In high school,
I received a jolt to my long-held belief when a Christian friend told me that
the Holy Trinity was not true and that Jesus was not God. "He was wrong" I told
myself. Jesus had to be God. God and humanity were disconnected by the sin
committed by Adam and Eve. God sent his only 'begotten' son to die because He
loved us so much. Because only God forgives, Jesus had to be God. I even had the
Bible quotes to prove it! Indeed, being a devout Roman Catholic Christian, I
have read almost the entire Bible. In high school, I was a lecturer, usher,
Eucharistic minister, and CCD teacher. I am the godfather for a nephew and a
niece. The idea that Jesus was God made much sense.
I am a
Mexican-American who comes from a modest background. I spent my adolescent and
teenage years in such small Texas Panhandle towns as Quitaque, Turkey, Lakeview,
and Memphis. None of them has a mall, a movie theater, or a McDonald's. Memphis,
Texas, population 2,300, proudly proclaims itself "The Cotton Capital of
the World." In Memphis, if you hear a fire truck or police car, either your
neighbor's house is on fire or your neighbor is being arrested. Growing up in
small communities gave me much appreciation for the simplicity in God's
I graduated from
Memphis High School in Memphis, Texas in 1994. I did well in high school and
would attend Texas Tech University in Lubbock.
In 1998 I began attending the University of Texas at Austin. I graduated
with a bachelor's degree in MIS in December 2001. Not bad for a kid who had to
hoe cotton most of his junior high and high school summers to pay for his
clothes and school supplies! My dad was a cotton ginner. Now, he is a custodian
at a junior high school in Pampa, Texas. I had eight siblings, but in 2000 my
17-year old sister died in a car wreck.
I have always
had respect for other religions. I would often attend other Christian churches
and join interfaith Bible study groups. While in one such group, I told my
friend Chris that I was a Catholic. Chris blatantly told me that the Catholic
Church was "a false doctrine." As you can imagine, I defended my religion. Chris
accused me of worshipping Mary, Saints, and the Pope. I argued that we only
revere them. Around this time, I happened to see a man praying. His knees,
hands, and forehead were touching the ground, and he was barefoot. After he
finished praying, I introduced myself to him. He said his name was Armando, and
that he was a Muslim. I thought to myself: "Ok, freaky, you're Muslim. You can't
be Muslim. What's this Hispanic guy doing praying to Allah?" He later told me
that Spain was Muslim for over 700 years and that thousands of Spanish words
have Arabic roots. The ruins of mosques with Qur'anic writings have been found
in Cuba, Mexico, Texas and Nevada.
importantly, Armando spoke to me about Islam. I began to realize that my
reverence for Mary and Saints was much more than mere reverence. Chris was
right. However, we were both worshipping Jesus! Armando said that Jesus was only
a prophet and that nothing and no one is worthy of worship but Allah. Allah
literally means "The God" in English and "El Dios" in Spanish. Submission to the
One Creator of the Universe and Humanity - "Islam" is the universal
religion of God.
Many of my
questions were answered! What is the purpose of life? How can the Father be the
Son? Why can't God just forgive anyone He wants? What happens to babies who die
In Quran 5:83, Allah states: "And when they (who call
themselves Christian) listen to what has been sent down to the Messenger, you
see their eyes overflowing with tears because of the truth they have recognized.
They say: 'Our Lord! We believe; so write us down among the witnesses.'"
Indeed, my eyes
overflowed with tears as I read that verse. Yet I did not embrace Islam until
three years after meeting Armando, because I did not want to change. A struggle
occurs within everyone, everyday, and everywhere. We struggle to attain what is
most important for us. By embracing Islam, we tell Allah that He is the most
important and that we are prepared to struggle to do what is right and to avoid
what is wrong. I am a Mexican-American Muslim.