[Shamim A Siddiqi, New York]


Alhamdulillah, with the growth of time, the campaign towards Dawah Ilallah, inviting the people, the humans, to the fold of Allah, is getting momentum in the Muslim community everywhere. The more the adversaries of Islam are attacking the Deen of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the Muslim Ummah, the more Muslims are getting conscious of the need of Dawah as an effective means to counteract the nefarious designs of the enemies of Islam, to dilute their round the cock propaganda against the fundamental teachings of Islam and the life pattern of Muslim’s way of life. In the western hemisphere, prisons are the concentrative points of non-Muslims inmates and, therefore, have become the focus points and easy targets of Dawah Ilallah [DI].


Everyone who has the urge for DI, he arranges some Dawah flyers and books/booklets, applies to the prison authorities to visit jails that are called “correctional facilities” in the USA. With permission in hand, these “Da’ees” enter into jail at appointed times and meet the non-Muslim inmates, invite them to the fold of their Creator and Sustainer, try to convince them to the beauties and benedictions of Islam and give them Dawah literature to study afterwards.  The Dawah contactees mostly are of African-American [AA] origin and some of Latino-Americans.  Rarely the inmates of Caucasian-American origin respond to such Dawah calls. However, the response from AA brothers is very often positive. They embrace Islam in jail and these outside Da’ees try to meet their basic religious needs like, prayer rugs, Tasbeeh [rosaries], a copy of the Holy Qur’an, life history of Rasulullah (S), a book of “every-day” Fiqh, Miswak, perfume and some basic Islamic literature to make and keep them as practicing Muslims.


It needs a lot of funds. Islamic organizations like ICNA, ISNA, and CAIR meet these expenses as their Dawah project. Islamic Circle of North America alone expends about fifty thousand dollars each year on its project: “Dawah in Jail”. The book “Towards Understanding Islam” by Late S. A. A. Maudoodi is in great demand for Dawah both in prison and outside. ICNA has published varieties of Dawah flyers and booklets to this effect and supplies thousands of copies of the Qur’an to jail inmates every year. Other organizations too are involved in Dawah in prison and meet its requirements in their respective way.  


State Government appoints Jews, Christians and Muslim Chaplin in jail for imparting the religious needs of the inmates. Muslim Chaplins do additional Dawah work in jail on their own accord. In NY alone, a friend of mine who is a Chaplin in jail has, Alhamdulillah, brought more then three thousand inmates into the fold of Islam so far during the last five years. He expends all of his emoluments that he gets for his services to cater the needs of the new Muslims in jail and something more from outside help. The Muslim Chaplin leads the prayers, deliver Friday sermons, teach them Islam in detail and meet their other religious needs. The picture apparently looks rosy but in depth it has a lot of problems that need our attention.


1.  Dawah in prison is the most disorganized phenomenon.  Everyone carries out his Dawah efforts in his own way restricting himself to deliver the message and some flyers and thinks that the objective of DI is accomplished. These flyers represent different sects and cults in Islam and go along way to poison the minds of many inmates. A contactee of mine sent me a flyer that was written in South Africa in fifties against Maulana Maudoodi in South Africa. I had to explain him a lot in writing to correct the situation and remove his bad impression. Both Qadianees and Shiites are actively involved in “Dawah in prison”. All schools of thoughts are carrying out their respective “factionalism” in prison. It needs developing a common program, preparing comprehensive Dawah flyers/literature based on the fundamental teachings of Islam and practicing a common strategy of spreading Dawah through jail. Only then Dawah in prison will produce substantial results in the field of DI.


2   If the inmate, fortunately, becomes Muslim, no proper arrangement is available for his education and training on Islamic lines afterward except through government appointed Chaplins. Very often he is lost in the doldrums of “Kufr and Shirk” from where he was picked up and brought into the fold of Islam. The Muslim Chaplins should constitute themselves into an institution on national basis, develop a course of training of jail inmates, evolve a mechanism of evaluation to judge their progress and implementation of their program, examine their issues and meet on regular basis to get their problems resolved. The Muslim leadership of the USA should undertake this issue to resolve soon.


In fact, each new Muslim in prison, if given proper education and training in jail, he can be transformed into the most effective Da’ee much more better than those who make “air raid attack” on jail, drop some sporadic literature here and there and “feel” contented that Dawah work is completed.  A brother who embraced Islam in jail, happened to read my book, “Methodology of Dawah in American Perspective”, got my address and wrote to me in detail about his background and understanding about Islam I corresponded with him in a continuous process and advised him to behave and act on the tradition of Prophet Yusuf (AS} and be a Da’ee by himself. I provided him all the basic literature about Islam got him admitted in the Open American University. He learned Arabic and many more Islamic subjects through my persuasion and correspondence course. He was simultaneously busy in giving Dawah to his co-inmates. Last year at Eid times, he sent me a group picture of himself with other inmates that became Muslim. He is Caucasian-American Muslim and is determined to remain a Da’ee for the whole of his life. I really treasure that picture as the most valuable asset of my life. Such should be the “end-result” of our Dawah efforts in prison. Only then every prison can become a Dawah-shell.    


3.  There is no arrangement to look after the new Muslims who come out of jail after   completing their terms of imprisonment. Hardly, there is any “half-way house” to take care of these ex-convicts. They need relocation, sustenance at least for about six months enabling them to stand on their legs, job opportunities to maintain themselves and their “neglected” families, vocational training to earn honest livelihood by their own hands and a shelter to live in its shade for six months to one year or till he is properly relocated and established as an useful citizen of the state. It is very expensive job. To cater these essential needs for the new Muslims, the Muslim community of America and elsewhere need a lot of funds. A few years back, as Incharge of ICNA Dawah Department, I tried to build a half-way house in NY just for 12 to 15 ex-inmates, the minimum funds it needed was half a million dollar. Per year. I could not raise this fund from the community and had to give up this project in dismay. It needs millions of dollars to establish such half-way houses in different parts of the country to transform these new converts to Islam into a team of effective Da’ees.  This is the continuous process of Dawah in Prison and must be attended by American Muslims. It would be a continuous “Sadaqah” for any sponsor, if he comes forward to accept this challenge of utmost importance from Dawah point of view.


May Allah give us vision to understand the fundamental needs and issues of Dawah in Prison and Tawfeeq to pool our resources to make it an effective means of Dawah Ilallah!



Shamim A Siddiqi

January 15, 2004