Ecuador’s brief religious aspects and culture

Many years ago, I had the honor to meet Imam Yahya of CENTRO ISLAMICO DEL ECUADO in Spanish Muslims conference in Dallas. . May Allah SWT bless his efforts in Dawah in Ecuador. He provided me with many articles in this section.

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Diversidad de cultos en Ecuador


Thirty to fifty centuries ago, the native Ecuadorian Indian cultures were known as: "Chordeleg, Machalilla and Chorrera" they were to believe sun worshippers. Their Indian chief was to believe sent by their "Sun god". They practiced religious ceremonies offering young virgin women for sacrifice as sign of thankfulness for the goods harvesting.

Indian tribes believed in physical resurrection after dead. Therefore, they used to be buried with lots of food, drinks, spears, gold, ect. to survive for a big journey they thought they were going to face after death.

Later on , the Inca Empire that conquered the southern tribes of Ecuador, used to have almost the same practices and beliefs.

When Spaniards came to conquer the new Continent, the change was not that big, because they only switch the "sun god" for the pathetic statue of the "Son of God", half necked on the cross. Idol for idol replacing (sun god for son of god) of course, not any big change!. The Theology of god rendered by the Catholic conquerors showed the classic naive primitive mind as the people of "Dunia", who only believe what is in front of their eyes.

The Inca king, named "Atahualpa" was burned alive because he rejected the Christianity. It is well known the passage when He threw the Bible to the ground, due to Spaniards wanted to force him to believe in it as the "word of God". This was the cause to dictate his execution as a blasphemer.

Ever since then (around five hundred years ago), Roman Christian Catholic religion is the predominant and official religion in Ecuadorian land.

A little bit over a hundred years ago, Christian Protestants from the Evangelic sect are working in Ecuador. They are to believe the second largest religious group after Catholics.

Adventists, Mormons, Gnostics, Anglicans, Bahais and some other Protestant sects and cults are working hard in the last two to three decades bringing people to their own sides.

Philosophies from India and Far East were seeking followers about twenty to thirty years ago.

Jews had no visible head until 2001 were someone was appointed from the Argentinian jewish community.


The first Muslims settlers were primarily Arabs from what is known to us now as Lebanon, Palestine, Syria (Bilad Sham) and Egypt.

They emigrated to Ecuador by the same reasons they came to the rest of the Latin world, escaping from World War I and II. These Arab Muslims entered to these lands under Turk passports from the Ottoman Empire; therefore these first Arab Muslims were known as "Turks".

The settlements were basically in the Capital city Quito, also in Guayaquil the largest seaport by the Pacific Ocean. However, some went to the coast side by Manab?, Los Rios and Esmeraldas provinces..

Ecuador's peace environment attracted them very much. Family wise oriented society of these new Continent perhaps reminded them home Arab societies.

The big majority of these first Muslims were traders. Ecuadorian economy at the beginning of the century was most likely based on interchanging products.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the first two to three decades were very rough for the settlers. They used to walk long distances, following the post service done at that time on the back of mules, trying to reach the nearest village to start up business.

These first Muslims settlers now in Latin America experienced different type of customs, fashion and food. They had to exchange their "Tamar" (dates), "maiy zahar" (rose water), "falafel" (mashed fried peas), "basbusa and baklawa" (laborious sweets) for banana, panela (dark sugar cane), agua arom?tica (herb water), and pinol (wheat flour).


Due to these Muslims came seeking the "dunia", worldy life and their religious background was very poor, the Muslim identity melted very easily with the strong predominant Roman Christian Catholic religion.

Few of them brought later on their own spouses from their motherlands. The majority got married in the new world with native women.

Among these pioneers Arab Muslims settlers were Dassum family, Soloh family, Shayyeb, A'riz, Becdach, Jairala, Elmer families and others.

Unfortunately some Muslim descendants had to take Christianity as their only option in religion, just few Muslim families could sent their children to Muslim countries, to get Arabic and Islamic education. Inshallah Allah will pay their effort.


By the late forties Arab Christians and Muslims were grouping on the same ethnical background bases. "Lecla" was the name of their first organization. Nothing about religion was touch dawn.

Another social organization came out by the mid eighties. They were "The Arab club".

By mid eighties, migrating trends were going on in Ecuador. Around twenty men from Egypt were trying to reach United States ports at any price. Their dishonest travel agents were using Ecuador as pass by point to aim their goal in the States. Lather on, almost all of them left Ecuador except a few, who decided to search for the life living in this country.

A minor Indian Pakistani migration took place by the beginning of the nineties. Many of them have already reached their migratory goals in U.S.A. or Canadian ports.

In religious matters, they left almost no tracks to follow.

By late nineties Ecuador was experiencing Muslim migration, mainly from West African Countries (Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana.) whose internal disruptions led them to search a place to live.


By the mid eighties there were a handful of local native Ecuadorian people who embraced Islam overseas. They never heard the word Islam in their own Ecuador. They were highly influenced by pious Muslims while doing University studies in Europe and United States. They realized that all the teaching of Islam are harmoniously working, bringing peace and logic they never found in Christian teachings. They were highly enthusiastic propagators, but swing against current was not easy.

By middle nineties there were more Ecuadorians who embraced Islam. Today every single friday, there is at less one "Shahada" that takes place Alhamdulilah!.

This trend was not easy due to criticisms, and some times rejection, coming even from inside their own blood relatives.

According to a rough estimation, our Muslim population in the whole country is around five hundred people.


The first masjid attempting was done from a handful of Muslims who decided to rent an apartment to used as a "Mussala" on "Salat Aljumuah". Lather on the Egyptian Embassy facilitated an apartment for the same purpose, but could not stay for long.

The second attempting was done on October 1988. A social organization was founded with the purpose of being a masjid, they are: Asociacion Cultural Khaled bin Al Walid.



( Verily, mosque whose foundation was laid from the first day on piety is more worthy that you stand therein (to pray) Qur'an 9:108.

This is the first Muslim religious organization credited as such by the Ecuadorian Government

The Centro Isl?mico del Ecuador is a non-profit organization founded by the Grace and Mercy of ALLAH SWT on October 15, 1994.

The religious activities, as well as social, cultural and educational are conducted according to Muslim Sunni Traditions.

This Center alhamdulilah is organized in various committees to attend the needs of the Muslims and it has no financial support from any foreign Country.

(Let there be among you a community who invite unto all that is good, enjoing what is right, and forbid what is wrong.) Qur'an - Al Imran 3:104


Native Ecuadorian Muslimas are a little bit over 50% of the entire Muslim population.

Their understanding an attachment to Islam is reflected in the Islamic dress code, almost all of them are using hijab and long dresses on daily bases.

They constitute an example of a well organize group with their own committee that holds religious classes.


The Center is translating and publishing into Spanish language some topics of Islamic literature such as:

-Introducing Islam to non-Muslims -comparative religion studies. -Sunni Islamic creed.

There are already translated into Spanish five books:

1) What the Bible says about Muhammad? by Ahmad Deedat. 2)Understanding Muslims and Islam. 3) Tawheed by Ibrahim Hussein. 4) Muslim Christian Dialogue by Dr. H.Baagil. 5) The truth about Jesus by Wamy.

The Center has lately published and printed fourteen different themes in pamphlet forms, they are: (all them in Spanish) 1) Islam at glance, 2) Mount Arafat Sermon, 3) Do you know that...(the Pope at the time of our Prophet Muhammad SAAWS, embraced Islam?) 4) General aspects about fasting in Ramadan 5)Misconceptions about Jihad. 6) Danger in dancing. 7) Is Jesus really god?. 8) You should know about this great man (Prophet Muhammad SAAWS). 9) Who invented the trinity? 10) What is Islam?. 11) Islamic Fundamentalism?. 12) what Islam is not about. 13)Muhammad in the Bible.14) Fire in your stomachs (about alcohol). 15) According to the Bible jews have no right on Palestinian land.


Alhamdulilah the Center is able to hold:

Friday Khotaba, marriages, tarawee, salat ul Eidain and salat ul Janaza.


The Islamic Center of Ecuador sends annually its religious representative to the Latin Muslims Leaders gathering that usually takes place in Argentina.

After September 2001 the increase of presentations and contacts has increased a great deal. Dawah work is going on through presentations on Auditoriums, Universities, schools, radio news papers, magazines and TV. There is no reason for not working openly in Da'wa, since the constitution stands for freedom of thought, as well as freedom of religion.


1) The Center just finished last Ramadan 1422 H. the project of widening and enlarging the masjid

2) A Muslim school and a cemetery is an urgent need for the community.


The following could be good strategies to work out with the Islamic Centres in the neighbouring countries.

- Preparing Spanish speaking Daiyas (propagators) in various areas, such as comparative Religion, Islamic leadership.

- Sending brothers and sisters overseas to get educated in Islamic Universities.

- Encourage the rest of brothers and sisters to get register in open Islamic universities.

- Advise Muslim world organizations about the culture and the way to approach them.

- Muslim Camps to invite our counterparts in South America.


Yours in Islam: Yahya Juan Suquillo. Director of Propagation.



Calle 18 de septiembre No. 114 y General Plaza

Telf. (593-2) 223-7654 / 295-4542

Fax. (593-2) 228-4416

Casilla 17-01-499