Islam in Cuba

Yasir Qadhi

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Channel: Yasir Qadhi

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My heart to read today is about my recent trip to Cuba and inshallah going to summarize some aspects of Cuba and the history of Cuba. Because obviously, a lot of us are not aware of this. So a brief summary of what exactly this island is and why is it so different? Cuba is, of course, the first or one of the first islands discovered by Christopher Columbus, actually, Christopher Columbus landed on Cuba before he came here. He was actually buried on Cuba for 300 years. And he named certain aspects and islands of Cuba as well. There was some local indigenous, native Indians there, obviously, as is the case when Europeans came, all of them are massacred, but I was surprised to

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find out a few 100 of the original native Indians are still living in one corner of Cuba. In their own area, they're still speaking the original language, unlike many of us, native Indians here, they're almost gone their heritage, they're still over there. But the Spanish took over Cuba for 500 years, 450 years, remained a part of Spain up until roughly 1900. When they rebelled, and they wanted freedom. Our country, America supported that freedom supported that revolt. And they actually went to war, the American Spanish War around 1898, we went to war with Spain to free Cuba, do you think we did so because of the goodness of our heart, we had our own interests. So as soon as the

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Spanish left Cuba, we installed a puppet regime, and for the next 5060 years, Cuba became an American protectorate, complete corruption from our side, complete, you know, people in charge that are basically cow towing to us rather than their old people, their own people. And for 60 years, Cuba was officially independent, but in reality, it was completely dominated by our interest, we have to understand this point to understand why the revolutions succeeded. So for 60 years, we consider Cuba to be our playground. To give you one simple statistic, Cuba is, of course, very, very wealthy in terms of his natural resources in terms of sugar plantations. During the 60 years, we

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America controlled 95% of Cuban sugar plantations, the Cuban people were starving, the Cuban people don't have the freedoms, and we had a puppet regime. We're fleecing, just like colonization of the past, like the East India Trading Company. We were doing the exact same thing. But this was in the 1930s 1940s 1950s. So Cuba became an exotic place for Americans because it is our playground, but the people are brutally repressed by the regime. It was known as the Batista regime, and therefore there's momentum, there's hatred, there wants to be a revolution. Come now Fidel Castro, and Che Guevara and these freedom fighters, and they start a revolution. They are banned, they're

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imprisoned, they're exiled. They flee the country, then in a story that comes straight out of mythology, but it is actual factually true. They come back in the middle of the night when they be 50 people on boats, they land in Cuba, and they start an armed revolt against the American led government in the 19, late 1950s. It sounds unbelievable. 50 people land on one part of Cuba, and they start fighting the entire army and government and they eventually succeed. That's why the Cuban Revolution is so phenomenal, barely, you know in the in there are people that are alive that remember this in late 1950s, Che Guevara, the famous all of our youngsters know him and Fidel Castro

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and roll his brother who's still alive and people of that timeframe. They got the people support, the masses supported them. That's the only way they won. Now pause here, I'm going to bring in some Islamic stuff here. One of the closest

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symbol is one of the closest similarities is actually Iran in 1970s. Right, the Shah of Iran supported by us, the people hated him. Why did some fundamentalist cleric How did he manage to overcome the Shah of Iran? The people did not want the Shah, the people did not want this dictator. Similarly in Cuba, the people did not want the dictator. So what is the alternative? In the Iran it was fundamentalist Islam in Cuba? It was socialism Leninist Marxism. It was another ideology. They don't have religion. So they have another ideology, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro and Raul Castro. They're preaching another vision. They say, look at capitalism, look at America, you people are

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dying of starvation, whereas the multimillionaires are all American. We don't want capitalism we want another system that system socialism or a type of communism, or to be more precise, Leninist Marxism that people become enthralled. They support and then Cuba is now one of the last communist slash socialist last Marxist countries in the world. So before I move on, I need to pause here and explain for this cover audience because I want to educate and I want to bring in Islam as well. What is Marxism? What is socialism? What is capitalism? What is communism? And what does

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Islam have to say just five minutes on this, and we will go back to Cuba. So as you're aware, in the modern world, there's three primary systems, capitalism, socialism and communism. And we in this country live in a very capitalist society. Capitalism is basically the laissez faire, basically, you're on your own, you're free to do as you please, you want to start a company, go start a company and sell whatever product you want. It's supposed to be the freedom to make what you want, produce what you want, sell what you want, set your own prices, that's the ideal of capitalism, the government is really not involved directly. Socialism, they want to aim for a society where people

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are aiming to be equalitarian, you want to minimize the differences between the ultra rich, and between the ultra poor people should be roughly the same. And the way to do that you don't allow people born in wealthy families, or super smart people, or super evil people, too much power. What do you do, then you take the resources, and you give them to the government, or you give them to corporations run by the people, not individuals. So utilities, health care, medicine, education, jobs, it should be given to people on an equal basis as much as possible. And communism, of course, there's no country that is fully communist, no country, this fully capitalist communism, everybody

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gets the exact same. Nobody actually does that. But ideally, so there's a spectrum you have capitalism, socialism, communism, and communism, everybody gets the exact same salary doesn't work that way in the real world. So what you have is socialism that leans towards communism. Now, even socialism can lean towards liberalism and capitalism, where in the Nordic countries, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, these are liberal democratic socialist countries. In Sweden, for example, a doctor will make maybe $1,000 More than a bus driver per month. That's it 1000 $2,000 That said, the bus driver will get maybe $100,000 salary, I'm not joking, look this up, the bus driver will get a very good

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salary, and the doctor will get a very good salary plus a little bit more. That's it. Very, very minimal difference. You want people to live a moderate life taxes are very high. But amenities are also free education from beginning all the way to PhD, free health care, free amenities. That's what a socialist country looks like, right? Now you have liberal socialist, now you have repressive socialist Cuba is repressive socialist, you don't have freedom to speak. It's a repressive country, the country controls everything. In Cuba, you want to get a job, you don't go to the office and apply you apply to the government. your paycheck comes from the government. Even if you work for a

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corporation, your paycheck comes from the government, and the government pays everybody not exactly the same, but within the same amount. So for example, a secretary is going to make I'm not exaggerating, I was find out I found out in my trip, a secretary makes 10 $11 a month. A doctor makes $15 a month.

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That's in Cuba. A doctor will make $15 a month and a secretary makes $10 a month. Everybody's working for the government. The Corporation's work for the government, the people are employed by the government. So where did they get their food, their water, their their their their bills from 10 years ago, nobody could even own a house. The government owned all the apartments you would apply to the government only 10 years they now allowed this and the rents are subsidized by the government food subsidized by the government. Everybody in Cuba has a paper book, I saw it myself. And in that you ration your food. The government rations your food, you get 12 eggs a month, one pound of sugar

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a month, half a pound of salt a month, and it goes on and on. So you go to the ration stores. I have it on my video footage. And every street corner there's a small store, and the store is run by the government. You take your book out, and you show them I haven't gotten my my eggs for this month. So they will give you 12 eggs and you pay them 10 cents token fee. They can pay them 100 pesos small amount. It's not free, but it's subsidized. You're not allowed to get more than 12 eggs. If you cheat the system, you're gonna go to jail. Everybody gets 12 eggs. Everybody gets one pouch this and there is no Kroger's. You cannot walk into a supermarket lined and lined with food. No, there is no

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such thing. Now, last 510 years, this current guyra older brother of Fidel has allowed a little bit of freedom just a little bit. So there is no Kroger's, but there is a open black market meaning if you want to buy more than 12 eggs, there are stores that will sell them to you, not from the government. But still the government knows about it, so you're going to pay exorbitant prices for a few more eggs.

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The government allocates I found out one pound of chicken per month per person. We eat one pound of chicken per meal. One pound of chicken per month per person. The people told me will usually go three months without any chicken. Nothing, no meat, we cannot get it. So the black market is now thriving over there. UN estimates 85% of people in Cuba are living under poverty. Now when Fidel came to power in the 1950s he banned religion this is important we're gonna come back to this he banned religion including Christianity why? Because they socialism they think religion brings about fitna religion brings about chaos religion brings up we want everybody to be godless, heedless, a

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person of the state, we want them to be prioritizing the country. So forget God, forget religion, forget everything. Churches were shut down for 40 years, no massages, no nothing. Only in the last 2030 years, they allowed Christianity and only in the last 10 years they allowed Islam. So we're going to come back to this point. So in a nutshell, Cuba is a very different country, one of the last remnants of this version of socialist slash communism, the world. So Cuba, North Korea, and China, these are the only countries left that are like this. And that's why the America government obviously is not too keen on this now. Now to our story of Islam in Cuba, Islam and Cuba can be

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briefly divided into three phases, the first two no longer exists. The third one is what we're talking about. Now, the first phase from 1500 to 1900. Muslims did exist as slaves. But because the Cuban government does not allow the types of research that is allowed here, we don't really know much about them. We know there were Muslim slaves as they were here in America, as they were in South America, there were Muslim slaves in Cuba, but like all of the slaves, they weren't able to protect their religion. So Islam got lost. But we have some notion that there were 5% 10% Muslim slaves in Cuba, all gone. The second wave of Muslims from Cuba is when Cuba became independent until

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Fidel Castro's revolution from 1898 to around 1955, those 50 years 60 years around, we estimate because we don't have to, because right now, the government is not allowing research. We don't have the numbers. But what we do know is around two 3000 Arab families came not we don't know whether they're Muslim or Christian, what percentage we can estimate 50 60% Christian because majority were Christian, and maybe 30 40% Muslim, because most Arabs that came to Cuba were Maronite Christians from Lebanon, but still a good percentage were Muslim. We have anecdotal knowledge. We don't really have recordings of this because we don't have research at the government allows us to do these few

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1000 Muslims. They were the first Arabs to come to Cuba, and they founded Arab associations. There is Arabic architecture, I took a few pictures as well they built their houses in and the Lucien style in Arabic style. They do have Arabic calligraphy and their houses I saw with my own eyes, this is from 1898 to 1950. There were many wealthy Arab merchants that came and they lived there in this semi independent timeframe. However, sad reality, the Muslims of this timeframe, did not build a single Masjid. They did not start any Quran school. They didn't preserve their religion. And so when Fidel came and banned religion, those Muslims that remained they were not able to preserve Islam to

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their next generation, and that immigrant Islam completely into dissipated, there is no remnants of it left. I asked. I asked, I asked, Where are the descendants of these people? They quoted me some famous names. There are some singers Estefan. I don't know who they are. And they're these are all his grandfather was this, but they're not Muslim anymore. Around 50,000 Cubans, or modern Cuba, their ancestry is Arab, around 50,000. Zero are Muslim. To the best of my knowledge. I asked multiple people, I went to the masjid. Nobody has heard of any of them. They've lost Islam completely. And it's a big reality. I've spoken about this multiple times, when the Muslims

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migrated. The first batches that came to America has, by and large, they lost their faith here in America and in South America. Why? Because they didn't build messages. They didn't build masalas. They didn't build Islamic schools. They didn't make darkfield. So the first generation were Muslim. And I read a paper in an academic journal I was doing doing my research on this, that in the 70s, or 80s, a ethnographic researcher came across a tape recording listen to this, of a Syrian immigrant and Ottoman immigrants who had recorded in the 1930s or 40s, the car of the janazah so that if somebody dies, they can play this recording over the janazah when they put them in the ground. So

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for the next 30 years

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eras in Fidel Castro's time when religion was banned, they would have this cassette recording that anytime somebody died there is no Salah there is no Juma there is no, but they know he's a Muslim. So when he dies, they would take the cassette recording, and they would just play it and put the body in the ground. And that's all they can do in the 60s and the 70s, that Islam is completely gone. So then where is now Islam coming from? There has now been Al Hamdulillah. A resurgence beginning from the 80s and 90s. Where did this research has come from? These are the ones we met. Where did it come from? Two sources. Number one.

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From the 80s onwards, Cuba started inviting people to study in the universities for PR for you know, getting relationships, especially for the governments that are not in good ties with the western lands, you know, the quote, unquote, third world countries back in the day. So Cuba opened its doors for students to come study engineering medicine. Apparently, Cuban universities are very good. They don't get paid a lot. But apparently, the nurses are very good for Latin America. And their medical schools apparently are amongst the best. And they're free because it's a socialist country. And so Cuba began bringing students from Muslim African countries from certain Arab countries from for 10

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years, Pakistan also had a relationship with Cuba, from 1991 to I think, 2001. For 10 years, Buxton had hundreds of students coming for medicine. So for the first time, Muslims came to Cuba only as temporary students, they were not allowed to live there. They had to study and go back, but during the time that there what's going to happen, interaction, so people began interacting with Muslims seeing Muslims, this was the first batch of interaction, and people began converting another group from, from the Cuban people. They worked overseas, they got jobs in America, they got jobs, I met one of the converts, he worked in the Middle East, he worked in, I think, Bahrain or someplace. And

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so he converted over there, and he came back. So another batch goes overseas and comes back. And the third batch the most bizarre Subhanallah they discover Islam on their own cut off from the rest of the world. And I met quite a few of such people. And this is where the man really just, it's truly phenomenal. I want to tell you some of the stories of the people that I met, so I I prayed there's only one Masjid in all of Havana, Cuba has 11 million people. Muslims are probably less than two 3000. Realistically, that is less than 0.03 or 4%. One of the smallest percentages I have ever visited in my life of Muslims, extremely small in all of Havana. Havana is one of the largest cities

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in in all those in all of Havana, there is a small masala list less than 1/4 of the size of epic, it just opened up seven, eight years ago, with help from the Turkish and other governments. They paid some money for this. And even that masala was majority empty for Joomla. I would estimate there was probably less than 150 people in Havana for Joomla less than 150 people of them perhaps 60% were students immigrants. There were few businessmen and a few ambassadors or you know, the the, the the foreign delegations that are there, you know, working in the embassies 60% 40% were conference 40% were conference and this is in Havana one Masjid. Can you imagine other cities which are smaller,

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how many people will be coming for Juma? So in the entire island of 11 million people 11 million? How many are praying Jumana Subhanallah it's really something that it was very, I have never met have hardly been to a country where the percentage is so small. But when you meet these people, these converts amazing stories. Let me tell you a few of these stories. So we met brother and Reek brother and Rico was in his late 70s, early 80s. Brother and Rick was involved in the revolution of the 60s. He was now very old man, brother and Rick said his first introduction to Islam came, he couldn't speak English speaking to me in Spanish. His first introduction to Islam came when he was

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involved with the revolution. And he took inspiration from the Black Panthers in America. And he read the autobiography of Malcolm X in the 60s and Cuba. As a young man, he reads a Spanish translation of Malcolm X's autobiography. And he said I wanted to be a Muslim ever since I read that book. And I was thinking to myself, Malcolm X never ever met this person. He has no idea and yet his legacy his inspiration has reached all the way to Cuba. And a man who never met a Muslim in his life. decided in the 60s. I want to convert to Islam. I asked him how Jonah would you never met a Muslim? How did you know because I just read this man's biography. And I said this is what I want to

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be. But I didn't know anything about Islam. There is no book allowed about Islam. No Quran allowed in Cuba. No literature never met a Muslim. So then so how do you convert so he said kept on doing finding more research. Then Muhammad Ali became a rule

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model so for 10 years unfolding Muhammad Ali, because of him, he became a professional boxer, a professional MMA fighter because of Muhammad Ali inspired the inspiration. Now he became a trainer Cuba then assigned him to train people to become professional fighters. And in the 80s and 90s people would come from overseas to be trained under him. That's where he met his first Muslim from African countries coming to train MMA. And he says, I saw a copy of the Quran I jumped on. He said, Where'd you get this book from? Because I'm a Muslim, because tell me about Islam. And when he met the Muslim, he knew he had to convert from the 60s till the 80s. He hadn't met a Muslim. But he said

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in my heart, I knew I'm a Muslim Subhanallah he doesn't know what the shahada is. He doesn't know what the Quran is. He doesn't know salah, but he knows he's a Muslim simply by reading Malcolm X's. When he reads the Quran, he embraces Islam, and he doesn't even have any Masjid. There's no Masjid in the 80s and 90s. In Cuba. This is brother and Rick We met him another brother who I wanted to meet that I didn't know he passed away. So I heard about him before he passed away during COVID. He was a professor of religion. And his name is Imam Yahya Sharia here. He's called Imam. Yeah, he didn't study Islam formally. By the way, Cuba does not have a single scholar from Cuba. Not a single

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half of the Quran Subhanallah Can you imagine 11 million people, and nobody trained in Islam, who leads the salah who's these are the students who come, you know, there was the Imam there he was from Niger. From Nigeria. He was from Niger he had studied in the Madras as a child, and now he's studying engineering. So he's there for a few years. He's the Imam. I said, what's gonna happen when you leave? Because I don't know somebody is going to take over me. He cannot stay there is no, no, he's not Cuban. He's there studying engineering. When he finishes, he's gonna go back. But in the meantime, he's the one leading the Salah and taking charge. He's not actually Cuban. But he's, he

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has to do it because that's the role he's been assigned. Subhanallah there's not a single chef on the island. And it was just amazing for me. How can you survive? How can you put Subhanallah here they are another so I wanted to share yeah, here, I didn't meet him. I met his Wi Fi. I thanked her for on our behalf and whatnot. Share here here was a professor of religious studies. He was a Christian. And when he studied religion, by studying religion, he came across Islam. And on his own again, without meeting any Muslim on his own, he converted to Islam in his office Subhanallah just you hear about these types of people. And I wish I could have met him but he passed away during

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COVID Allah, but he was the most active Muslim in the 80s and 90s. And he passed away as we said two years ago, and I was told by his wife by other people, that when it was illegal, he would open his Masjid his house for Joomla asada. 234 people in the 80s and 90s. He would open his he would get a farm, sometimes the police would come and read it. Sometimes they were jailed because it's illegal to pray in that timeframe. But this Imam would you know, we call him email because you understand he's not trained as an imam. But out of respect was the Imam yeah, here, this Imam would in his own house have the Juma for a decade. Then when his house got exposed. He hired a a farm outside and

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they would go there to pray. And I'm just like, amazed the amount of the people they're praying when it is not allowed to pray. It's illegal to pray and they're doing this so Allah azza wa jal, yeah, and you give him genital for those for all that he has done, he has passed away, but he was giving that when there's video footage of him, you can see some of the video footage on YouTube, another person that we met there.

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Another person who was Brother Ibrahim, a Spanish Cuban, a Spanish Cuban convert, who converted 25 years ago via the activities of the same brothers, the mafia and others has Subhanallah his story again, just like what we saw today with the conversion, he said, I converted after you know, to 2001 when the incidents happened, I converted my whole family rejected me. But I persisted. I would wake up for Ramadan, every single day. I know I had to fast wake up for school. And after the first Ramadan, on the day of Eid, my wife gave me the best president ever. She said I want to convert to. And she said, why she said, any faith that causes you to wake up and fast every single day has to be

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a true faith, one month of Ramadan, and she converted on the day of read. Then he told me after a few years, his mother also converted and then his brother converted and then three of his converts because cousins converted hamdulillah from this one brother 10 of his family members covered Al Hamdulillah. This is how slowly but surely Islam is spreading. And again, so many more stories. I just want to tell you one more Subhanallah just a very interesting story. The youngest convert that we met, he just turned 18 He was 17 when he converted a few months ago. His name is harder, brother harder, and brother harder. A very interesting story and it shows you Subhan Allah Allah has many

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blessed miracles and many blessings. This brother harder, you know, cell phones

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And intranet was only recently allowed in Cuba just a few years ago. Otherwise, during Fidel Castro's time, complete ban, his brother role has opened up just a little bit, you know. So, by the way, you as an American cannot go as a tourist, you cannot just go to Cuba as a tourist, there must be some conditions. So I went as a scuba diver, that's how you can go there. Okay, literally, you're going for humanitarian. I'm not joking. It's not a tourist. So I went and so I want to go scuba diving, and I'm helping the environment because they I'm not even joking. Not even just for tourism. They said, so there's a program there if you help the environment, so I was assigned. I'm not even

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making this up a certain fish. And I was told every time I die, if I have to monitor how many times I see this fish, and I write it and give it back to the government. So I mean, if you think about it, it's somebody's got to do it. Right. So every one of us in our group was assigned a different fish. So I was assigned a fish while it was a goliath grouper, this big of a grouper. And I saw three of them. They're bigger than a human being a massive fish. So I have some video footage of me. So hungry ly, I assigned it okay, I saw three of these groups they have to monitor. So that's my contribution. That's why I'm allowed to go to Cuba. You cannot go to Cuba as a simple tourist. You

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have to find a way out. If you really want to go you there's ways but I'm saying you cannot just land there. My point is right. So only few recently, the government has allowed a little bit of internet. So this young boy harder began. He had a cell phone, he began searching online talking to people online via WhatsApp. And he discovered Islam. And he converted as a 17 year old young man 17 year old because of iPhone because of, you know, talking to people online. He told his parents and his mom freaked out and confiscated his phone. He's 17 years old. Now he has no contact. He discovered the Masjid. So he would spend the whole day in the masjid with this imam from Africa

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learning Quran he'd memorize some Jews. He's now learning Arabic he was speaking to me at hamdulillah in sha Allah Mashallah. I'm like wow and with without any accent like much very amazing. He's learning Arabic on his own in the masjid. We whatever books he has over there, and he doesn't have a phone and Subhanallah listen to the story. We went with the group Dr. Schneider is with us as well right? He's there Mashallah. Right. So Allah subhanho wa Taala through something and Dr. Ismail his heart right before he exited his house to come to Cuba. He had an old iPhone. Listen to the story. You know where this is Eddie? Because let me just put it in my pocket. Maybe I can give it to

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somebody there. You know exactly what happens. Harder, sees Dr. Ismail on the streets recognizes where you from the sinner almost no mashallah must do this. And that tells him his whole story. So I don't have a phone right now. And Dr. vices Oh, I have a phone for you. And he gets a iPhone upgrade from Allah subhanho wa taala. His parents took it away two months ago. And Allah subhanaw taala gave him a better version for free from Al Hamdulillah. Dr. Ismail, this is how Allah works. This is this is can you imagine? Can you imagine the story? Well, like is this a coincidence? This is Allah's mother. You cannot deny this many mortgages or mini caramba that's happening right? This child

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converts because of his phone is taken away. And subhanAllah he gets it within two months, a better version. This is from Allah subhana wa Tada. I want to conclude with three points that really moved me or three lessons we can learn, first and foremost, to appreciate the blessings we have over here, the amount of poverty we saw over there Subhanallah And Alhamdulillah your generous gifts that you gave, we distributed to every single convert a very generous amount. They were so happy I said this from the epic Islamic II splendor Islamic center. We gave the Imam we give the Congress their food and clothing and cash and hijabs. MashAllah Every sister in Cuba has a hijab no mashallah the

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sisters who give so many hijabs. Every sister in Cuba now has a hijab, a camera, we distributed all of that. So we appreciate the blessings we should have. Number two, learn from the past Muslims. You need to preserve your identity across South America and North America. Those people who didn't care to preserve Islam last Islam. We need to thank Allah we have these massages, we have Quran schools, we have that field schools, we have madrasahs you need to be involved, your families need to be involved, because if you're not what happened to them is going to happen to us. And then the last point, marvel at the Eman of these people kept under 60 years of complete, you know, harsh regimes

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complete, forbidden to read the Quran forbidden to pray Juma. Still they discover Islam. And when they discover Islam in spite of the persecution, they pray, they are affirming their Eman. They're coming in to land in a place where they don't even know Muslim some of them convert to Islam. You meet people like this And subhanAllah it really reminds you of the Hadith of the prophets of some A time will come when one per

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Send amongst you will get the budget of 50 of the sahaba. They said, Yeah, Rasulullah 50 of us because just 50 of you holding on to your religion will be more difficult than holding on to burning coal. This is what I felt when I went to Cuba. The people need religion slowly, but surely it's opening up now. But they don't have the facilities, they don't have the freedom. So do whatever we can make to offer them if you're able to visit, you know, you can speak to any of us there are ways to go there, if you're able to visit and help them out. They need preachers and teachers who understand and speak Spanish, I gave a short, hotter an English, they don't understand English

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because again, the whole system is different there, right? There are no two languages there. So it was translated, you know, to the people there. So we need Spanish odema Spanish speaking, preachers and clerics to go there to live amongst them. The people are so ready, they want something but they don't have this knowledge. So make dua for them. Thank Allah for what we have and marvel at the amount of these people from where to where people are worshipping Allah in this entire island. No matter how small the masjid is, but it is a beacon of light we pray ALLAH SubhanA wa Taala fortifies that beacon makes it brighter and stronger and allows Islam to flourish over there as well as our

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Kamala Harris anomaly for her to live on.

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Either call

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me Mr. Heaton doll Seanie

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doesn't mean a lot to me. What to feed.

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Sunday. What

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feels good

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to me.

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Jenny Tansa down to

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me