Ramadhan in Guantánamo: The Best of Times

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 Crosspost: Moazzam Begg

سم الله الرحمن الرحيم

الحمد لله وحده والصلاة والسلام على من لا نبي بعده

I first read the Dickens’ classic, Bleak House, in solitary confinement, Camp Echo. The concentric part of this story is based on the fictitious – though accurately representative – and never-ending case of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce which ultimately consumes and destroys the lives of its central characters, rather like the Supreme court decisions relating to the Guantánamo detainees. But it was the first sentence of another Dicken’s classic, A Tale of Two Cities, which reads, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ that captured my imagination back then. For that is precisely how I would have described the noble months of Ramadhan spent in US custody.

It was the night before the festival of Eid ul-Adha that I was sent from Pakistani custody into US custody at Kandahar. After the brutal initiation of being processed like an animal and locked in a cage made of razor wire, I couldn’t believe my ears when a visitor from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was wandering around the cells, with an army escort, handing out small pieces of meat and cold bread to detainees, uttering the words ‘Eid Mubarak’ [season’s greetings].

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Shah Wali Allah: The Inner Dimension of Hajj and the “Distorters of Faith”

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The period of Hajj is one which means many different, important things to Muslims: devotion, a demonstration of longing for their Creator, and reliving the practice of their most venerated men and women from the greatest period of Islam, khayr al-quroon (the best of generations – being the three generations during and after the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him).

Another, deeper meaning is the restorative nature of the Hajj pilgrimage. It purifies ones Iman, removes the grime of bad deeds from one’s spiritual repository, and returns the state of a person to that of a new-born. Scholars have also explicated another restorative quality.

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