On Teaching Islam to Prisoners

Answered by Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him).

I work as an imam in a prison. What topics should I talk about when I teach the inmates?

This is an important job and allows you to benefit people by calling them to Allah. We are happy that you are doing it. Focus on things which strengthen their iman and trust in Allah. You should remind them of the importance of staying on the Straight Path, which saves them from the prison of this life and the greater prison in the next life. Remind them of the different states of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. Remind them of the importance of having sabr (patience and fortitude) and remind them that they will be rewarded if they are patient and it will have a good impact on their time in prison.

Constantly remind them of Allah’s blessings upon them. Teach them the importance of showing mercy and goodness to mankind and the result of that in the next life. Remind them that as Muslims they should be examples and teachers in their communities and be people that benefit their fellow humans. Although they may have done wrong, perhaps there is a divine wisdom in their imprisonment – that they return to their communities having rectified themselves.

We need to bear in mind that the purpose of prison is to transform the prisoners. We need to strengthen the prisoners’ connection with Allah and give them greater hope in Allah. We need to teach them to improve their transaction with Him, to remind them that Allah loves those who turn and repent to Him and to teach them to be consistent in remembering Him. If someone is guilty of committing a crime, prison will be an expiation for the wrong they have done. If they are wrongly imprisoned it is a means for their station to be raised.