“HHUGS is more than just financial help, HHUGS is emotional help, HHUGS is the family you need. HHUGS give you that love and support that the government and the police snatch from you. The very morals in society have decayed and the caring feeling that used to be here is long gone. That’s what HHUGS is.”
Part II: Surviving the brutality of prison
In prison, my first thoughts were what we saw in movies when we were younger- just to prepare yourself for the morning. I thought I’m going to get shanked; I’m going to get stabbed up the second that door opens up. That’s exactly how I felt, the whole night in prison, I did not sleep a wink, I continued to read Ayatul Kursi and ask Allah for His protection. The second that door opened up, I had my toothbrush in one hand, and I had a plastic fork in the other. I was just waiting, thinking that they’re just going to rush me now, they’re going to come in here and kill me. Wallahi, it was a scary night.
The staff at Belmarsh were just horrible people. We had a team called the Designated Search Team and these guys were in full black and had dogs. They were regular visitors, their searches were highly invasive to say the least, and they obviously did all this to break your spirit. They slowly try to break you. Just on the wing I was on, there were two suicides there in the space of 4 months alone.
The atmosphere in the prison was a high stress situation. No one could ever let their guard down for a second and it wasn’t other prisoners that were the problem, it was the guards. I mean not having committed a crime in our entire lives, and never having been in trouble with the law, you go from being a perfectly good law-abiding citizen to being thrown into prison with the worst of the worst.
I was constantly punished by being thrown into Solitary Confinement where I was not given adequate food during one of the coldest winters in London’s history. I was put into a cell where the window was broken so it was only exposed bars. I was exposed to the elements of the snow and cold wind from the outside, whilst the AC was on inside. My cell was in the minus temperatures. I was not given a blanket, I was not given a pillow, I did not have a mattress. I put socks on my hands to keep warm. I was not given hot food or water or anything. I spent at least 3 weeks there, suffering from fever, and symptoms of hypothermia. I was never seen by a doctor or a nurse or any other health professional. They did all sorts to harass me by throwing my Quran on the floor, allowing dogs to walk over my praying mat, just so I would retaliate or say or do something.
It came to a point later where we were in HMP Manchester, and we were being harassed almost nonstop. It had come to the point where they would take our glasses off us because they claimed our glasses would be a health and safety risk, so we were practically walking around blind, my brother who already suffers from migraines was basically in excruciating pain.
They took me down into solitary confinement where they put me into a cell, stripped me down to nothing. Then 4-5 officers came into the room, and they said they were going to search every cavity on your body. After they did this, they brought dogs in. The dogs then basically scratched and licked my body which they knew would make me ritually impure for prayer. Having those dogs while you’re standing there naked, and you’ve got a dog going at your body parts is quite a scary feeling. The lowest point for me was when they said to me that, “We’ve beaten your brother to a point that he’s unconscious and we’re going to make sure he does not leave here alive.” When I think of it, that is what upset me the most.
That was the lowest point of my entire time in prison – the fact that they said to me they were going to kill my brother.
I did believe that at that time, I cried when they left. I continued to pray to Allah to protect him, I would kick at the door, I would scream. Those 2 weeks felt like years, because remember you have nothing. I didn’t have my Qur’an with me, but because I had the Qur’an in my heart, I would continue to recite all day and all night. I remained without clothes on my body for 3 days. I actually genuinely thought that if he is not dead, he’s in hospital. So it was a very, very low time, very difficult for me at that time.
Struggling to rebuild our lives
It was another year or so until we actually stepped out of prison. We were bailed and on a tag. When we finally came back to our hometown, we realised it was going to be difficult to find your place again, to look for work or go to college.
I would wake up for the first few months when I first came out of prison, and I was still in prison mode. My grandmother passed away on my second day out of prison and for me even then I was still in prison mode, I didn’t have emotions. It took me months before those emotions came back to me. I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking, I am still in my cell. If in the morning my parents woke me for fajr, I would get up like in a haze like did I hear my parents and then I would notice I’m in my bedroom, I’m not in prison. So after coming out, I found adjusting very difficult.
For years after, as much as I tried to forget the experiences of prison and everything else, I think a certain part of me is still affected. My wife always told me to get help because she’s noticed the fact, I’ve got an issue with anger. I always felt very frustrated, small things would make me very angry and all these I believe had roots into my experience in prison.
Yahya: It was exceptionally difficult. I had a very good job prior to going in. Back then, being a security guard was quite profitable, it was an easy job and it paid very well. But now I’ve come out, nobody will hire you. Now I worked in hard labour jobs, and I’d even moved from my home town to a city where I’d worked long night shifts in markets. I was just an anonymous person, so the people didn’t know me. It was years later somebody spotted me; then my colleagues called me a terrorist and all the relationships I’d cultivated over 6 years was destroyed in a matter of seconds; it was horrible.
That also added to the trauma. After the initial shock, I realised that there were people who hated me. After 10 years or so passed, I finally got a job that was teaching at a college. They were going to put me through university, give me a teaching degree and before my mum passed, she was so proud of my achievement. SubhanAllah, I was only 6 months in, and it happened again: somebody pointed me out and then I got called in by the director and I was forced to resign.
I was labelled and went straight back to square one again. I’d lost my job and my opportunity to go to university. Financially, this whole situation has made life exceptionally difficult, emotionally, physically, mentally.
Yunus: When I came out, I could no longer teach in madrasahs. But I also had a skill as a butcher, so finding work was not difficult for me. I was on a much lower wage than what my skill basically gave me, so I was taken advantage of, but I was just glad that I had some type of employment.
No longer suffering in silence
HHUGS played a big part in helping us to get back on our feet. They got in contact with our father after we had gone to prison and informed him of the lawyers that could help. If HHUGS didn’t do that, then today I wouldn’t be sitting before you, if they did not make that first contact with our parents. If HHUGS were not around, believe me there would be a lot more Muslims suffering in this country in silence. I always make this dua for any member of HHUGS that I meet, anybody that helps that Allah grant them the best of this world and the akhirah. Only he can reward you. No matter what I do or say to you, I cannot do anything, only Allah will reward all the members of HHUGS.
Initially when I was released from prison, HHUGS offered everything you basically needed. We were struggling financially, but initially for years I’d insisted on not taking HHUGS help because I felt like there were families in greater need out there. I always felt like you know, at the time I was single, I thought maybe I shouldn’t take from HHUGS, their resources are limited so they should go to those with families. But the time I got in contact with HHUGS was after I lost my job at the college. That was a massive kick to me because I had left my previous secure employment take on the highly lucrative teaching job only then to lose it and now be back to square one again. Now, without money or any kind of future, HHUGS really came through and by the mercy of Allah, HHUGS have kept me afloat. Words can’t define our gratitude to HHUGS.
My mother has just spent several weeks in hospital. During those weeks, I could not visit her, and neither could my wife or my children, so when she came home, I spent as much time as I could with her. The morning she passed away was the 5th Ramadhan. The night before she was well, she requested her favourite food to be cooked. She passed away in front of me. Her last rizq in this world was the water of Zam-Zam, whilst my father was reciting Quran. We did not know this was her last moment on earth. We thought she was ill and it was just a regular trip back to the hospital like it had been many times before.
Ever since my mother left us, it’s been extremely difficult on me. For a few months, I did not leave the house. It’s been just over 7 months and only now have I, thanks to HHUGS, started getting back into some form of like a social life. They helped us out financially, due to the fact that I wasn’t working, so I didn’t have enough money coming in. Due to the bills and everything else, debts had racked up. They’ve supported me through food vouchers. It’s taken such a big pressure and load off, that I can support my family. Alhamdulillah, things are looking better.
Years have gone by, and I never took HHUGS offer up on the winter support because I never felt like I deserved it. I struggled financially and emotionally, so we had no choice but to take up HHUGS winter support this year. Alhamdulillah, it has made all the difference. They supplied us with heaters, duvets, radiator reflectors and insulators. If it wasn’t for that, right now, we’d literally be freezing. Our bills are through the roof and with everything they’ve helped us with: fuel support, warm clothing vouchers for our children – it’s had a major impact. You know there’s one less thing to worry about.
If HHUGS didn’t exist, then our families would be suffering in silence. It’s not just the individual who is arrested, our families go through equal suffering and HHUGS is there for them. HHUGS gives that helping hand. The smallest gesture of HHUGS – just like an Eid party where they invite all the families that they are supporting that enjoy a meal, meet each other, and share your experiences. My wife has met with wives and sisters whose husbands, brothers or uncles are still in prison, and when they hear this, they realise the support they can give each other.
Support the Ummah as One
Allah tells us to give in the path of Allah. HHUGS is one of those paths. You cannot personally go up to somebody and say here is some money for you, because that will just make the person refuse it out of pride, but when it comes to an organisation like HHUGS, they know how to help you and how to use the finances. I’d urge all the Muslims and whoever is listening to give whatever you can towards HHUGS.
I’d not just recommend HHUGS to someone in my situation, I would basically say that HHUGS is your only lifeline.
HHUGS is more than just financial help, HHUGS is emotional help, HHUGS is the family you need. HHUGS give you that love and support that the government and the police snatch from you. The very morals in society have decayed and the caring feeling that used to be here is long gone. That’s what HHUGS is. Without HHUGS, subhanallah, we’d be destitute, we’d be penniless. Our children would be without food, why? Because we were condemned men for a crime we didn’t commit, and we owe everything to HHUGS.
We’re grown men and for us, pride gets in the way of taking help, but the people who are truly vulnerable that HHUGS support are the sisters with children whose families have abandoned them. Neighbours have distanced themselves from them. You can’t imagine the trauma of the children or the pain of the husband who is in prison, helpless and can’t help his family, can’t provide for them subhanAllah. Who is there for them? Nobody, nobody wants to touch them. Their family will disown them, but HHUGS will be there for them, so every penny you give toward HHUGS I assure you every penny will go towards these brothers and sisters to those children so they know they are loved and they are being cared for by the Ummah.
Your work is subhanAllah truly invaluable. There is no one else doing it. It’s very difficult to find the words for how much we love and appreciate you, and that we hope to work ever more closely with HHUGS so we to can help impact the families who have become victims to the law of this unfortunate situation.
May Allah reward all our brothers and sisters who are part of HHUGS, who were a part of HHUGS and who are ever going to work for HHUGS. This is one way you can secure a place for yourself in Jannah, we work towards the pleasure of Allah and if you have any part of HHUGS in anything you do, in administration, in the collections, in giving, in going down to see the families, in any part you play in HHUGS, even those brothers and sister who are giving towards HHUGS, you’re making your akhirah.
You’re fulfilling a requirement as a Muslim and fulfilling commandment of Allah SWT. And this is what the Messenger of Allah (saw) taught us, what the Sahaba taught us. Give your full support to HHUGS. There are other Muslim organisations out there who are helping out around the world but at this present time, HHUGS is one of the most important organisations, it’s a silent organisation but it’s there, so that Muslims like us don’t have to suffer in silence.