By Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman
In the name of Allah, may peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, and on his family and his companions, and upon all who follow them until the last day. As a Muslim, I look forward to Ramadan with extreme happiness, longing and open arms. This month has filled so much of my memories and taught me many lessons. In fact, every year, Ramadan shares continues its wisdom and mercy with me and all believers. Every Ramadan, we get a shot at redemption and rectification. A chance to forsake not only food and drinks, but also all those things that keep us away from the remembrance of al-Rahman. It is this month that made some of our pious ancestors from the early generations cry because they would miss the feeling of thirst, on a hot day, for the sake of Allah.
I want to touch on a verse or two from each chapter in Juz’ 27 (51:31–57:29) that impacts me personally. Let us proceed together under the shade of the Qur’an drinking from its wisdom.
But go on reminding them, as reminding benefits the believers. — 51:55
In this verse, Allah tells us to remind each other because it is the reminder that benefits the believers. Often, I feel as if the ground is sinking underneath my feet because of the amount of ignorance and sin present in prison. It is a place filled with lost souls in an ignorant state similar to that of the Quraysh before Islam — or even worse at times. A lack of education, bad parenting and growing up in a bad environment coupled with over-policing has had devastating effects on minority communities. Therefore, as Muslims we should never give up in reminding and educating others and taking them out of darkness and into the light.
In Surah 52: 2–3, Allah swears “By the book inscribed, In parchment unrolled..” These verses are very motivating for me because it shows that the pen and paper is important in our Islamic civilization. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) emphasized literacy so much that he made the ransom of captives in Badr who couldn’t pay to teach 10 children of Al Ansar reading and writing? Do we really understand that the Messenger (pbuh) wanted to transform his society into a reading and writing one? We have to move beyond being just Ramadan Muslims. Let’s get into our Islam and embrace our history so that tomorrow when the foolish one says to you “your beloved was thirsty for blood and wealth,” you will respond emphatically, “No he was sent as a mercy to us all!”
Therefore, as Muslims we should never give up in reminding and educating others and taking them out of darkness and into the light.
Ramadan in prison is very different. I am without the community of believers that we so often take for granted when we are fortunate to experience community. Yes, there are some awesome Muslims here, but nothing replaces the observing the fast surrounded by the warmth of your loved ones. This family bond that insulates us from rejection in bigger communities doesn’t disappear when the Muslims are a smaller population. There is no sehri/suhur with family. No iftar. No tastes from home to connect us to the generations of Africans and African American Muslims who fasted before us.
The very act of praying Tarawih and Tahajjud is a whole lot different. It feels like in here there are Muslims, just without the Islam. Subhanallah. I spend my days studying and working out. I converse with others from different backgrounds and religions. My aim is to walk with purpose everyday. The fuel for steadfastness and the inspiration for me are the stories of the Sahaba and Sahabiyat.
Even in the story of Yusuf and Yunus (pbut) Allah guides us in lessons from the lives of the great scholars who went through pains to preserve their deen. The best example is of course, Rasululah (pbuh). So, as a young man in prison, I can’t afford to be sucked into the ignorance around me. Rather, I desire to be a light perhaps that Allah may guide others through me to this straight path.
It feels like in here there are Muslims, just without the Islam. Subhanallah.
Finally, I want to end with a verse so profound. In Surah 57:16, Our Lord says “Has not the time come for the hearts of those who believe to be affected by Allah’s reminder?”
This ayah is the Ramadan experience. The time has come to make use of this month and to become better fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, human beings and of course better Muslims. It’s about time that we heed the advice and reflect on the Quran and live by it. I most definitely need a Ramadan, and so do you my brothers and sisters in Islam. I ask Allah to open wide for us its gates, forgive us and re-unite us all under His shade.
Assalamu Alaykum Wa Rahamtullahi Wa Baraktuh
Zacharia Yusuf Abdurahman was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minn. He is a brother to six siblings and describes himself as a bookworm, politics junkie and avid gamer. Br. Zacharia was previously majoring in information technology, but is now more interested in Sociology. He spends a lot of his time in prison reading, writing and learning from those around him.