Islam in Argentina: Arabic classes, Islam and coffee shops


Marwan Gill, Missionary, Argentina

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It was during the International Book Fair in Buenos Aires (capital of Argentina) just six months aft er I had arrived in Argentina as a missionary. At that time, I spoke very little and basic Spanish, so the missionary from Uruguay, Yousuf Khan Sahib came to help me during this two-week period.

Having recently graduated from Jamia Ahmadiyya without almost any practical experience in the field and also participating for the very first time in a book fair, I felt myself jumping into cold water without knowing how to swim. I had many doubts and was not sure how the reaction of the Argentinians would be towards our exhibition about Islam. However, in the first few days, I could see that there was an extraordinary interest and curiosity in people to know more about Islam, but somehow, many would not feel comfortable to enter our stand.

My colleague, having noticed the same attitude, suggested that maybe we should introduce an attractive and appealing activity so that they would feel more comfortable to approach us. He suggested that we off er to write down their names in Arabic calligraphy for free. I must confess that at that moment, out of respect for him and also not having any better suggestion, I accepted his proposal, but in my heart, I was skeptical; I thought where the bridge between writing down names in Arabic and having conversations about the teachings of Islam was.

By the grace of Allah the Almighty, I realised in the next few days that I was totally mistaken; aft er starting this activity, long queues started building up and we began to have difficulties attending to everyone. It made it much easier for people to approach us and start having personal conversations about Islam. Writing down the names in Arabic was also a good platform for us to clarify the difference between Islam and the Arabic culture (as many Argentinians had this misconception).

Surprisingly, one very common question was if we would offer any classes about Arabic language and Islam. Initially, keeping in mind that yet we did not have any mission house in Argentina and also, I hardly spoke Spanish, so the answer was a straight forward, “No, not at the moment.”

Anyhow, the constant repetition of this question made me think about the story of Prophet Mosesas mentioned in the Holy Quran. After being commanded by God to go and preach to Pharaoh, prophet Mosesas did not consider himself able to fulfil this task due to his personal weakness as a speaker.

However, Allah assured him that He would help him and ease his tongue and chest from this burden. (Surah Ta Ha, Ch.20: V.25-37)

Obviously, I was not comparing myself to Prophet Mosesas, but I started putting more faith in Allah and His promise given to the Promised Messiahas that it is God Himself Who would convey the message of Islam Ahmadiyyat to the corners of the world.

I came to the conclusion that despite my personal weaknesses and the lack of a mission house, surely Allah would not abandon me for the sake of His divine community and would help me in the arrangement of these classes.

Hence, another sign was added on the wall: “Register yourself for free Arabic and Islam classes.”

By the end of the book fair, we had more than 100 people registered for the classes. The next obstacle now was to find a place to hold classes with this amount of people! We did not have a mission house yet, so temporarily, we started those classes in a coffee shop and split up the participants in smaller groups.

There are certain memories attached to those classes which even today are very fresh in my mind: Entering the coffee shop with my wife, wearing an Indonesian topi (cap), carrying a white board in one hand, some books and flyers in the other, made many heads turn in our direction.

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However, whilst I would be setting up the white board, almost everyone in the coffee shop would be staring at us in curiosity. It would sometimes make me nervous how people stopped their conversations and would observe me just to see what I am going to teach.

Once, the students arrived and I started the class with the words “Assalamo Alaikum” somehow all the nervousness would suddenly disappear. I would feel comfortable to explain in Spanish the grammatical rules of Arabic, and even more relaxed when I would talk about Islam. I would even feel more encouraged, when in the corner of my eye I would see some of the waiters or clients also trying to catch up with my talk about Islam.

After three months, we had finally our first mission house inaugurated in Argentina and shifted our classes there. The biggest advantage was that now, I could practically teach the participants how we pray and sometimes, after the classes, we would all pray in congregation according to the Islamic way.

It was astonishing for me that initially, they seemed to be more interested in Arabic, but with time, the majority of the participants were interested more in the talks about Islam. It would sometimes even happen that the group suggested to shorten the Arabic part so we have more time to talk about Islam.

When we started further advertising our classes on social media, to my surprise, the mission house became too small due to the large number of interest and participants. Therefore, we started renting a separate place just for the Arabic and Islam classes and had 50 participants attending our classes every week.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we initially suspended all the classes. However, some of the participants expressed their emotions that the information we share about Islam helps them emotionally and gives them moral and spiritual guidance which they needed now more than ever before, so we decided to continue with the classes on a virtual platform and are still continuing them online.

By the grace of Allah the Almighty, in the last two years, just through these classes, eight converts found their way to Islam Ahmadiyyat and hundreds of Argentinians were introduced to the true message of Islam.

On the other side, these classes are also an inspiration for me personally and my faith as I have witnessed myself that if one, with utmost sincerity, strives to serve God, then God himself removes all obstacles. I have experienced over the last two years that whenever I jumped into cold water for the sake of God and His divine community, He Himself taught me to swim.

I would like to clarify for the readers that what I have experienced is not due to my personal qualities, nor do I consider myself a saint or a holy person, but it is according to the divine promise given to everyone who wishes to strive for the sake of Allah and wishes to serve His divine community, as it is mentioned in the Holy Quran:

“And [as for] those who strive in Our path – We will surely guide them in Our ways. And verily Allah is with those who do good.” (Surah al-Ankabut, Ch.29: V.70)

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  1. Masha Allah.
    JazakAllah for such an inspirational article.

    I have taken a lot from it.

    May Allah bless you for your continuous efforts.


  2. Very inspiring, well written Article. It will encourage us all to help our devotees men and women through more prayers.
    Is Not Allah sufficient for His servant.


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