Hablamos Islam Niños
By Neda Hashmi
Couple Fills Void In Spanish Books for Muslim Children
Like many bilingual parents, Wendy Diaz and her husband Hernán Guadalupe decided that once they start a family, they will first teach their native language, Spanish, so the children will be able to learn their mother tongue. They not only wanted to preserve their native language for their children, but also wanted their them to be able to communicate in Spanish with their families. When they started to search for Islamic children’s books in Spanish, Diaz says she was surprised that her search came up almost empty. “We were only able to get hold of two of them which the imam from Ecuador (South America) sent us. Even brothers and sisters in Spain said they didn’t have Islamic children’s books in Spanish!” she said.
So Diaz decided to buy books in English and translate them to Spanish herself. She contacted the publishers of these Islamic books to volunteer as a translator, but says she was either turned down or the publishers were unresponsive. “I decided to take the matter into my own hands and write books myself. At first my own children were my only motivation, but the more I thought about other kids in Latin America, Spain, and in the US whose first language is Spanish and whose parents are Muslim, then they all became my motivation,” she said.
There are Spanish translations of a few major Islamic texts, such as the Holy Qur’an, but surprisingly few options exist in Islamic books for Spanish-speaking children. To solve this problem, Diaz and Guadalupe are publishing their own books of poems, nursery rhymes, and stories from the Qur’an and Hadith. “My idea is instead of introducing fictional superheroes into our children’s lives, introducing them to our real heroes,” said Diaz. “It is most important, in my opinion, that parents have the tools to teach their children in their own language, because if they can’t teach their children, then who will? The reality is that Islam has spread to every corner of the earth and a lot of people who embrace Islam don’t speak English, let alone Arabic.” Although their first book was only in Spanish, they are planning to print subsequent books in both Spanish and English.
Diaz and Guadalupe work on the books together, with Diaz writing the poems and stories and working together with her husband to illustrate and self-publish the books. “My husband and I already know so many Spanish-speaking Muslim families both in the US and abroad, so we are able to sell the books we print quickly,” said Diaz. “The challenge is getting the word out there that these books are now in existence and getting the funds to mass-produce them.” At the moment, they are funding this project themselves, putting any proceeds from book sales back into printing more books. “That slows us down, but alhamdulillah, even if we do this little by little, it is worth the effort, insha’Allah,” she said.
There are an estimated 40,000 to 200,000 Latino Muslims in America, and many more throughout the world. According to the U.S. Census, Hispanics/Latinos are the fastest growing minority in the US., so it leads one to wonder why there aren’t more Islamic materials available to this fast growing population of our community. Diaz notes that although there are large groups of Muslims and numerous masajid in every country in Latin America, she has not heard of any organized full-time Islamic school for children there. “In one masjid in Puerto Rico, there were some Islamic studies classes for children, but they were using texts in English! Although some people in Puerto Rico speak English, it is still a predominately Spanish-speaking island,” she said.
Diaz, who is of Puerto Rican descent, converted to Islam at the age of 20 after learning about it in high school and further with a Muslim family, while doing research on her own. Guadalupe, whose family is from Ecuador, and a few members of his family (including his mother) also converted within the same time-frame.
In addition to the Islamic children’s books, Diaz and Guadalupe run two websites www.hablamosislam.com for adults and www.hablamosislamninos.com for children. The websites offer free Islamic literature and e-books, with poems, videos and activities on the children’s website.