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A Christian, a Jew & a Muslim Go to the Bar: The Prison Book Ban & How We Busted It

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by Douglas Kelly (a MuslimMatters.org exclusive)ab01

On February 28, 2006, when more than a dozen federal agents in body-armor broke down my door, pointed automatic weapons in my face and arrested me for making fake documents on my computer, it was the first time in my life I would spend the night behind bars.

It was not the first time, however, that adrenaline-pumped police officers aimed their guns at me even though I had no weapon, no record and no argument.  When I was 20 years old I was an NASD Series-7 registered stockbroker, a full-time college student at night, and the proud owner of a $5,000, bottom-of-the-line, used Porsche.  It was my first car-and my worst nightmare.  When I wasn’t getting it pulled into the shop, probably because I needed an overhaul, I was getting pulled over, hauled out at gunpoint, and searched without probable cause.  Sometimes it was because I was a kid with a sportscar going a little too fast.  Most of the time it was for no reason at all.  The reason I know this is because when the cops finished interrogating me, sobriety testing me and searching for drugs and guns I never had, the slew of tickets they wrote me would almost always get dismissed in traffic court.  That is, if I could get the day off work to go to traffic court.

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Now here I was in federal criminal court, ordered held without bond because I had an alias.  An alias I created out of desperation, when my license got suspended from thousands of dollars in tickets I couldn’t pay…and my credit was ruined from thousands in student loans that came due when I dropped out of school.  Because I had managed to obtain a real driver’s license with documents I made using Photoshop®, the judge called me “a danger to society.”  This despite the fact that I hadn’t stolen anyone’s identity, hadn’t stolen any money and had only used my made-up name to drive, establish credit and buy real estate.  At the time of my arrest, I had a perfect driving record, excellent credit, and was current on five different mortgages.  While it was ultimately ruled that there was no victim, no fine and no restitution to pay, the price I paid for my crime was the forfeiture of over a million dollars in assets and 18 months in the minimum-security camp at Otisville, NY.

I learned everything I knew about establishing credit, buying real estate and even reinventing my identity from books I had read.  So I was not surprised to learn that the Bureau of Prisons had decided, shortly after 9/11, that the way to prevent the “violent radicalization” of inmates was to decide what books they could or could not read.  From the Roman Empire to African-American Slavery to Nazi Germany to modern-day North Korea, those who would control the minds of the masses have long considered a book to be a deadly weapon.

Of course, in instituting such a policy the Bureau couldn’t legally single out any one religion.  Hence the Prison Chapel Library Project:  a plan to limit the number of books that federal inmates of all religions could have in their libraries to a list of 150 titles, per religion, that the government considered “acceptable.”  Any book in a prison chapel library that was not on the “approved” list was to be removed and possibly even destroyed.

Because I was denied bond, my first several months of incarceration were in anything but a country club.  Pretrial detention meant 23-hour lockdown, with only one hour a day to exercise, shower, watch TV or go to the law library.  To read something besides law books, one had to order them from the publisher.  With neither a book catalog nor enough money in my commissary account for even a magazine subscription, ordering my own reading material was not an option.  Then one day the brother in the lower bunk gave me a copy of Forty Hadith.

I read, “”Young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]:  Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you.  Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you.  If you ask, ask of Allah; if you seek help, seek help of Allah.  Know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already prescribed for you, and that if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already prescribed for you.  The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”

Coincidentally, the day I read in that same book, “That the slave-girl will give birth to her mistress and that you will see the barefooted, naked, destitute herdsman competing in constructing lofty buildings,” the inmate TV was tuned to Jerry Springer, where the guests were teenage girls who defied and cursed their weeping but capitulating mothers.  Following this was a program about the large number of poor farmers emigrating from South Asia to Dubai to become construction workers on projects like the “World’s Largest Hotel” and the “World’s Tallest Building.”

And once I read, “A man came to the prophet and said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, direct me to an act which, if I do it, [will cause] Allah to love me and people to love me.’  He said, ‘Renounce the world and Allah will love you, and renounce what people possess and people will love you,'” I finally began to understand what I needed to do.

I don’t know how many federal inmates committed despicable acts of terrorism because they were “radicalized” to hate Americans by what they read in prison, but I lost count of the number of times I was terrorized by angry men with guns and badges who hated me even though I was American.  And I’ve never even owned a gun.  Does anyone know how many unarmed Americans who look like me have been terrorized, persecuted, even killed, by the forces of hate right here in America?

Those forces have been trying all my life to instill in me a fear of man instead of God.  And it was not until I had to face my worst fear-being in trouble with the law-that I realized that there was no one to turn to for help but God.  There was no one’s punishment I needed to fear more than God’s.  According to this small, simple book from 1400 years ago, whatever benefit or harm was coming to me was already written in my Book of Life, and I was at once inspired to read every book I could find from not only the Messenger but also the Author of those moving words.

I had grown up in a non-religious household, and every practice of faith I had been exposed to over the years involved, in one way or another, the worship of man.  Finally, here was knowledge that spoke to my own logic and reason, with clear proofs addressing what I had always asked about, but had never gotten a straight answer to:  If God was the Creator of everything in the universe, why couldn’t we appeal directly to Him for our needs and wants?

By the time I got sentenced and shipped off to the camp at Otisville, I had read the English Translation of the Meaning of the Holy Qur’an from cover to cover; learned how to offer the daily prayers and fast for Ramadan; and had testified before a room full of witnesses that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His servant and messenger.  No one recruited me, “radicalized” me or talked me into submission to the One True God.  What I read just simply made sense.

When I arrived at Otisville, the Prison Chapel Library Project had not yet been implemented.  Although the conference-room-sized chapel only contained two shelves with books on Islam (as opposed to at least eight full bookcases of Judaic texts and three of Christian), I was free to devour everything they had.  The more I read, of not only Qur’an and Hadith, but authors like Abul ala Maududi and Ahmed Deedat, the more logical and reasonable Islam became.  Nothing I read in any way incited me to violence, but instead made me realize that people who were taught to fear Muslims were no less misguided than the people who were deceived into suicide attacks against innocents.  It was the lack of knowledge that was the root of all the evil on both sides of the so-called “war on terror.”  I even read a hadith that said that the man who commits suicide will spend eternity in hellfire, killing himself over and over the same way.

The Qur’an states, “Because of that We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone killed a person not in retaliation of murder, or (and) to spread mischief in the land-it would be as if he killed all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. And indeed, there came to them Our Messengers with clear proofs, evidence, and signs, even then after that many of them continued to exceed the limits (e.g. by doing oppression unjustly and exceeding beyond the limits set by Allah by committing the major sins) in the land!”  (5:32)

There were only a handful of Muslim brothers at the camp, and I believe it was no less than God’s mercy that my time at Otisville coincided with that of the very young brother who became our Imam.  He told me that before I arrived, they had “fallen off” in their practice of Islam, but from that point on he led us in Friday Prayers, where he demonstrated an amazing knowledge of the Qur’an and the Arabic language.  The only Jihad his sermons ever talked about was the daily battle that every one of us must fight within ourselves against our own sins and shortcomings.

The Prison Chapel Library Project included an April 2004 Department of Justice review which suggested that federal prisons monitor worship areas and chapel classrooms, reduce inmate-led religious services and consider constant staff monitoring of inmate-led services.  I remember at one of the jails where I was held on the way to Otisville, a CO sat in on Jum’aa service and ordered us to do the prayers and even the call to prayer in English.  But at Otisville, if there was any monitoring at all, we never saw it.

Just like the frustrated traffic cops who wrote me hundreds of dollars in tickets when they realized I never had any drugs or weapons in my car, the final act of the Prison Chapel Library Project most likely came out of the frustration of years of monitoring Muslim inmates failing to turn up any terrorists.

On Memorial Day, 2007, we were all called back to our bunks around mid-morning, but it wasn’t for a routine headcount or weather emergency.  When they finally cleared us and I went to the chapel for Dhuhr prayer, I saw huge gaps on nearly all the bookcase shelves, and the two shelves for Islam were empty but for a Qur’an and two (of four) volumes of Sunan Abu Dawud.  It looked like a bookstore that had been robbed.  Our Chaplain, and that of every federal prison in the nation, had been ordered to go through their chapel libraries with garbage bags and remove every book that wasn’t on the government’s short list of books they had screened and approved for inmates to read.

The Bureau’s policy reminded me of that of ancient Rome a few centuries after Jesus (alaihi salaam).  The Nicene Council of 325 A.D. was convened by the Roman Emperor, Constantine The Great, arguably the most powerful man on earth at the time.  Emperor Constantine ordered his Council to compile a collection of sacred writings, out of the hundreds of texts in circulation at the time, that would become the official Canon of the new state religion, Christianity.  All the books that were “approved” by the Council would become The Bible.  All the books they rejected were ordered to be destroyed, and anyone in possession of them executed.

Most up-in-arms about the book removal was Otisville’s Jewish community, several of whom were Orthodox and spent most of their time in the chapel reading.  They actually lost the largest number of books in the removal.  Within days, an inmate who happened to have graduated from my same high school a year before I did approached me with news of their planned action.  He told me they were prepared to file suit against the Bureau of Prisons, but there was just one problem.  They needed a representative of each of the largest affected religious groups to be the plaintiffs.  They had convinced a Christian inmate, a college professor, to come on board along with a Jewish inmate who happened to be a Rabbi.  But they quickly realized that no action would be taken seriously without a member of the camp’s Muslim community.  As none of the brothers I prayed with was interested in participating, my high school alum put it bluntly, “We need a Muslim, or there’s no lawsuit.”

My brothers wisely cautioned that I should think twice before allowing myself to be manipulated by the other groups, but after carefully (and prayerfully) considering the end result, and making du’a to Allah (subhana wa t’ala) for guidance, I went in.  My concern was for all the incarcerated brothers and sisters in federal prisons who would be far less able to study their deen if the Bureau succeeded; as well as those who, like me, were lost in this dunya and might never have gotten that one book that would open their mind, for the first time, to the Right Path.

We filed for injunctive relief against the Bureau’s policy, and on the morning of June 9, 2007, the other two plaintiffs and I went into the Camp Administrator’s office and testified by phone in a teleconference hearing before US District Court Judge Laura T. Swain that our First Amendment rights were being violated.  That day, the Associated Press picked up the story and I read our testimony in the next day’s USA Today.

The Bureau tried to argue the fact that inmates could order their own books and bypass the chapel libraries, but like I discovered my first week behind bars, ordering books required three things:  (1) knowing what books to buy, (2) the mailing addresses (and order forms) of the publishers to order them from, and (3) plenty of money.  It doesn’t take a scholar to figure out how many inmates would go without if this were the only way to get the books they needed.

As expected, our initial motion to stop the book removal was rejected on the grounds that we had not exhausted every possible administrative remedy.  However, the administrators, at the Bureau in general and our camp in particular, thwarted our every effort to resolve the problem through “normal” channels.  Then the Jews made a few phone calls.

One influential inmate was able to get his contacts at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to represent us, pro-bono, in a class-action lawsuit.  As the story got national attention, very powerful Jewish and Christian organizations, including Evangelical groups with national prison ministries and Members of Congress in their corner, got involved in condemning the book ban.  During several of the visits from our team at Paul, Weiss, I was asked if I knew of any Muslim organizations who could be contacted.  But because I had reverted to Islam after I was already incarcerated, I didn’t even have an Imam I could call.

Part of the pressure on the Bureau came from the wide media coverage of the story.  It was mentioned on Fox News, CNN and NPR, as well as newspapers around the country that carried the original AP release.  That September, New York Times writer Laurie Goodstein offered to interview the three of us by phone.  The Jewish inmate had been released to a halfway house, and the Christian inmate objected to prison staff monitoring the phone call and declined to be interviewed.  So I ended up being the only one.

While the article she wrote was factually accurate, Ms. Goodstein reported only a fraction of my answers to her questions.  I tried to convey to her how the Bureau’s actions disproportionately affected Muslims because we had so few books to begin with.  I am a living example of someone who discovered Islam from books in a prison chapel library.  While I learned the motions of the prayers from the first Muslim brothers I prayed with, I learned the words from books and pamphlets.  I learned the Arabic from the Transliteration of the Meaning of the Holy Qur’an.  And I learned what Islam is all about from authors like Maududi and Deedat who make references to the Bible as well as known science.  While other religious groups at the camp had visits and services from Priests, Rabbis and Pastors, we never had an Imam from the outside to come and speak to us.  Were it not for those books, I doubt I would have been able to adequately understand the entirely new and complete way of life that Islam represents.

The Qur’an states, “Indeed in their stories, there is a lesson for men of understanding.  It (the Qur’an) is not a forged statement but a confirmation of (Allah’s existing Books) which were before it [i.e. the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel) and other Scriptures of Allah] and a detailed explanation of everything and a guide and a Mercy for the people who believe.”  (12:111)

Mere weeks before my release, the Bureau relented and the chaplains of all the federal prisons were ordered to return the books they had taken from the chapel libraries.  I give all the credit and the praise to Allah (subhana wa t’ala) for the victory, I ask His forgiveness if I in any way made a show of sadaqa in conveying this story, and I ask His blessing for the brother who made it all possible by giving me Forty Hadith.  If I said anything wrong, it is from myself; if I said anything good, it is from Allah (subhana wa t’ala).  La haula wa la quwwata illa billah.

www.nytimes.com/2007/09/21/us/21prison.html
www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-06-10-prison-book-ban_N.htm

About the Author: Douglas Kelly is a former retail stockbroker, life insurance general agent and financial/legal document specialist.  He is currently a student at Baruch College in New York, pursuing independent study in Islamic Finance.  He expects to complete his first book, I Tried To Enter Heaven With a Fake ID, by early 2010, inshaAllah.

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70 Comments

70 Comments

  1. Sakina Al-Amin

    June 3, 2009 at 2:01 AM

    This is one of the best articles I have read in weeks. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Ikram Hadi

    June 3, 2009 at 2:03 AM

    +1^

  3. Dawud

    June 3, 2009 at 3:14 AM

    mashAllah on the effort, and alhamduliLlah for the sake of restoring access to written knowledge amongst those who may be most in need of it; now if only we can get scholars (ulama of the Qur’an, Sunnah and fiqh) and teachers to reach the ignorant amongst the muslims and the non-muslims

    one caveat: while he didn’t harm anyone explicitly, one might be careful about even seeming to endorse credit card fraud – while necessary to get drivers licenses, rent a car, purchase a home, get insurance to enable one to lawfully use the above – fraud in obtaining these is not Islamic; one might compare it to creating a false diploma representing knowledge one has legimitately learned, but not through the institution claimed; a false ‘ijaza, if you will. Lies are what the Prophet condemned more harshly than zina, drinking, or murder. (remember the hadith?)

    • Douglas Kelly

      June 3, 2009 at 10:53 AM

      Dear Br. Dawud,

      While you are absolutely right that fraud is absolutely wrong, whether in US law or the Divine Law of the Holy Qur’an, what I did was not credit card fraud. I did the equivalent of illegally changing my name. I made false documents in order to assume a completely made-up identity, then I began establishing credit from scratch, as if I never had credit before. I was not able to buy $1 million + in real estate until I had spent years building up that brand-new credit by making (usury) payments on time.

      What I did was surely illegal and I paid a painful price–I make no endorsement of any crime, no matter how desperate one is. However, Bernie Madoff stole $60 billion and not only did they not break down his door nor point automatic weapons in his face, but he was allowed to go home to his Manhattan penthouse the next day. The government took all my houses even though I made every single payment on time. It is a matter of public record that there was no victim, no fine and no restitution in my case. My intention in mentioning this is to set the record straight–I changed my name by Transferring False ID documents instead of going through the lawful authorities, such as the courts. Not only was I not charged with any credit card fraud, but none of the banks I had mortgages with wanted to press charges because all my payments–in my made-up name–were current.

      Again, I take full responsibility for my actions and I have asked Allah (subhana wa t’ala) for forgiveness, even after I took Shahada. I think it is important that we draw attention to the fact that paying or receiving usury is haram, yet what choice do we have in the US to pay for a college education, a car or a home?

      If you have never had a police officer draw his gun on you, then issue you over a thousand dollars in frivolous citations to justify his mistake, then you don’t know what it’s like to be given a bad name. If you have never had to drop out of college because you couldn’t afford the tuition, then got behind on your student loans because you earn minimum-wage, then you don’t know what it’s like to have bad credit because of usury. In America, even bankruptcy will not wipe out a student loan.

      Since my release, I have paid all my traffic tickets and am making payments on my student loans so I can return to school in the Fall. Do I wish I had done that 20 years ago instead of changing my identity? Sure. But it is evidently not what Allah (swt) had written for me. I thank Him every day for taking away my arrogance and turning me to the Right Path. Alhamdulillah.

      • Dawud

        June 3, 2009 at 11:49 AM

        for all of us, insha Allah.

        I’ve also suffered from my mistakes, and had problems from family, psychiatrists and authority figures, some of which came from my conversion – my family is evangelical Christians, and my parents have served as missionaries. I don’t doubt your life was difficult, your decisions were not made idly, and that your path was meant for you to learn from, ultimately a Mercy from Allah in the disguise of trials and difficulties in this life.

        I was just commenting, just like the previous article that explained the circumstances of the Somali pirates included a comment that ‘Muslim Matters does not defend taking up piracy’ – to explain is not to justify. It’s true, as that comment with the quote about the pirate answering Alexander the Great, that (paraphrased): ‘when I make havoc with my small boat, I am called a pirate and thief, while you with your large navy wreak havoc on the whole world, are called Emperor’ – yet that doesn’t change the fact that the legal prohibitions in Islam apply equally – don’t expect the human courts here, our flawed attempts at justice by flawed human beings like ourselves, to approximate the real Justice dealt out on that Court on that fateful Day. wa n’audhubiLlah biRahmatihi min adhabihi – and we take refuge in His Mercy from His Punishment

        • Douglas Kelly

          June 3, 2009 at 12:19 PM

          Ameen, Brother.

          Forgive me for not considering your own personal trials. Allah (swt) tests those He loves. Jazakallahu khaira for keeping it real.

    • Abd- Allah

      June 3, 2009 at 2:42 PM

      “Lies are what the Prophet condemned more harshly than zina, drinking, or murder. (remember the hadith?)”

      Brother Dawud, that hadith you are refering to is not authentic. However, lying is one of the signs of a hypocrite, and it is condemned in islam.

      Allah knows best.

      • Dawud

        June 3, 2009 at 2:54 PM

        I make no claims to being a hadith scholar, nor on the fiqh of lying, riba, etc – only what little I’ve heard from the Prophet, “and transmit from me, be it one word” aw qama qalahu

        My reply doesn’t have to do with brother Douglas, but I’m made to think of it more generally by my experiences where muslims, in muslim lands or non-muslim lands, make excuses for lies…

        I remember two hadith – correct me, those who know better – one where a Sahabi asked the Prophet if a muslim was a muslim even if he stole, murdered, or committed fornication/adultery (zina) – and the Prophet said “One who does these things remains a muslim, even if [so-and-so] dislikes it.” (aw qama qalahu)

        and he spoke about lying, and I’m quite sure this one is in Sahih Bukhari, about “a muslim cannot be a liar, a muslim cannot be a liar, a muslim cannot be a liar” (and the Sahabi said he repeated this until we wished we had not spoken/asked him the question)… with the verification of other hadith about lying being part of nifaq, etc – which would raise the meaning, if not the wording or the individual hadith.

        Qur’an: “O Believers, hateful in the sight of Allah is it that you say what you do not do.”

        May Allah protect us all from deserving the Chastisement of Allah, where he doesn’t love us as we should seek His Love (al-Wadud)

        • Abd- Allah

          June 3, 2009 at 7:46 PM

          “I remember two hadith – correct me, those who know better – one where a Sahabi asked the Prophet if a muslim was a muslim even if he stole, murdered, or committed fornication/adultery (zina) – and the Prophet said “One who does these things remains a muslim, even if [so-and-so] dislikes it.” (aw qama qalahu)

          and he spoke about lying, and I’m quite sure this one is in Sahih Bukhari, about “a muslim cannot be a liar, a muslim cannot be a liar, a muslim cannot be a liar” ”

          Brother Dawud, as for the first hadith that you mentioned, where the prophet peace be upon him said that who ever says “la ilaha illa Allah” and then dies upon it, enters jannah, and the companion Abu Dhar may Allah be pleased with him asked even if that person committs adultery and steals, and the prophet said even if he committs adultery and steals, and when Abu Dhar repeated the question again the prophet said the same answer again and added that even if [so-and-so] dislikes it. This hadith is in Bukhari and Muslim.

          As for the other hadith that you mentioned about when the prophet was asked if the believer steals he said yes, and they asked him if the believer committs adultery he said yes, and if the beliver lies, he said no no no. This hadith is NOT in Bukhari and it is NOT true.

          as a side note, even if lying is considered very bad in islam, however, we can not say that some one who lies is not a muslim, as committing sins does not take some one out of the folds of islam.

  4. Faraz Omar

    June 3, 2009 at 4:18 AM

    Such a multidimensional article. the words have come from the depth of brother Douglas’s heart and they have i’m sure reached directly to the heart of every reader. Alhamdulillah He guided him to the straight path.

    Jazaak Allah khair for writing it. Insha Allah it will remain one of the special ones I have read.

    Is this a Muslim Matters original?

    • Amatullah

      June 3, 2009 at 7:45 AM

      Yes, it is an MM piece.

      Jazaak Allahu khayran br Douglas. I worked for a few years at my masjid’s dawah office running the inmate book program. Basically we received letters from across the country from brothers and sisters requesting a Qur’an and books on Islam and we would send it out to them free of charge. Alhamdulillah we were able to send out Qur’ans, books, and magazines but of course it was difficult since we did not have many volunteers to help out. We organized a book drive to send out more advanced books to the inmates, since many of the books at our disposal were only beginner books. Alhamdulillah it was very successful.

      I remember this book ban quite vividly, and we actually had to stop sending books to Chaplains from what I remember. The policy was that we could only send 4 books at a time for inmates, but chaplains could receive any number of books and resources.

      The letters keep piling up in the office, and I feel a real pain in my heart knowing that the only reason we cannot get these books out is because we do not have enough volunteers. We were even offered free books by a major Islamic publishing company, but we lack the man power to send them out. I don’t understand why we have such a stigma when it comes to Muslim inmates. wa Allahul Musta’aan.

      May Allah reward you for sharing your story with us and grant you success in this life and the next, Ameen.

      • Douglas Kelly

        June 3, 2009 at 10:59 AM

        Dear Sr. Amatullah,

        It is probably because of generous people like yourself that we even had any books at all. May Allah (swt) grant you the best of rewards for helping believers get the materials they so desperately need. The prison system is not going out of its way to help anyone learn their Deen.

      • Faraz Omar

        June 3, 2009 at 3:03 PM

        (a MuslimMatters.org exclusive)

        Exclusive is usually reserved for something special that no one but that blog has access to… may be an exclusive interview with King Abdullah for example? :)

        how about contributor / contributed? just a suggestion

        baarak Allah feek.

        • Douglas Kelly

          June 4, 2009 at 11:52 AM

          A few days after Br Amad was kind enough to invite me to tell my story in a guest post, Imam Suhaib Webb, may Allah bless him, posted a letter on his blog that I had written to him last Ramadan, asking for advice. He even e-mailed me to ask if he should take it down, and I said ‘not at all’ and thanked him for his kindness. My letter to Imam Suhaib was considerably longer (and more personal and Deen-oriented) than this article, which was specifically about the book ban and how I ended up in the middle of it.

          I have not shared this story with any other media outlet and I would ask Br Amad’s advice and counsel before doing so, inshaAllah. It was written exclusively for MuslimMatters.org at his request. Thank you for your comment and I hope I was able to clear up any misunderstanding. Allah (swt) knows best.

      • HalfDate.com

        June 3, 2009 at 4:16 PM

        assalam alaikum sister,

        What did you need the volunteers to do? What kind of tasks?

        • Amatullah

          June 3, 2009 at 5:17 PM

          Thank you for your comment br Douglas, I hope that, through you, a lot of awareness will be raised about Muslim inmates and their struggles for knowledge.

          @HalfDate.com:

          wa alaykum salam wa rahmatullah,

          The basic process is that:
          1- we receive the letters in the mail, read them and categorize them. (for example, one category is for inmates requesting Qur’ans, another category is requesting material on Islam etc)
          2- We put together the books they requested, and use a generic letter template (no names of the volunteers or anything mentioned) signed by the da’wah office mentioning which books are enclosed, a short duaa and some words of motivation.
          3- Package the letters and books and mail them out. the cheapest way to ship them is to mail them at a USPS as book mail. It will be, depending on the weight, between $2-4 a package.

          The process itself is quite easy, but the problem is that we receive SO many letters that it will take a team of maybe 10 dedicated people to stay on track with them. We only have about 3-5 people working on them. In Ramadan alone we would receive at least 50-100+ letters.

          Sometimes I think if we will be held accountable for knowing the need of these brothers and sisters (subhanAllah, knowledge for us is so easy to find), and not doing our utmost to assist them. I can’t imagine not having a Qur’an with me, or being a firm believer in Islam yet never read a book on the Seerah of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. May Allah forgive us for our shortcomings. Ameen.

          • MR

            June 4, 2009 at 12:44 AM

            Wouldn’t it be easier if the books, pamplets, etc. were already packaged and made it a a “muslim inmate package” and we just mail each package to each address? I’m sure you have stats on popular books they want. Just get the main ones and make a package and then ship them off. Prepare them before hand so once you get the letter you mail the package.

            Then again personalized orders are much cooler.

            I wonder if inmates get internet access?

          • Amatullah

            June 4, 2009 at 12:33 PM

            MR: We do have a standard package that we send to inmates who request any books which contains: a Qur’an, a book on tawheed, 40 hadith nawawi and a duaa book. For those inmates who ask for specific books, we send them if we have them or something similar. SubhanAllah, a lot of inmates ask for Sahih Bukhari! And all we can send them is 40 hadith nawawi.

            Like I said, the process is not hard at all, it’s just that we don’t have enough volunteers to divvy up the work with so it ends up being a few people who have to do everything. Alhamdulillah.

  5. Pingback: A Christian, a Jew, a Muslim Go to the Bar: The Prison Book Ban & How We Busted It | MuslimMatters.org « euraktiva

  6. Asiyah

    June 3, 2009 at 9:03 AM

    Assalamualykum brother,

    Jazakumallahu khairaa for an excellent article.Mashaallah.

  7. MR

    June 3, 2009 at 10:04 AM

    Wait. I read this before? How is it an MM exclsuive…?

    I think I saw this on SuhaibWebb.com?

    • Amatullah

      June 3, 2009 at 10:17 AM

      Br Douglas wrote this article specially for MM. He did post something similar for Imam Suhaib as well.

      • MR

        June 4, 2009 at 12:40 AM

        I speed read it and realized that after reading it in detail now. JazakAllah khair.

    • Amad

      June 3, 2009 at 10:27 AM

      This article was more focused on the book-banning issue. Different article, with some overlap.

      • MR

        June 4, 2009 at 12:40 AM

        Yeah. I speed read it at work. JazakAllah khair.

  8. Danish Hasan

    June 3, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    jazakAllahu khayran

  9. Siraaj

    June 3, 2009 at 12:04 PM

    Salaam alaykum brother Douglas,

    Jazakallaah khayr for sharing your story, it is inspiring and uplifting. I am always amazed at the different ways in which Allah takes what appears to be a bad situation and turns it around and makes it the best situation (becoming Muslim!).

    I pray that your work benefits others who will pick up that first book on Islam that sparks their conversion to Islam.

    Siraaj

    • Douglas Kelly

      June 3, 2009 at 12:32 PM

      Salaam, Br. Siraaj

      Your comments, likewise, are inspiring and are always appreciated. BarakAllah.

  10. AsimG

    June 3, 2009 at 1:38 PM

    Asalaamu alaykum,

    Jazakullah khair for telling us your beautiful story.

    We received a written letter from a prison imam and he told us how all the books my college masjid donated were taken away. It was a really interesting letter because he didn’t ask for anything except du’a.

    Br. Douglas, do you know of any Islamic organizations that take books to prisons or what not?
    Maybe a link to one that takes donations would be great?

    Also, I have a lot of repeat books in my house from sunday school days. Is there anyway to donate these or do they have to be brand new?

    • Douglas Kelly

      June 4, 2009 at 11:20 AM

      Salaam Alaykum, Asim

      Good question…I think the one to ask might be Sr Amatullah. Had I had the blessing of knowing her and her outreach organization when I was incarcerated, I might have been able to help more brothers get the books they needed. What she is doing is like feeding the hungry. May Allah (subhana wa t’ala) make her work easy in this world, and place her among the Scholars in the highest of the Heavens.

  11. Nahyan

    June 3, 2009 at 2:06 PM

    Jazakallahukhair br. Douglas for that insightful post.

    I didn’t hear about the book-ban (living in Canada) so it was interesting to hear about it and get the
    insider info as well.

    May Alllah increase you in goodness and guide us to the straight path.
    wa salaam alaikum

    • Douglas Kelly

      June 8, 2009 at 11:43 AM

      JazakAllahu khair. I’m trying to reply to all of you who have taken so much time out of your day to read the article and make uplifting comments.

      I wanted to go to Montreal for the last Grand Prix, but I was advised that I would have trouble entering Canada with my record. Quel dommage! Zut alors! I really miss that place.

      Allah (swt) knows best.

  12. Ahmed

    June 3, 2009 at 2:14 PM

    jazakum Allahu khairan Br Douglas,

    May Allah give you the best in this life and in the hereafter – this is an amazing story.

    Have you considered writing a book? Or perhaps giving some lectures on parts of your story in masajid maybe?

    was salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,

    • Douglas Kelly

      June 4, 2009 at 10:57 AM

      JazakAllah to you, Br Ahmed…I am encouraged and motivated by the kind comments from you and the other readers.

      So far, I have learned to recite 10 of the last 17 surahs of the Qur’an, mashaAllah. Imam Baqi Hamed has helped me with pronunciation. InshaAllah, I would love to briefly tell my story at masajid, particularly about how ribaa and oppression are at the heart of it all. But don’t I have to know a lot more Qur’an and Hadith before I would be allowed to speak to a congregation?

      So far, I’ve completed almost 300 pages of I Tried To Enter Heaven With A Fake ID. InshaAllah, it will be out next year.

      • Umm Fulaanah

        June 4, 2009 at 7:01 PM

        Aww… masha-Allah… I love the tittle to your book..
        It’s just one of them you have to get under the covers with…
        Insha-Allaah… i’ll be looking forward to reading it….
        And 300 pages…? that’s a heavy book

  13. Sista

    June 4, 2009 at 9:51 AM

    What an incredible stoy SubhanAllah. May Allah(swa) reward you for your patience and raise your ranks in Jannah. This was inspirational. :)

  14. Redknight770

    June 4, 2009 at 3:03 PM

    I have to agree with the all the other comments that this was a fantastic article and was one of the most real articles i’ve rean fin a while. One key take away from this article i would like to point out is the need for more Muslim Social Avtivism in our communities, whether it be supporting an inmate program at your local “incarceration facility” to having a soup kitchen in poverty-stricken areas of our neighborhoods. We have one brother here in our community that regularly does Dawah at the local prision and inshallah it will grow as awareness spreads.

  15. vindicated

    June 5, 2009 at 1:39 PM

    Jazakallah Khair,

    I read the letter on Imam Suhaib Webb’s blog too before, and this one as well, and both of them moved me immensely. As born Muslims, we take our beautiful deen for granted many times.

    May Allah help you succeed brilliantly in this life as well as the hereafter.

  16. Solomon2

    June 19, 2009 at 2:15 PM

    A very good tale. Not that I can accept everything the author wrote, but very good.

    • Douglas Kelly

      June 22, 2009 at 12:14 AM

      It’s all in Public Records, Brother. A true story. Don’t take my word for it. Please check for yourself.

      Salaam alaykum wa rahmatullahi

      • Solomon2

        June 29, 2009 at 2:56 PM

        A man’s criminal past may be in Public Records, but not his soul; that is revealed from the choices he makes within the context of events in his life.

        In my opinion, that context is not just a man’s self-serving narrative, but an objective assessment of the facts. By your own admission you forged an identity card rather than spend time and effort to repay your debt to society, a debt usually owed because he couldn’t be bothered to follow the rules of law-abiding citizens.

        Rather than acknowledge your errors, you chose to compound them. You maintain tickets were written out of arrogance or self-protection by the officer, yet you knew you could have challenged this in court. Taking time off from work to see justice done is little different from those who miss work to serve on a jury, and just about as remunerative.

        I like your writing, your story, and I like even better your response of June 3 to Dawud. Yet, like a silver cup, you are stained from your previous choices, and who but G-d can determine if and when you can be polished to shine again? The rest of us just have to guess and judge as best we can.

        P.S.: Are you going to write a book on Islamic Finance, too?

        • Douglas Kelly

          July 5, 2009 at 12:34 PM

          My dear respected Brother,

          Thank you for your comment, but even after carefully re-reading it I still don’t see any constructive point. If you’re looking for praise for your self-righteousness, then may Allah (swt) bless you for always obeying man’s laws regardless of the circumstances. But since Allah (swt) is the only one I need ever ask forgiveness of, I am entirely comfortable in the fact that any and all of my past sins were forgiven when I took Shahada, whether I made that testimonial from a masjid or a prison chapel.

          Speaking of prison chapels, you can see from my response to Brother Dawud that the intention of my post was to talk about the injustice of our justice system in denying inmates of all religions the books they needed in order to practice their faith. It was not to justify the avoidance of paying tickets (no matter how viciously and unfairly they were issued) by changing my identity. By the way, how secure is America’s system of identification if I, a mere graphic artist, was able to obtain a REAL drivers license with homemade documents? Where is your outrage at that?

          Where, Dear Brother, is your outrage at the law enforcement officers who so blatantly and violently disregarded our Constitution (particularly regarding illegal search and seizure and due process) when they repeatedly singled me out for harassment. How much ribaa are you paying on your student loans? Is both oppression and ribaa not a major violation of Allah’s law?

          It is quite clear from your statements that if you had you been Rosa Parks, for example, rather than break the law, you would have obediently given up your seat at the front of the bus. Had you been John Lewis (or any of the brave Americans, black, white and other, who stood up against racism and oppression, even if it meant getting severely beaten AND going to jail) you would never THINK of breaking any of man’s perfectly fair and just laws–and of course there might never have been a Civil Rights Movement. So millions more people would continue to suffer injustice to this day. But hey, better that than break the law, right?

          I don’t know how much more punishment you feel I deserved for breaking those laws besides 18 months in prison and the loss of over a million dollars in property (that I faithfully made the payments on whether I received rent from my tenants or not). I even went 3 years without a traffic violation with my fraudulently-obtained drivers license. I was a perfectly law-abiding, bill-paying citizen in my alias name. Wish me luck getting a job, because I have to go the rest of my life with a federal felony record that can never be expunged.

          Well, at least Allah (swt) can forgive me, since you don’t seem to be able to.

          I thank Allah (swt) for every single thing, good or bad, that he has written for me, because had I not broken man’s precious laws and PAID MY DEBT TO SOCIETY at the time and place that I did, the denial of inmates’ religious books may have actually become yet another oppressive, destructive man-made law. And who knows how many Muslims’ Deen would have been adversely affected (if not destroyed) as a result.

          But what do you care? According to you, the law of the land should never be broken under any circumstances–Deen or no Deen. Personally, I’d rather be judged by Allah (swt), and He is the Fairest of Judges.

          To answer your question, I’m still learning about Shariah Compliant Financial Products, so my current book merely makes a comparison between the Sunnah of interest-free money lending, and modern-day investment banking. As a former stockbroker, I noticed that there is an interesting parallel between the two. Investors who take a chance and buy shares of an IPO are essentially putting their faith in the unknown. They will profit if the underlying business profits, but they also risk total loss if the enterprise fails, in which case their only reward would be from Allah (swt) for the charity of making the borrower their partner rather than their slave.

          I love you for Allah’s sake. May He accept the best of your intentions.

          • Solomon2

            July 9, 2009 at 4:49 PM

            “My dear respected Brother – ”

            I am not a Muslim. If your salutation is meant to address a fellow descendant of Abraham, I appreciate it.

            “If you’re looking for praise for your self-righteousness -”

            Why should this discussion be about me?

            “I am entirely comfortable in the fact that any and all of my past sins were forgiven when I took Shahada, whether I made that testimonial from a masjid or a prison chapel.”

            Are such sins forgiven if you continue to commit or justify them?

            “the intention of my post was to talk about the injustice of our justice system in denying inmates of all religions the books they needed in order to practice their faith. It was not to justify the avoidance of paying tickets (no matter how viciously and unfairly they were issued) by changing my identity.”

            It sure sure sounds to me that self-justification was – and is – one of your intentions.

            “Where, Dear Brother, is your outrage at the law enforcement officers who so blatantly -”

            In suspension, because you didn’t take the time and trouble to challenge in court this alleged injustice yourself.

            “How much ribaa are you paying on your student loans? Is both oppression and ribaa not a major violation of Allah’s law?”

            Interest may be forbidden by Islam, but it isn’t forbidden by American law. Are not Muslims who choose to live in non-Islamic countries supposed to respect the host countries’ rules? It sounds to me that rather than try to remedy an injustice, you used it as justification to commit another. You are still doing so, even after you took Shahada. How can G-d forgive you, then?

  17. Xdwfrbaj

    June 23, 2009 at 1:59 PM

    taJ6ce comment6 ,

  18. Douglas Kelly

    July 11, 2009 at 3:36 PM

    The reasonable reader of my post will see right from the title that it is about the injustice of the government’s attempt to curtail the Constitutional freedom of religion of prison inmates of ALL religions–and not about “justifying” what I did to go to prison in the first place.

    I, too, ask, “Why should this discussion be about me?”

    I went to court so many times to fight frivolous tickets–which I was issued for no other reason than the rampant, well-documented racial profiling of the late ’80s–that I ran out of sick days and vacation days from work. Going to court got to the point where it was costing me a day’s pay each time, at a time when I was a full-time student at night struggling to make ends meet. Whether what I did was even a sin, after what violenty racist, lawless, so-called law enforcement officers did to me, only Allah (subhana wa t’ala) knows. I never once tried to suggest that it wasn’t a crime. Deed done, price paid, sentence served, Shahada taken, end of discussion.

    I now ask Allah’s forgiveness for allowing myself to be dragged into this clearly irrelevant talk of “justification,” as it began with the other party making it about me and some traffic tickets when it’s really about religious books. Neither I nor my ancestors “chose” to live in this country but were forced to…and now have no place else to go. Of course we have to obey our nation’s laws. I never suggested anything to the contrary. But to this day, African-Americans continue to suffer injustices for which there is no earthly remedy (just ask Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo, to name a few). This only further strengthens my faith in Allah (swt), as he is the Best of Judges.

    Had I never chosen to commit the crime I committed and been sentenced to the exact place and time I was sentenced to, I would never have been in a position to join the two “People of the Book” as co-plaintiffs in remedying an injustice that affected all religious inmates, not just Muslims. Allah (swt) guides who He will to the Right Path, so I say “mashaAllah” that I did what I did. Like Rosa Parks, in my case, crime DID pay!

    Allah (swt) saw that justice was done and the books were returned, Alhamdulillah, and that’s all that really matters. I have nothing more to say to antagonists whose only intention is to antagonize. I ask my Brothers and Sisters who administer this site to please enforce the rules about keeping the comments relevant to the subject matter of the post. The enemies of Islam want nothing more than to exalt that which has been created over He who is the One and Only Creator. SubhanAllah!

  19. Solomon2

    July 13, 2009 at 11:36 AM

    Mr. Kelly, the title of the post is only partly accurate; much of what you write is about you, not the title topic.

    “I ask my Brothers and Sisters who administer this site to please enforce the rules about keeping the comments relevant to the subject matter of the post. The enemies of Islam want nothing more -”

    Bzzzt! My comments deal with you personally, and are not meant as any general indictment of Islam or its adherents. Whether the Administrators decide to let my comments and privileges remain or not will indicate whether they understand this key difference.

    “Going to court got to the point where it was costing me a day’s pay each time, at a time when I was a full-time student at night struggling to make ends meet.”

    You had a good record of systemic abuse by the police, at least in the form of frivolous citations. Did it occur to you that engaging the services of a lawyer to bring suit on your behalf would serve yourself and society better than faking ID documents? Why did we have to wait until you were in prison for you to stand up for your rights?

    • Abd- Allah

      July 16, 2009 at 8:31 AM

      sorry, but is this discussion going to lead to anything beneficial? what is the point?

      • Douglas Kelly

        July 16, 2009 at 5:12 PM

        I hope that the readers of this post and the latest wave of antagonistic comments will refer to MM’s article:

        http://muslimmatters.org/2009/06/22/advice-to-authors-regarding-negative-blog-comments/

        …in asking, as Brother Abd-Allah so eloquently did, “…is this discussion going to lead to anything beneficial? what is the point?”

        I am not suggesting that MM censor anyone who complies with their rules of civility in making comments. I welcome a spirited debate. But what, in this case, are we debating?

        The antagonist of whom I speak has made clear by his own admission that his intention is to pick a fight with me, personally, and not deal with the subject matter of the post:

        “Bzzzt! My comments deal with you personally, and are not meant as any general indictment of Islam or its adherents. Whether the Administrators decide to let my comments and privileges remain or not will indicate whether they understand this key difference.”

        I applaud the Administrators in affording this gentleman his right to free speech, because, mashaAllah, if nothing else, it affords me a valuable exercise in da’wah. My hope now is that both believers and non-believers who read this discourse will see the miracle in the words of the Prophet Muhammad (saw), which solidified my belief that Allah (swt) put me exactly where He wanted me to be, exactly when he wanted me to be there. There is no way things could have gone any differently than what was written, so there is no need to keep going back and forth about what “could have been,” other than to further prove my point.

        I refer to Qur’an and Sunnah in restating the basis of my argument against the baseless claims made herein, in the sincere hope that if this keeps going, more readers will be inspired to look into that which I quote:

        Narrated Anas: Allah’s Apostle said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, “O Allah’s Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” The Prophet said, “By preventing him from oppressing others.”

        On the authority of Abdullah bin Abbas, who said : One day I was behind the Prophet and he said to me:

        “Young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice] : Be mindful of Allah, and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of Allah; if you seek help, seek help of Allah. Know that if the Nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that Allah had already prescribed for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”

        – narrated by Termithi, who said it is true and fine hadith

        In a version other than that of Tirmithi it reads:

        “…Be mindful of Allah, you will find Him before you. Get to know Allah in prosperity and He will know you in adversity. Know that what has passed you by was not going to befall you; and that what has befallen you was not going to pass you by. And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and ease with hardship.”

        “And the Jews will not be pleased with you, nor the Christians until you follow their religion. Say: Surely Allah’s guidance, that is the (true) guidance. And if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have no guardian from Allah, nor any helper.” (2:120)

        “And wherefore did you not say when you entered your garden: It is as Allah has pleased, there is no power save in Allah? If you consider me to be inferior to you in wealth and children,” (18:39)

        “And among men is he who says: We believe in Allah; but when he is persecuted in (the way of) Allah he thinks the persecution of men to be as the chastisement of Allah; and if there come assistance from your Lord, they would most certainly say: Surely we were with you. What! is not Allah the best knower of what is in the breasts of mankind.” (29:10)

        Therefore, I conclude that it was not written for me to have done things one iota differently. MashaAllah, “it is as Allah (swt) has pleased.” And Allah (swt) knows best.

        Unfortunately, this gentleman is incapable of seeing matters from the point of view of an oppressed minority who had neither the time (due to full-time work and full-time school) nor the resources (due to minimum-wage employment), nor the wherewithal (due to growing up in a working-class family devoid of lawyers or even the knowledge of the process of retaining one) to hire an attorney to combat the harassment I endured.

        After I had actually commited a crime and the police broke down my door, drew their guns on me and arrested me, I was amazed to find just how easy the process of retaining a criminal defense lawyer was, compared to that of getting a competent civil rights attorney when you’ve been harassed by police as an innocent. It’s like you have nothing but time…

        Further, as an African-American male and a student of history, I have seen little in the way of justice (and even less in remuneration) to have given me any sense of hope that doing things the “legal” way would have had positive results. I now know what Imam el-Hajj Malik Shabazz meant when he said, “By any means necessary.” If necessity is the mother of invention, hopelessness is the mother of my fake ID.

        Only Allah (swt) knows this gentleman’s intention. If it is to somehow get me to beg his forgiveness for the choices I made, that would be shirk and is never ever going to happen. Audhu billahi min ash-shaytanir rajim.

    • Douglas Kelly

      July 16, 2009 at 7:48 PM

      because that’s where God Almighty led me…

      that’s where I took Shahada….

      and that’s where He gave me the ability to stand up for the rights of a whole lot more people than just me, including those of other faiths.

      Allahu Akbar

      • Douglas Kelly

        July 16, 2009 at 8:26 PM

        You had a good record of systemic abuse by the police, at least in the form of frivolous citations. Did it occur to you that engaging the services of a lawyer to bring suit on your behalf would serve yourself and society better than faking ID documents? Why did we have to wait until you were in prison for you to stand up for your rights?

        because that’s where God Almighty led me…

        that’s where I took Shahada….

        and that’s where He gave me the ability to stand up for the rights of a whole lot more people than just me, including those of other faiths.

        Dude, I still love you for Allah’s sake, and if it is permissible for me to do so, I will make du’a that He lead you to study the Qur’an and the religion of Ibrahim (alaihi salaam).

        • Abu

          July 17, 2009 at 4:45 AM

          Akhii, your points are well taken and I do not think you need to prolong issues any further. However, I do not not know much, but I doubt if you can say to a non-muslim, “you love him or you love him for Allaah’s sake”
          Pls, do not get me wrong, we can like, pray, be good to all mankind who are not in opposition to the deen, however, the degree of love is only meant for the believers. These are my suppositions, though I could be wrong as I am no scholar.

          • Douglas Kelly

            July 17, 2009 at 12:26 PM

            Message received and understood, even if you are not a scholar. May Allah (swt) reward you for helping me better understand my Deen, and ensure that what is in the heart is not squandered or misplaced. JazakAllahu khaira, my Brother in belief.

  20. Solomon2

    July 19, 2009 at 8:43 AM

    “Why did we have to wait until you were in prison for you to stand up for your rights?”
    “because that’s where God Almighty led me…that’s where I took Shahada”

    O zealot! think not that you are sheltered fro the sin of pride,
    For the difference between the mosque and the infidel church is but vanity.

    – Shamzu’d-Din Muhammed Hafiz , The Tongue of the Hidden, trans. Clarence Streit, 1928.

    • Douglas Kelly

      July 19, 2009 at 3:43 PM

      Actually, I am very proud of the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison for the amazing job they did in winning our case and getting the Jewish, Christian and Muslim books returned to all of America’s federal prisons, thus ending the denial of our rights.

      All praise is due to Allah (subhana wa t’ala), the Lord of the Worlds.

  21. Abu Abdaen

    September 29, 2009 at 3:14 AM

    Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: There was an argument between Adam and Musa. Musa said to Adam: You are our father. You did us harm and caused us to get out of Paradise. Adam said to him: You are Musa. Allah selected you (for direct conversation with you) and wrote with His own Hand the Book (Torah) for you. Despite this you blame me for an act which Allah had ordained for me forty years before He created me. Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) said:. This is how Adam came the better of Musa. Muslim, Book 033, Number 6409.

    The point is that we do not glorify nor justify our sins but rather this is a good tiding to the sincere believers that after true repentance from their errors, then they should be rest assured that whatever sins they have committed in their ignorant state have already been recorded and they shall be forgiven by the One and True Lord. It is also a means of warding off the evil ones who will desire that the believers remain in their previous sinful state.

    My dear brother, I rejoice with you of your faith in Allaah and your words are like a cool spring on the soul. May Allaah grant you steadfastness and patience.

    • Douglas Kelly

      September 30, 2009 at 10:36 AM

      Thank you for finding the perfect hadith narrative to my ignorance, as well as my argument. Allah (subhana wa t’ala) is the Most Merciful of Redeemers, and He grants redemption as He wills.

      I trust that any of my words that affect you positively are from Allah (swt); any that do not are from myself.

      May Allah (swt) continue to grant you such inspiring wisdom. It helps keep me on the Right Path.

  22. Ibrahim

    October 26, 2009 at 6:34 PM

    Why didn’t you become a Scientologist? We don’t need thieves in our religion. We need decent honest people to convert.

    • Abd- Allah

      October 26, 2009 at 8:43 PM

      “in our religion”

      In your religion?! Akhi, this deen is not yours alone.

      Religion is for Allah! (Addeenu lillah)

      Just because we are Muslim does not mean we own it!

      It is not a club where we allow whoever we want in and keep those who we don’t want out.

      Besides, according to whose standards do we decide if a person is “decent” enough for us to accept him? Maybe according to someone else’s standards you might not be “decent” enough for them!

      If being suspicious wasn’t Haraam in islam, I would have thought that you are a non-muslim trying to cause problems and fitna between the Muslims, because no “decent” Muslim would ever make such a statement.

      • Douglas Kelly

        October 26, 2009 at 10:24 PM

        JazakAllahu khaira, Brother Abd-Allah. I appreciate your responding to Ibrahim’s comment for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I was left speechless.

        As you can probably tell, that doesn’t happen very often.

        Brother Amad taught me to be thick-skinned in this rough-and-tumble world of blogging. But I simply did not know what to say to someone who I assume is my brother, telling me I am so indecent as to not be welcome within the fold of Islam…”his” religion. I’m sorry. I thought it was the Deen of Allah (subhana wa t’ala).

        I also thought that people revert, rather than convert to Islam, so may Allah (swt) forgive me for the haram of suspicion. I was thinking what you were thinking.

        While I definitely committed a crime, it did not involve the theft of anything–and even the government admitted that there was no victim. Yet, I have to admit, for a minute there Brother Ibrahim had me second-guessing my own human decency. Is making up an assumed name so disgusting that I cannot ask my Creator for forgiveness, devote the rest of my life to His service, and read Qur’an and offer salat five times a day every day while serving the sentence for my crime?

        As a child growing up, I knew nothing about the Hellfire and always believed that the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to someone was to go to prison. Once I went to prison– even at a minimum-security camp with no cells, bars or fences–I learned that there is no punishment worse than Hellfire, and that paying my debt to society, so I could turn my life around and turn to Allah (swt), is the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

        Alhamdulillahi Rabbil Alameeen.

        • ummfatima

          October 27, 2009 at 5:22 PM

          Assalamualykum brother,

          Whatever you did brother before reverting is wiped clean.In my personal opinion you don`t have to explain anyone why you did or what you did in the past or now.This is between you and Allahtaala. Allahtaala is roufurraheem..May Allahtaala guide us all to the straight path.

          salaam.

          • Douglas Kelly

            October 31, 2009 at 12:05 AM

            Ameen. JazakAllahu khaira for your kind words and common sense. As well as your eeman.

    • Rifaie

      October 27, 2009 at 5:16 PM

      Wow…the sheer arrogance of that comment and the hurt that it aims to most likely cause….indeed it does leave one breathless.

      I dont think i would be surprised if the poster is a non Muslim peeved at Br. Douglass’ reversion to Islam.

      And if it is a Muslim then…looks like they are rather ignorant about their own religion, Allah u Alam.

      • Douglas Kelly

        November 4, 2009 at 5:11 PM

        Ameen. Allah (swt) knows best.

        • Qas

          November 4, 2009 at 5:16 PM

          Assalamualaikum bro,

          How is everything going? You haven’t updated in a while. How’s the book writing going? Need any help or anything?

          • Douglas Kelly

            November 5, 2009 at 1:10 PM

            Alaikum wa salaam!!!!

            Thank you for asking! I’m going back to school, I’m still working on the book, and I just submitted the first 3 chapters to the US Copyright office. So it’s “going,” mashaAllah.

            I’m new at this blogging thing, so I wasn’t sure what I would need to do to “update.” But I would be more than happy to add you as a friend if you happen to be on Facebook, or the Muslim social networking site YOU R A CREATOR. If you happen to look me up and have trouble, please narrow your search by location: Bronx, NY.

            When I complete the work, some time next year, inshaAllah, I will need all the help I can get in getting the word out, since I will be a relatively unknown new author. I would be more than happy to place you among the first of those getting an autographed copy! All the praise is due to Allah (subhana wa t’ala) for anything I say that is right. Anything I say that is wrong is from myself.

            Allahu Akbar

  23. Isla Watson

    May 9, 2010 at 8:12 AM

    Prison Break is definitely one of the best action suspense TV series. I love the story line, i like T-bag too.~:.

  24. sulaymanf

    May 24, 2013 at 1:43 AM

    What a beautifully moving story. I’m happy you were victorious in the end.

  25. Dale Beth

    October 27, 2015 at 2:51 PM

    I had a hard time reading through my tears. This is such a tragic, yet beautiful story. I understand how the author felt searching for a religion. I have also searched throughout my life for a religion, even taking theology classes in college. Unfortunately, I still haven’t found the right fit for myself yet, it’s deeply saddens me that suck books that touched not only people’s lives, but their souls were taken from them by a government that seems to be afraid of its own people! The Muslim religion, although I’m not completely familiar with their teachings, I do know that it’s a very peaceful religion, gosh my mother told me that 20 years ago! I find the author Douglas Kelly to be a highly intelligent man who although, I’ve only known him for a very short time, has inspired me in ways that I can’t put into words! The thought of this intelligent wonderful man being treated so horrifically by the police makes me sick to my stomach! I even showed my husband his picture, because I see a kind gentleman with a gentle soul. Someone who has the history in his head that the world needs to know and understand. Is it really too much to ask for people to show empathy to the struggles that he and others like him have gone through? Are people afraid to feel that pain? It’s not pretty, true, but it’s reality. It’s through my tears reading this, that he becomes a real human being just like me, just like my children and just like all the other children still suffering with this type of prejudice. I know I can’t sit around and do nothing. That’s one lesson I learned from my father was to stand up for what I believe in, even if it means standing alone! Well that’s made me stand alone on many occasions, but I’m ok with that, because I’m still stand
    ing. The teachings he speaks of, I must say I identify with. I absolutely understand the new in of what jihad really is, the battle we fight within ourselves everyday! I’ve studied, Catholicism, Judiasm, Buddha, I’ve studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hemetics, Born Again Christian teachings and bekuevr it or not I even tried Scientology! Yet, still I probably have gained more knowledge from this article than from any of my other studies that honestly, I sometimes didn’t understand. I am sure that the right religion will click with me like it did for Douglas! I’m also sure that I really don’t like my next door neighbor who is a CO even more now! That man has made my families life a living hell, because like Douglas, my husband served time in prison 30+ years ago before I met him and this creep ran his name illegally through the prison computers and went around telling the entire neighborhood that my husband did all of these horrific things which just wasn’t true! The man who committed those crimes is in prison till this day. However, MR CO idiot decided it was ok to harass me any my children! My son was 5 at the time and my husband and I spoke to a professional as to how we should tell my son about his fathers past. It wasn’t surely on the school bus being teased by other children cuz that guy was the real criminal! He even called my husbands parole officer and tried all kinds of things to cause trouble for us! Of course I called the Parole Department as well as the NYS Department of Corrections, the jail
    where the guy works, the governors office and anybody I could think of to get this to stop! For the most part he had to stop harassing us, but the news was already out and you know how people are, so needless to say I have 1 friend in the entire town and we can’t sell our house, so we’re stuck with the neighbor from hell! I did get one thing accomplished! The parole officer began coming to my home wearing her raid jacket and although, my son was too young at the time to know it, I knew eventually he would figure it out so I made a big stink! Little old me, nothing but a mamma protecting her cubs, got NYS to change the law ant the probation officers are no longer allowed to wear those jackets to anyone’s home, unless they are going on a raid. Maybe that’s why I think I can make a difference in this world in regards to the radiant that still exists, I don’t think I’m powerful enough to do it alone, but if I could do that, with a few good people, I know we can accomplish so much! Can you imagine if the people that marched for civil right simply gave up because at times they stood alone? This country would be in a much worse situation than it already is! What if Rosa Parks went to the back of the bus? You see, one person can make a difference even if it’s just by recruiting others with the same beliefs or teaching our children to love people based on who they are on the inside only and then they can pass that on to their children as well! My sons will be the first to put someone in their place where racism is involved! My little guy came to me about 2 years ago when he was about 7 and told me that he couldn’t watch The Cartoon Network anymore because he misunderstood something and thought it was a racist thing! Lol I love the innocence of children! If only we could get through to all of the children, that would help so much. I know I do it in my classroom, of course without crossing that line that would make some racist parent cause me to lose my job. My husband had worked for Metro North for more than 15 years, yes they do hire people with criminal records, that’s the law and although, we still have the occasional visits from the police, most times I tell them to come back when they have solid evidence and I throw them out. They actually came here with a picture of a bald guy that was clearly not my husband and a picture of a car that clearly wasn’t his trying to tell him that if he didn’t come clean, then once the DNA came back they weren’t going to be able to help him. I looked at the pictures and told them yeah come back with that DBA because that is not my husband and I threw them out of my house! Lucky for us we were able to shut them up quickly because my husband had worked a double shift the night of the incident and metro north had him on video the entire time! I then called that detective and told him to take his apology and stuff it where the sun don’t shine! The big thing here is that my husband is white as white can be so we both understand that what Douglas and others like him have gone through is so much worse. They didn’t put him in prison for making a false ID as o can attest that many, many people have done. Especially when you have thousands of dollars in tickets piled up that it’s down right impossible to pay them. It’s like they set you up to fail, based on the color of your skin alone. My husband brought many religious books home with him, he was lucky, his parents sent him money to buy them. I think I may have to break out his collection and start reading. I’m not shocked that they would remove books like that, let’s face it, they have done so much worse! I’m honored to know Douglas and even more honored that he shared this with me. He really is the incredible person that I knew he was! I’m looking forward to more of the education that I’m going to get by knowing such a brilliant man.

    • Douglas Kelly

      December 6, 2015 at 6:11 PM

      Thank you, Dale Beth. For everything. Now you’ve got ME with the tears over here! LOL!! May the G~d of Abraham continue to bless and protect you and your husband and beloved family always. Ameen.

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