Channel: Fatima Barkatulla
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Bismillah Alhamdulillah wa salatu salam ala rasulillah dear brothers and sisters as salaam aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barakato. And welcome to the n feed podcast.
It's not every day that you get to meet or speak to somebody who's a real life hero. And I know he won't like me saying that, but it's true, Mashallah, my guest today, his brother wasn't big.
Muslim, big is an author. He is an ex Guantanamo prisoner war on terror consultant and advocate for the rights of those held unjustly. He's also Director of Outreach at cage Assalamu alaikum, Brother Muslim, when it comes to Lamarck, the library cattle and desert locker for that introduction that I don't deserve.
is different from the mother. And brother, I was just thinking about Ramadan. And for the last couple of, well, last Ramadan, and this Ramadan will be very unusual for most people, right.
We're feeling a little bit disconnected from the mosques.
You know, especially women, I mean, even if some of the mosques are gonna open, I think they might allow some brothers to, to come in, but sisters definitely won't. So I think in light of that, I thought you would be a great person to speak to, because you experienced what could be described as, like, the most extreme version of an alternative Ramadan, right.
And an alternative situation that any Muslim could kind of face where your normal rituals are normal things that you do to connect with Allah to connect with who you are,
I kind of disrupted in such an extreme way.
So I haven't really heard many people talk to you about that.
And so I really wanted to use this opportunity to,
to speak to you about that and say, and, and ask you, you know, like,
let me set the scene. Of course, you can set the scene better than me, but I'm just going to use my imagination. I was thinking to myself, so Pamela, imagine
if you were to be kidnapped, if you were to have something very extreme happening to you like that. At first, you would go into kind of fight or flight mode, right? Your brain would just probably just be reacting on instinct. But at some point, your brain must reconnect with the fact that you know, that Allah Subhana, Allah is the only one who can help you. Or that it's the time for Salah you know, for a Muslim, you can never completely forget that right? Can you please describe to us
what it was like, you know, actually, before you describe what it was like to first reconnect with that consciousness, can you describe to us what Ramadan was like, before you experienced what you experienced?
Because you were enough to understand, right? Well, similar to that Osama
Ramadan prior to incarceration is
I guess it would be as normal as it is, for most people. The only differences I would have said is I did spend Ramadan, some Ramadan in, in war zones in Bosnia, and so forth prior to that.
But again, it's nothing to do with sex. It's whatever it is, mostly it's, it's, it's a time of abstention, of course, but it's also you're looking forward to a time of joy and gathering, which Ramadan is very much about, especially on the one hand, yes, of course, you do have the time for seclusion at the caf, with the last panel without limit at the same time. It's very communal, in terms of opening a fast together, Are we together and of course, culminating in the salaat and the day of aid. So it's very communal. And so eat and Ramadan rather, is something that I expect in that way, wherever I was, even if it was in conflict zones, and of course, being incarcerated, whether
that was in Bagram, Kandahar, autonomo or even in the UK in Belmarsh completely different experiences.
Hmm. So can you describe to us the like, the first time you became conscious of the fact that I don't know that it was a Salah time or something, you know, like that, when you work in naps or when you when you
You did go through what you went through?
Yes, of course, I've told this story a few times. But of course it is. It's a very powerful and
relating it often makes me emotional. So I tried to tell them the best way that I can.
I had been handed over by the Pakistani intelligence to the Americans at this obscure airport in Islam about, and I couldn't see anything, I was completely hooded. But when I was handed over to the Americans, I had thought at this point that we're going to get treated a little bit better this will be the beginning of the end, because the Americans are the quote unquote, good guys. And I was wrong. Totally. What the Americans then did is me and the other prisoners who I couldn't see but felt felt around me. They hated me, they shackled my hands behind my back, they push me into the report the bottom position, and shackled my legs, and then drag me off with one soldier, and another
soldier holding my arms down in almost a, as I said, a bowing position with my hands and lock behind their arms. So it's excruciatingly painful.
And then they push me on to this. c 130, transport plates of military transport claimed hidden war of the engines, the screams of the prisoners in pain, the screams of the soldier self shouting and all the different languages that they learned swear word in Arabic in order to impart foreseen push to trying to emulate us, I could make up the flashes of the camera
of their taking crappy pictures of us, despite the hood that I was wearing this made of cloth.
And then that sounds dogs barking and it's, it's mayhem. And then they pushed me onto the floor. I wasn't put on a seat was the floor of this cargo aircraft, military cargo aircraft, and they strapped my legs. And I sat there with my hands behind my back. And I sensed that there was somebody next to me that I couldn't see him. And despite all of this noise,
this brother, he speaks to me in order because there's at least a lot, Miko replied to him. And then he asked me where I'm from and so forth. And it was seemed really bizarre that we're having this conversation next to this other brother. And he wasn't, he didn't sound like he's terrified the way that I felt, but I was terrified. And He then said, he holds a letter so that
I don't know what the fella What
have you prayed Salah to moderate because I think a lot of time has come in. I have to say that up until this point, I was not thinking about Salah, I was not that was not on my mind. At worst, I was thinking wherever I end up prison cell or whatever it's going to be our combined my prayers the last night with Allah will know that this is a this is a rule, this is a necessity. But this brother, it's as if he was sent by Allah subhanaw taala to remind me in the salata grant, meaning that keytab and mahkota, that prayer times have been prescribed upon believers at this specific times. And I said to him, he didn't enter our new software, until email suddenly been sent to me. I said, You're
on the left, you lead the prayer.
Now at this point, at this point, and American soldier had walked up towards us, and he screamed it and he said, If I hear you speaking again, he pulled out a knife, and he put it to my neck.
I hear you speaking again, I'll slit your throat.
And it is all this almost sounds funny, because the next thing that happened
with a knife at my throat, and
the brother living brother says Allahu Akbar.
And that's how the prayer began my mind the knife was taken away from my neck, and he began reciting the Quran began reciting the clarity, and so forth. And we did
record sujood in the way that we could, bearing in mind the position we were in, and all of the actions of the seller, with our hands behind our back. So there was none of the things none of the actual things of the seller, none of the arcanas so that we could perform, but none of the pillars of the prayer we actually do know Roku, such that not even the shotput not even, you know the finger, nothing we could do nothing. The only thing we could do is to sleep because we turn our heads
and so I think to myself, that if anybody asks you did the Americans ever let you pray it's I almost laugh at that because how could they stop you? Allah subhanho wa Taala says and Medina yet Corona la pm in Morocco Rutan Wallah you know be in those remember Allah subhanho wa Taala standing and setting an evil on their sides like there isn't. The only person that's going to stop you from praying is going to be you
and what was going through your mind during that prayer?
multiple things. I'll tell you the first thing and, you know, I'm being honest here. First thing is swarm with this book. Why is he thinking about prayer this home like this? That's the first thing that went in my mind. The second thing that went in my mind is that when the American soldiers putting a knife to my neck, I said, What better state? Could they be into dying?
Let's move on to listening do not die, except as an estate of Muslims and whatever, being a Muslim, whatever. What better state is that and being insular, I didn't really think he was going to kill me. didn't think he was going to do that for threatening me, and trying to frighten me. And then the third thing that came in my mind is that had this brother not being here, had this brother not said that, have you prayed? I wouldn't have done that.
So, so Allah Subhana, Allah sent you, somebody as a reminder,
in the right time.
And you know, what's really The strange thing is, I don't know if I've ever met this brother ever again. I went
off to the revolution. I went to Libya after the revolution. And I met a couple of former Guantanamo prisoners, and I've known several Libyan former Guantanamo prisoners, and I asked them, will you the one sitting next to me, do you remember this incident? And none of them bit? So I'm still trying to figure out who was it? Who was it? There's a couple of others that I've been talking to resettled to Senegal. And I've been trying to find out who was the man, but I've not been able to find them.
Um, Allah subhanaw taala reward that brother.
Wow, that's really, I have heard you tell that story before, but
not in as much detail. So just for those, it's really like,
I think it's what is very symbolic, it's like probably the most symbolic aspect of the injustice is that I've been going on, you know, the fact that you can never stop. You can never stop a believer from connecting with Allah, no matter what state they're in.
You know, really, it really highlights that in a very powerful way, even with a knife at the throat.
Yeah, exactly. And that is, for me, as I said, Sometimes when I think of the story, I'm trying to tell it without getting emotional. But I try to remember that because there are times, of course, in our lives, even today, that we get weak in our prayers, we get weak in that email, weak enough crucial, and one of those things, and I, and this, for me is a source of reminding myself look Muslim, you're telling people about this, so don't get weak yourself. You're reminding people about this. So remind yourself about this of how you were, and it helps to pick me up.
Does not lock her in?
For the Muslim, although you tend to downplay this, you're quite a knowledgeable person. Like, it struck me that you're a student of knowledge, even before this experience that happened to you because you know, you know, Arabic You seem knowledgeable about, you know,
Islamic aspects, aspects of Islamic history, as well as phip, etc.
How did that play out when you when you were going through what you went through, because I was just thinking about, like,
you know, it's a falala You must have had to bring in what I sometimes call emergency fit, right? In this situation. Like, the only time I've ever experienced something like that is on travel, you know, when you're like, once I was going to Jerusalem, I was stuck in a bus and the driver just wouldn't stop. So we had to like use bottle of water to make wudu on the bus and pray however, we could and you know, use the minimum requirement for Purdue. And the just do the like, the minimum limbs need to be washed full width, etc.
I mean, that's just travel but for you, there must have been so many times when there were predicaments. Like
not knowing what time is. Yeah, especially if you're in solitary confinement. How can you tell like, also, water
You know, there must have been people sometimes they might have had to make losses and they, they didn't have the means for that.
Having a clean space to pray
the Qibla you know, I know that those things end up becoming secondary if in an emergency or in in the state of Aurora but
even just like you said, being in the position for Salah
in Ramadan knowing when to start your fast and your fast.
I mean, there's just like so many things that like when you're in a
Sometimes I'm on these WhatsApp groups with students of knowledge and the loom graduates. And that's all they talk about, you know, the time the different fifth little details of fifth and you just think so Pamela, we get so kind of lost in all those details. But in your situation.
It was literally a state of emergency feck. Right.
Yeah, I've never heard that term before. But I like the term emergency click, I think in Arabic will be provided, which means I don't know if it's it's a legal term, but it sounds good. Because it wasn't just emergency as well. It wasn't emergency but it was kind of a longer term emergency as it were. But all of those things you've said, of course, if you don't know which way that is, there are of course positions and rulings on that and unless Banta says that no matter we'll look at some of which we'll look at why, wherever you are face to
face for the sake of Allah. And in the end, the most beautiful versus sort of Baccarat mentioned lesson and to follow Joe Campbell machico, one mokuba that's one of my favorite is because it goes through this verse goes through that it isn't Goodness, goodness in and of itself isn't that isn't about which direction you face. Goodness is believing Allah and the messages and the books and so forth. And all of them added madala habido in orbit when your timer went missing was the second was eating was our first record. Well karma Salah to add to the category of when a big myth idol was Saberi in a failed back surgery with Dr. Shaheen and Betts. Look at this. This is and those who are
patients in times of hardship, and wherever that hardship is, we're like, let him set up what we like and we'll move on. These are the people who are truthful, these are people who say Allah subhanaw taala. So this is the beauty of Allah, Allah Deen, that it if you really analyze it, and though our Dean is, of course about important rituals that were taught by the prophets that I sent him, the heart and the spirit of this religion isn't about ritualism. It's about the spirit of Islam. It's about what you do. And it's about what you intend to do. And we took those rasa, those rosters that were given to us, whether it's to do with the Salah, instead of completing our Salah,
as we shortened I think all of the brothers, whether they're from the various schools of thought that have enough brothers, from the Afghans and the Taliban, guys, and so forth, or whether it was the more kind of
traditional selfie type, who would short nap Pro is regardless of the distance, regardless of of the time and so forth. There were all those different opinions, different opinions, then all what what was beautiful about it, is that they all respected one another's positions, there were people talking about an alien, they were not scholars, scholars of Guantanamo, who, who recognize the rasa in Islam for all these different things. When I made the young Mum, they a mum, dry ablution for one year, completely, I didn't have it was a choice of the bottle of water that they give you either drink it, or you can use it for things like mildew, and washing. And if you do that, then you don't
have water to drink. So it was a very easy equation for me and everybody else, we just met them. And yes, all other things like allsole, and so forth was very difficult, very impossible to do. In fact, because you drink the water or you, you go first, you're new and you come close to death.
There was other aspects of thick that people try to
interpret for themselves, like, Is it halaal to hunger strike? And to what point can you hunger strike, and people would quote, I'm going to look at Barbara viola, who would not hunger strike, but keep away from food, in solidarity with the people of Medina during the famine.
And, of course, hunger was something that the Sahaba are going to lie they knew full well, we have multiple narrations of them tying rocks to their stomachs and so forth. This was out of a situation where they have little choice.
And here, the brothers many brothers, some did, and some didn't turn the strike on the basis of Is there a good that can be done. It's a form of protest, some agreed some didn't agreed. But both sides respected one another. I thought that this was the the maturity of the aspects of these aspects of fit that brothers there. For the most part, were able to impart and not apply strict, rigid rulings that would only harm one another.
With their times when you lost your sense of time, like in terms of time of day.
And, yes, of course, that's another thing. I mean, I in Bagram when I was held in Bagram, and even in Guantanamo for quite for quite some time, I didn't know whether it was day or night, I didn't know what the time leaders were, I didn't have a timetable. I didn't have a clock. I didn't have a watch. I didn't know any of those things. So you can only estimate or base it upon a if there's a good soldier that happens to be on guard at
pointed that will tell you because they're not required to tell you the time, the time or the date and so forth. So we didn't know any of those things we didn't know, I know the first Ramadan that came for me in kuantan. Guantanamo. I didn't know it was Ramadan. And I didn't know it was read. I was by myself. And there was nobody there to practice it with to do any of those things with so it was all guessing.
I had. And so eventually, of course, things did change for a lot of the prisoners and things have changed, the Americans have instituted those things and recognize those religious aspects. But in the beginning, it was a it was a great struggle.
Yeah, for the most of you, it seems like you had memorized some Quran with like, and so I was just thinking like, if you if a person hadn't memorized any Quran,
they would have found it very difficult to connect right with, with anything really with with the word of Allah. But use I think you did you had memorize some Quran. And
so did that help you? I had memorize some excitement on the last Jews and some of the smallest, smallest tours I memorized. But I didn't know a great deal. I hadn't memorized a lot.
In fact, the beauty for me was the beauty was memorizing Quran in incarceration, that was the beauty of it, because
the ability to contemplate I felt my contemplation might a dub book in court in prison was far, far greater than it is as a free person. And that's because the eyes you see them in a different way in a different light. Of course, there's all the AI to do that within sort of the swimsuit use violation, which all prisoners will talk about. But I'm talking about many other verses in the Quran, that make yourself reflect on so many different things, so many different aspects. Just a simple one, though, it's to do with block this verse is to do with the luck. But the verse when may have been learning to unlock Maharajah where you're a sort of human Hadler doesn't mean you have to
walk about life or hospital. So this person or Quran is whoever fears Allah, He will make a way out for him. Now, I see that as a prisoner, I say hold on fear Allah, I'm getting out. That's I see as a literal interpretation, though this is for
women or men who are in this situation, if the lock
allowed, then the best part is where your home in havilah, the SIP, that is something I came to learn only after my release. So first,
fear my alarm will show you the way out, then he will provide for you from what you never expected. When I was released from Guantanamo, I didn't know what I was going to do. I had no idea which direction I'm going to go. And I was terrified, actually, because I thought, who's going to want to have anything to do with a guy who's accused by the most world's most powerful country of being connected to al Qaeda, who's gonna want anything to do, I was terrified. And then unless panel open one door after the after the next after the next of the next, which I call, according to describe how many doors have been opened, and what types of people I've met which types of were influences
has gone to, to world leaders to people who've had
experiences that make mine look insignificant, but to be heard in places
has been part of that
risk. In life. I mean, health would love to see from where I never imagined.
So contemplating on those verses in the Quran, in that context, as a prisoner who's thinking about things is unique. I think that I wouldn't wish it upon anybody but that part of it that halwa with Allah subhanaw taala. That part, everybody needs to taste it somehow somewhere even in their house. How did you get the Quran in the first place? Must have. That's interesting, because in the beginning, in the early days, it was actually very shocking what the American soldiers did. They they in some instances, they ripped knock around and they tore it into pieces and they throw it into buckets that were that we do we are they used for for the toilet.
It was heartbreaking. It was destructive. It was a desecration that we almost couldn't tolerate within violate our bodies. But if you violate this book,
you go beyond the pale.
But and that's why they did it. Right. That's why they did it. Because they knew I won't say it was a policy of the American one say it's by policy by nature, but it was allowed to happen. And yeah, the fact that it was allowed to happen then the fact that it got to most of all of us, but my reflection upon it, in hindsight is a very important one. I think that I'd like to share the Quran itself was put together in a book. Well after the death of
Prophet alayhi salatu salam he didn't instruct his Sahaba to put it into the book,
in that in that way, in his lifetime it didn't, wasn't put together in the book in his lifetime. And the only reason why the Sahaba put it into the book in the first place is because you know that the Battle of your mama, or the Hufford for palace suffer and people memorize the Quran of getting killed in its defense, and the Sahaba fear that this book would be lost. So they put it together, meaning, this Quran that we love so dearly, it's pages we, we we are so connected to was revealed to a man who went was said to him in the very first instance, it caught up, he replied, Matt, another party.
I do not read is Muhammad Salah, and the beat on me the unlettered prophet. So his Koran was came to his heart, and he passed it over to the hearts of his companions. And there were occasions in Guantanamo I kid you not Sr. When the Americans we know sometimes would come back to our cell, we find that there are blueprints in the Quran, or somebody has written profanities in the Quran, or spit marks or worse, that you've come back to your cell, you found this, I don't care if they turn my cell upside down, but to find this is too much. Some of the brothers they did. They did this thing that's just amazing. They took the Koran and they said, Yeah, he said, Listen, if you're going
to use the Koran to hurt me take it back.
Can you imagine that handing back the Quran, the one thing that gives you tranquility, you hand it back and say, Do not repeat this book because you want to get to take it back. But that didn't stop them from learning the Quran. That was my point. My point was that those who knew and had memorized taught those who hadn't. So they taught the old way from word of mouth, they still became her father, the Koran.
And that was my point is that this in the end, it wasn't about the book, it was the present version of the book in the hearts of men.
So like, there was literally teaching and learning of Quran going on in that setup.
Yeah, of course, not just put on there was many, many different subjects and disciplines from different people who we say that Guantanamo was the University of use of Germany to use a pilot. And that is because it's a prison University. They don't give you there's no courses like, you know, convicted prisoners around the world will get all sorts of courses and degrees and masters and doctorates they can do in prison, you can't do anything in Guantanamo, all you can do is learn from another brother, if he's pushed, or if he's a push to speaker or Farsi speaker, Swahili speaker, you can learn this language from I've met brothers who learnt one Turkish brother, I know he learned he
couldn't speak any of the languages. You can speak Arabic, English, push to Farsi or one other languages. Well, he came out speaking all of them. They've been there for five years, and you've met all these different presidents. There are other prisoners who were who worked in oil fields who taught people about, you know, the process of oil production, there were other prisoners. I remember having discussions with brothers about Hubble's into expanding universe theory. I remember talking with one brother talking to other brothers giving them a class once a month, sort of big. He's written an article about this in the New York Times, where he says, this is a lesson I took in love.
How do you deal with the issue of as an as an unmarried young man? How are you prepared for getting married, so an unmarried brother gives these unmarried brothers a lesson. And again, they're talking through the shouting at one another through the cells and saying, This is what you do this, I have to be this the process and decide to treat women and responding to those who have different views. And it's a beautiful article I've suggested you go and read it, if it's in,
in the New York Times. And so there's all of these discussions people are having in this vast University. And of course, in the midst of all of that, people get depressed, the demand goes down, they lose the connection with Allah subhanaw taala. And yet at the same time, there are others who pick you up, when they themselves are down, somehow they're falling, but while they're falling, they pick you up. And that's the beauty of being around such people.
So at some point, when, I mean, I remember what the kind of
anger and the feeling was like at the beginning of the war, you know, and especially from the American side, but at some point, and so that kind of explains the way some of the soldiers were, you know, treating some of the symbols of Islam was, etc.
But at some point, there must have been a time when things started becoming I wouldn't like to say normal, but calm down a little bit, you know, in terms of the anger and the rhetoric and that and so, was there a time when
You could actually talk to soldiers in a normal kind of way and where they were actually quite
open to what the things that you guys were doing and to your Islam, for example, and
yeah, yes, in fact, I would say that, you know, human beings are complex creatures, they're not black and white as some people would have us believe they're very complex.
And I experienced that right from the beginning. From the beginning, they were soldiers, I mean, not from the very beginning when the when the actual serious dehumanization happened. But shortly after
they met Americans who came along and did things that would have raised an eyebrow, or in some cases probably got them thrown out of the army entirely. Like offerings, little things, a little chocolate here, a little snack there a little, a smile here, a genuine smile, I mean, and some some of them saying sorry, while they're transporting you, while you've got a hood over your head while they're moving along. They say I'm only doing this because it's my job, I didn't sign up to do this, I signed up to defend my country from invaders, but not to come and invade somebody else's country. People said that in my ear, as I'm being dragged along. Um, so his compatriot is much harsher. But
he is softer. He doesn't want me to think, as an individual that he is like his compatriot, though they are brothers in arms themselves, he has to show solidarity, but he wants to show me as humanity. So as I said, humans are complex creatures.
And it all depends on your communicability. If you are able to communicate with somebody, and they see you as a human being, it's, it's more unlikely for you to be abused by them, then it's as if, if you don't speak their language, they'll scream at you. I saw this happening, that they screaming at a prison who doesn't understand the language. So they scream even louder thinking that that
making themselves sound louder, somehow he will all understand. And that sort of stuff happened so much. And I've come across so many soldiers, former soldiers that have apologize, it's hard to list. I don't make all of them public, because I want to protect their identities. But if you allow me to share one little story, and there have been many,
this was just from a few days ago, there was an American soldier, he sent me a message on Facebook Messenger. I hadn't picked it up because it went to my spam folder. When I looked at it. It said, he said Salaam he said my brother. And then he went on to say that if you don't i don't know if you remember me, but I was one of your guards in Bagram. And I was involved in detention, but also military operations. And then he said,
I want to apologize. Sincerely, my dear brother, for being part of that I never took any pleasure at all in the abuse of any prisoners. And then he said something which really gripped my heart, then he said, I am a Native American, my Nate, my mother, my grandparents, were not even citizens of my own country. So I know what it's like to dehumanize people, and I wasn't I didn't want to be part of that. And then he said, I list I received blast trauma injury from from in my brain from an attack that took place in Afghanistan. And he said, I picked up a course on al Karim, use those words. I picked up a lot on and Kareem and I started to read it. And it started to give me peace where I
could find none. And then he ends by saying, My dear brother, once again, he uses that term, please forgive me. And it just, what do you say to somebody like this?
And Allah Subhana. Allah can bring hedaya and guidance to whoever he wishes whenever he wishes, however he wishes. If the prophets Allah is something used to say alarm eyes and Islam had a moraine. Meaning May Allah give honor to Islam from one of the two farmers who at the time were enemies of slam on a hot tub or under ambition, aka Abu Jahan, then what are such folks, of course, we should make dua for their guidance. And I can tell you just another I mean, there are at least five to six that I'm in contact with former soldiers, male and female, black, white, Hispanic, who became Muslims. I was only through it for three years. That's that's my knowledge. There are
brothers, they've been there for 15 1617 1819 years, their knowledge on this is far greater.
And how do you explain that, you know, like, if somebody was to say,
how could people suddenly or you know, either through that experience, become softened to Islam or become, you know, attracted to Islam? What would you say is like maybe a pattern or
common thread between all of them that you can see.
I think it's my view is this
that they've seen Islam and heard about Islam from a particular direction. So they see something that's it's intrinsically bad. It's the it's the essentially it's the story of Mr. Bob's law coming to Islam, you oppose it, because you don't know it. You haven't seen it. When you see it in your household we see close to, then you realize, then you see something else. A sister once contacted me on Facebook. She has a hijab and a picture. And she says, brother, were you in Guantanamo? I said, Yes, I was. She said, so was I. And I said, Well, there were no female prisons that she said, I wasn't a prisoner. I was one of your gods. So
she said, Yes, please tell the brothers he said the message, he said, send a message to the brothers, that it was because of their love for Islam, and their connection to their faith. That I went home and researched Islam and became a Muslim. That's what the seed for the love of Islam was sown in my heart by watching their practice.
And so there was this there was always a fascination. I think even those who detested Muslims or detested the prisoners. They they recognized the importance of how we
we prayed at fixed times, how we held on how there were things that we wouldn't budge, budge on religiously. And even things like how the sister said she became a Muslim. She said, one of the reasons I became Muslim though, and there were many times when I, I turned, I was a Catholic origin. But when I was depressed, I turned to boys to drugs, to alcohol to all of these things, but I saw you prisoners turning to one another, and turning to somebody far greater than all of you. And I was very moved by that I saw when the men would talk to me that they lower their eyes so that they wouldn't stare at me in the face. And she said that was so opposite to the experience I have as a
female in the US Army, where there is sexual abuse is rampant.
So it was a totally different experience for me. And so it was it wasn't just the, the ideological sort of intellectual, dour, in fact, far from it. It was actually watching people and seeing how they live everyday things right, every day being a Muslim. Exactly, exactly.
I think I think there's a message in that for all of us, actually. Because
I think we sometimes underestimate how people are viewing us and receiving us. And, you know, I remember even just being contacted from by friends from school, who then said, you know, we used to actually really admire the fact that you all have a job and that you were different, or that you weren't part of that the culture, you know, that we all felt we had to be part of, or at least admire the fact that used to pray, you know, all those kinds of things. Sometimes we feel like we're being viewed in a negative way. But actually, there's something irresistible about faith isn't that there's something irresistible about in people's fitrah they cannot resist and admiring it.
My belief is this, you know, somehow one of the things, you know, my father used to tell me
in a very proud way, but also a little bit. I don't know, I'm not sure how to describe it. But he used to say we are descendants of the Mongols, and descendants of the tribe of Judah. In fact, I learned recently I didn't even know I, my original original family name was Muslim or beg shall die. But okay, so you're related to my husband? Yeah, exactly.
So we have that connection, and somebody took that took the name off and so forth. And he'd say often that we are the descendants of Genghis Khan and so forth. And I said that Genghis Khan destroyed his thumb, you know, he destroyed the Muslim world. And he said, Yes, but his descendants all became Muslims. Within 100 years, the entirety of all of that Mongol horde, the Golden Horde, and the white Horde and all the Central Asian
republics, where they settled, they all accepted Islam. And this is this is quite unique, I think, because essentially, these are conquerors, who, whose hearts have been conquered by Islam?
And yeah, I know, I know, there were different things that caused that but I remember reading one of the things was,
it's kind of it's kind of has echoes of what you're saying was the women who were taken as prisoners, Muslim women,
taken as prisoners of war, taken as slaves basically by the Mongols, Mongols,
and who ended up raising the next generation of children
that they actually influenced, especially one of the princes, I forgotten his name
and they said that
He became a Muslim, because of the influence of his nanny who was a basically a Muslim woman slave
who brought him up. And from from his Premiership onwards, they were Muslims, apparently. But that's one of the Yes. I'm sorry, as fascinating. It's, I mean, it, we are me my presence and I guess, your husband's presence, the very fact that we are evidence of that we are evidence of Islam, entering the hearts of those people who, at one point were opposed to it. And so seeing soldiers again, just just last week, I'm not, you know, I can't describe how often as I said, I get contacted by soldiers. Some of them, of course, not, the majority of them don't become Muslims. But all of them are sympathetic to the cause of Muslims now, because of Guantanamo so on because of their experience
in Guantanamo, they've recognized Islamophobia, in fact that they are, they see it much quicker than most people do. They see around the world, in, in different aspects. But it's because they were there. They were part of a system, they saw it, they witnessed a spraying, they witnessed some of them, some of them saw how their colleagues push their boots on brothers heads while they were praying in such that they saw it themselves, they saw that type of abuse take place, and they were ashamed of it. And that's why I've always said that I think that there's far a lot more good in America in potential because of people recognizing those things and coming out, it's just because of
what's around them, it stops them from
airing, how that that kind of dissent as it were. But having said that, all of those soldiers who became Muslims,
they did so based upon watching the prisoners, and then learning about Islam afterwards and doing their own research.
So what they saw triggered, like an interest and an admiration, and then they followed that up later. Were there any Christians who tried to preach to you guys? Yes, there was them? I know, there's a lot of Christians in the army, right, America. Yeah, it's I mean, religion is big in America, full stop. I mean, it was, it was not unusual to find an American soldier coming into my cell, I'm in the cell area, locked up and he's sitting outside, and he's sitting is reading his Bible. That was not uncommon. That would happen. I had discussions and long term debates, discussions with American soldiers, one whom in particular, I remember to this day, he was a
Southern Baptist evangelist, preach it like you wanted to preach Christianity.
And he gave me a Bible, which I still have to this day. And it's a Bible which has combat colors. So that's a khaki colored Bible, US military issue. And he, he taught, told me to take it, and thought that he's doing downward to me. And I had read the Bible so many times, you know, as a kid, going to Jewish schools, and Christian school, and so forth. So I knew it. And I spent that time making little notes from that Bible, all about the oneness of Allah subhanaw, taala mentioned in Matthew, Mark, Luke, john, apostles, Corinthians and so forth, where Jesus doesn't say that he's the son of God. In fact, he says, I'm the son of man. And it says, The Son of God is Adam, David, all human
beings are the sons of God, and so forth. And so I started to question him, this whole concept about the Son of God, and that, surely, you must believe in what Jesus says is that it is not up to him to grant positions in Paradise, but the one who sends him is this isn't all in the Bible. So when I started to challenge him on those simple concepts that every Muslim knows, and present them to him, he he, he changed his tone. He didn't want to make it out to me anymore. But I did speak to other soldiers and said, Look, please open your eyes and take a look at this. I'm not I'm not much of a proselytize, I'm not much of a dour kind of person. But now that you've got me into it, I want you
to take an open, look at this properly. And compare it to the Quran and the Quran that you see, as you see how we memorize it. You see how even those who are not Arabs memorize it. You cannot take away the Quran from our hearts. Even if you burnt every book. Even if you ripped up every book as you did, and throw it in the toilet. We'd still memorize it, you wouldn't lose it. Because we have this tradition of connecting to the original. Tell me what language is Jesus speak? What language was the Bible originally written in? When was it translated in the Kings King James Version? How far do you have to get from the original to to make it come, you know, to conform to what you're reading
now? And they didn't want to hear those questions. Those who did, I think,
had he started to view Islam as a hold on. This is a religion that really is authentic. And those were beautiful conversations and that
raise my hand.
So, you know, this, this whole conversation about people finding Islam in different strange ways. It reminds me of when I was in Bahrain, I, I heard that there was an US army base there. And there's this big Masjid there. I think it's called Masjid father. And when we went inside, they have a dour department, and the sister in charge of the department was saying to me, do you know there are a lot of US soldiers who become Muslim, here. And they and while I was there, they were giving tours to soldiers and their families of the mosque. So sometimes I think their families are allowed to come over or something. And it was so weird to see these men like, you know, wearing the army uniform,
going through the mosque, and learning about Islam. And the looks on their faces was, you know, there was like a humility, there was like,
it was almost like a reverence and an appreciation for maybe a culture and a place where they hadn't expected to be the way it was, you know, once they were actually there. Last thinking so Pamela, like, although obviously, as most things we view it as negative that there are army bases in these different places, right. Like, we don't really know, what's Allah's plan, right. We don't know what's really going on. And how many people actually bring being brought to snam? through that. I mean, look, one of the obvious thing from this experience for me has been that, of course, others and from the example that you're giving, is that there are things happening that that are not good
for the Muslim world, in terms of the presence, the political sort of connection to it. But if you take a different aspect of it, and see, even from this, or even for it, because a Muslim supposed to look for, where is the hair in this? Surely there must be some good in this? And yeah, once you start to look at it in that way, then your outlook will be different. And there was a time I would have thought that yes, absolutely, you know, complete presence of them. It's, it's totally wrong. And there can be no good of it. But you're correct. You're correct. There is even if the hire is it is an invisible team. It's going to be there.
Yeah, absolutely. And as Muslims, we have to think like that, because I think otherwise, we end up giving too much power to the negative forces. You know what I mean? Like, the fact that we know that was in control should make us look for those little glimmers of light, right? Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. Yeah. Brother Muslim. Just want to ask you about
Ramadan in Guantanamo, okay. And,
you know, what was that like? That must have been?
Like, is there a build up to Ramadan in Grand Guantanamo?
What does it just suddenly appear and somebody reminds you and start to make the preparations in Reggio bench, you know, Siobhan and she, you don't even know what the Gregorian, you don't even know what the Gregorian months are, let alone the hijiri months, you just don't know. And of course, I won't say that's the situation. Now it's changed, it has changed dramatically. But I can only give my experience. And my experience that is you just didn't know. You didn't know the months or the time. So when eventually we did find out it was Ramadan in the first Ramadan in Bagram where I was for about one year.
We found out I think, three days later that Ramadan had begun. And that was only because some new prisoners had come in and they told us, it's Ramadan. And then we didn't have food, we weren't allowed to keep food in our cell area, you have to hand so your your meal time is was a small little pack of plastic pack of what's known as MRE meal ready to eat, which is military ration. But they they take all the common condiments,
heaters, spoons, they just give you this pack. And you have to tear this pack up and with your teeth, and kind of gulp down the contents because there's no other way to eat. And it's just a cold meal. And that was what they would give us and we have to hand it back within 15 minutes, if it's eaten or not. So there's nothing to keep in ourselves. So they don't give us food at the time for school because nobody's No, that's not that's not food time. It's not breakfast time as far as they're concerned. So we've got no food for us to hold. And we've got no food for thought because again, it has to conform to their times, not our times. So we would get when we did eventually start
to fast. We got a food star for five hours after depending and sometimes they would do it to be vindictive.
After that time to start so we will open our cast with water and wait until we get food so that we can
Didn't happen. So I've been jamaa didn't happen, we weren't allowed to do any of those things. Even Salah would reading your ring loud or reading the Quran out loud was a punishable crime. And I mean by punishable, you would be taken to the,
to the front of the cage, and suspended with your hands tied to the top of the occasional workplace that we had and left there for several hours. That's the infraction, the punishment for the infraction of opening your mouth, you're not allowed to. So that was the situation for an entire year. And that's in the same place where we had to make what do I mean sorry, to your mom for a year.
But again, look for the wood the clay was this. It's in, I think, in Ramadan, I believe that I
memorize the whole sort of the Baccarat
in background, and for me, that was a huge achievement. Because up until this time, I'd only memorize short solos from from the from December. So for me that was like, I can't tell you how much joy I had. From from that day when I completed the memorization.
Was there any chance for fell away? Or was that just like
we couldn't we were not allowed to we were not allowed in the the wall was for us that we couldn't call the event. In background. This was a Concordia that we couldn't stand in prayer together. We couldn't pray together. We couldn't even recite the Koran loud.
We'd get literally tortured if we did. And unfortunately, the person who told them to not allow us this was an Egyptian American who said that these guys talk to one another in their prayers. The call to prayer is is a message to one another. The Quranic recitation Loud is a message to one another, and therefore, they're not actually praying. So it was on it was sadly an Egyptian American who told them
to wear their Muslim soldiers. Yes, yes. There were more Muslim soldiers and some interrogators,
and the connection with them?
Not really. No.
And there was some except one or two exception, there was Captain James Yi, who is known as use a few in Guantanamo, who was an exception, because when he came, he came as a Muslim chaplain. And he started to bring bring books of filk of arcada, of Syrah and so forth for the library, which were prior to that were not allowed. But again, another shocking thing, within four months of him being there, he's a US army captain in the US Army, he was arrested and placed in a military brig in Florida was helpful for months, because of his sympathy towards the soldiers, but sorry, because sympathy towards the prisoners.
He left the army and he spoke out against Guantanamo is taught over here and met with me. But unfortunately, that was the how people were treated at the time.
But yes, Muslim soldiers were few and far between for us. And when we did see them, it felt like the ultimate betrayal.
When I was in Egypt, I met a lot of Muslim ex soldiers, who had basically abandoned the army and fled to Egypt. And because they had been called on to go to the x, y, Zed Muslim country, and that's when they realized that they didn't want to be part of this. So, so Pamela, so? Yeah.
And but then, wasn't it? Are there any verses of Quran or any particular surah is that really, you've already mentioned some of them,
but that you could reflect on that just really meant a lot during that time. Or that you noticed that? You know, sometimes there are verses that we read a lot, but then we don't really notice them, like the power in them, until a certain situation hits us.
Of course, there are many, many verses not put on that, that
that at the time and even even then
we're more important to me
than they are now.
From the beginning of sort of Montana
when Allah Subhana Allah says when I'm speaking with my island, I know that but you have a hiding and that which you have done openly and this was in reference to
I felt that the the CIA interrogating me and saying come and work with us and saying, This is in background come work with us and you'll be free and you're all you have to do is just tell on x y Zed and become a spy. And that really hit hard. It was I went back and I looked at those verses on a lower court. Look, this I feel this is a lie is talking to me
at all the different verses of when Allah subhanaw taala said six talks about testing you
have septum and that whole region that will have yet to come after living in the Holloman public. Do you think that you will enter gender and you will not be tested like those who were tested before you met set with better or without right was zero, that they were tested with trials and attractions until the earth and any fish shook underneath their feet shook her diet cola Rasulullah Dena, I'm an alma mater law, civil law until the Prophet himself said and those who believed said When will the help of Allah come and the beautiful response Ella in the muscle of light creep. And I remember this is amazing brother. I love him for the second one last one His name is far isn't khanduri. He's a
quaity brother who I speak to often and he has a huge following. He's one of the scholars of Guantanamo, even now.
He came to me in in Kandahar prison. And he was shackled. They were moving along and coming right past the soldiers. And he happened to stop in front of each prisoners cell as they allowed him before they drag them off for a couple of seconds. And he would say, and photojojo corrib, one sort of light, buddy.
And I remember those words, because that's all I remember from I never saw him again. And I was released in three years. After three years I was released. He was released after 14 years. After 14 years he was released. And he is one of the most amazing individuals I've ever come across especially now I speak to him quite regularly. And if you you can, you can follow any of the Arabic speakers. Yes, listen to his, his his wisdom and knowledge and understanding of what he's gone through. And
really, advise if you've if you ever come across this video of this series of videos from the brother called Fahad al kundry. Who is it is a program called will Quran the date that the Quran I was guided
he's a relative of his is a close relative of his. And it's just
I mean these these joys you will never find them these gems right? You will never find them. unless Allah subhanaw taala wishes you to taste it somewhere.
So Pamela, well, and it never occurred to me that there might be scholars as well in place like that. Yeah, there were a few, as I said, there are a few known as the scholars of Guantanamo, perhaps out in the world here, they won't be, you know, the rank of great orlimar and so forth. But they're scholars in their own rights, and especially the scholars have of experience of that entire lived experience of emergency felt, as you mentioned, that they had to, they had to construct and deconstruct and import two brothers who were seeking who had to have answers.
for them was, if you have any, like parting advice for us, in terms of like,
Ramadan and lockdown if there's anything that any reflections that you've had, actually, before that, could you describe to us what it was like the first Ramadan back,
you know, the first Salah after you experienced freedom. And the first time
I wrote an article called Ramadan in Guantanamo, it's called and it begins with, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And this is like a statement from Charles Dickens book in a tale of two cities. And it is really that it's the best of times, it's the worst of times, it's good, it's a sin, right, man, use hardship with ease, it's all of those things. So there's, it's not all good, it's not all bad. I'm not gonna sing praises of everything there and I'm not going to
put down everything that in the same way when I came back to to home. I, of course loved being with my family and doing a Fatah and Salah bill Gemma and that are we and one of the things, I loved it, but I missed, I missed being in solitary. I missed halwa with Allah subhanaw taala I missed being able to memorize the Quran in the way that I could, that for me, it was the best environment. I struggled to do it at home in a busy, busy environment that I didn't struggle in prison.
I missed my brothers shouting from across the cells honey and Marie and at the time of opening a fast, you know, blavia you know, I missed it. I missed brothers saying things to me that I can't even see their face. But I know he cares for me. I can't see his face. I just hear his voice.
And I missed it greatly. Because it wasn't here. There were other things here. There were other beautiful things here. But that wasn't here.
And sometimes that part of it that part of you
The only thing I would say in the time of lockdown now today where people are struggling and thinking should I be able to go to the massage it and I miss that Gemma and even when we do go to the massage and you can stand together and so forth. And I know there's something I've you mentioned it and I deeply aware of it, the sisters can't go at all there's hardly any accommodation for sisters there let alone brothers in most of them search now because of the situation.
I just think of the profits or loss and when he said he said don't don't make your homes into graveyards. If your home wasn't a Masjid to begin with, then it should have become one in lockdown. If you're if you want an Imam, to begin with in your heart in your home, you should have become one in locked up. If you weren't doing all of those things that you should have been doing and had only passed over the masjid is this is the place only this happens in the masjid. And you made a big big mistake. And Allah gave you an opportunity to make that center. Your home the center of that learning your home is your Masjid. It doesn't I don't mean don't go to the masjid. I mean, your home
is your message it should all of those things that used to pass off to the masjid or to the Islamic school or to the madrasa or to the all of those things you're forced now to do at home, teaching your kids the Koran, if you weren't doing that at home and only passing it over to the masjid, you were mistaken. deeply mistaken.
So I pray that inshallah if this is the benefit that we can still take out from this lockdown period. And I for one actually am thankful to Allah subhanho wa Taala that were able to have
Ramadan in lockdown, I'm thankful, deeply thankful.
And what makes you say that
because when we go to the massage it often especially salata, tarawih, and so forth is such a rush, you have to get there, you've just eaten you rush there,
you're almost sometimes trampling over people to get to the mustard, the spirituality spiritual aspect, it seems devoid to me with, with all of those things, certain amount of rushing around, right, that happens. And then there's, then there's also the oil, you know, it's, you know, we all know, a lot of that is assuming you don't have to go that.
And yet, there's this rush to get there.
And at least you could make it rather than do your full ride in the masjid back to your cinema at home. And let your family benefit from it seems like the other way around. So I'm, I'm kind of happy that you've got the opportunity
to be able to do that at home. And for people to experience being an Imam and the home to experience it.
So I'm, as I said, I'm thankful for it. And of course, the most important thing as I said, praying Gemma is important. There's no doubt but people miss and miss out on hallway with Allah subhanho wa Taala. And that is something that you cannot replace. I mean, for me as a former prisoner, you can't replace it in this place. Unlike lockdowns kind of been a little bit of a taste of it.
Yeah, does that gonna happen? That's true. I mean, actually, people might think it's quite strange to hear someone like you say that you missed such and such experience and missed such and such experience. But I was thinking, like, as human beings, we're always looking forward, aren't we? We're always thinking, I can't wait to lockdowns over, I can't wait till this is over or that is over. And yet, we do have the opportunity to, in some ways make the most of the current
little bent benefits that there are in the current situation such that later on when things do go back to normal, we would look back and miss those things as well. So yeah,
Brother Muslim, I really appreciate your time and your wisdom and you've given us so many things, interesting things to think about and to value about the things that I think we sometimes take for granted. So please convey our salons to your family and jackal Heron, bark Luffy calm and my last panel accepted from you and all your work and I pray that also that we do take all the great benefits of being in this situation. And that Allah subhanaw taala raises your rank in this dunya and
I mean, she's over here now and I'm going to tell my husband that you are a just by so he'll be happy about that. inshallah.
Brothers and sisters just like Camilla Heron for joining us. I'm sure you benefited from that as much as I did.
Wow. So found a lot. So please do share that this episode with others.
People who may be thinking about Ramadan, everyone's kind of preparing now and looking forward to it. So
Do you share it do tell somebody knew about this podcast Alhamdulillah the podcast is one of the top podcasts in many countries in the West especially.
But you know, we want to reach even more people so and we rely on you to help us do that.
Just like I love her and, and with that I will bid you farewell subhanak Allah homo Behanding shadow Allah Ilaha Atlanta, esta Furukawa to Bulik wa salam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakato