by Faraj Hassan, former detainee
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
May the peace and blessing of God be upon you,
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds and prayers and peace on the most honourable of prophets and messengers, Muhammad, his family, his companions and anyone who follows his guidance and follows in their footsteps until the Day of Judgment.
What we have seen, witnessed and heard about the violations of the religious and civil rights suffered by our Muslim brothers and sisters in western jails is saddening and hurtful. I was personally a witness to this tribulation for five years when I was a prisoner. As informing someone of an event is not the same as experiencing itself, I started hastily writing this legitimate urgent appeal, quoting from the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), to seek help from those who can appreciate the awful, disgusting treatment Muslim prisoners face in British jails. This was after I heard from a Muslim sister, who is the lawyer of a Muslim brother who was convicted of terrorism charges, that her client had been subjected to a savage attack by some prisoners; they poured boiling oil on his head which caused severe burns to his head and other parts of his body. He is now is in a pitiful state and has been returned to jail even though he did not receive enough medical care and time to recover in an outside hospital. Worse than that, he is still in the same prison in which he was attacked and with the same prisoners who still harbour hate for him and wish to kill him and terrorise him, which the prison administration and the government are aware of.
Imam Ibn Al-Athir said in his book Al-Kamil Fil Tarikh, that when Yusuf (AS) left prison, he wrote on the door of his cell, “this is the grave of the living, the house of the dejected, the place of trial for friends and a blow upon the face of enemies”.
Prison is the worst, basest place a person can ever be put in, where his freedom is wrested from him, his dignity is humiliated and his honour is defeated. His faith and religious practices are attacked. It is for this reason that Muhammad (SAW) often used to seek Allah’s protection for prisoners to protect them against fear.
This is why hadith scholars have spoken at length about this issue.
The religious texts which urge Muslims to help each other clearly include texts about helping Muslims prisoners as a priority, including:
The Muslim nation is one as Allah (SWT) says: “this nation is one nation and I am your Lord so worship me” and He said, “verily, the believers are brothers”. Al-Qurtubi said in his interpretation of this verse (16/322), “’verily, the believers are brothers” in faith and in respect, not in blood. It is said, brothers in faith are closer than blood brothers as blood brothers may fall out over differences in faith whereas brothers in faith are not affected by differences in lineage”.
In the Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, it is narrated from Abu Huraira (RA) that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He does not wrong him, forsake him or despise him.”
Imam Nawawi commented on this hadith in Sharh Muslim (16/120) saying, “the scholars said, “forsaking him is leaving him when he is in need and despising him means, if he asks for help to remove an evil in his life, he must help him if he can and if he does not have a legitimate excuse not to”.
Ibn Rajab said in Jami Al-Ulum Wal Hukum, p. 333), “by this, a believer forsaking his brother, it means that the believer is commanded to help his brother as the Prophet (SAW) said, “help your brother, whether he is the oppressed or the oppressor”. He was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, help the oppressed but how do I help the oppressor?” He said, “by preventing him from oppressing. This is how you help him”. Narrated by Anas.
Abu Dawud mentions the hadith narrated by Abu Talha Al-Ansari and Jabir Bin Abdullah, that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “No man forsakes a Muslim when his rights are being violated or his honour is being belittled except that Allah will forsake him at a place in which he would love to have His help. And no man helps a Muslim at a time when his honour is being belittled or his rights violated except that Allah will help him at a place in which he loves to have His help”.
Ahmed reported that Abu Umamah Bin Sahl narrated from his father that the Prophet (SAW) said, “He in whose presence a Muslim is humiliated and who does not help him, being able to help him, God will humiliate him before all creatures on the Day of Judgment”.
These are general texts which urge Muslims to unite, work together and help each other, as is established in the Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim in the hadith narrated by Numan Bin Bashir in which he says that the Prophet (SAW) said, “The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs is afflicted, the whole body responds to it with sleeplessness and fever”.
What saddens us is that some ignorant people ignore this completely and say that “the prisoners are suffering because they are confused about their religion and have followed a path other than that of guidance. They deserve everything they get and thus they must bear the consequences of what happens to them”. In saying such things, ignorant people ignore texts that generally and specifically concern helping these prisoners of faith who are our brothers in Islam. These reasons are all materialistic, worldly excuses; if these prisoners are not the most deserving of our help, then who should we help?
The scholars stated in a statement on the obligation of freeing Muslim prisoners and trying to help them in all matters.
Imam Malik said, “it is obligatory on the people to redeem (buy the freedom of) prisoners with their money. There is no contention on this point”.
Ibn Taymiyya said in The Fatwas (28/635), “freeing prisoners is one of the greatest obligations, and spending money in this matter is one of the greatest sacrifices”. Ibn Taymiyya himself made great efforts to free Muslim prisoners and save them; in Rajab 699H, he went to the camp of a Tatar commander and met him to discuss releasing the Muslim prisoners he was holding. He saved many of them from their hands.
They were concerned with saving their Muslim brothers who were prisoners. Of course, many of you will say that this all happened in a time when the Muslims had a state and power. So what can we do now at a time when the Muslims have sunk to such a lowly state?
What I am telling you is that the least you can do is help them with your words and your actions, and this is the weakest of faith, as Ibn Taymiyya wrote in his lengthy letter to the King of Cyprus, Johan de Giblet, a Christian king, concerning the Muslim prisoners held by the king. The letter included an invitation to Islam and to worship Allah alone and mentioned His mercy and that He loves all people to be treated well. He also mentioned his efforts with the Tatars to have the Muslim and Christian dhimmi prisoners released.
He wrote, “Does the king not know that we have in our lands Christians who are dhimmis (protected non-Muslim citizens in an Islamic state) and no one knows how many of them there are except Allah? How we deal with them is well-known so how can they deal with the Muslim prisoners they have in a manner that shows a lack of humanity and faith? Are the prisoners not under the protection of the king? Have not those who follow Jesus and the prophets been told to do good and act justly, so where are these good actions?”
There are many similarities between the situation of the Muslims in the 8th century Hijri (thirteenth century CE) – Ibn Taymiyya’s time – and in our current times, in that we can see the importance attached to these prisoners and the harsh treatment meted out to them from the time of Ibn Taymiyya, however there is no one crying for the Muslim prisoners today. Where is the displeasure shown at their cases? Where are the demands for them to be given their rights? Where is the call for justice for them and for them to be treated fairly? Where are the prayers to Allah asking for them to be released?
Finally, I ask you, the good people who are taking part in this campaign led by our sister, the lawyer, Mudassar Arani, the lawyer of the brother who was attacked, to improve the situation of the brother who was attacked in the prison and all the other Muslim prisoners to have them relocated to a safe place away from the terror they face from the other prisoners, please do your best to write to them and help them and stand by them even if you think they are wrong. Every person is a sinner and the best sinner is the one who repents.
May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon you.