Blessings of praying in prison

Translated by M. B. Khoshnevisan


The situation of my cell [1355 (1976) – Tabriz Prison] was calamitous. As you know, many of the inmates in those days were communists, and for this reason, the door, the wall, and the floor of the cell I was in were Najis (ritually unclean), and it was clear that they had urinated on the walls and floor of the cell and the only clean place for me to sit was a niche-like one in the corner of the room, where I squatted and lied down like that, and the only place for performing Tayammom (ablution with earth or sand) was the cell wall, where I stretched my hand as far as it would go, and although it was colored, it was dusty and performed Tayammom with it. Most of the mornings, when I suddenly saw the sun shining and not having Sohur (the meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting), I would perform Tayammom and said my prayers.

The cell guards changed their shifts every 24 hours and did not open the door at dusk or in the morning, and I had a major problem with the morning prayers, which added to the problem of the uncleanness of the floor.

On the iron door of the cell, there was a circular opening into a corridor with a front plate that was pulled aside. I pulled aside the plate and called the guard. The name of the guard of that day was Shahkaman who came:

-What do you want?

-Please bring me a little soil!

He immediately said with anger:

- Do you want to suffocate yourself and make us miserable?!

I replied:

-No! You stay up here overnight and get tired and fall asleep in the morning. I also do not want to wake you up to take me to the bathroom to both rest myself and perform ablutions. I can wait and not to go to the bathroom and can bear that you take me to the bathroom after the weather clears, but I want to perform Tayammom with the soil so that my morning prayers are not missed!

He lowered his head and left without saying anything. After two minutes, he came back and I saw that his mood had changed. He said:

-I swear to God that we are also Muslims. My mother did not leave the Rowzeh (commemoration of the martyrs of Karbala) of Imam Hossein until she was alive!

I saw that he was crying:

-Forgive me! We had been told that you are a communist!

I said:

-No problem. They always say such things! Here I have no place to say my prayer. The floor is unclean.

Then I saw that he started talking and complaining:

- We bring the dish, but you see that they are urinating on the floor and gets worse! We bring the worker to clean up here, but he cannot stand out of the stink!

Again, he left. He scared that one of the prisoners might report the meeting. This time, when he came, he pulled aside the plate and said:

-When I cough, I start jangling, shouting that we are not comfortable for the sake of you. Our task is just to take you to the bathroom and bring you back! At this time, you close the door tightly and start jangling that I need to go to the bathroom!

He intended to take one of the prisoners to a bathroom which had been located in the corner of the corridor so that it became full and he could take me to the yard. It was about noon that he started jangling according to the earlier agreement that " Our job is to take these to the toilet and return them"! and I started jangling. He came and opened the door, saying roughly:

-This is our Sheikh! What should I do with you?!

With the same excuse, he took me to the yard and handed me a paper bag and said:

- Go over there, there is a clean toilet and we go there too. Go and rest yourself and take ablution and remove as much soil from the garden as you want. It has rained and they have shoveled the soil. It is clean and tidy.

I first filled the paper bag and put it next to the wall, and then I went to perform ablution and came back. A day or two later, he brought me a thick piece of paper so that I could pray on it. It was not a newspaper, because having a newspaper in a cell was a crime. It was a thick piece of paper on which one could sit, genuflect and prostrate. When he brought the paper, said, "Go and stand with this for now to see what happens?!" During the seven or eight days I was there, his treatment with me had become much softer after that.   

Source: Nalbandi, Mehdi, Execute me (Memoirs of Mohammad Hsan Abd Yazdani), Tehran, Islamic Revolution Document Center, 1388 (2009), pp. 159-162.

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