By Asim Qureshi
On behalf of www.cageprisoners.com
Imagine being alone in a room.
Imagine four hard walls.
Imagine a metal door with the smallest of windows.
Imagine darkness that cannot be illuminated except by the will of those who hold you.
Finally. Imagine the slow ticking of time that just does not want to pass.
No matter how good your imagination may be, you will never be able to truly understand what it means to be imprisoned. That is, until you have been in one yourself.
It is in Occupied Palestine, that I was given my chance. One may question as to whether or not I have lost my sanity after having spent some time in a cell, especially by calling it a 'chance'. Yet, those are my exact feelings on the matter.
For a number of months now I have been working alongside the brothers and sisters at Cage Prisoners trying to help those Muslims detained illegally abroad. Every single day to read of the imprisonments, conditions of detainees and torture methods being used on them, hurts the heart like nothing else really can.
Sitting alone in a dark Israeli prison gives you perspective. The knowledge that you are innocent and yet sitting in a place where your liberty and freedom has been taken away can cause the greatest distress.
However, as I said before, this was my chance. A chance given to me by Allah SWT to learn something before continuing my work. For now I know what it means to be incarcerated for nothing. In fact, what is even more amazing, is that it was the brothers that gave me strength during this moment. It was the thought of them that made me say to myself, "Who am I? What right do I have to feel sorry for myself in this predicament? There are people out there who are being tortured just because they are Muslim."
The Israeli guards who put my companions and I into our separate cells were aloof, but still maintained some semblance of kindness (probably because we were British). Those who hold our brothers and sisters in the cages of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib have proven to have no such humanity. They beat and abuse those detainees to a sickening degree. If I allowed myself to feel bad for my situation, then that would be an injustice to those who are actually going through a severe test.
The words of my friend Babar Ahmed gave me solace in those lonely dark hours. He wrote to me saying that prison to him is time away from the world to spend with Allah. That in the real world he was never able to worship the Creator to the extent he is able now. Then I thought of the words of our beloved Shaykh Ali Timmimi whose understanding of the tests from Allah gave me nothing but further strength to remain happy with my situation.
The weight of the words that these people have given kept a smile on my face for the whole five hour period that I was locked away in. It is understood that what we are given in life comes solely from Allah as a test, whether it be something good, or something bad. Whatever people may do to you is inconsequential, for Allah has already decreed what tests one will face. The only difference anything makes, is that when we face our Lord on the Day of Judgment, and He asks us how it was that we dealt with the trials He tested us with, we must be able to say that we dealt with them, with the greatest of patience.
While in the jail I thought of Shaykh Ali Timmimi, in a famous sermon quoting the words of one of the greatest scholars of Islam, Shaykh-ul Islam Ibn Taymiyyah,
"What can my enemies do to me? My Paradise is in my heart, it goes with me wherever I go. To put me in prison, is to let me have a private devotion with Allah, to execute me is martyrdom, and to kick me out of my land is a journey in the path of Allah."
To think of these words, it can only give you the encouragement that one needs at such times. Truly I think that to be in prison, I was able to pray in a way that I was never able to do back in London. There was nothing there to distract me from my worship, and there was no one in front of me to be arrogant with my deeds other than myself. It was as if I had been given the perfect opportunity to worship my Lord in completeness. If they killed me, which I doubted they would do, then of course that is a martyrdom that I welcomed. Finally, that is my land. Palestine is for the Muslims as much as anyone else, so for them to force me to leave it, inshallah, that will have been a journey for the sake of Allah.
This is just a reminder to all those who have forgotten what it is like for our imprisoned brothers and sisters. I went through nothing, and yet I felt violated. Never forget the injustice of what is happening around the world. They say that time is a healer, well time also makes people forgetful. We must keep on reiterating our disgust over the imprisonment of our innocents, otherwise they will become a distant memory. That, of all the injustices, would be by far the greatest, for it is us who would have let them down.