As believers, we trust that guidance comes from our Lord, and we cannot predict when or how it will happen. Sometimes, a small event can be the catalyst for changing a person’s life. In this article, we will share the story of Arnaldo, a young man living in Cuba, and his transformation into Yusuf. Through his words, we will learn about embracing Islam and living as a Muslim in Cuba.
Arnaldo had always been in search of something. From his childhood, he experienced numerous spiritual doubts, pondering existential questions like, ‘Does God exist? Who is God? Where does God come from?‘
The Christianity practiced by his mother led him to believe in the existence of a supreme being and that being alone in the world was impossible. He also believed that everything happened by chance. Growing up in Havana in the ’90s, Arnaldo spent his childhood playing and being mischievous, while also working to support his family. Despite having some bad habits in his youth, his quest for meaning continued. Today, Arnaldo presents himself as Yusuf.
Yusuf is 28 years old, married, and has a 5-month-old child. He works in construction in Havana, evident from his copper-toned skin, proving that he works under the sun every day. Besides his slim build, the most noticeable thing about him is the beard that covers his neck.
Reflecting on his journey to Islam, Yusuf mentions approaching a Muslim whose focus was on his attire. He asked the man why he dressed that way and inquired about his religion. Having never seen a Muslim before, Arnaldo paid close attention to the man and listened intently to what he had to say. The next day, he visited the Abdullah Mosque in Old Havana, where he discussed life and the details of the religion with the people there. This turning point in his life led Arnaldo to take the name Yusuf in 2016.
Yusuf’s wife had studied architecture and was one of the few people who knew him during his journey to Islam. One day, she mentioned looking for a quiet place to study for exams. Yusuf told her about a large and empty place in the center (Abdullah Mosque). When they went there together, Yusuf introduced her to the imam. While he read the Quran, his future wife studied. Before leaving, they exchanged phone numbers, and their story began.
Yusuf, How Did You Manage to Make Him Accept Islam?
I didn’t do anything; he had doubts about Catholicism. He thought there had to be a mediator to connect with God, but the whole Holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) concept seemed strange to him. I just talked to him about Islam, and he was the one who made the decision because he loved the role of women in Islam more than anything else. After a while, we decided to get married during the month of Ramadan.
What Is It Like Being Muslim in Cuba?
Many people say it’s very difficult, but I don’t think so. It’s up to you, and it’s not difficult as long as you get used to overlooking some things.
What Did Your Friends Say When You Told Them You Were Muslim?
They asked if I had lost my mind, if I started wearing a bomb, and other similar questions. They saw it as something out of a Jules Verne story: pure fiction. When you tell people you’re Muslim, they are shocked, especially here; it’s not very normal.
Do You Plan to Go to Mecca?
Yes, definitely, but I have to wait patiently for a long time to be able to do that. Living in this country is not easy. If you can buy clothes, you can’t buy food. If you can buy food, you can’t buy clothes. Now we have a baby, and we need to get by. You can imagine the situation.
How Often Do You Go to the Mosque?
Certainly every Friday, but sometimes, when I can, I go three times a week.
What Have You Found in Islam That You Won’t Find Anywhere Else?
Peace, my brother, peace. And youth, still being young, it’s a blessing.