The Revival looks at one young mans journey from life on the street to life in prison and then discovering Islam again.
Offence: In possession of drugs with the intent to supply
Time Spent: 6 years
The point in my career which led me to engage in activities of crime was when my mother died. Being only 18 and very close to my mum, it was a huge shock when cancer had swept throughout her entire body and therefore, being unable to cope, I thought taking drugs and alcohol would temporarily ease the pain.
However, the consumption of drugs and alcohol led me to take about £400 worth of drugs a week and thereafter, I gradually started to supply to others who also wanted it. Consuming alcohol caused me to lose myself totally. I was never in control of myself, and on occasions I was arrested for public order offences which resulted in lonely nights in jail. At first, taking drugs and alcohol allowed me to be out my senses, a get away from reality i.e. the death of my mother.
Gradually, because I was so addicted to it, I started to take drugs and alcohol because of the buzz it gave me. It allowed me to be in another world so to speak where I felt no one mattered except me, an excuse of causing nuisance to the public, indulging in criminal activity in order to seek attention.
The consequences of taking drugs and being drunk was the following morning’s hangover where you feel like vomiting and have no energy to do day to day duties. When consuming drugs, because it shocks the internal organs i.e. sniffing cocaine which gives the buzz to the brain, it makes a person’s body weak hence not properly function. I lived like this continuously for about 1 year, before being caught with drugs which were valued a lot on the streets and had to serve my 6 year prison sentence.
I was very worried about life inside prison as being in the game of selling drugs; many people I knew had been sentenced already and feedback was that prisoners did not get treated well. All the people playing the “dirty drug game” outside of prison knew how life was for those inside prison. This put shivers into me as I was going to be spending 6 years inside a place which could either help me by making me realise my mistake, lead me to accept my wrong doings, serve my punishment and come out a better person or psychologically and mentally break me.
At first, life inside prison was very difficult as the prisoners inside saw me as the “new boy”, and would provoke me and try intimidating me whenever they got the opportunity. I was in a sharing cell with another drug convict who I got along with. He informed me that so long as I minded my own business I would be fine. I took his advice, minded by own business and made good company with some other Muslim prisoners. We were allowed to pray Salaah which allowed me as well as other prisoners to ponder over our lives and listen to the bayaans given to us by Imams on Fridays.
My day to day routine inside prison was no doubt very depressing and miserable. I was given 30 minutes in a day to come out of my cell and interact with other prisoners, and within them 30 minutes I was allowed to make one phone call to my family. The only other time I was allowed outside my cell was for lunch and dinner. Being stuck within them four walls can definitely make a prisoner lose his mind. I usually use to sleep during the day and prayed Quran as a sink was also within the cell I was in. On other occasions I tried keeping fit by exercising in my cell.
With regards to prison officers, at first they treated me like dirt in order to see if I would retaliate so that it would give them a reason to bring a disorder case against me. I was informed by my cell mate to let them treat me the way they wanted and that sooner or later they would be fed up and not pay attention to me. The prison officers would purposely reduce my 30 minute call time to 15 minutes and on one occasion searched my cell to see if I was hiding anything which may have been bought by one of my family members on the family visit. After about six months, the officers felt their treatment towards me was not provoking anything and therefore all throughout my remaining time I was treated reasonably.
I came out of prison and was enrolled for counselling for my behaviour, drugs and alcohol and had to also pay regular visits to the probation centre. This helped immensely as it gave me a sense of boost to change as a person with the help of society into a better person. I have now been clean for about 5 years with the grace of the Almighty. I have now started to set my priorities right putting religion before everything in this world. Looking back now, I wished I could’ve turned to the Almighty for help in dealing with my mother’s death rather than turning to drugs.
When I came out of prison, although I realised the difference between right and wrong I was still vulnerable and temptations could have easily influenced me getting back into the dirty drug game. Therefore, as soon as I was out, I left the company of those who I used to hang around with before prison. I made friendship with those who frequently visited the Masjid but those who also knew how to enjoy life within the limits of Islam. The more time I spent inside the Masjid the more it enabled me to open up my mind making me realise that there was more to life than having money and having a reputation on the streets.
Islam enabled me to concentrate on one goal and one goal only: that was to please the Creator rather than the people round me. Having this one goal to please Allah(swt) brought peace into my life because I knew I didn’t have to keep looking over my shoulder anymore. I wasn't chasing after money or wasn't worried about keeping my reputation up on the street.
The act of prostrating to the Creator in the middle of the night rather then putting my body in pain and torture made me feel clean spiritually as well as physically. The Salah I perform now allows me to get the real feeling of peace and closeness to Allah (swt), whereas before it seemed Salaah was just like some sort of exercise with no devotion and concentration.
The Deen helped me to come to terms with my mother’s death. At first when finding out about my mothers death, I was in shock and dismay like any other individual would be. However, the way I dealt with this shock I now realise was completely in the wrong manner. I feel only if I had the knowledge and understanding of Islam during the bereavement of my mother, I would no doubt have taken a different approach in dealing with her loss. After educating myself about Islam, I now know that if a person lives right, accept and carry out the commands of Allah (swt) then the life of the hereafter will be a garden of paradise.
Islam has enabled me to accept that this life is temporary and importantly, Allah (swt) tests those who he loves. I believe that Allah (swt) forgives his slaves if they turn towards him, hence have faith in Allah to guide me on the right path. The beautiful deen has made me realise that my mother is in a better place, a place where we all will be in the future and so I'm now aiming to live a righteous peaceful life so that I can avoid the punishments of the grave and the hereafter.
My advice for the younger brothers and sisters is that there are many other better ways to enjoy this life. This life is a gift and should be enjoyed but in a manner which does not involve putting your body through so much pain and torture or poisoning yourself which can lead to very painful deaths. Portraying an image of a “gangster” or a “badman” will not get you anywhere; instead it will lead you into a dark hole where you think everyone is praising you and respecting you but rather, they are laughing at you and happy you are serving time. I regret what I did very much and I praise the Almighty for giving me the opportunity to change because many prisoners go straight back into dealing and going back into prison.