Saturday, August 01, 2009

When it Rains, it Pours!

(Photo copyright 2009 by S. E. Jihad Levine, All Rights Reserved)

"By (the winds) that scatter dust; and (the clouds) that bear heavy weight of water; and (the ships) that float with ease and gentleness; and those (angels) who distribute (provisions, rain, and other blessings) by (Allah's) Command; Verily, that which you are promised (i.e., Resurrection in the Hereafter and receiving the reward or punishment of good or bad deeds) is surely true. And verily, the Recompense is sure to happen."

Surat Adh-Dhariyat 1-6

Some of you who have read my blog for awhile know that I am a Muslim chaplain in a state prison for women.

I work on Fridays and Saturdays, usually about 8-10 hours a week.

On Fridays, I have individual sessions every fifteen minutes or so from 10:00 am to 11:00 am.

Yesterday, it poured down rain in central Pennsylvania. It was a real jihad driving to work. Many cars were pulled over, waiting for the storm to let up some so they could continue driving safely. But, alas, it didn't let up. So, I plugged along slowly figuring that I would sit in my car once I reached the prison parking lot, and pray for Allah (swt) to let me at least get into the facility without getting soaking wet.

Alhamdulillah, when I arrived, the storm slowed to a steady drizzle and I was able to get to the Chapel relatively dry. I had planned ahead and brought extra socks, so I was cool!

We had our tahleem from 9:00 am to 10:00 am, and the women were able to return to their buildings before the rain started coming down again. REAL HARD!

I settled into my office, figuring that my appointments would not show up, and fired up my computer so I could get some paperwork done. Imagine my surprise, when three out of my four appointments arrived.

Why did these women brave a super thunderstorm to come to the Chapel to see me?

Well, the first one wanted to say the Shahadah.

So, did the second one.

And ... so did the third!

All three wanted to become Muslims, Subhan'Allah! So much, that they were willing to get drenched in a thunderstorm to say the Shahadah!

Oh, I was so thrilled! Allah (swt) has blessed me abundantly. But, there is no greater blessing for me than to be able to look in the eyes of someone who has just said the Shahadah, into the eyes of someone who has no sin, who is a spiritual child.

I always tease them after they say the Shahadah. I do the usual, "Mabrook! You're now a Muslim," to which they respond with a huge smile. We hug, and then I gently touch their chin and tilt it toward me. I say, "Did you know that when a person enters Islam by saying the Shahadah, that all of their sins are forgiven (believe it or not, most of them don't know this)? Let me gaze into your eyes. I love to look into the eyes of a person who has no sin!"

It is an intimate moment. You can't imagine. And I have been blessed as a Muslim chaplain to see it over and over and over again, Alhamdulillah.

When inmates write to me and tell me that they want to become a Muslim, I send them a package of materials, and I schedule them for an individual appointment with me (I have to change prison records). More importantly, I include a note that says something to the effect of "I will see you on Friday, at 10:15 am, Insha Allah, but don't wait until then! If you are sure that you want to become a Muslim, all you have to do is say the words of the Shahadah, with conviction, that are on the handout in the package I am sending you. Then, we will talk more when we meet, Insha Allah."

For some reason, most inmates want someone to witness their Shahadah, to "give" them their Shahadah. Although this is not required in Islam, some new Muslims feel more comfortable saying their Shahadah in front of me, or at Jumuah in front of all of the Muslim women.

I believe this comes from their Christian heritage, where baptisms or "being saved" are witnessed.

Anyhow, three women came to Islam at our prison yesterday!

Allahu Akbar!

In the almost two years that I have been a Muslim chaplain, I have seen our Jumuah list double, Alhamdulillah!

When it rains, it pours!

"When comes the Help of Allah, and Victory,
And thou dost see
The People enter Allah's Religion
In Crowds,
Celebrate the Praises
Of thy Lord, and pray
For His Forgiveness.
For He is Oft-Returning
(In forgiveness).

Surat An-Nasr 1-3

May Allah (swt) bless and reward our new Shahadahs and all of our incarcerated Muslims/Ameen!


Stacy K. said...

I didn't know you were a chaplain. What a rewarding job! So you can really tell the difference in someone's eyes after they say shahada? Sounds like an amazing moment to share with someone.

Yasemin said...

Sometimes it's a good thing when raindrops keeping falling on our heads LOL. I was so happy to hear about your incredible experience! Love you endlessly.

Ms.Unique said...

Allahu Akbar .. SUbhan Allah ... May Allah reward you immensely sister Ameen .. it's such a nice work that you r doing ... And congrats to the new Muslimahs .. :)

Safiya Outlines said...

Salaam Alaikum,

Beautiful, just beautiful. I'm crying reading this, because it's just so lovely. Alhamdulilah.

mostlypurple said...

How does one become a Muslim Chaplain?

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Everyone!

Hi Fahiima - Oh yes! I can see the difference in their eyes. It is something between hope and fear.

Hi Yasemin - Insha Allah you enjoyed your vacation. Love you, too.

Hi Ms. Unique - JAK for the dua.

Hi Safiya Outlines - It does provoke tears. Allah (swt) is so awesome in what He does!

Hi Mostlypurple - one can get certified by taking CPE (clinical pastoral education) like some Christian and Jewish pastors and chaplains do. Hartford Seminary in Connecticut now has a masters level program for Muslim chaplaincy.

In my case, I had retired from my facility after working there as a substance abuse counselor for almost 15 years. I have a BA in Psychology, and applied for the opening. The facility knew me well, and knew I had experience in the prison environment. Our facility is a state prison for women. A female chaplain is better for the sisters. If you are interested, let me know and I will send you links for chaplaincy,Insha Allah. Oh, when it rains, it indeed does pour - the tomatoes have turned red and now I have them all over the place, lol. And here I thought that they wouldn't turn at all. How's your squash? I think I will soon be seeing the last of mine.

mostlypurple said...

The garden is going great, thanks-this time of year the bugs go from being a mere nuisance to almost an infestation. Plants are managing to keep ahead of the bugs, but the gap is quickly closing-lol.

With Ramadan starting in about 2 weeks, do you have any strategy to assist your small new "flock" in learning to fast and not becoming discouraged?

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Mostlypurple:

Ah, the bugs. They are having a feast on my roses. I planted a new crop of green beans, and the rabbits have gotten a few of them.

We have had a LOT of rain here in the Northeast of the US.

Ah Ramadan - it is around the corner, isn't it.

I give the women a lot of materials on Ramadan and fasting. We also watch DVDs about both, and then talk about the month during Tahleem.

Most of the women do want to fast, Alhamdulillah. Sometimes, fasting can be difficult. For example, the routine of the prison doesn't change during Ramadan. So, medication can be a problem unlike the challenge it presents for those at home. At home, one can adjust her medication schedule, i.e., take it before fasting and then again at iftar. But in prison, if you don't go to med line, you miss your meds. So as a result, many of them don't fast. Allah (swt) knows their intentions and their situation. Insha Allah He will reward and bless them anyhow.

Prison is a challenge for fasting. It is a negative environment, in general. Nerves get tested. Tempers flare. The temptation is all over the place even though the Shaytan is locked up. I tell the women that Ramadan is an excellent opportunity for telling the difference between the whisperings of the Shaytan, and one's own shortcomings :)

nida said...

SAlaam Aleykum!

What a wonderful post sister. I know a couple of chaplins, most of them got their certificate at the seminary in Hartford ( a bunch of wonderful people - Alhamdolillah) and I have been hearing such stories so many times. It must be extremely rewarding to be there for a person who is sincerely repenting and wanting to become Muslim - right infront of your presence. InshaAllah, May Allah subhanu wa ta'ala reward you for you efforts and great work. It is a struggle to work in such an environment, and you must be a strong sister to do it. Amazing :)!

Safiyyah said...

Salaams NiDa:

JAK for stopping by. Do you know Sister Mumina from Hartford? She was the chaplain at my facility before me.

mezba said...

mA what a rewarding job. Despite such an environment (prison) your job must be immensely gratifying.

I want to ask, what causes an inmate to profess Shahada in the first place? How do they get attracted to Islam?

Jamaican Hijabi said...

Wow ,MashaAllah! three new Shahadahs all at once, Alhamdullilah! May Allah reward you Ameen!

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Mezba:

I made a new post to answer your question :)

Rene´s Bare Essentials said...

What a wonderful job! I would love to work in a prison with women and make dawah to them. How does one apply for a job as a chaplin? Do you apply to be a muslim chaplin or for all religions? Very rewarding may Allah continue to guide these women through you. Ameen

insyirrah said...

wat a great job you have......and wat a wonderful experience you got there....

after they said their shahadah, you will teach them all about islam right?? you will teach them about quran right?? sure need a lot of patience and commitment, i wish you all the best

Safiyyah said...

Salaams Thirst for Knowledge: I will, Insha Allah, make a separate post to answer your questions. It's too long for the comments section :)

Insyirrah: Oh yes, we teach them. The other inmates help them, and I also have a class called "Islam 101." We also have books in the chapel library. Every new Muslim is given a Quran of their own. Also, we have audio tapes in the chapel library where inmates can listen to Quran and get assistance in memorization.

insyirrah said...

Nice to hear that....its a wonderful, happy for them
I wish I can learn like them....hehe :)

Br00ke said...

Asalamu Walaikum Sis,
Masha Allah, you have an awesome job--and you so deserve it! I'm looking forward to catching up on my reading here before school starts back up ;)
Love and Peace

Anonymous said...

assalamu alaykum sis,
i just read you some places you mentioned taHleem...i think that is ta'leem..if there is taHleem in arabic what is the meaning of that?...

may allah bless and reward for your service to islam.


Safiyyah said...

As Salaamu Alaikum Qamar:

JAK for the correction. Transliteration is a tricky thing. If one gets used to seeing something wrong or misleading and continues to use it, well ... you understand :)

Anyhow - ta'leem, taleem ...

Here is a nice link that explains ta'leems and halqas (halqa, halaqa, lol):

Although I never heard that it is fard to learn Urdu, the link does have some interesting suggestions.

It also blames "western high pan toilets" for some of the corruption in Indo-Pak homes (sigh).

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