One voice at a time: Gibson Nicolas Lopez Avila
Gibson Lopez reverted to Islam two and half years ago at a young age of just nineteen years. An indigenous Colombian, Gibson grew up in Florida after his parents immigrated here while he was still an infant.
The following is an inspiring account of his journey to Islam.
Gibson Nicolas Lopez Avila
I was born in Bogota, Colombia. My family brought me to Florida when I was 7-month old. I am attending a local college and my career focus is HR management, Finance, and PR. In my free time I enjoy learning about holistic medicines, anatomy, and health coaching. Other things that I am very interested in are cultures, history, and geography. I am currently studying, working, and helping out family and friends in any way I can.
The journey to Islam
I reverted to Islam after about 8 years of studying many different theologies, philosophies, and religions. Islam came to me first through the actions of Muslims in my schools and community. They were always some of the most compassionate, respectful, and trustworthy individuals that I have met to this day. In the time I spent studying different kinds of beliefs, I would always pray to God to make me righteous and pious; to lead me to the truth. That led me to follow what I felt was the most just way of life, Alhamdulillah. I never got into alcohol, drugs, gambling, or having many relationships. One of my friends gave me a Quran, so I started reading it here and there. I would not have expected this gift if it was not for his exemplary character.
Although I reverted two and half years back, I knew the truth in my heart much before that. I thought I could do it on my own but it was difficult and I soon realized that I needed a support system but it was not easy to admit back then.
Learning about Islam
Many people have tied Islam with being a terrorist group and don’t learn what true Islam is. It is the most beautiful way of life; the way of peace for all humanity; the only way where justice can be served for all of God’s creations and nations no matter who you are or what you believe in. It builds a system in which there is respect and justice for everyone. If you don’t believe this, I challenge you to open your heart and read; to put your anger, pride, and ego aside and just read, study, and listen to the true message of Islam. And If you are sincere, you will find the truth, Inshallah.
Throughout my studies I realized the beauty, justice, and strength in Islam. I fell in love with all of its teachings; for example, God is one; the creator of the heavens and the earths, the one who created everything from the smallest atoms to the biggest solar systems, everything we see – space, time, and matter. The fact that Allah (SWT) has provided lessons for us in stories of different Prophets (peace be upon them) is so beautiful. One of my favorite teachings is to stand against injustice even if it comes from yourself. Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) sermon on equality of all clearly laid that out: ‘an Arab is not superior to a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not superior to an Arab; a white person is not superior to a black person and a black person is not superior to a white person. If there was any difference in us it would simply be the one closer in the sight of God’.
Picture: At FIU for Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)
Another teaching the Quran puts emphasis on is that men are the protectors of women but only Allah has authority over them. It shows how much respect Islam gives women contrary to the general belief and treatment of women at the hands of men all over the world.
But one thing that truly inspired me is to not blindly follow everything or everyone and at the same time do not give up everything to become a good Muslim. Maintaining a balance is essential.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
The one with over 1.8 billion followers, the greatest man when great men are raided; His name is renown across the world. Prophet Muhammad’s message was to worship God alone; his method was mercy to friend and foe. He was the father whose face lit up when his daughter entered the room and sat her where he was seated. He was the husband who sent an army ahead so he can footrace his wife and smile when defeated. The one who told us that paradise lies at the feet of our mother and to love for brothers what we would love for ourselves. His companions were Persian, Roman, Jewish, Arab, and Black. He told us we are all the same because we all come from Adam. He is the man that had the world at his feet and would go days without food to eat. He loved the poor and the meek, and God was all that he would seek.
Thank you, Ammar Al-Shukry, for your inspiration- from your spoken word and all the science, prophecies, way of life and much more that brought me to Islam.
Why I didn’t change my name
One thing that almost always comes up is my name. I have considered changing it but couldn’t find a suitable one. I consulted multiple muftis and they said that Muslims throughout history have had names from a variety of languages; the important thing is that a name should not reflect something that is contrary to the spirit or major teachings of Islam. I found that my birth name has always been reflective of Islam. The meaning of my name Gibson is ‘guardian or beacon of light’. However, I have decided that my children will have names from the Sahaba or Islamic history like Ibrahim, Tariq, and Nusaybah.
Picture: The first time I took my mother to a mosque.
Family and Friends
The response of my family and friends has been mixed- some aggressive and some supportive. Once I reverted, many close friends that I have known for years were very understanding. However, I had to have certainty, patience and determination for those who did not appreciate my decision. Alhamdulillah, many have changed their views and became more open minded towards Islam. This last Ramadan my parents joined me in prayers and fasting for the entirety of the month, Alhamdulillah. My mother even accompanied to the masjid for one of the events a while back.
The community is mostly very kind, and people treat you as an equal with the exception of few who would criticize everything I did. However, overall, I have met some of the most outstanding people in my whole life. Muslims coming from all backgrounds have been very encouraging every step of the way.
Contribution to community
I have been active with the youth in YM, MSA’s, Yaqeen convention circles, PD, SJP, ICNA Relief and many more. I really love finding ways to help my ummah– my spiritual family. I strongly believe in helping our youth, especially those that are 17-29 years old and are going through an intellectual crisis. That would allow us to contribute to the ummah and help other communities around us. I have been a member and facilitator to all these organizations with many mentors behind me. Being active in the organizations has helped me grow in my faith, allowing me to meet wonderful friends and teachers. Inshallah, I hope it has done the same for all that have been around me.
Picture: With friends and fellow youth volunteers for MSA at UM
Hope for Ummah– my spiritual family
I believe that the ummah, especially the youth, should engage in the community and raise their voice against any injustice inside and outside the ummah. These are some of the ways to help grow and prosper as a community, and at the same time deal with both internal and external challenges.
Within the community, there have been instances when individuals are reluctant to work together. Also, some leaders do not address problems and if they do it is often done in an unjust way. Showing compassion in such moments would help the ummah unite. There have been external challenges to the community as well, such as organizations not wanting to work with us, individuals threatening us, and different communities misunderstanding who we really are.
Therefore, I feel it is imperative that young Muslims be strong in their faith; that they learn and read about lslam and seek out knowledge. Moreover, they need to come out and help their brothers and sisters in making the community a better place everyone Inshallah.
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