Monday, December 28, 2009

Death of Two Latino Callers to Islam: Sister Khadijah Rivera and Imam Benjamin Perez (May Allah Have Mercy on Their Souls)

By Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani

I just wanted to mentioned the fact that two Muslim da'is (callers) to Islam of Latino ancestry have died in the past two months. Inna lillahi wa inna alaihi raji'un (To Allah we come and to Allah we will return). I would also like to send my condolences to their families. The first was Sister Khadijah Rivera, the founder and president of P.I.E.D.A.D., who died on November 22, 2009. The second was Imam Benjamin Perez who was one of the oldest U.S. Latinos to convert to Islam. He died on December 8, 2009.

Sister Khadijah founded P.I.ED.A.D. which is an organization that was set up to help Latina Muslimahs. It originated in New York City in 1988. She eventually made her way to Florida. More recently, the organization redefined itself as an American / Latina organization. The following is a quote from the P.I.E.D.A.D. Yahoo! group about their organization at :

"In 1988 some sisters in NYC decided to dedicate themselves to dawah. We have distributed hundreds of Free Qurans and thousands of Islamic Literature. Held lectures at Colombia University , ISNA and other locations. Reverts to Islam unite...... PIEDAD is a support group for American/ Latino women. Al hamdulilah Islam is ever growing in the USA and every single major city has felt it. Latinos are reverting here as in Latin America and their families are joining in. Mashallah. We are a vital part of this revolution , just as the African Americans in the Sixty's during the time of then called, Malcolm X. Yes , this is our time and we are ready. Reverts have many hurdles to cross internally e.g. family, friends, and lifestyles . Only another revert can understand or support them without sounding condescending. Please feel to post dawah events or issues related to Latino American dawah efforts or education. This group is open to Everyone but our chapter PIEDAD meetings are only for sisters. MISSION STATEMENT 1. Dawah to Women and Hispanics One on one dawah soley to women 2. Leadership training and Dawah Partners with Muslim women of America. 3. Community Service Supporters of Project Downtown to feed the homeless. "

I was not fortunate to have met her, but I am familiar with her dawah (calling to Islam), community support efforts, and activism. In December 2008 and February 2009, she went to UAE to seek knowledge of Islam with a program that the the UAE government set up to teach Muslims in the US their din (religion). (References: and

Furthermore, she was instrumental (with the help of P.I.E.D.A.D.) in getting support for Imam Yusef Maisonet's (a Puerto Rican chaplain in Mobile, Alabama) trip to Puerto Rico. His goal of going there was to build ties with Muslims on the island and see if he could aid dawah efforts on the island (reference:

Concering "Imam" Benjamin Perez, I met the brother once at a lecture on Latinos and Islam. He was sitting in the audience. We chatted for a just little after the lecture. A few weeks ago when I heard he was sick and dying, I wanted to call him and interview him about his life. However, due to the circumstances, I did not think it would have been appropriate. I feel it is very important for US Muslims, in general, and Latino Muslims, specifically to document our lives and history. If we do not then we will be wiped out of history or someone else will rewrite our story.

From what "Imam" Benjamin Perez (rahimahullah-May Allah have mercy on his soul) told me, he became Muslim around the 1950s (if I recall correctly) after he came to a Nation of Islam (NOI) event. He said he liked the food and so he joined (or some words to that effect). Now of course, the NOI is not a Muslim organization, but proto-Muslim (as Eric Lincoln in the book "Black Muslims" called them), a quasi-Muslim, pseudo-Muslim, hetorodox Muslim, unorthodox Muslim, so-called Muslim, or "Muslim" organization. So simply put, he was not a true Muslim at that time. So when did he accept true Islam? That part I do not know. It could have been in 1975, when the leader of the NOI Elijah Poole (Muhammad) died and W.D. Muhammad (rahimahullah) took over the organization and brought the followers into the fold of Islam (though not upon the Sunnah). But based on the time period that he enter the NOI, I would guess that he came to Islam much earlier than that.

I will say this, if he did indeed enter the NOI at the time that he says he did, he may have been the first Chicano and Latino/Hispanic to have entered an organization making a claim to Islam.

Furthermore, if he entered true Islam prior to the 1960s (which is highly likely as I have already stated), then he would be the very first U.S. Latino to have entered Islam. The earliest report that I know of U.S. Latinos entering Islam are of some New York-Puerto Ricans who entered Islam in the 1960s and 1970s. See my article entitled "Latino Conversion to Islam: From African-American/Latino Neighbors to Muslim/Latino Global Neighbors" at The LADO Newletter ( for more on my thesis on Latino conversion.

On another point, I do not know if he was an actual imam of a masjid. He may have used the title "imam" as a title of respect, since he was involved in dawah. From my discussion with him, I do not think he was a student of knowledge or sat with any of the ulama (scholars), and Allahu a'lam (Allah knows best). He was more of a dai' (caller) to Islam with a great love of Islam. May Allah reward his for his efforts, Amin.

His family has set up a blog that has been dedicated to him at . If anyone would like to contact them or make a donation to his family, he/she can contact them there."

If I said anything that is correct it is from Allah, and if I said anything that is incorrect it is from myself and Shaytan; and I ask for Allah's forgiveness for that.

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