Muslims in Puerto Rico

Updated 28 December 2012
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Muslims in Puerto Rico

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is unincorporated, organized territory of the United States with area 13,790Km2. It has been under US control since 1898, when it was captured from Spain. It is an archipelago that includes the main island of Puerto Rico and over a 100 smaller islands mostly to the east of the main island and almost all are uninhabited, the largest of which are Vieques (348Km2), Culebra (30Km2), and Mona (57Km2 but uninhabited).

The first Muslims are said to have arrived in Puerto Rico around the mid-20th century from Palestine as a result of the declaration of Israel. Their population rose from none in 1940 to 2,000 (0.07 percent) in 1970. They were estimated to be 3,000 (0.09 percent) in 1980; 4,500 (0.13 percent) in 1990; and 5,000 (0.13 percent) in 2010.
Assuming that the percentage of Muslims will continue to increase by 0.01 of a percentage point per decade, the Muslim population is expected to reach 5,300 or 0.14 percent in 2020, then 6,200 or 0.17 percent by 2050, and 6,700 or 0.22 percent by 2100.
As part of the Makkah-based Muslim World League fact-finding mission on Muslims worldwide, my father Dr. Ali Kettani (1941-2001) visited this Island in 1973 among several countries in Europe and the Americas and recorded his findings.
He had then found no mosques in Puerto Rico, and estimated the total Muslim population at 2,000, 80 percent of which were Palestinians. He described their religious situation as the worst he found during his 78-day long trip starting Oct. 22, in which he visited 28 countries.
Today, the number of Muslims more than doubled but the percentage of Palestinians remains the same. The number of mosques mushroomed to nine that are spread throughout the main island. Only one Muslim family lives on Vieques, none in Culebra, and the rest of Muslims live on the main island.
The first mosque was established in 1981 in Rio Piedras, part of the capital San Juan, and on a walking distance from the University of Puerto Rico. It was purchased and adopted as a mosque and has the capacity of 200 males and 40 females. The mosque has a full time Imam and adhan and khutba are heard by speakers outside the mosque.
The second mosque which is the biggest on the Island was built in 1992 in Vega Alta, about 30 minutes west of San Juan on the top of a hill overlooking the northern expressway 22. It has the capacity of 1200 males and 120 females. This mosque also has a full time Imam.
A small rented room was adopted as a mosque in 1993 in Jayuya, in the middle of the Island. The room has a capacity of 25 people and mainly used for Friday prayers where a fifth of the capacity attends.
A small mosque was built in 1995 in Fajardo, in the northeast of the Island. It has a yellow dome resembling the Dome of Rock. The mosque has the capacity of 50 males and 15 females. At Friday prayers however, only 10 percent of the maximum capacity are present. The fifth mosque was built in 1997 in Ponce, in the mid-south of the island. It has the capacity of 200 males and 20 females. At Friday prayers however, only 20 percent of the maximum capacity are present.
The sixth mosque was built in 1998 in Hatillo, in the northwest of the Island. It has the capacity of 200 males and 30 females. At Friday prayers however, only 20 percent of the maximum capacity are present.
A second floor apartment was rented in 2002 in Aguadilla, in the northwest of the Island and converted to a mosque. The room has a capacity of 50 people and mainly used for Friday prayers where a fifth of the capacity attends.
The eighth mosque was built in 2007 in Montehiedra, a southern suburb of San Juan, on the top of a hill overlooking the south-north expressway 52. It is the second largest on the Island in terms of capacity, but the largest in terms of total land which is about a hectare. It has the capacity of 400 males and 50 females. At Friday prayers however, less than 50 percent of the maximum capacity are present. This mosque also has a full time Imam.
The ninth mosque was established in 2011 in Loiza, an eastern suburb of San Juan. It was adopted by local indigenous Muslims with a capacity of 20 people.


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016
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The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.