By Rafael Narbaez
Living Islam Today
At least once a month, maybe more, someone will call and ask me if I have any Spanish language Qur’ans or if I can send them some books on Islam in the Spanish language. The demand for Spanish language materials has become greater with every passing year. The tragedy is that there is no systematic and consistent plan of action to address this problem. Here are some points to consider.
In the Western Hemisphere, almost all of South America is Spanish speaking. Central America, Mexico, and most of the islands of the Caribbean including Cuba are all Spanish speaking. In our own North American continent, 25% of the people speak and prefer Spanish as their language of communication.
The Christian community has always seen the importance and potential of people who speak Spanish. Over the years billions of dollars have been spent by Christian organizations to accommodate the needs of Spanish speaking people, whether it be in a religious or social sense.
By the way, let me stop here and say that I keep referring to this group as Spanish-speaking people. Don’t they have a racial, linguistic, religious or social classification? But of course. The problem is that the powers to be, for whatever statistical and monitorial advantage they can muster, have always tried to group people in groups through national identification. The Muslim nations are a sad example of this. The Western powers, in particular the Brits, took light and dark skinned people, who were united together by religious, linguistic and social and moral values and divided them into nations. From then on, they referred to them as people from that nation, even if they continued to share the same religion, language or social values.
All you have to do is look at the U.S. census to see how our own government has driven a stake through the unity and commonalities as a people, Americans and has instead, insisted on attaching a national identification to some, but not all, of its citizens. For a country that talks so much about having achieved racial equality they sure don’t show it in their census form. At last count, the U.S. census had 17 different classifications under race; Native -American Indian, Eskimo Indian, Middle Eastern Indian, Cleveland Indian-everybody is in there.
With people who speak Spanish, a great change in terminology has occurred in trying to refer to us. Here are but a few of them: Mexicans, Latins, Spanish, Chicanos, Mexican-Americans, Latinos and since around the mid-80’s, Hispanics. Now, this terminology refers to anyone who speaks Spanish as their native language, without consideration of what part of the world they are from. And these are the good names. I won’t elaborate on some of the derogatory or put down names that we have been called.
They also like to insinuate that all Hispanics are brown or olive skinned. Have you ever taken a close look at an olive? I don’t think I look like an olive? Those of you that know me, do I look like an olive to you? Well, do I? I have seen black and green olives, but no brown olives. I don’t remember ever having any racial slurs thrown at me that had the word olive in it.
“Hey, Bob. Some olives just moved in next door, there goes the neighborhood.”
“I’m sorry, miss. We don’t serve olives, here.” Maybe they were referring to the olive oil. No. That can’t be it either; since all the olive oil I’ve ever seen is different shades of yellow. I know I’m getting off the subject, but let me finish. I’ll get back to Spanish literature in a minute.
I remember polite people trying to refer to me as Spanish. In my opinion, this is the equivalent of calling a person who happens to be dark skinned, colored. The meaning, insinuations and conditions are still the same, they just found another way of saying it.. In higher educated circles, colored and Spanish is just a polite way of someone calling you a nigger and a spic- the name has changed but the attitude hasn’t.
If you are from Spain, you are Spanish, but where is the country of Spic or Chicano? I suppose the awful word nigger derived from the word Negro, but where is the country of Negro? And why is everyone Something-American, as in Mexican-American or African-American. I don’t hear people from Germany or Britain being referred to as German-American or British-American in the U.S. census report. In fact, if they are ever referred to collectively, they are referred to as Europeans.
And why does anyone ever have to be a national descendant of any place. You here a lot about African descendants, as if that’s the only place that people from Africa can be born. After they’re born there, then no matter where their children are born after that, as in the U.S. or Turkey or Guatemala, they are still and will always be Africans. At least in the eyes of Western authorities. Does the word migration mean anything to you? Nations or national groups don’t migrate, just people or races of people.
Everything has a start, everyone is born some where but that doesn’t mean that their identity is limited to the place where one’s parents or grandparents were born. God’s Purpose was for the people to fill the entire earth-light skinned people and dark skinned people. Why should anyone assume that dark skinned people that started out in Africa, let’s say, and as God willed, they started spreading throughout the planet, why should anyone insist on making reference to them as those people that came from Africa after having settled and lived in another part of the world.
Look, the Jones lived in Dallas, Texas. The saw mill they all worked at, closed down and a huge one was built in Atlanta, Georgia. The Jones, who were good saw mill workers moved to Atlanta. Many, many generations later, their grandchildren and great grandchildren still live there. A few still work for the saw mill, but others are doing other work. Do we have to refer to them as the Dallas, Texas Jones’ who now live in Atlanta. Aren’t they just the Jones’?
“Where do you live, Bob Jones?”
“Oh. Hey, aren’t you originally from Dallas?”
“How could you tell?”
“Oh, all you people from Dallas look the same.”
Only in America folks! The winner and still the undisputed champion of racism. And what does the language one speaks have anything to do with correctly identifying a group of people-as if only light skinned people are supposed to speak Spanish! Anyway, back to Spanish language materials.
What we need to alleviate the problems with the lack of Spanish language materials is 4 things. First, we must develop a national clearing house for materials on Islam in Spanish. A central place must be established where companies who publish Spanish language materials on Islam can sell and distribute their materials and people from anywhere in the Americas can call if they need materials in Spanish.
Second, we need a committee of scholars who can make a recommendation of the most accurate translation of the Qur’an in Spanish, for our particular time and people. Now, listen again to what I just said. The committee-of which all five madh-habs should be included and considered, will then make a recommendation of the most accurate-not a translation, but the most accurate translation of the Qur’an. Everyone knows that the Qur’an in its rich Arabic language will never be translated exactly the same in any other language. There exists some pretty good translations and some pretty terrible translations of the Holy Qur’an. We need to begin by using the best translation possible.
I also said-for our time and place. I have read some Qur’ans that either have an old antiquated Spanish with wordage like thy thou, thee or were written in college level Spanish, that the majority of the common people in our day and age would have a difficult time understanding. It has to be simple to read and understand and it has to be the best translation possible.
Thirdly, we need contemporary writers of Islam and Islamically related subjects. There are no well recognized authors or writers of such. Here, I am to blame as much as anyone, if not more than others. My travels and lectures have made me well known to most North Americans and yet I have not produced one single piece of Islamic work. May Allah have Mercy with me. For this I apologize to all of you, my brothers and sisters.
“This is a great religion” says one attendee. “I knew God would send me the truth,” a woman cries out. Then comes the unthinkable.
“Can I get a Qur’an from you?”
“Well, no…uh, there are no Qur’ans in Spanish.”
“Well how about this Maulana Maududi? Will he be speaking at this year’s ICNA convention?”
“Ah…not exactly. He’s been DEAD for THIRTY years!” What a tragedy, huh? So, fourthly, we need to have some of the works of modern day and well known scholars in North America, translated into Spanish.
All that we have in large distribution are translations into the Spanish language of other writer’s works-of which Maulana Maududi s works are the most common. Maulana Maududi’s works have been translated over years from Urdu to Arabic to English and now Spanish.
So let me set the scenario for you. Some Islamic group sponsors a two day conference on Islam in Los Angeles or Chicago or Miami or New York, completely in Spanish. There is great excitement in the air. Spanish speaking people are very clannish and family oriented, so everyone has invited their cousins and their uncles and their grandmothers-the place is packed. After the conference, you can hardly contain the crowds. The enthusiasm is flowing like Niagara Falls….
Allah is bringing people from all parts of the world and who speak many different languages, together for His Glory. Surah An-Nasr (110). Everyone needs Islam but Spanish speaking people especially, need Islam. We pray to Allah to help our efforts to take the message of the Holy Qur’an, a todos-to everyone. Ameen.