Amin is one of our top students.

﴾We have made what is on the earth an adornment in order to test which of them are best in action﴿(Qur’an 18:7).

In today’s world, man is so overwhelmed with materialism to the point that he can’t answer his phone or go to the mailbox without being tempted with some type of zeenah (adornment) of the world. The pursuit of materialism is set-up in a way where an average person spends more than 40 hrs a week trying to maintain what they possess and an additional 20 hrs chasing what they may never possess.

My beloved brothers and sisters, who are incarcerated, our financial and living conditions in these prisons are very simplistic. If we can get out thinking to become compatible with our present simplistic lifestyle, then we can cut at the heart of greed, which is the leading killer of spiritual hearts. If you took a look at the incarcerated persons around your facility, you would probably see what I see at my facility. That is human beings still chasing the life of fast living.

I like to characterize them into two groups. One group, I call them, “The how I’m going to do it the next time.” The second group I call them, “I’m going to get it back, but this time legally.” Now, what is the difference between the two groups? It is the how, but what is driving them is the same, which is greed for a particular lifestyle. If you look at the correctional facilities around the country, I do not care at what level, the religious department always receives the low-end of the budget at those institutions. Is it intentionally designed like that due to some underlying or hiding agenda? Allah ﷻ knows best.

The first correctional facility built in this country was in the city of Philadelphia, Pa. Today it is a tourist attraction. When someone was incarcerated at this facility, they would be blindfolded and walk through many corridors before entering their cells. The cells only housed one person but were large enough to house two. There was a sky-lite in the ceiling of each cell in order to permit natural light to enter into the cell.

Skylight in the ceiling of a cell – Eastern State Penitentiary 

The prisoner was given a bible upon entering his cell, where he would spend his entire incarceration reading the bible, praying and meditating. He would stay in this state until the administration believed he had been cured of his spiritual sickness, which was believed to be the cause for his criminal behavior. The facility was to maintain an atmosphere of peace and quiet, somewhat like a monastery. The guards were made to wear pads on their shoes and pads on the wheels of the food carts in order to be in compliance with the stated rule of quietness. The whole idea was to create an atmosphere that was conducive to producing healthy spiritual growth. The earlier authorities were aiming in the right direction but were missing the mark. This was due to a deficiency in their method and its application. 

Today’s politicians and prison authorities believe that throwing education and vocational skills at the problem will decrease the rate of crime and close the door of recidivism or at least slow it down. Unfortunately, their approach is not correcting the problem, but creating more opportunities to perpetuate criminal behaviors through new avenues. If hearts and minds are still in a criminal state, then just throwing educational and vocational skills, and some so-called self-help course offered through the psychology department, will not produce better human beings and the door of recidivism will continue to grow. Education is not supposed to just improve the quality of life for a person in one dimension (materialism) but in all three dimensions of his/her life. It is supposed to improve them mentally, physically and most of all spiritually.

This goes back to my earlier comments in this commentary concerning our secular knowledge needing to be governed by our sacred knowledge. Therefore, we should at this point really begin to understand why the religious departments at your institution receive the low end of the budget. The religious department is where real rehabilitation starts. If we want to see real change in our lives then we must be willing to change our hearts. Our hearts control our limbs, they (limbs) do not control the heart. Let us, the students of Tayba, give the politicians and prison authorities a real example of what changes look and sound like, and hopefully, they may come to their senses and give Tayba a distress call for help.

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