Radio Islam was invited courtesy of the Muslim Prison Board (Gauteng) to an exhibition at "Sun City", to view prison facilities and to interact with some Muslim prisoners that were locked up at the facility.
The prison complex of Sun City is like a city on its own. Besides housing awaiting trial prisoners, it’s also "home" to the hardcore criminals that have committed heinous and gruesome crimes. The prison also has a residential facility for its staff members.
We were escorted by a guard to visit Correctional Services Section A which houses 7200 awaiting trial prisoners. After a tedious amount of security checks, we handed in all our personal belongings, like identity documents, wallets, mobile phones and car keys as these items are not allowed in the compound. Thereafter we were branded with a purple coloured stamp to denote that we were visitors. It's probably also a security measure to ensure a person leaving the prison is a visitor and not a prisoner.
As you step through the heavy security gate, the smell of disinfectant fluid wharfs through the air. The walk is long, scary and intimidating. The menacing bars of the security gates and the surrounds of the huge walls of the confinement urges you to make dua that you never end up in incarceration. The realization sets in that gambling with crime pays a huge sentence…Prison time.
We met with a group of Muslim awaiting trial prisoners who were rendered targheeb (motivation) by Moulana Yusuf Monia and Hajee Mahmood Mohammed of the Muslim Prison Board. They advised the inmates not to be demotivated and give up because they were in prison but rather seek guidance and repent for their crimes and strengthen their belief in Allah Almighty. They also reiterated that as Muslim inmates, they should be steadfast in their salaah (prayer) and dawah (propagating Islam) work to set an example to other non-Muslim inmates that Islam is a beautiful religion. The closing dua was rendered by Moulana Zainudin Ebrahim.
One particular prisoner did capture my attention. He was reading tasbeeh (Glorifying Allah) when I approached him…
Imtiaz Martins, a young Muslim man is in prison for armed robbery. He said he was in prison before and the economic crisis had driven him to commit the crimes. He could not find a job and he needed to support his family. “My wife is not happy that I am here, but she supports me in my efforts to get released,” said Martins.
Martins has been awaiting trial for 3 months. His trial date is on the 30th May. He said that he wants to become a Hafiz al Quran (A person that memorizes the Quraan) when he is released.
Another prisoner, Yaseen Suliman who was in prison for house breaking told Radio Islam that up to 50 prisoners are holed up in a single cell and inmates are always allegedly attacked by other inmates. He cited an incident where a prisoner was allegedly attacked with a padlock.
Although being behind bars, the Muslim inmates were in high spirits and made a point of engaging in conversations with our group. Most had beards and wore the Islamic head gear. The targheeb (motivation) inspired them as this was clearly evident when they shouted calls for Takbeer, Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest!)
Moments after the interview, the siren sounded for inmates to collect their lunches. Lined up in queues they proceeded to the kitchens where their meals would be served. Hajee Mohammed said that all meals for Muslims prisoners are certified halaal by the South African National Halaal Authority (SANHA).
As we left our fellow Muslim brothers to enjoy their meals, a sigh of relief and the fresh air was most welcoming as we exited the prison compound. A person cannot even begin to fathom what goes through the mind of a prisoner while incarcerated. The general consensus amongst our group was that “nobody would like to be in prison and prison is definitely not a nice place.”
We make dua that Allah SWT keep us on the straight path and protect us from the evil plots of shaytaan, all evil and vice Inshallah.