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Benefit: An Inmate Cannot Find Water or Dirt in His Prison Cell - How Can He Pray?

In the Name of Allāh, the Ever Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy

Question: If a prisoner is in his cell and cannot find water or dirt whilst the time for prayer is about to expire, what should he do?

Answer: If he cannot find water or get someone to bring him water, and he cannot find dirt, he should pray as he is. [However, he should] look towards the wall or to the carpets to see if he can find dust, if he finds dust then it is permissible for him to strike it with [the palm of] his hands one time to wipe his face and hands, if he cannot find any of that then he prays in the condition that he is in.

This is specifically if the prayer is one that cannot be joined with another prayer [i.e. if it is a prayer like Ẓuhr he can delay it to join it with ʿAṣr to spare more time to find water, dirt, sand, soil, earth etc.]

Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Hādī al-Madkhalī

Arabic Source: ماذا يصنع الرجلُ إذا كان في سجن فلم يجد ماءً ولا ترابا وكاد
Translated by: Munīb al-Ṣumālī

Benefit: I'm Stressed Out. I'm Angry. I've Had Enough. I'm Going to Explode!!

In the Name of Allāh, the Ever Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy

All praise is due to Allāh. May the al-Ṣalāh and the Salām be upon Prophet Muḥammad, his family, his companions and all those who follow him in goodness until the Day of Recompense, as to what proceeds:

Indeed, the life of the Dunyā is one of toil and struggle for the believer up until the time when he meets his Lord. It is for this reason that Allāh has enjoined patience upon His slaves and has made it such an integral part of the religion of al-Islām.  The All-Knowing, the All-Wise, has mentioned patience more than 90 times in the Qurʾān, from them is His, the Most High, statement:

"And say not of those who are killed in the Way of Allāh, 'They are dead.' Nay, they are living, but you perceive (it) not. (154) And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to al-Ṣabirīn (the patient ones, etc.)."
[Al-Baqarah 2:154-155]

And His Statement:

"By al-ʿAṣr (the time). (1) Verily! Man is in loss, (2) Except those who believe (in Islamic Monotheism) and do righteous good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth (i.e. order one another to perform all kinds of good deeds (Al-Maʿruf) which Allāh has ordained, and abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds (Al-Munkar) which Allāh has forbidden), and recommend one another to patience (for the sufferings, harms, and injuries which one may encounter in Allāh's Cause during preaching His religion of Islamic Monotheism or Jihad, etc.). (3)"
[Sūrah-'ʿAṣr: 103-1-3]

In the first of the above two passages from Allāh's Glorious Book, Allāh informs His slaves of the sure fact that they will be tried and tested. However, it should be known that the objective of Allāh's tests and trials is not for Him, the All-Knowing of what is in the breasts, to acquire some knowledge about His slave that He didn't have. Rather, they are means by which He distinguishes the people of firm īmān from those who have weak or no īmān, the people of at-taqwá and love of Allāh from the disobedient ones. As Allāh says in His Book,

"Alif-Lam-Mim. (1) Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: "We believe," and will not be tested. (2) And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allāh will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allāh knows all that before putting them to test). (3)"
[Sūrah al-ʿAnkabūt 29:1-3]

The reality of this affair can be seen in the fact that when some Muslims are tested they are actually strengthened in their forbearance and reliance upon Allāh; while others are driven to despair and become disobedient to Allāh and His Messenger, ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam. This is from the deceptions of Shayṭān who threatens the slave with poverty and afterwards incites him to do what is unlawful to save himself from it. As Allāh says about him,

"Shayṭān threatens you with poverty and orders you to commit Fahsha (evil deeds, illegal sexual intercourse, sins etc.); whereas Allāh promises you Forgiveness from Himself and Bounty, and Allāh is All-Sufficient for His creatures' needs, All-Knower."
[Sūrah al-Baqarah 2:268]

In this second of these passages mentioned above (al-‘ʿAṣr 103:1-3), Allāh informs us that all of mankind is doomed except those who have the two qualities mentioned therein (a) īmān, which consist of belief in the heart, testification with the tongue and  action with the limbs, and (b) patience. How are these two qualities related? ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, may Allāh be pleased with him, said "Sabr (patience) is to īmān as the head is to the body; if the head is removed then the body will fall." Saying that, he raised his voice and proclaimed, "You cannot have faith without patience!" For this reason, al-Shāfiʿī said concerning Sūrah-‘ʿAṣr;"If Allāh had sent down upon his creation no other proof besides this Sūrah it would have sufficed them"1

After a brief introduction, I would like to share some of my personal experiences with my brothers and sisters in hope that they are benefited by them. And Allāh says,

"Therefore, remind (men) in case the reminder profits (them). (9) The reminder will be received by him who fears (Allāh), (10)"
[Sūrah-'Alā 87:9-10]

I am a Muslim who, at the time of writing this article, is 34 years of age, and I have been in prison for the past twelve years. Due to a number of factors such as distance, frequent transfers, etc., I have not had a single visit from a family member over the course of the past twelve years. About half-way through my incarceration, I was faced with the calamity which every incarcerated person dreads, and that is the death of my mother with whom I was very close, as I am her only child just as she was her mother's only child. I myself have only one child whom I have not seen since I left the streets in 1998 except in pictures, and my contact with her has been sparse to say the least. Three of the past twelve years were spent on lock down at a maximum security prison in Marion IL, USA. These are some of my personal trials.  As for the religious and general trials, then they are many, such as those who are abandoned by their wives or friends and family, the harassment by the correctional officers to the Muslims. In fact, today an officer went into a Muslim's cell under the premise of a "Shakedown” (a cell search for contraband, etc.) and took all of his Islamic books claiming that he had too many. He only left him with secular novels and a bible! The “shakedown” is what the officers use to antagonize the inmates who they don't like. So at any given time an officer may go into your room, search through your belongings, taking your personal items and having no respect for anything that belongs to the inmate.

One may think that people in prison have it easy due to the fact that we get three meals a day and a free bed, however, the prison system serves pork almost on a regular basis, so if a Muslim doesn't have the support of his/her family, there will be a lot of hungry nights. But in spite of all this, and many other trails that I have declined to mention, some more significant than others, Allāh has made my incarceration a source of guidance and abundance of good.  He has made my prison to be a University and my cell to be a place of worship and study, thereby increasing me in īmān and at-Tawakkul (trust) upon him. By Allāh, nothing has been taken from me except that Allāh has replaced it with that which is better.  For I have seen individuals, both Muslims and non-Muslims, experience not even half the trials that I have endured, yet have twice the complaints.  Indeed, some have even been driven to disobedience, apostasy from the religion or insanity. But a servant cannot be given a gift better and more abundant than patience.

My dear friend and mentor, who is incarcerated in another prison, is currently serving a sentence of double life plus fifty!!  ‘O Muslim, let this sink in, DOUBLE LIFE PLUS FIFTY.  This means hypothetically (if Allāh doesn't decree his release), that if he were to die twice, he would have to come back and give the system 50 move years! But by Allāh, I have never seen a Muslim more upbeat; having more sincerity to Allāh, more love for Allāh, His Messenger, and the believers; more of a reminder of what the Salaf were upon and more patient. This is what I think of him and I praise no one over Allāh. So how bad is your situation?

On the authority of Abū Hurayrah, from Allāh's Messenger, ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam, who said, “When one of you looks to one who has been favoured over him in wealth or appearance, let him look to one who is lower than himself as opposed to one who favoured over him"2

On the authority of Khabbāb, Allāh's Messenger, ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam said: “Amongst those who came before you, a man would be sawn in half, but that would not cause him to abandon his religion"3

I advise the Muslims to have patience for the sake of Allāh. Have patience and Allāh will compensate you. And know that with every hardship comes two reliefs, as Allāh said,

"So verily, with the hardship, there is relief, (5) Verily, with the hardship, there is relief (i.e. there is one hardship with two reliefs, so one hardship cannot overcome two reliefs). (6)"
[al-Sharḥ 94:5-6]

The scholars have explained that first relief comes when Allāh removes the hardship. The second comes in the hereafter when the slave meets Allāh and is rewarded for his patience.  This is in addition to the fact that Allāh grants leadership to his slaves due to their patience and their firm faith, as Allāh says,

"And We made from among them (Children of Israel), leaders, giving guidance under Our Command, when they were patient and used to believe with certainty in Our Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.). (24)"
[Sūrah al-Sajdah 32:24]

As for my affair, indeed it is a blessed one; for patience is the fruit of proper belief in Allāh, the mighty majestic and his qadr. Due to it a slave knows that (a) nothing comes to him of good or evil except that which Allāh has decreed for him, (b) Allāh is in full control of all of the affairs, (c) that Allāh does not burden any soul beyond what it can bear.

On the authority of Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqās, Allāh’s Messenger, ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam said, “The most severely tried amongst mankind are the Prophets; then those that are most like them, then those that are most like them. The people are tried according to their level of faith..." 4

So be patient with the trials of life, may Allāh bless you, and look for your reward with Allāh, the mighty and majestic.  Put your trust in Allāh while acting within the legislated parameters. This is the path to success. May the prayers and peace be upon Muḥammad, his family and Companions, amīn.

So be patient (O Muḥammad ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam). Verily, the Promise of Allāh is true, and ask forgiveness for your fault, and glorify the praises of your Lord in the Ashi (i.e. the time period after the mid noon till sunset) and in the Ibkar (i.e. the time period from early morning or sunrise till before mid noon) [it is said that, that means the five compulsory congregational Salat (prayers) or the 'ʿAṣr and Fajr prayers]. (55)
[Sūrah Ghāfir 40:55] 

Written by one in need of Allāh: Raha ʿAzīzuddīn Batts

Endnotes:
1) Taken from al-Thalāthah al-Uṣūl by Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd al-Wahhāb.
2)Ṣaḥīḥ Al-Bukhārī, Kitāb al-Riqāq, Ḥadīth # 6490
3) Reported by Aḥmad, al-Bukhārī and Abū Dāwūd
4) Reported by al-Tirmidhī #2398, Ibn Mājah #4023, al-Dārimī 2/320, Aḥmad, and it is authentic.