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Family and Marriage
By Rashid Junaid,
Prisonersolidarity.org
March 25, 2006

Incarceration is known for its devastating effects on the family unit. Children are separated from their parents, husbands are separated from their wives, and all of this is conducive to the breakup of the family structure. Allah demands that we keep up good relations with our family. But does incarceration create an exception to this demand? In my opinion: no.

As long as we have the ability to write letters and to make phone calls or to have visits, we should do so. Fathers and mothers should continue to help their children with their homework and school projects. Husbands and wives should write their spouses love letters and take advantage of the visiting time when the limited physical contact is allowed. Allah has made the family unit a sacred institution and we should value it.

There is also a unique situation developing in American prisons that needs to be addressed: prisoners are converting to Islam and are bringing their wives, girlfriends, and children into Islam with them.

People who accept Islam in prison had a life before Islam and continue to meet new people during their prison experience. There have been situations where Muslims have met women and men in prison and a relationship develops that results in marriage. Some Imams (Muslim leaders) have come out against the marriage of Muslim prisoners and have refused to perform marriages if the incarcerated spouse is not going to be released within two years. There have been some Imams that have even stated that incarceration is a grounds for divorce, not marriage.

If a man has been in a relationship with a woman before Islam and he accepts Islam, brings her into Islam, and wants to make this relationship Islamically acceptable through marriage, any Imam should perform this marriage regardless of how much time the prisoner has left. Imams are making choices for brothers and sisters that they have no right to make. Prison is, in fact, a grounds for divorce according to the Shari'ah (Islamic law), but that is the choice of the people in the relationship, not the Imam. Situations come up in marriages every day that are grounds for divorce, but often people choose to stay in that relationship.

If Imams refuse to perform these marriages, then what is the alternative? Either a Christian minister or some other religious representative outside of Islam will have to perform it, or they will remain unmarried and their kisses, hugs, and intimate holding of hands will be counted against them on the Day of Judgment because Islam does not condone such intimacy out of wedlock. One of my concerns is the children. What kind of example are they seeing when they are being taught Islam and raised as Muslims, but their parents are not married?

Promoting family and marriage is part of the rehabilitative process. If brothers and sisters realize the significance of family and marriage, their behavior will become conducive to that. It has been my experience that what is practiced by a person in prison will be practiced in society by that person. Most people in prison will get out one day, so anticipate that these brothers and sisters will be coming to a Masjid (a Muslim place of public worship) near you. Therefore, let's promote family and marriage now!

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Rashid Junaid, # 191386
Potosi Correctional Center
11593 State Hwy. O
Mineral Point, MO 63660

Rashid Junaid is a Muslim prisoner who is deeply engaged in his endeavor to raise the consciousness of his fellowmen, especially the youths, to a higher level. Rashid is a former member of the CRIPS and has helped to develop programs to steer youths away from gang violence to positive action. He is the Imam (prayer and spiritual leader) of the Muslim community at Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Point, Missouri, and has filed various litigations against the Missouri Department of Corrections to establish Islamic rights for the Muslim communities in the state of Missouri. He is also the editor of the Muslim Prisoner Bulletin, a publication designed to bring attention to the concerns of Muslim prisoners incarcerated throughout the U.S. He can be reached by writing to:

When writing to Rashid, please send him a pre-embossed stamped envelope so he can promptly answer your letter. He is not permitted adhesive stamps, that is, regular stamps.
The following link offers tips for writing to prisoners:
http://www.prisonerlife.com/tips.cfm

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