David’s father was found dead on the bathroom floor, likely due to his drug habit, when David was only two years old. His death broke David’s mother: she spent the next eight years in and out of prison and re-married twice.
By age 10, David was sent to live with his uncle, but his deteriorating behavior quickly landed him in a treatment center for troubled children where he was strapped to beds or confined to “The Quiet Room” in an attempt to “treat” him.
For the rest of his teenage years, David went between various treatment centers and regular public school. His drug use escalated f rom cigarettes at 9 years of age to marijuana a few years later, then quickly progressed to LSD, MDMA, crack, and finally heroin.
Already in and out of jail and constantly chasing the next high, David’s life took a turn for the worse when his mother passed away from cancer. In 2017, high on several drugs, he attacked a police officer with a razor, and was sentenced to 4 years in prison. David came to Islam in jail while waiting to stand trial for the crime he’s currently incarcerated for. His jail was notorious for underfeeding prisoners, but special diets (like halal or kosher) were generally more plentiful. However, receiving a halal diet required answering questions about Islam, so David got to studying in order pass the exam and get more food.
“By the third day of reading the Qur’an,” writes David, “I began to consider that Islam is for me.” He took his shahada soon after, at the first jumu’ah prayer he attended. But all was not well. At his prison, David was one of the two white Muslims. Shunned by the overwhelmingly black population (many of whom have been taught to demonize whites in general), he had to keep mostly to himself. As a recovering addict, he found this extremely difficult.
“I am a stone cold junkie,” David wrote us, “so I seek knowledge hoping and praying that I continue to get one more day away from the demon [i.e. drugs] that has done its best to kill me… In order to keep the needle out of my arm, I must find something I love more than that high. And for me, that something is being Muslim. To even have a chance at a normal life, I must obtain the strongest [faith] possible. So my studies, my prayers, and my relationship with Allah must continue to be my primary focus.”
“I seek knowledge hoping and praying that I continue to get one more day away from the demon [i.e. drugs] that has done its best to kill me…”
Needless to say, Tayba’s materials felt like a godsend. “[Receiving Tayba materials for the first time] was probably one of my happiest days in prison,” David told us. “I was glowing for a week.”
David threw himself into his studies, spending 4-6 hours every day studying both the Tayba materials and any other book on Islam that he could get his hands on. He has completed ISLAM 99, ADAB 100, and is working on several more courses this semester.
He has since been appointed the Imam of his prison community – despite the vocal opposition to the color of his skin. He has taught Islamic basics to Muslims using the ISLAM 99 course and (after completing a course on public speaking) speaks to interfaith gatherings about Islam.
Upon his release in a few years, David hopes to eventually go abroad to learn Arabic and continue studying his religion in depth. For now, he does what he can with the opportunities he has been given. His message to his brothers & sisters in free society is:
“Every night people come here from the free world to teach Christianity. Several times a week Rabbis show up to teach Jews. There are Christian halfway houses everywhere, helping men re-adjust to being free men that walk with faith.
Every day Muslims plead with me to teach them Islam, because there is a shortage of people to teach real Islam, while there is no shortage of men to teach hate-filled, militant, gang-like lies they call Islam.
Knowledgeable, practicing Muslims that can guide these men are needed. I pray that Allah guides more of you to get involved not just in prison, but in this country in general.”