O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it” (Al-Tirmidhi)
Ramadan was the month of retreat for Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). During this month he used to spend time away from his family in the cave called Hira, located just outside Makkah, meditating and dedicating his time to worship. Continuing the traditions of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the command of Allah (SWT) to fast during the month of Ramadan, Muslims all around the world not only refrain from eating and drinking but also focus on their spiritual well being. They make time out of their busy schedules to pray regularly and recite as well as understand the Quran. It is also the month in which Muslims practice to balance spiritual and worldly matters, be compassionate and charitable. The spiritual energy is the driving force for their moral and ethical behaviour during normal day- to-day activities. This spiritual aspect of Ramadan is intertwined with the worldly affairs because the religious responsibilities make one conscious about their actions towards other human beings and the ways in which they conduct themselves in their daily lives.
While Muslims as free citizens enjoy the companies of their friends and families in carrying out the religious ordain and cultural traditions of Ramadan, those behind the bars perform the same duties and practices in seclusion. One has to give up their liberty; this is the cost of committing a crime and causing harm to any society. A life of imprisonment requires immense inner strength and courage for survival. In addition to coping with the imprisoned life, the prisoners also have to prepare themselves to resettle into society after their release. Just like faith gives strength and hope to people for their accomplishments and getting through rough time, it also plays important role for prisoners living in exclusion. Faith revitalizes the sense of community amongst the prisoners which helps them to survive in prison and gives them hope to look forward to integrate within and living with dignity in the society.
It was in mid-90s that Muslim prisoners in the UK were given right to observe Ramadan and have halal food. Since Muslims devote more time contemplating about their deeds in this world and life hereafter during Ramadan, this month gives an additional dynamism to Muslim prisoners to reflect on their deeds and social behaviour in the society. The religious duties including offering regular prayers, reading the Quran, understanding the role of faith in worldly life and observing fast helps to enhance their rehabilitation process. There are various NGOs, individual Imams and Muslim Chaplains providing support to Muslim prisoners for their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Before the commencement of Ramadan, Muslim Aid provides Muslim prisoners with Ramadan packs including prayer mats to help rehabilitate them. The aim of the distribution of these packs is to assist Muslim prisoners during Ramadan in the reformation of their thoughts about their roles as citizens in order to live with dignity after their release. All British Muslim citizens are and can be a part of this humanitarian initiative through donations for the Ramadan pack distributed to Muslim prisoners to strengthen their path to goodness.
*The copyright of this article is held by the Information and Public Affairs Department of Muslim Aid, UK. Use of its contents is allowed subject to acknowledgement. The opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author and do not represent the point of view of Muslim Aid.
Information & Public Affairs Assistant