As the prisoners file into the chapel, their eyes are scanning the congregation for possible friends and foes. Then, once deciding whether to go right or left, they rush off in their chosen direction to greet their associates from the other cell blocks Speaking in hushed tones, they pass on messages and news from loved ones in far away places. I’m standing in the heart of the chapel by the podium, greeting everyone as they come in.
“Come in brothers! You can sit anywhere you want. As-Salaamu ‘alaykum. Peace, Peace. Yeah maan, you can sit wherever you want. Don’t worry about it; we won’t get started until everybody finds a spot.”
In Prison, people come to religious service for different reasons. Sure, some come to pray and some come searching for the truth, but most come to see their people, or to get out of the cell for an hour or two.
It’s almost time. Everybody’s finally sitting down. Some half-facing each other, some leaning back and others on the edge of their seats: all whispering, smiling and enjoying each others company. Looking around I realize that I don’t know these guys from Aadam. I am a stranger here.
Out of the thirty or so men in this room, only about five of us are Muslims. And two of them are New Shahaadas. So where do I start with these men? They are quite aware of the nature of their crimes. But if you were to ask them, “How could you do such things?” They will explain that they have sold drugs to the most respected Preachers. And have seen too many “Church Ladies” turning tricks to pay their bills not to do such things. In their world, they are normal men trying to survive in a system that has little concern for them.
I recognize that they have seen a lot, but what I don’t know is what they understand about Islaam. Which leads me back to the question of: where do I start with these guys. Hmph, I’m getting a queasy feeling rolling about in my stomach. Steady, steady, it’s time to start, take a breath…
“My Lord give me the right inspiration,” whispers out of my mouth.
“wa Yas-sir-Lee amree“
“and make this easy for me…”
“waH-LuL ‘uQdataM MiL-Lisaanee…”
“and untie the knot in my tongue…”
“so that they can relate to what I’m talking about.”
Then, raising my voice just above the friendly commotion, I say:
“Bis-millahir RaH-maanir Ra-Heem. My name is Wahshee and I’m going to be teaching the class today.”
Nothing. Most are not paying attention, caught up in conversations much more interesting. When a scattered few give me the, “Go ahead, you’re not interrupting us” nod. I feel a smile growing uncontrolled on my face. I can’t help it. Class is in session… and I love it.
I begin, “AL-Hamdulillah, Getting locked up is almost like dying… only better.”
The low rumble ceases. “Every man in this room knows what it feels like to get locked up right?” Read the rest of this entry »