were Muslims in the Americas before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
- More than 30% of the words in the Spanish language have Arabic roots.
- The Muslim population in South America is over four million.
- Latinos are the fastest growing minority in the U.S., and the fastest growing minority within Islam.
- 12% of converts to Islam in the U.S. are Latino.
What brings Latinos to Islam?
- Belief In Tawheed (the natural inclination to believe in the Oneness of God).
- Putting faith into practice (Muslims practice what they preach!).
- No intermediaries (no “middle man” between people and God).
- Islam is balanced and moderate.
- Family values in Islam.
- Cultural similarities (language, arts, customs, family values, community ethics).
Spanish words from Arabic
Undoubtedly, the Spanish language has been influenced by the Arabic language. It has been determined that approximately 30 percent of the words in Spanish originate from Arabic. Some examples are:
- Alfombra (Al-humra)
- Algodón (Al-qutun)
- Azúcar (Succar)
- Ojala (Insha Allah)
- Aceituna (Zaytun)
- Café (Qahwa)
- Hasta (Hatta)
- Fulano (Fulan)
- Usted (Ustadh)
- Arroz (Aruz)
- Aceite (Zayt)
- Medina (Madinah)
- Guadalupe (Wadi – Lupe)
- Benalcazar (Ibn Al’Qasr)
Spanish Proverbs and their Islamic equivalents
And check out this fun fact! Some of the most popular sayings in Latin America have Islamic roots or are very similar to Islamic values or teachings. The following are just a few examples:
- Al que madruga, Dios le ayuda (God helps the one who wakes up early). Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Oh Allah, bless my nation in their early mornings” (Sunan Ibn Majah).
- El muerto y el arrimado a los tres días apesta (The dead person and the visitor stink after the days). The Prophet said, “Hospitality is for three days and after that it is charity” (Bukhari).
- Si la montaña no viene a Mahoma, Mahoma va a la montaña (If the mountain does not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain). God’s peace and blessings be upon the Prophet.
- Donde comen dos, comen tres (Where two eat, three eat). The Prophet said, “The food of one person is enough for two, the food of two is enough for four, and the food of four is enough for eight” (Muslim).
- Díme con quién andas y te diré quien eres (Tell me who you hang out with, and I will tell you who you are). The Prophet said, “A man is upon the religion of his best friend, so let one of you look at whom he befriends” (Tirmidhi).
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of five. She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, Inc., a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam and culture in Spanish. She is also the Spanish content coordinator for the Islamic Circle of North America’s WhyIslam Project and a columnist for MuslimMatters.com. Díaz has also written, illustrated, and published 10 children’s books. She is a frequent speaker at major conferences.