This segment will describe the trip to Oklahoma City:
[The day wa]s Friday April 25, 2010. We were still in Texarkana Prison preparing to head toward Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Oklahoma City is a transfer/holding Prison Center for all inmates from around the United States. It holds over 5,000 inmates and it is a hub where all inmates are flown in/out or bussed in/out to be transferred to their designated prison where they were assigned to serve their sentences. Some are transferred from one prison to another (for example from a High to medium security, medium to a low security prison, etc). We were getting shackled and handcuffed. Again, we were the privileged ones who received the black box special treatment. Other inmates were also shackled and handcuffed but not with the black box. You must be very special to receive that special gift from the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).
Once the shackling, chaining and handcuffing of all inmates was done, we were taken outside the Texarkana Prison and escorted to the bus like a herd of goats. It was still very dark outside (around 4:00 AM or so). We were first inline and also first seated in the bus (the four of us together). After everyone else was seated, the trip started. After the bus left the prison, it took a route of small roads and State Highways to Oklahoma City. I tried to stay awake so I would not void my wudu (wudu is the mandatory act of washing hands, face, arms and legs prior to performing prayer). I made wudu before we left the SHU in Texarkana. I pushed myself hard to stay awake because I was worried that if I dozed off that I would end up voiding my wudu and having to do it again specially when there was no water on the bus, only a jug with some cups for drinking water. And even if water was available, how would I make wudu with my hands and legs shackled and handcuffed with the black box? I couldn’t even move.
It was an impossible mission so I might as well make tayamom (this an alternate option when water is not available, Tayomom is a dry ablution). Eventually, I ended up making tayamom. I knew these are the times when Allah gave us permission for an exception under these difficult circumstances. So now I had wudu and ready for Fajr prayer. I knew that Fajr prayer Athan was at 5:45 AM in Seagoville TX and even though we were not there, I figured it would not be that different from where we were. But the question was; what time was it now? I guessed that it was not time for Fajr just by looking on the outside and seeing it was very dark. No one had any watch. The only solution was to keep looking outside the bus hoping to see one of these big Banks panel clocks that tells time and temperature. So I kept my eye on the outside hoping to see one. I finally noticed one from a distance and it was a big electronic panel that turns around in all directions. By the time the bus made it there, the panel was displaying time and temp to the opposite side of the highway, and I could not see it.
I have to try again, so I kept watching for another clock and kept my eyes fixed on any panel with lights. Finally, I saw another bank clock and it showed the time to be 5:30 AM which is still short 15 minutes of prayer time. After a while I estimated that 15 minutes has passed, and made the Fajr Athan (Call for the prayer) inside the bus. El-Mezain and Ghassan were seated in front of us, and Shukri and I were sitting in the seat right behind them. We prayed the two rakka sunna and then I made iqama for the prayer and El-Mezain lead the prayer as we were seated. We started the prayer and brother El-Mezain recited beuatiful Quran of Surat Al-Isra. Our ruku was to bend our bodies just a little bit toward the seat and our sujood was to bend until our forehead touch the seat in front of us. We prayed what I call the most heartfelt, tearful prayer ever in my entire life. Considering myself a political prisoner and praying under these conditions, you could really feel the connection with Allah. It was an overwhelming feeling that put you in a different world. It intensified my duaa.
It was Friday and I did all the things I normally do on Friday by reading Surat Al-Kahf as the Prophet Peace be Upon him has told us to do. Also I made my daily morning remembrance of Allah duas (Thikhr) and praising Prophet Mohammad Peace Be Upon him. After that I tried to sleep in my seat but no matter which position I try to take or lay in, it was impossible to do with the black box. I could not move my hands and the movement of the legs was also very painful especially when the legs’ handcuffs touches the ankle as it scrapes the funny bone above the ankle. The handcuffs around the legs were extremely tight which caused extreme pain. I tried to move to another empty seat but was afraid if I lay down it will be impossible for me to get up without help.
Finally I managed to take my shoes off and slung them backward with my feet toward me. I managed to place and stack the shoes against the edge of the seat and use them as a pillow (I lost 61 pounds since I have been in prison and it was a major factor in helping me do that athletic maneuver). I laid down my head on the shoes and I tried to go to sleep. Half of my body was in the seat and the other half was hanging outside the seat. I tried to stretch my legs but the seat was too short. I could extend my legs to the next seat as a bridge to ensure my whole body is laid down, but this would block the pathway between the seats.
This pathway used by other inmates to move within the bus including going to/from the bathroom at the back of the bus. Finally I settled down in my sleeping position by placing my feet on top of the seat in front of me at an angle, laying on my side with my head on my pillow (my shoes). I do not recall how long I slept. I was too tired and exhausted. Shukri, Ghassan and El-Mezain slumped in their seats and went to sleep as well. After a while, I awoke and found someone has already moved in the seat in front of me. The sun was rising announcing the birth of a new day. I looked at this day as a new beginning, a new start with a fresh brand new 24 hours of life. I was determined that I would make the most out of it.
I have been dealt with unjustly with a sentence of twenty years for volunteering to help Palestinian destitute children and families. Yes, I was a volunteer and never an employee of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF). By volunteering, I realized that my mission is to serve others and contribute to making this world a better place. I LOVE and LIVE TO GIVE. IT IS THE MOST FULFILLING LIFE EVER. ABSOLUTLEY NO REGRETS. I know that Allah has wisdom behind the test I am going thru and I trusted him always in every aspect of my life and it is no different now. I really thought that true faith shines at times of difficulties because at times of ease everyone is faithful and life is good and there are no worries or concerns.
Yes, even though I am being taken far away from my beloved family. Every event in our life has a purpose and every setback its lesson. I have realized that adversity, whether personal, or professional, is essential in personal expansion. It brings inner growth and a whole host of rewards. Never regret your past. Rather, embrace it as the teacher that it is. I know that Allah SWT is rewarding my family for what they are going through as well. I am not the only one being rewarded for this suffering; my family is sharing in the rewards. I am not alone in this trip, my family is riding with me every step of the way. They are always in my heart and soul. Their image never leaves my mind.
My family is also being deprived as my daughter Sarah told me that there is a big empty space in our house and an eerie feeling because I am not there. She told me that they miss my laughter, hearing my voice, my physical presence when they were used to seeing me walk thru the door. They miss having dinner with me. They miss me helping them with homework. They missed my presence at the milestones events of their lives when they graduated from University and High School. They miss the father they love and the husband who is not there to help and support them. Life is not easy when all the responsibilities are assigned to one person (my beloved wife) to take care of all household affairs when we both shared this responsibility and [then] it was still difficult to do.
At the end of the day, that assuring, dependable father who used to give Nadia (my ten year old daughter) her good night kiss and tuck her in her bed and sing for her before she goes to sleep was not there. All these and more are missing not because her father was a drug dealer or robbed a bank or killed someone. No, it is because he helped feed Palestinian children, women, elderly, and provided Ramadan food packages (rice, sugar, flour, cooking oil, etc) and meat Udhiya at Eid Al-Adha to people who feel they are lucky if they have meat once a month.
Provided shelters to Palestinians whose homes were destroyed by F-16 bombers, also gave kids school backpacks, shoes, books, and clothes so they can go to school. Yes, this charity work was the life line for so many desperate Palestinian families. Every night I wake up hearing the voices of duaa of these Palestinian Children and I feel it in my heart, in my soul and in my spirit and that gives me great inner peace. This charity work was saving the lives of the same Palestinians whom the whole world has ignored. Our work was the manifestation of what Islam is all about (Charity at it’s best).
It has been close to three hours of painful tight shackling and handcuffing. I lived in Oklahoma for
fifteen years where I went to school and graduated with B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Civil Engineering from OK State University and was familiar with the highways and worked on so many of them throughout the state, I recognized the bus’s location. I have worked for the OK Dept of Transportation as a Design Professional Engineer/Manager. I designed and built so many of these same highways we were driving on. I realized that we needed an additional three hours or so (based on our current location) to reach Oklahoma City. I knew that I have prayed Fajr in Jamaa (congregation) and Prophet Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him told us that if you pray Fajr in Jamaa you will be under the protection of Allah all day.
I also started reviewing what I have memorized from Quran. Finally we reached and drove through the City of Norman (Home of the OK Sooners!! I call them losers). And then we drove through the City of Moore and finally we were in Oklahoma City. As I was looking on the outside, I recognized several shops I used to patronize. I have so many memories from the time I lived in Oklahoma City. We drove less than half a mile south of I-40 Highway and I-244 Highway intersection.
It was near that area where I have designed and supervised the construction of a three miles section of one of the state’s highways in McClain County. I performed all the engineering analysis and technical requirements such as geometry analysis, vertical alignment, storm sewer drainage system, Right-of-Way run-off drainage calculation and the hydraulic analysis for the concrete drainage square box culverts that cross the highway to carry the rainfall water away from the highway to the nearest ravine or river to protect the houses, farms, industrial developments and infrastructure from flooding.
I am proud to say that I was the author the “Engineering Design Training Manual” that teaches new engineers how to design highways. My Manual is still being used by Engineers fifteen years after I wrote it (I wrote the Manual back in 1995 and it took me approximately ten months to write it). The manual was over 200 pages of technical essays to read, understand and follow engineering design principles, rules and applications for my fellow new engineers. Writing the manual was not part of my job responsibility but was a necessity that I felt was critically needed. I wrote the manual to make a difference and to make it easier for all new engineers joining the OK Department of Transportation to understand the principles of design using computers and special Civil Engineering software. I received praise and commendations from the Director of the OK DOT and other department heads. I also received several awards for writing the manual (the manual is among 4 other technical papers I wrote) and I was invited to San Jose CA in 1996 to a make a presentation to a nationwide audience at a Civil Engineering Technical Conference. The cost of my entire trip was paid for by the Conference organizers.
We finally arrived at the OK City Detention Center (nine story high building) and a huge garage door opened up for the bus to get inside the building. Once we were in, the bus stopped at a door and one of the guards came in the bus and pointed his finger at the four of us and said: ‘You, you, you and you get up now’ and asked everyone else to remain seated. The journey will continue in next email.