Tawakkul: Leading to the Fullest Reward

As Muslims, we believe that tawakkul, trust in and reliance on God, is one of the most important core principles and values in maintaining our spiritual identity and continued growth toward closeness to Allah. The concept of tawakkul is highly emphasized in the Qur’an and ahadith and by many great scholars. However, in this day and age, we have unfortunately come to oversimplify the meaning and understand it as a one-dimensional and depthless trust in God. But in reality tawakkul is a nuanced concept with far-reaching and profound implications. With everything going on in the world, it is important that we don’t lose sight of the foundation of relying on Allah and understanding that not everything is in our control. Tawakkul:  Qur’an and Ahadith Allah says in the Quran, “And whoever has tawakkul, then Allah is all that he needs” (Qur’an 65:3).  This verse illustrates how tawakkul is directly connected to reaching a state of contentment where we feel that God is all we need. Allah also tells us to “rely upon Allah, and sufficient is Allah as disposer of affairs” (Qur’an 33:3). The phrase “rely upon Allah” encourages believers to put their complete trust in Allah and rely on Him for guidance, help, and protection. It requires acknowledging that Allah is the ultimate source of strength and that He is fully capable of managing and taking care of all affairs. Truly tawakkul is one of the most important keys to living a life that is in accordance with the Qur’an and sunnah and gives us the security to thrive and flourish, to achieve our full potential. This tawakkul in Allah gives us the strength to stay steadfast in our decisions as well. Allah says in the Qur’an, “So when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely” (Qur’an 3:159). We get the comfort of knowing our decisions have God’s support when we have tawakkul. Making decisions and taking action, interwoven with tawakkul, earns Allah’s love! What more could we want for ourselves? It gives the understanding that no matter what happens, that is what was meant for us because that is what Allah decreed. It gives us the motivation to continually renew our faith in qadr (divine destiny). There is a beautiful hadith of the Prophet: “Strange are the ways of a believer for there is good in every affair of his, and this is not the case with anyone else except in the case of a believer. If he has an occasion to feel delighted, he thanks [Allah], thus there is a good for him in it; and if he gets into trouble and demonstrates sabr [patience and perseverance], there is a good for him in it” (Sahih Muslim). This hadith very clearly lays out how to construct our thoughts and attitudes around all types of events that befall us or surround us. If something good happens, we say “alhamdulillah,” and if something that we perceive as negative happens, we stay steadfast and patient and rely on Allah, knowing that this is what was written for us. The cultivation of these beliefs ensures that nothing can break our resolve and steadfastness in our belief in God and the meaning and purpose of our lives.  How amazing to live a life in which encountering both favorable and unfavorable conditions and circumstances leaves us surrendered to, and content with, the decree of our Lord. Prophet Muhammad (s) also said, “If you were to rely on Allah with the required reliance, then He would provide for you just as He provides for the birds. They go out in the morning empty and return full” (Sunan at-Tirmidhi). I may have nothing, come from nothing, and start the day with nothing, but with tawakkul, I know God will always provide what is needed. Our Prophet (s) also said, “If you ask, ask from Allah, and if you seek help, seek help from Allah” (Sunan Abu Dawood). Why should we turn to anyone other than God? In Surah Ra’ad (13:28) Allah says “…those who believe and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah, surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find comfort.” We can choose to remember Allah constantly, and in times of trial and tribulation, we can find comfort in dhikr, ultimately leading us back to tawakkul. We know that this is what was meant for us and this is the best for us. Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet (s) said, “Seventy thousand from my nation will enter Paradise without reckoning. They are those who do not rely on incantations, nor believe in omens, but rather they trust in their Lord” (Sahih al-Bukhari). Not only will this trust help us in our earthly lives, it will more than suffice us if we can enter paradise without reckoning! From this brief overview, we can conclude that tawakkul involves placing trust in and reliance on Allah in all aspects of our lives.  It is intertwined with other Islamic values such as patience, gratitude, and acceptance of Allah’s decree. Tawakkul also teaches Muslims to have faith in Allah’s wisdom, providence, and guidance, knowing that He truly is the ultimate provider and controller of all affairs. Tawakkul requires active and sincere effort, aligning our beliefs and behaviors in such way that trust in Allah’s wisdom and decree imbues our lives with ultimate meaning, purpose, resolve, and sustenance. From these ayahs and ahadith, we are encouraged to rely on Allah, seek His help through prayer and supplication, and trust that He will guide and support us. This belief then fosters inner peace, contentment, and a sense of surrender to the Divine Will. Tawakkul: Scholarly Commentary Ibn Taymiyyah Sheikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah discusses in his various writings the concept of tawakkul, a fundamental aspect of faith, and how it positively affects the believer’s heart and actions; and he emphasizes the significance of tawakkul in one’s relationship with Allah and in getting closer to Allah. Ibn Taymiyyah highlights the need

Urdu and Arabic: My People and My Faith

Like many young Muslims in this country, I’m second-generation American. My parents immigrated to this country in the ‘90s, and me and my siblings grew up as third culture kids — intermixing Urdu phrases in our English, jeans with a “kameez” (a long cultural shirt) was the height of fashion, and we learned to eat with our hands before ever touching a spoon. There’s often a lot of dialogue on the difficulties that children of immigrants face, that feeling of never quite fitting anywhere. But I wonder how many of us have thought about how much it must ache to truly belong to a place – to live in a place where everyone speaks how you speak, where everyone eats what you eat, where everyone dresses how you dress – and then to have to give it all up and move to a land where you become a “minority” that is mocked and ridiculed for the very things that are the cornerstones of your identity? I wonder sometimes, if I would have been able to make the kind of sacrifice that my parents made. Would I have been able to leave my country, my people, and everything that defined me, to immigrate to a different continent, just so I could give my own children their very best opportunity for success? I’d like to think I would, but I genuinely don’t know. That requires a level of strength and tawakkul that I’m not sure I possess. And then, imagine watching those very children, the ones you gave it all up for, go through that phase where they become ashamed of your culture. The food our moms’ make, imbued with so much love and care, suddenly becomes “boring”, or even “gross.” We’d love to be called multilingual, but in something exotic like Italian or French, not the Urdu and Arabic that is our birthright. There is this defining moment that almost every child of an immigrant goes through — you’re asked a question, in what should be your native language, that you understand completely and you know the answer to, but you have no clue how to articulate it. Your tongue stutters, and your throat seizes, and your thoughts race in English but never translate over, and you feel absolutely humiliated. This loss of language might be the most heart-breaking part of it all. Language is the soul of community. To know a people, we must know their language. How many stories lay untold on the tongues of our grandparents because we can barely stutter our way through a sentence in Arabic? How many of our uncles, our aunts, our cousins, those who should be some of our closest family, have we barely scratched the surface in getting to know them, because their English might be broken but our Urdu is still yet worse? How many gems sit in the bookshelves of our parents’ personal libraries, in the hearts of our scholars back home, that we have allowed to become inaccessible to ourselves? Urdu is a beautiful language. There’s a gentleness and an eloquence to it, and it quite literally sits softer on the tongue and the throat. There’s a common stereotype of Desis (those of South Asian descent) not having the best pronunciation of the Qur’an, and that’s actually because a lot of Arabic letters rely heavily on the back of the throat while Urdu is spoken almost completely from the mouth. But despite these pronunciation differences, Urdu is very similar to Arabic in vocabulary. Neither of my parents have formally studied Arabic. They couldn’t tell you all the grammatical rules, the different morphological patterns, or the reasons for a word’s vowels. But their Urdu is fluent. Me, on the other hand, I’ve been taking an intensive Arabic course for the past 9 months. I can break down a verse into all its components and tell you the root letters of almost any word. But my Urdu is broken. And the longer I study Arabic, the more I realize that the level of comprehension of the Qur’an that my parents have, which is miles ahead of mine, is almost purely founded on their grasp of Urdu vocabulary. In allowing my own Urdu to weaken, I lost with it a critical understanding of Qur’anic vocabulary. And while I can still learn Qur’anic vocabulary now, and am taking steps to do so alhamdulillah, I often think of how much easier I know this all would’ve been if I had just retained my Urdu. My parents really tried their best to encourage us to embrace Urdu as much possible – it used to be tradition in our household to only speak Urdu at the dinner table. But as we grew from naïve children into insecure teenagers, we were desperate to find our footing in American culture and we made such a fuss about speaking English, my parents eventually gave in. And now, as an adult with too many responsibilities and barely enough time, I look back and truly regret the moments that could have been spent solidifying my native tongue, but instead was wasted on trying to prove to myself that I was American enough. If it was just about Urdu as a language, I would still have these regrets of course, but perhaps they wouldn’t be as strong. But it’s also about how Urdu ties into Arabic and Arabic is the language of the Qur’an and the Qur’an is the Word of Allah. It is quite literally God’s Message to me and you. So, it is regret for the loss of the language itself, yes, but more importantly it’s the regret of knowing how much stronger my connection with the Qur’an could have been. But we can’t waste our lives on regret. Regret is meant to be a teacher – it should drive us to do better, it should force us to reflect on our errors, but it should never paralyze us. Our relationship with Allah in particular is the one part

Juneteenth: A Holiday of Remembrance

Juneteenth is a federal holiday, starting in 2021 when President Biden signed the holiday into federal law. Juneteenth celebrates the day that enslaved people in Galveston, Texas were freed, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Juneteenth represents freedom, celebration, and also the racist history and present of the US. Juneteenth further shakes the normalized history that people hold – that all enslaved people were freed on the day the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.  In order for the Emancipation Proclamation to be enforced, Union troops marched around the country to read the order and free enslaved peoples. The National Museum of African American History and Culture says, “On “Freedom’s Eve,” or the eve of January 1, 1863, the first Watch Night services took place. On that night, enslaved and free African Americans gathered in churches and private homes all across the country awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect. At the stroke of midnight, prayers were answered as all enslaved people in Confederate States were declared legally free. Union soldiers, many of whom were black, marched onto plantations and across cities in the south reading small copies of the Emancipation Proclamation spreading the news of freedom in Confederate States. Only through the Thirteenth Amendment did emancipation end slavery throughout the United States.” In Texas, enslaved people were not free until June 19, 1865, when around 2,000 Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas. The army announced that over 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were free by executive decree. Juneteenth is regarded as the nation’s second independence day, where the enforcement of the decree to free all enslaved peoples was enforced and ratified.  Not all states in the US celebrate Juneteenth or recognize the holiday. Widely regarded as a celebration to the end of slavery, around 24 states and DC legally recognize Juneteenth as a public holiday.  Connecticut state senator Rob Sampson, who voted no to making Juneteenth a state holiday, said, “Juneteenth is very important to me. Abraham Lincoln is the reason I became a Republican,” but went on to say that the extra holiday is a “reach for us.”  For non-Black people, Juneteenth should be a day of remembrance and reflection. Read about the history of slavery in the US, read about racism, read about emancipation, and the struggles that freed people faced after emancipation. Do not treat Juneteenth as “another day off,” but respectfully commemorate the day. Access the resource list found on the National Museum for African American History and Culture to learn more about Juneteenth, and find ways that you can respectfully observe this federal holiday.

Eid Al Adha Mubarak

As-salāmu ʿAlaykum, All praises are due to Allah ﷻ alone. As the blessed month of Dhul Hijjah graces us once again, we extend our warmest greetings to you and your families. May the mercy, blessings, and guidance of Allah (SWT) be with you always. In this special edition of our newsletter, we would like to congratulate you on the auspicious occasion of the Day of Arafah and Eid-ul-Adha. These are moments of immense significance and reflection in the Islamic calendar, and we invite you to celebrate them with renewed devotion and gratitude. The Day of Arafah, which falls on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, is a day of unparalleled importance. It is a time when millions of pilgrims from around the world gather on the plains of Arafah, seeking forgiveness, supplicating to Allah (SWT), and engaging in acts of worship. Though many of us may not be physically present there, we can still reap the blessings of this day by engaging in sincere acts of worship, fasting, and heartfelt prayers. Eid-ul-Adha, the Festival of Sacrifice, follows the Day of Arafah and marks the conclusion of Hajj. It commemorates the unparalleled faith and sacrifice of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and his son Ismail (AS). This joyous occasion reminds us of the importance of selflessness, obedience to Allah’s commandments, and caring for those in need. Let us take this opportunity to reflect on the values of sacrifice and compassion and extend our support and love to those less fortunate in our communities. ICNA is proud to be part of your journey as we collectively strive to strengthen our faith and foster unity within the Ummah. We encourage you to participate in our local events, community outreach programs, and educational initiatives, where you can engage with fellow Muslims and contribute to the greater good. During this blessed time, let us remember the importance of unity and brotherhood. Reach out to your neighbors, friends, and family members, irrespective of their backgrounds, and extend warm wishes of love and peace. Let us build bridges of understanding, compassion, and cooperation within our diverse society. We would also like to express our deepest gratitude to our dedicated volunteers, donors, and supporters who have consistently stood by us in our endeavors to serve the community. Your unwavering commitment and generosity have made a significant impact in the lives of many, and we pray that Allah (SWT) rewards you abundantly for your efforts. In light of the current events, we ask for your special prayers for the people of Gaza. May Allah (SWT) bring them peace, safety, and relief in these challenging times. May this Day of Arafah and Eid-ul-Adha bring you and your loved ones immense joy, peace, and blessings. May your sacrifices and prayers be accepted, and may your homes be filled with love and harmony. Eid Mubarak! JazakAllah khayr, Adnan Tafsir Secretary General Islamic Circle of North America – ICNA

Neurodivergent Muslims: A Warm Welcome Is Due

Part one of this series discussed the definitions of neurodivergence, autism, and ADHD and highlighted some of the challenges neurodivergent Muslims face. In this article we will explore how our Islamic centers, gatherings, and communities can become more supportive and accommodating of our neurodivergent brothers and sisters in faith. I interviewed three families with neurodivergent children. They kindly shared their experiences and suggestions in the hopes that this will raise awareness and help our ummah improve its outreach and attitude towards neurodivergent Muslims. Note: some names below have been changed to protect identities. Parents’ Wish Lists Rosena, the mother of two neurodivergent children who found out in 2023 that she herself has ADHD, has some specific requests of the Muslim community. “Please be inclusive and allow children to be children,” she says. “Allow them to regulate in their preferred way and stim.” Stimming is when a person repeatedly makes certain movements or sounds, often for self-regulation. Stimming can be a way to handle overwhelming emotions or sensory overstimulation. Rosena continued, “Allow them to express and make noise as children should. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) would allow his grandchildren to climb on his back as he led the prayer. Who are we to hold children to a level of account beyond their comprehension? Remember to be merciful and embrace diversity.” Some people find it difficult to be tolerant of behaviors that they interpret to be rambunctious or disrespectful in the masjid. It might help to keep in mind that oftentimes, children are moving and making noise because their bodies and brains are compelling them, not because they are undisciplined or naughty. Also, remember that many disabilities are invisible. Neurodivergent people do not necessarily look different from neurotypical people. You will not be able to look at a child and know his/her neurotype, challenges, abilities, or disabilities.  It is best to give children and their caretakers the benefit of the doubt. If you need to talk to a child or his parents about behavior that you find disruptive, ask yourself first, “How would the Prophet (peace be upon him) handle this?” Would he talk harshly? Would he make them feel unwelcome at the masjid? Would he act annoyed and inconvenienced?” As we all know, our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) always handled people with gentleness, patience, and kindness. We should strive to uphold his noble example, regardless of whether a child is neurodivergent or not. Fatima, the mother of two autistic children, explains, “My daughter does not have an understanding of prayer and other forms of worship, and therefore her attention and focus are limited.  Many of the forms of worship require her to sit still and focus, as well as be mindful of verbalization. For example, Jumah khutbah and Eid khutbah are two instances that can require attention and silence.  My daughter’s vocal and body stereotypy can be somewhat disruptive.  She makes vocal sounds and rocks back and forth. At the Islamic center we attend, the space is extremely limited, making the ambiance very upsetting for her.  She prefers to walk and stretch her legs.  This can be seen as disruptive since other worshippers may be praying.” Louise A., the mother of an autistic seven-year-old son, hopes for greater awareness, acceptance, and support. She says, “I wish the Muslim community knew more about neurodivergence and that it is part of Allah’s creation and not something to look down upon. Nor is it a source of shame. I also wish there were more Muslim support groups for families with neurodivergent members.” “Muslim communities should engage with neurodivergent individuals,” says Fatima. “They too have a right to participate in their own ways and engage in ibadat (worship). These children with disabilities are Muslim, too. Accommodations for children (and even adults) with disabilities at their respective places of worship should be made,” Fatima suggests offering ASL [American Sign Language] and braille classes, and sensory limiting activities in both the men and women’s areas. Also supervision of the children by trained individuals during times of prayer can be provided. The Importance of a Warm Welcome “If a trained Muslim in this community approaches one of our children to make them welcome, bring a smile to our children’s face, teach them one thing —that would be ibadat itself,” says Fatima. “Neurotypical children would then also realize that all unique/different children should be attending our Islamic center.” “As my daughter matures, her [autistic] behaviors have decreased considerably, but her diagnosis is quite apparent when she is amongst neurotypical peers,” continues Fatima. “If she has accommodations at the Islamic center, or any place of worship, she will become accustomed to attending this space.  And in turn, more children and adults with disabilities will have that same opportunity.” Less Judgment, More Understanding With greater understanding of neurological differences, many Muslims will be less judgmental of others. So often, we label people negatively, criticize them, or ostracize them without knowing the genuine struggles behind their behaviors. Rosena gives some examples: “Those who are neurodiverse, whether diagnosed or not, may have difficulty with executive functioning and as a result may have trouble with skills such as planning, staying organized, sequencing information, and self-regulating emotions.” “Communities can assist,” she says, “by taking responsibility to educate themselves on neurodiversity to better support community members. It would be wise for those who are educators in the Muslim community to tailor their teaching so those with neurodiversity can fully benefit and achieve their full potential.” “It can be perceived that those who are neurodiverse are lazy or obstructive,” adds Rosena. “This harmful terminology has a long-term, deep impact on a group who already experiences difficulty with daily tasks and routine. The routine of neurodivergent individuals may be at odds with what communities would want (such as sleep patterns, keeping their homes organized, etc). Better understanding and support of how each neurodivergent individual operates and showing actual support rather than judgment would assist them greatly. Also, we should all acknowledge that

ICNACON2024 Attracts over 30,000 attendees from diverse backgrounds

The recent convention hosted by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) proved to be a resounding success, attracting over 30,000 attendees from diverse backgrounds. The event, held with the aim of fostering unity and community building, featured a rich program encompassing a wide array of speakers, workshops, and activities. Event Highlights: The convention covered a broad spectrum of topics, including Islamic principles, family dynamics, youth development, social justice, and interfaith relations. Attendees had the unique opportunity to engage with scholars, activists, and leaders who are experts in these areas, facilitating meaningful discussions and fostering mutual understanding. Economic Impact: Beyond its intellectual and communal significance, the convention also made a tangible impact on the local economy of Baltimore. The influx of visitors led to increased hotel bookings, restaurant patronage, and overall spending in the city. This surge in tourism benefited local businesses, with higher occupancy rates in hotels and increased revenue for restaurants, cafes, and eateries. Theme and Solidarity: The convention’s theme of unshakable faith and trusting the will of Allah resonated deeply with attendees, particularly in light of global events such as the ongoing tragedy in Gaza. ICNA stands in solidarity with those advocating for justice, including students protesting for a ceasefire in Gaza, reflecting our organization’s commitment to social justice and humanitarian causes. Media Engagement: A highlight of the convention was the Media Panel organized by our media team, featuring esteemed Muslim reporters from CBS, NBC, and HuffPost. The panel, which attracted over 100 attendees, delved into the crucial topic of Muslims and the media, fostering dialogue on collaboration and media representation. Additionally, the launch of the Media Scholarship initiative, valued at $1,000 per student, underscores our commitment to nurturing future talent in the media industry. Matrimonial Event and Quran Competition: In addition to the enriching program, ICNA hosted a Matrimonial Event aimed at facilitating connections within the community, providing a platform for individuals to meet and network in a halal and supportive environment. Furthermore, a Quran Competition was held, showcasing the talents and dedication of participants in memorizing and reciting the Quran, fostering a love for the Holy Book and Islamic learning. Young Muslims (YM) Conference: In conjunction with the convention, ICNA also hosted the Young Muslims (YM) Conference, an annual gathering dedicated to the youth. This conference, organized for the youth by the youth, brought young Muslims together under one roof to enlighten their minds with knowledge regarding their faith while fostering an environment of brotherhood and sisterhood. Press Release and Coverage: The press release published on the wire, reached an estimated 41 million people, highlighting the significance of our presence at the convention. Furthermore, we secured media coverage in outlets such as ABC, CBS, and multiple Pakistani media outlets.  In conclusion, our participation in the convention proved to be both enriching and impactful, reaffirming our dedication to fostering collaboration, nurturing talent, and amplifying important conversations within the media industry. As we reflect on our experiences and achievements, let us continue to leverage these insights and opportunities to propel our organization forward. Press Conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTA60Zonq5Ahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtZSbMMGbqU Media Channels coverage on ICNA Convention Photo Gallery

ICNA is pleased to host its 49th annual convention at the Baltimore Convention Center

Islamic Circle of North America Anticipates Over 30,000 Attendees at its 49th Annual Convention The Islamic Circle of North America is pleased to host its 49th annual convention at the Baltimore Convention Center Focused New York, May 23rd– Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) will host its annual convention centered around the theme of unshakable faith: trusting the will of God on May 25th-27th. The event is expected to host more than 30,000 attendees and will feature a diverse group of speakers, workshops, and activities aimed at promoting unity and community building. The convention is open to all people and families who seek to strengthen their understanding and connection to the Islamic faith. Speakers and workshops will cover a range of topics, including but not limited to: Islamic principles, family dynamics, youth development, social justice, and interfaith relations. At the same time, attendees will have the opportunity to engage with scholars, activists, and leaders who are experts in these areas. The ICNA Convention brings a surge of visitors to Baltimore, leading to increased hotel bookings, restaurant patronage, and overall spending in the city. This influx of attendees significantly benefits the tourism industry, with local hotels experiencing higher occupancy rates during the convention period. In addition, the increased foot traffic in restaurants, cafes, and eateries boosts revenue for local businesses and stimulates economic activity. Furthermore, the ICNA Convention promotes community engagement and philanthropy. Attendees participate in various community service initiatives and charitable activities, contributing to local charities and nonprofit organizations. This not only strengthens Baltimore’s social fabric but also supports its economic well-being. “ICNA is thrilled to host this convention, an event that we have worked hard to make accessible and inclusive to everyone who wants to learn and grow in their faith,” said ICNA President Dr. Mohsin Ansari. “We are particularly proud of this year’s theme of unshakable faith and trusting the will of God. With the ongoing tragedy in Gaza weighing heavily on global consciousness, now more than ever, it’s imperative for those with faith to stand steadfast in their beliefs as we persevere in the pursuit of justice.” Registration for the convention is open and can be completed through ICNA’s website. The organization has put measures in place to ensure a safe and inclusive environment for all attendees. ICNA recently released a statement in support of the student protest taking place across College campuses across the United States, demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. About ICNA Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) and the largest Muslim organization in the United States, established in the 1960s. ICNA is an umbrella organization for multiple projects, programs, and activities that strive to help Muslims build their character to bring about a society rooted in morality and God-consciousness. Some of ICNA’s current projects include: ICNA Relief, Why Islam, Gain Peace, Helping Hands, MCNA, Young Muslims, ICSJ, and Islamic Learning Foundation Press Contact: Moviz Siddiquipress@icna.org

Mexico, Muslims, and Cinco De Mayo

As May unfolds and the promise of flowers after April showers is fulfilled, we find ourselves in the middle of another vibrant spring. With Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr behind us, the Muslim community in the United States is left to the routine of shifting American celebrations. Easter décor makes way for Mother’s Day preparations and Fourth of July fireworks. Amidst this seemingly never-ending cycle of festivities, another notable occasion passed unnoticed in the first week of May. Many Americans recently, in a mindless way,  celebrated Cinco de Mayo, or the Fifth of May, a holiday often misunderstood and adopted from Mexican culture, characterized by fiestas replete with sombreros, tacos, and margaritas. Frequently confused with Mexico’s Independence Day (which falls on September 16), Cinco de Mayo is vastly different. Contrary to popular opinion, it has no connection to Mexican independence from Spain but instead commemorates a battle against France with surprising ties to Islamic history. The Franco-Mexican War erupted from 1861 to 1867 due to Mexico’s suspension of debt repayments to European powers, triggering French intervention. Napoleon III used Mexico’s economic situation to justify invading in 1861 to expand French influence in the Americas and establish a French-controlled regime. In 1863, the French captured Mexico City and established the Second Mexican Empire, with Maximilian I as Emperor, aided by the French military. The conclusion of the American Civil War in 1865 prompted the United States to pressure France to withdraw its troops. US intervention, coupled with internal Mexican resistance, led to the empire’s collapse, Maximilian’s execution, and the end of French involvement in Mexico. The Battle of Puebla occurred on May 5, 1862, during the Franco-Mexican War, and it holds profound significance as a pivotal victory for Mexican forces against the sizable and better-equipped French army. Despite daunting odds, the Mexican army successfully defended the city of Puebla against French invasion. This triumph became emblematic of Mexican resilience and patriotism, strengthening morale and inspiring resistance against French occupation. While the Battle of Puebla did not stop the eventual French occupation of Mexico City and the establishment of the Second Mexican Empire, it endures as Cinco de Mayo, a holiday commemorating the Mexican army’s triumph over a superior French force. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in the city of Puebla and other places in Mexico on a lesser scale, with parades and re-enactments of the battle between Mexican and French soldiers. It is not considered a major holiday in Mexico, but according to History.com, Cinco de Mayo was popularized in the U.S. in the 1960s by Chicano (Mexican American) activists inspired by the victory of indigenous Mexicans over European forces. Now, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated more in the U.S. than in Mexico. Notably, the connection between Cinco de Mayo and Muslims arises from a lesser-known aspect of history. During the Franco-Mexican War, while France engaged Mexico, it concurrently held colonies in North Africa and the Muslim world. This context meant that Muslim Algerian and Egyptian subjects from French colonies participated in the conflict alongside French soldiers, including the Battle of Puebla. Depictions of this battle often feature Muslim soldiers, identifiable by their attire, adding a unique layer to the historical narrative. Reflecting on the role of Muslims in the Franco-Mexican War prompts questions about their agency and the complexities of their involvement. Perhaps they sympathized with the indigenous Mexicans who fought to protect their land from the same colonizing force they once faced. Were they coerced combatants fighting battles for their oppressors in foreign lands, or did they willingly align with their French colonizers? Did any of these soldiers get captured, surrender, or flee and go on to settle in Mexico? These inquiries compel deeper examination and contemplation. What is certain is the undeniable presence of Muslims on Mexican lands during that crucial time. Muslim Imprints on Mexico Muslims have left enduring imprints on Mexican soil throughout history, from early colonial encounters to contemporary migrations. From the 16th century onward, waves of Iberian, African, and South Asian Muslim migrants have been involved in shaping Mexican society, contributing to its cultural fabric. Aside from the documented presence of Iberian and North African Muslims and enslaved West Africans during the colonial period, the Spanish also sought indentured laborers from South Asia, predominantly British India (present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), to fill labor shortages in Mexico. Among this group were Muslims, Christians, and Hindus. Over time, the descendants of enslaved Muslims and migrants integrated into Mexican society, while others maintained distinct cultural identities within diaspora communities. The legacy of these influences persists, evident in architectural motifs, culinary traditions, and religious practices across Mexico. In contemporary times, the presence of Islam in Mexico continues to evolve. The late 20th and early 21st centuries witnessed a resurgence of Islam among Mexicans and Latin Americans, contributing to a vast and diverse Muslim population throughout the region. Still, more Mexican Muslims find themselves here on U.S. soil as immigrants and descendants of immigrants, joining the greater Latino Muslim presence in America’s mosques. While some members of this community are converts, others trace their heritage to generations of practicing Muslim families. Educating youth and elders within our communities about this shared history is essential to cultivate appreciation for the cultural, historical, and spiritual connections between Islam and Latin American culture. The influence of Islam on Mexican society is profound and enduring, evident in even the day-to-day lives of its citizens. Guadalajara, one of Mexico’s largest cities, bears an Arabic name derived from Wadi al hijara (Valley of Stones). Some celebrities like Salma Hayek, Jaime Camil, Alejandro Bischir, and Peso Pluma have Arab ancestry. One of Mexico’s most beloved culinary treasures, tacos al pastor, traces its origins back to Lebanese immigrants. Although many Arab immigrants were also Christian, there have also been Muslim-Arab and Turkish migrations since the 20th century. With over 120,000 Muslims currently residing in Mexico and a significant conversion trend observed among indigenous Mexican Mayans in the state of Chiapas since 1989, Islam’s presence in the country is becoming more visible and continues to

Official Statement in support of people of Gaza and students protesting

Official Statement: ICNA requests all the people/organizations of conscience to please support and endorse this statement in support of people of Gaza and students protesting. https://forms.gle/JPupGWxh33p8TyPj7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Rba9IdDOi8In the name of God, the Most Beneficent and the Most Merciful History has shown that students have always played a major role in the pursuit of justice. By raising their voices, standing firm, and organizing, there has always been a resilient student presence demanding human rights and promoting peace across the world. This past week, we have witnessed a historical movement across institutions of higher learning throughout the United States. This student-led movement demanding the end of the genocide in Gaza began in Columbia University in New York, and has now spread not only throughout campuses in the US, but also to institutions in Europe. The images of courage, bravery and resilience of these students has given a renewed hope to all people of conscience who yearn to see justice prevail. The hallmark of this movement are its uncompromising call towards justice, its diversity and its inclusive nature, where students of different backgrounds, colors and creeds have come together to support the oppressed people of Palestine. Unfortunately, universities across the United States denied these students’ constitutional right to free speech. Students at Columbia University have been disciplined with suspensions and over 100 have been arrested on campus while engaging in peaceful protests. Likewise, over 80 students have been arrested during their demonstration at Washington University in St. Louis and others. In total, more than 850 students have been arrested throughout the country while advocating for ending the genocide against the Palestinians. Well over 34,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed by the state of Israel since 10/7, 65% of the victims are either children or women. On average, Netanyahu’s government has dropped 21 bombs every hour resulting in the complete destruction of all major hospitals, educational institutions and places of worship. As the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, faces potential arrest from the International Court of Justice in relation to war crimes, the United States government has shamefully vetoed every UN resolution to stop the genocide in Gaza. At the same time, heavy handed actions by Universities across the board raises serious concerns about the infringement of students’ First Amendment rights. The United States Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech, which includes the right to peacefully assemble and protest. By punishing students for exercising these fundamental rights, Columbia University and others are setting a dangerous precedent that undermines the very principles of democracy and academic freedom upon which these universities were founded. The actions of these universities have created a pressure point where lawful protests are being penalized with the slew of recent suspensions and arrests. Restricting pro-Palestine voices under the guise of curbing anti-semitism is a clear indicator of the conflation of criticisms of the state of Israel and the political ideology of Zionism. We reiterate that Anti-Jewish hate and violence is inexcusable. However, the conflation of criticism of a political entity and ideology with a world religion, limits the rights of that group to a particular segment while diminishing the voices of the remainder. The casualty here is freedom of speech and ultimately America’s purported values. It is clear that foreign interests are not only dominating Congress but are now setting their sights on college campuses. It is imperative to recognize that universities play a crucial role as bastions of free expression and intellectual inquiry. They should serve as environments where individuals are encouraged to challenge prevailing ideas, engage in meaningful dialogue, and advocate for change. Suppressing dissenting voices only stifles innovation and perpetuates an environment of conformity. By suspending students for participating in peaceful protests, Columbia and other Universities are failing in their duty to protect and promote the rights of their students. Members of ICNA, along with other USCMO volunteers, met with lawmakers and their staff on the 29th and 30th of April on our National “Day on the Hill”. ICNA reiterated its resolve in always supporting the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. We also reaffirmed our support for their liberation, and a dignified life for all human beings. As an organization, we are proud to stand for the right of free speech for our brave student leaders as they tackle the issue of injustice. We request that people of conscience, including individuals and organizations, to support and endorse this statement and the demands presented by Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). In light of these facts, ICNA demands: 1) The University administration of Columbia University, and all other universities, to immediately reinstate suspended students who peacefully protested and reaffirm its commitment to upholding the principles of free speech and academic freedom. 2) University Administrations should listen to the demands of the students and do not suppress the rights of free speech. 3) Law enforcement agencies withdraw all the charges against peaceful protestors.For media inquiries or further information, please contact: media.engagement@icna.orgICNA President, Dr. Mohsin Ansari. 


Islamic Circle of North America
166-26 89th Ave
Jamaica, Queens
NY 11432

Telephone/Fax: (855) 855-ICNA (4262)