In this section, we present interviews conducted with individuals that were previously incarcerated. Our goal is to shed light on their Islamic education when they were in prison. Each individual’s story is different and highlights the challenges they faced when incarcerated. We hope this emphasizes continued need to aid the Muslims in prisons with authentic islamic literature.
This was our first interview and it was conducted on Safar 2, 1445 (August 19, 2023).
SB4MI: How was it like trying to learn your deen in prison?
Abdul Wahid: I was already Muslim before going to prison but when I was outside I didn’t really read or learn [my religion] so prison was kind of my starting point in learning the deen.
SB4MI: What were the challenges or obstacles you faced?
Abdul Wahid: There really weren’t any challenges because I was received with open arms [by the other Muslim inmates]. I was eager to learn and the brothers were very inviting. What made it even easier to study was, for example, somebody pulling me to the side and telling me this and telling me that about the religion, making me reflect, you know what I mean?
SB4MI: Was it easy to get access to Islamic books?
Abdul Wahid: It was definitely easy. One of the main things was that the brothers didn’t leave with the books when they were being released or transferred but rather they would leave the books for the next inmate to use.
SB4MI: How helpful were these books in becoming better at understanding the religion?
Abdul Wahid: The biggest challenge for me was learning the correct teachings of the religion and trying to differentiate what is correct because you would have books by different authors. For example we had books from the nation of Islam and others, so I initially just thought because it mentioned Islam then oh this is it right here, I need to read this. It was later that I began to learn that certain authors and certain things in their books were not from the teachings of the prophet (may Allah raise his rank and grant him peace).
SB4MI: Did you have any Islamic studies classes in prison?
Abdul Wahid: The brothers wanted it and the chaplains wanted it but we never got the chance to do it. We needed more support from the guards and higher-ups, because those things (classes) didn’t really go well.The prison would say we can do it and then the day would come, and we couldn’t do it or something always happened for us not to have it.
SB4MI: How easy was it for the inmates to access the books of Sunnah?
Abdul Wahid: I wasn’t really surrounded by a lot of people who understood and knew the different authors or teachers to take from. However, we had a good amount of pocket size Quran (translation of the meanings). Likewise, we had a good amount of prayer books teaching us how to pray the correct way.
SB4MI: Do you have any words of encouragement for those who would like to support the incarcerated Muslims with authentic educational resources?
Abdul Wahid: Yes, I know there’s a lot of stipulations in getting books to the prisons but I’m definitely fully supportive of that as the inmates really need more support.
SB4MI: Jazaaka Allah khayran, we appreciate your time.