The book of Job is considered one of the most important of the 24 books of the Old Testament. Job was a righteous man who, like the Patriarch Abraham, had his faith in the Lord severely tested and like Abraham he came out of the test having proven that his faith and his love for the Lord are complete and unconditional. Chapter one of the Book of Job describes a man blessed with children, livestock and property and whose belief and love of the Lord is beyond reproach. By the end of the chapter he has lost everything, including his beloved children, yet all he says is: “the Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” and the author makes the point that Job refrained from sin and did not blaspheme or curse the Lord.
Job’s greatness is not only that he was able withstand all that had befallen him, but that his faith and his love of God remained unshaken. He was remarkable because his faith was unconditional. One may wonder if there might be people like this today? Are there people who can withstand such horrors as Job and still maintain a pure heart and a solid, unconditional belief in the Almighty? Probably not. At least this is what I thought until I began to communicate with Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi and Mufid Abdulkader, three of the five men involved in the Holy Land Foundation case, (HLF 5). In a previous piece I brought a segment written by Mufid Abdukader where he describes their transfer from prison at Seagoville, Texas to CMUs, or Communication Management Units, one of the more diabolical inventions of the US Bureau of Prisons, or maybe it was the Justice Department.
Here is yet another segment from Mufid’s account.
“Before we got on the bus, they checked our files and names and numbers and gave us a lunch bag of meat sandwich with water & crackers. After all inmates were seated, the trip started and we had no idea where we were going but at least we were finally out of Seagoville Detention Center. While on the highway, you see the outside free world for the first time in a long time, you see the billboards and you see the green grass on the sides of the highway & people driving going about their business just like we used to do. After a while, the bus stopped somewhere in Texas and the driver and guards got off the bus to eat lunch. With our black box over our cuffs, we tried to eat our lunch but it was extremely hard. Shukri and I were sitting next to each other and we were helping each other eat our food and drink water. If you happen to need to use the bathroom, then you go to the back of the bus to relief yourself while still handcuffed. That’s why I avoided eating or drinking anything beyond necessities to avoid using the restroom. The trip continued for approx. 4 hours and we finally arrived at another prison in Texarkana Texas. They took us inside the prison where they removed all the chains and handcuffs and gave us some food and then took us to another Special Housing Unit (SHU) (we are special). This one even much worse than the Seagoville SMU. The cells in this SHU are really very very small with three beds on top of each other with only 18 inches of separation between the beds. There is no room to move around. Ghassan and I could not even stand next to each other to pray. We almost can hear each others breathing. We were so tired that we finally went to sleep. It was a night to remember.
Around 3:00 AM they woke us up and said it’s time to go. We were handcuffed again and receivd the special black box treatment along with handcuffs for the legs and chains, hand & waist chains and a lock. Before we got on the bus Elmezain asked one of the guards for his medication & the guard just could not understand why Elmezain needs his medicine and went off screaming at him. After a while we were taken to the bus and another trip of pain was about to start. Now we anticipated were going to Oklahoma City.”
“My Trip from Seagoville To USP Marion Part 2 of 5
This segment will describe the trip to Oklahoma City:”
“Today is Friday April 25, 2010. We were still in Texarkana Prison preparing to head toward Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Oklahoma City is a transfer/holding Prison Center for all inmates from around the United States. It holds over 5,000 inmates and it is a a hub where all inmates are flown in/out or bussed in/out to be transferred to their designated prison where they were assigned to serve their sentences. Some are transferred from oner prison to another (for example from a High to medium security, medium to a low security prison ..etc).”
“We were getting shackled, handcuffed. Again we were the privileged ones who received the black box special treatment. Other inmates were also shackled and handcuffed but not with the black box. You must be very special to receive that special gift from the Bureau Of Prisons (BOP). Once the shakeling, chaining and handcuffing of all inmates was done, we were taken outside the Texarkana Prison and escorted to the bus like a herd of goats. It was still very dark outside (around 4:00 AM or so). We were first inline and also first seated in the bus (the 4 of us together). After everyone else was seated, the trip started.”
“After the bus left the prison, it took a route of small roads & State Highways to Oklahoma City. I have tried to stay awake so I would not void my Wudu (wudu is the mandatory act of washing hands, face, arms & legs prior to performing prayer). I made wudu before we left the SHU in Texarkana. I pushed myself hard to stay awake because I was worried that If I dosed off that I would end up voiding my wudu and having to do it again specially when there was no water on the bus. Only a jug with some cups for drinking water. And even if water was available, how will I make wudu with my hands and legs shakeled & handcuffed with the black box? I can’t even move. It is an impossible mission. So I might as well make tayamom (this an alternate option when water is not available, Tayomom is a dry ablution). Eventually, I ended up making tayamom. I knew these are the times when Allah gave us permission for an exception under these difficult circumstance. So now I had wudu and ready for Fajr prayer. I knew that Fajr prayer Athan was at 5:45 AM in Seagoville Texas & even though we were not there, I figured it would not be that different from where we were. But the question; what time was it now? I guessed that it was not time for Fajr just by looking on the outside I seeing it was very dark. No one had a watch. The only solution was to keep looking outside the bus hoping to see one of these big bank panel clocks that tells time and temperature. So I kept my eye on the outside hoping to see one. I finally noticed one from a distance & it was a big electronic panel that turns around in all directions. By the time the bus made it there, the panel was displaying time and temp to the opposite side of the highway and I could not see it. I have to try again, so I kept watching for another clock and kept my eyes fixed on any panel with lights. Finally, I saw another bank clock and it showed the time to be 5:30 AM which is still short 15 minutes of prayer time. After a while I estimated that 15 minutes has passed and made the Fajr Athan (Call for the prayer) inside the bus. Elmezain and Ghassan were seated in front of us and Shukri and I were sitting in the seat right behind them. We prayed the 2 rakka sunna and then I made iqama for the prayer and Elmezain lead the prayer as we were seated. We started the prayer and brother Elmezain recited beuatiful Quran of Surat Alisra. Our ruku was to bend our bodies just a little bit toward the seat and our sujood was to bend until our forehead touch the seat in front of us.”
“We prayed what I call the most heartfelt tearful prayer ever in my entire life. Considering myself a political prisoner and praying under these conditions, you really feel the connection with Allah. It was an overwhelming feeling that put you in a different world. It intensified my duaa. It was Friday and I did all the things I normally do on Friday by reading Surat Alkahf as the Prophet Peace be Upon him has told us to do. Also I made my daily morning remembrance of Allah duaas(Thikhr) and praising Prphet Mohammad Peace Be Upon him.”
“After that I tried to sleep in my seat but no matter which position I try to take or lay in, it was impossible to do with the black box. I could not move my hands & the movement of the legs was also very painful specially when the legs’ handcuffs touches the ankle as it scrapes the funny bone above the ankle. The handcuffs around the legs were extremely tight which caused extreme pain. I tried to move to another empty seat but was afraid if I lay down it will be impossible for me to get up without help. Finally I managed to take my shoes off and slung them backward with my feet toward me. I managed to place and stack the shoes against the edge of the seat and use them as a pillow (I lost 61 pounds (28 kg) since I have been in prison and it was a major factor in helping me do that athletic maneuver). I laid down my head on the shoes and I tried to go to sleep. Half of my body was in the seat and the other half was hanging outside the seat. I tried to stretch my legs but the seat was too short. I could extend my legs to the next seat as a bridge to ensure my whole body is laid down, but this would block the pathway between the seats. This pathway used by other inmates to move within the bus including going to/from the bathroom at the back of the bus. Finally I settled down in my sleeping position by placing my feet on top of the seat in front of me at an angle, laying on my side with my head on my pillow (my shoes). I do not recall how long I slept. I was too tired and exhausted. Shukri, Ghassan and Elmezain slumped in their seats and went to sleep as well. After a while, I awoke and found someone has already moved in the seat in front of me.”
“The sun was rising announcing the birth of a new day. I looked at this day as a new beginning, a new start with a fresh brand new 24 hours life. I was determined that I would make the most out of it. I have been dealt with unjustly with a sentence of 20 years for volunteering to help Palestininan destitute children and families. Yes, I was a volunteer and never an empolyee of the HLF. By volunteering, I realized that my mission is to serve others & contribute to making this world a better place. I LOVE and LIVE TO GIVE. IT IS THE MOST FULFILLING LIFE EVER. ABSOLUTLEY NO REGRETS. I know that Allah has wisdom behind the test I am going thru & I trusted him always in every aspect of my life and it is no different now. I really thought that true faith shines at times of difficulties because at time of ease everyone is faithful and life is good and there are no worries or concerns. Yes, even though I am being taken far away from my beloved family.”
“Every event in our life has a purpose and every setback its lesson. I have realized that adversity, whether personal, professional, is essential in personal expansion. It brings inner growth and a whole host of rewards. Never regret your past. Rather, embrace it as the teacher that it is. I know that Allah SWT is rewarding my family for what they are going through as well. I am not the only one being rewarded for this suffering, my family is sharing in the rewards. I am not alone in this trip, my family is riding with me every step of the way. They are always in my heart and soul. Their image never leaves my mind. My family is also being deprived as my daughter Sarah told me that there is a big empty space in our house and an eerie feeling because I am not there. She told me that they miss my laughter, hearing my voice, my physical presence when they were used to seeing me walk thru the door. They miss having dinner with me. They miss me helping them with homework. They missed my presence at the milestones events of their lives when they graduated from University and High School. They miss the father they love and the husband who is not there to help and support them.
Life is not easy when all the responsibilities are assigned to one person (my beloved wife) to take care of all household affairs when we both shared this responsibility and it was still difficult to do. At the end of the day, that assuring, dependable father who used to give Nadia (my 10 year old daughter) her good night kiss and tuck her in her bed and sing to her before she goes to sleep was not there. All these and more are missing not becuase her father was a drug dealer or robbed a bank or killed someone. No, no, it is because he helped feed Palestinian children, woman, the elderly, and provided Ramadan food packages (rice, sugar, flour, cooking oil, ..etc) and meat Udhiya at Eid Aladha to people who feel they are lucky if they have meat once a month. Provided shelters to Plaestininans whose homes were destroyed by F-16 bombers. Also dared to give kids school packbacks, shoes, books, and clothes so they can go to school.”
“Yes, this charity work was a life line for so many desperate Palestinian families. Every night I wake up hearing the voices of duaa of these Palestininan Children and I feel it in my heart, in my soul and in my spirit, and it gives me great inner peace. This charity work was saving the lives of the same Palestininans whom the whole world has ignored. Our work was the manifestation of that Islam is: Charity.”
“It has been close to 3 hours of painful tight shackeling handcuffing….”
As I was writing this, I shared the story of Job with my kids, and then told them a little about the contents of this piece. Even to them, the association was clear. I am not a believer, but if there is a God out there, I am certain he is proud of these men, these dedicated believers.