Did We Forget?   A Local Sister Visits Imprisoned Youth Masaud Khan
By Shahnaz Baten, Muslim Link Contributing Writer   July 2005

The lobby smelled of disinfectant and you could tell that the purple and white checkered floor had been recently mopped. I came to the Warsaw Jail to help drive and be company for Umm Masaud; I wasn't really prepared for what was to follow - to actually see Masaud.

In my mind, it was almost obscene to come from the outside world where the sunlight warms your face, the breeze brushes against your skin, where your car takes you wherever you steer, to talk to a person who is facing a life sentence for something he didn't do; something very unsettling and helpless about it all. What would one talk about? How could anyone possibly understand his perspective and disposition? What would one see if they braved looking into his face! Besides, this was family time after a month gap and I wasn't going to intrude on those precious moments by asking him a bunch of useless questions.

His reddish brown hair was combed back and he held the phone in one hand while drawing lines one the table with the other; his hands were pale and thin. He looked older than his 32 years and he never sat on the chair next to him.

Things happened very fast as there is a time limit on these visits; half an hour is normal but an extension is granted as well. We had the extended one-hour visit. Masaud talked to his wife first, then his mother and then me. Umm Masaud updated him on the family, summer plans, work schedules, Nani's condition in the hospital. Masaud read off titles of books he'd been reading, one book he wanted and one he wanted his mother to read. Ebraheem, Masaud's son, wasn't used to talking to his Baba using the phone system at this facility. So he sat on the counter and played with a bouncy ball with Nani and me while his mother talked. When it was my turn to speak, I was just getting over the shock of seeing him, not ready to speak as well. He gave me his salaam and I gave him mine and offered salaam from all the community. He asked me to have a seat as we went through our polite introductions. Doesn't that just get you; he offers me a seat as if I am a visitor to his home!

After half an hour, the visit was interrupted by two guards who thought the time allotted was 30 minutes instead of the full hour Umm Masaud had arranged with the Captain. They put on his handcuffs and right at that moment, Ebraheem's eyes focused on his father; only the Almighty knows what memory and emotion that picture will evoke as this 2 boy grows up. He father, who is of honorable and intense demeanor, accepted the metal clasps on his wrists. For one second, I saw Masaud's profile, upright and calm, betraying no emotion as he bid his loved ones goodbye. He was already at the door leaving when the matter of the extended visit was cleared up and Masaud returned to the room with his hands free and picked up the receiver to continue his visit. He talked to his family again, his wife and his mother. It was bittersweet for me to watch these two women interact with the one they love so much on the other side of a glass window, not being able to sit next to him, hug him or even breathe the same air. When it was time to leave, we all gave him our salaam and asked for his du'a as he also reciprocated.

We pulled out of the facility and I thought to myself here in this car is a mother who leaves a piece of her heart, a wife who leaves her husband, a son who leaves his Baba and a stranger who wonders "how the heck is all this possible?" Had Masaud killed and kidnapped a 5 year old child and dumped the body on the railroad tracks, then the life sentence would be justified; had he raped and killed a 13 year old girl, the life sentence would be justified; had he beaten an old woman to death, the life sentence would be justified. Had he been Radovan Karadzic, responsible for 8,000 deaths in the Srebrenica Massacre, the life sentence would be justified. He didn't do any of these things and he's in for life for "suspicion of," not any actual committed act! Radovan Karadzic remains at large while Masaud sits in solitary confinement. But this comparison is also faulty isn't it? Karadzic has been indicted for committing genocide; our brother has not harmed anyone.

On our second visit the following week, it was a much more jovial Masuad that was on the other end of the receiver. It pleased us all that he was in such a humorous and easy demeanor. His readings, religious and secular, were keeping him quite enthusiastic, at least it seemed that way. He gave me three titles to read as well, subhana'Allah. I asked him about his daily routine. Masaud said he read when there was enough good material to keep his interest. I asked, "What do you do when your concentration breaks"..(the same routine day in an day out in solitary)?" He laughed a full laugh, , you could see all his teeth and said through the silence "Then it breaks"." This time as he walked away at the conclusion of our visit, he looked back and waved with his hands clasped behind his back. That image is a difficult one to dilute.

Masaud's visitation time is every Tuesday at 2:30pm at the Warsaw Jail Facility in Virginia. It is not a very visitor friendly time slot; nonetheless, he is closer at this location. He is normally a 9-hour drive away. I am embarrassed to admit how few from our community haveactually visited, how few have written letters to give him hope and break the monotony, how few keep our brother in mind sincerely... In the end, what befalls us individually and as an ummah is supposed to happen; it is His decree. And what misses us was not meant for us. As we struggle in our acceptance and understanding, we most certainly have to keep our duties in mind. In this case, the very least of our duties is a visit to a brother for the sake of Allah, the most Compassionate. "A man went to visit a brother of his in another town and Allah deputed an angel to await him on his way, so when he came to him he asked, "Where are you going?" The man replied, "I am going to visit a brother of mine in this town." The angel asked, -Have you done him some favor which you desire to be returned?" The man said, "No, it is just that I love him for Allah, the Mighty and Magnificent." The angel said, "Then I am a messenger sent by Allah to you (to inform you) that Allah loves you as you have loved him for His sake."

Your brother sits alone for 23 hours each day, without breathing fresh air, without conversation, without the opportunity of choice and he does this continuously, day in and day out. Our only solace is that Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala is Masaud's Protector and may He keep him strong in his zuhd, in His devotion and eeman as he bears with sabr and tasabbur even this because it is from Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala.

Masaud does what he has to do; and now for a moment let me turn to you and I and ask simply, "Do we do what we must do?" Do we love each other with that devotion that drives us to help one another; do we feel with the depth that makes us wonder how we as parents would bear up a separation from our children; do we imagine what it would be like not to be among our parents, brothers and sisters so unnaturally? I am sure if we would reflect, if we were to find the time to reflect, we would be in major distress and awe; we would be stilled by the sheer weight of the wrongful imprisonment of our brother from our community. Yes, I know we would. It's just a matter of finding the time to reflect as we race through our vacations, attend weddings, visit friends, host BBQ's, etc. We are all very busy with our jobs, families and so many other responsibilities; we mean to remember and help but it slips our minds. This very condition is what is so sad about our community and so many other communities; we don't have time for each other.

Masaud Khan, Seif Chapman and Hammad Abdur Raheem's resentencing hearing will be before Judge Brinkema at 1:30 in the afternoon on July 29th in Alexandria. The best the lawyers are hoping for is a reduction in all of their sentences insha'Allah. If that is done, Masaud's sentence, the heaviest of all of them, will still be too much. Please make du'a, take this opportunity to visit while he is so near, ask your masjid what they are doing to help the families, wives, and children of our brothers. It's not enough that we assume that our local mosques and national organizations are helping all these families. Inquire so that these brothers and their families don't become "out of sight, out of mind" or else we too will become of those that have ostracized these families by succumbing to the fear of what is diffusing all around us. One person doesn't have to shoulder the whole task; some of us can set up committees within our local mosques that visit and write to brothers in the prisons; others can visit the families on a regular basis; some of us can contribute financially; others can write to keep the issues alive and so on and so on. Each one of us is a piece of the whole and if we don't fit and work together, the whole never makes it to fruition. May He truly reward us here and in the hereafter and make us of those who taste the sweetness of eeman through servitude to Him.

2015-08-08 Sat 18:03:45 ct