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Book reviews from behind bars.. : Anwar al Awlaki On-Line

Book reviews from behind bars..

June 9, 2008 - الاثنين 05 جمادى الثانية 1429 by Anwar alAwlaki  
Filed under Book Reviews

Book reviews from behind bars:

Assalamu alaykum all,
In this set of short blogs I will review the books that I had a chance to read while I was in jail. Here is the first:
This was during my first two months in the Political Security Jail. This was a time when I was allowed no visitors, no contact with family, and no contact with other prisoners. In fact I wasn’t even allowed to speak to the prison guards except in whispers and only for urgent needs. This was a time of complete isolation from the outside world.
I was in an underground solitary cell made up of four concrete walls with an iron gate on one side and on the opposite side a small window -rather a hole- covered with iron mesh to allow for some fresh air to come in. I couldn’t see much from it because it was about four meters high. Then there was the roof with a bulb hanging from it which was on continuously day and night. Then the floor with a mattress 2-3 inches thick, a blanket, a worn off pillow, a plastic plate, a bottle for water, and an empty bottle “just in case”.

And then there was a Quran…
In this environment there is nothing to do and nothing to read but the Quran, and that is when the Quran reveals it secrets. When the hearts are clean; when there is nothing clouding the spirit, the Quran literally overwhelms the heart.
I have never in my life felt the Quran so strongly. Thoughts, insights and feelings that I would fail to describe would come with every new verse that I would recite. Reading Quran then was not something I would force upon myself but I would recite it with eagerness for hours at end and never lose my concentration. The chapters of the Quran would carry me outside of this world and I would completely forget about my situation until a warden would slam the door open for restroom time or to take me for interrogation. Then I would wake up again to the depressing reality of this world.
So does the Quran speak to us differently in jail?
We approach Quran with a more receptive heart when we are being tested. We also come to understand Quran better when we are separated from the distractions of this world. Both these two elements exist in prison. One thing I came to realize is that the Quran does not open up its secrets to you unless you open up your heart to it. Quran does not spill its pearls to the undeserving.
Ibn Taymiyyah wrote while he was in jail that he had been reciting Quran and reflecting on its meanings and that Allah has opened up the meanings of Quran for him. He said he learned new meanings that scholars would wish to learn. He had learned from it meanings he had never thought of before and he went further to state that he regretted the time he spent in the past learning other aspects of knowledge and not focusing on the Book of Allah. Within a short period he said that he had read the Quran, from cover to cover, eighty times. This was due to the blessings of him being imprisoned. Allah says: “You might dislike a thing and in it Allah puts a lot of good”
During that blessed period of over two months when I was free of any distractions except for the interrogation worries, that is when I came to understand the statement of Uthman (r) when he said: “If the hearts are pure they would never satisfy their thirst from the Book of Allah”
Those moments are so strange to me now, and so different that they do not seem to be a reality, or even a far away memory, but rather seem to be a dream.
We ask you O Allah to make us of those who love your words and contemplate them.
“Indeed in that (i.e. Quran) is a reminder for whoever has a heart or who listens while he is present (in mind)” Sura Qaaf 37.

Next: Madarij al Salikeen by Imam Ibn al Qayim


61 Responses to “Book reviews from behind bars..”
  1. naeemNo Gravatar says:

    Subhanallah! – With tears i read the last few lines of your post. The irony is that the persecutors thought they’d break you, weaken your imaan by imprisonment & torture but instead, and they probably never saw this coming, it made you and your imaan stronger!

    Cant say it enough times that ““You might dislike a thing and in it Allah puts a lot of good” – holds true to so many things in life

  2. Abdullah ibn Umm MaktumNo Gravatar says:

    BarakAllaahu feek for sharing this with us.
    May Allah set us free from this world, purify us and open our hearts to the Quran.

  3. PeterNo Gravatar says:

    Asalamu alaikum Sheikh, may Allah be most pleased with you.. after reading your post I found your account very simular.. to a brother I met who was also in prison, and truly Allah bring you closer to Him. Can I ask you.. did you have vivid dreams about your family? As the brothers who have been to prison told me that they did. Take care, asalamu alaikum abu’Ayman

  4. Mohammed HassanNo Gravatar says:

    Allahu Akbar!! Ameen ya Rabb!

  5. NussrahNo Gravatar says:

    may allah (swt) reward you. Can you please make more lectures to the muslims in the west about their duties living in the west.

  6. AmaanullahNo Gravatar says:

    Assalaamu ‘Alaykum Sheikh, may Allah be pleased with you and reward you for all your efforts. No words can truly express the gratitude that myself and my fellow Muslim brothers/sisters living in the West have for your advice and insight. We thank Allah (swt) for allowing your words of wisdom to reach our eyes, ears and hearts. Please continue your efforts, we need it.

  7. Moiez MasoodNo Gravatar says:

    Subhanallah, walhamdulillah, wala ilaha ilallah, Wallahu Akbar

    I cant put it in any better words.
    Shaykh Anwar can you share with us some of the pearls that The Book of Allah gave to you which most of us may not have recieved?

  8. farzana aslamNo Gravatar says:

    Subhannallah,brother, i can’t wait till the next blog

  9. Umm Muhammad 'IsmatNo Gravatar says:

    Masha Allah, your feelings are so true and I too cried reading the last sentences of your reflections.
    Well said, “You may dislike a thing and Allah swt has put a lot of good in it”, I can relate so many instances in my life that exactly reflect those pearls of wisdom.
    Shaikh please continue your work (da’wah and doa’)and indeed so many of us here are really in need of these ‘lights’.

  10. Umm UthmaanNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu sheikh…
    All of us felt the loss when you were imprisoned and unable to give lectures. It is truly one of the blessings from Allah that you are now able to benefit us once again, and not only resume lectures, but impart lessons learnt during your time at madrasah Yoosuf (AS).

    Umm ‘Uthmaan

  11. SalinaNo Gravatar says:

    Alhamdullillah. I am so happy that you have been released, and that the experience has strengthed you. May Allah strengthen this whole ummah.

  12. MujahidaNo Gravatar says:

    Asalaam Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh

    Subhan’Allah! Alhumdullilah for you to have had such an experiance, and then the ability to teach all you have learned. As brother Masood mentioned, we would not only love but are in need of such reflections on the Qur’an – so Insha’Allah you can share with us? Alhumdullilah for your release – it is a gift to have you back! May Allah fill your life with Barakah, allow Qur’an to be continuously in heart of the Believers, and may Allah strengthen this Ummah. Ameen

  13. umm shamsudeenNo Gravatar says:

    SubhannAllah, this made me cry, it reminded me of how our hearts are so hard from the rememberance of Allah. May Allah swt make our skins and hearts soft to the rememberance of Allah and allow us to know and act upon His book inshAllah. “We have made it a Quran in Arabic, that you may be able to understand (and learn wisdom)” 43:3. Why is it that we find it difficult to understand the Quran and remember it when Allah says over and over again “And We indeed made the Quran easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will recieve admonition?” 54:17.
    I ask Allah to forgive us of our sins and protect us from saying “We hear and We obey” when we really don’t and allow us to be of the “Sabiquun” with the prophets, the sideeqeen and the shuhadaa, and for us to be presented with an oppertunity to recieve the pearls of the Quran just like sheikh Anwar was inshAllah. Allahumma Ameen

  14. Hamza IsaNo Gravatar says:

    May Allah (swt) continue to bless you Shaykh. Inspiring words.

  15. AbdullahNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu Alaiykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,
    JazakumAllahu khairan ahi for your good advice, may Allah Subhanna wa Ta’ Ala reward you in this life and in the hereafter. Ameen!
    Assalamu Alaiykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu,

  16. abu abdullaNo Gravatar says:

    jazkum Allahu khair….I am sure that i am not alone to say that we are all waiting with baited breath for the next post. when i read it my heart jumped. the question of how we can connect to the quran and have the feelings that you described is one that we are all asking. it seems that we have the first step….trying one’s best to remove dunya from the heart….looking forward to the next post. may Allah bless you

  17. ZakhirNo Gravatar says:

    Maybe I should go Prison, coz whenever i read the Quran it dont hit me as it used to, my heart has gone too hard

  18. WasimNo Gravatar says:

    Subhannallah that was such a beneficial blog.

    The quran is just amazing…. Sabhanallah

  19. Abu YusufNo Gravatar says:

    Akhi, jazakum Allah Khair for taking time to write this blog and for being a voice for so many others who are still in prisons all over the world. I pass on the request of one brother (Abdur Rahman) who is in prison for life, and Allah is the best of Planners, please can you make du’a for him and his companions for he is in great need of them.

    Insha’Allah you will continue with your work. Ameen.

  20. IsmailNo Gravatar says:

    may Allah unite in this dunya if not in the jannat al firdous. I love u for the da sake of Allah ya Akhii fillah

  21. Moulaye AhmedNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu Alaykum… I just want to show my gratitude to Allah first and for-most for blessing us with your insights and speeches. (I keep on enjoying all of your lectures that I can put a hand on). Your tapes literally changed my life to the better with the help of Allah). Keep up your efforts and hold fast to the rope of Allah.

  22. MRNo Gravatar says:

    Shaykh this is a personal question and you don’t have to answer, but I was wondering if you were from North Yemen or South Yemen? I have family from South Yemen (Hadrami)

    Jazakallah khair!

  23. anwarNo Gravatar says:

    To MR,
    I am from South Yemen but lived in the North

  24. maryamNo Gravatar says:

    Dear respected shaykh asalam alaykum wa rahmatullah. when i found out you were incarcerated i was very diheartened. the voice that gave so many of us guidance and enlightened our hearts, minds and spirits was trying to be silenced. i often wondered the creulties that they were putting you through and then i rememberd you were a servant of allah who taught us to try to persevere through trials and tribulations. you are in our hearts and in our prayers. when i heard the news of your release i felt that my happiness had no bounds allah subhana wa tallah could not bestow a greater gift at that moment . thank you shaykh for sharing your knowledge and making us love the dean of allah through these miraculous stories. thank you for keeping the beauty of islam alive in our hearts may allah reward you for your work in this world and in the next. you truly are our brother in islam. may allah keep the truth on your tongue and iman in your heart. wassalam.

  25. Abu Ayoub Al-ghareebNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu ‘Alaykum,

    Your a good brother and our hearts ached when you where behind bars. But we all know that either way, Allah gives us blessings through even the worst types of situations. Your story and lectures inspire us, raise our eman, and ease our hearts from the daily pains of this dunya. Even if I’m hundreds of miles away, I feel like our hearts and minds are sitting right next to each other smilling and nodding in agreement. May Allah make us all meet in Al-Hawd so that we can look back on this troubled times and laugh. Jizak Allah khair.

  26. brothermuhammadNo Gravatar says:

    Asalaamu Alaikum wa rahmatullah. Jazaakum Allah khairan. May Allah Accept our good deeds and forgive our sins Ameeen. Brother I love you for the Sake of Allah, and May Allah Love you and be pleased with you Ameen. I just wanted to thank you and let you know that I myself and many others are learning and Inshalla, benefitting from the blessings that Allah gave you Alhamdulillah. The reminder about Quraan made me remember how the Prophet (Salallahu alayhi wa sallem) used to go to the cave. SubhaanAllah, the Quraan was revealed to our Prophet (Salallahu alayhi wa sallem) for the first time, when he (SAW) was isolated. For me hedayah came while I was alone and away from my people. Alhamdulillah. And for many, like you (mashallah) mentioned, the light of Quraan which is always there, is seen more clearly under specific conditions. It’s like the lights of Quraan are like the stars in the sky, when we look to them we can see so many more when we are far from the fitan of dunyah. May Allah guide us to what pleases him Ameen. Salaamu Alaikum.

  27. Abdullah ibn Umm MaktumNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu alaykum dear Shaykh,
    is Jemen a good country to consider for tulaab al-’ilm who want to make hijra?

  28. 'AbidahNo Gravatar says:

    As Salaamu ‘Alaykum Wa Rahmatuallaahi Wa Barakaatuhu Ya Shaykh,

    Barakaa Allaahu Feek for enlightening us and sharing your experience with us so that perhaps we may take a lesson.

    Ya Shaykh, can you please share with us points on how we can gain this clairty and purity of mind and soul? How do we learn in times of ease so that Allaah doesn’t out us in difficulty for us to learn?

    May Allaah preserve you and your family and keep us all on the haqq, Aameen.

  29. Abu TariqNo Gravatar says:

    Asalam Aleikhum Br Anwar and Br’s and Sis visiting this website of kher.
    Shukran Br Anwar for sharing your spiritual exprerince with us.
    Alhamdulilah we were benefiting from your lectures all along but somewhere in our hearts were clouded with sadness because of your absence,knowing your freedom was taken away. Your message today is converting our sadness of the past to good news and great lesson. Br I must tell you the truth that your authentic Islamic lectures became so important to extend brought us back to rule our lives based on the Quran and Sunnah, we built and established brotherhood for sake of love of Allah SWT.
    Your Islamic teachings inspired us enough to understand what is man made laws, weak Ulamaa (Sultan) and their justifications for the love and benefit of this dunia. Your lectures made us discovered great Scholars like Ibn Taymiyah,Yusuf al Ulyayree,their knowledge and their akhedah, your lectures have removed many doubts, increased our imaan and gave us answers spc through the life of Umar Ibn Khattab and AbuBakr Sidiq RA.
    Allah blessed us to have you, I ask Br’s & Sis to keep make duah for those behind bars and their families.
    Jazakkah Kairan

  30. aljumuahNo Gravatar says:

    A/a Sheykh Anwar Al-Awlaki, words talk but hearts define reality of actions. i personally have nothing to say but thank Allah(S.W) for having made a believer a strange creature in this earth “…if good befalls him he is thankfull, an if bad befalls him he is patient…” , and what is patience to a believer but a sweetness of the heart.

    This is how we are, strange to the normal ones, we thank Allah for all the victories he is giving us, in our hearts and lands, we thank him for having made striving for His sake a source of sakina in our hearts, may He make us among those who are firm in His path and among those who are not shattered by the “…blame of the blammers…”

    I congratulate you my sheykh, and whenever i read this article i reffer to your statement and inform you that you too went to the best university “…the prison…” just as ibn-taymiyyah, Qutb, Ahmad and uyayri.

    Jazakallah Khayr. Amin.

  31. Abu UthmanNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamualaikum shaykh. I listened to most of your lectures, and i was there when you did the life of Umar ibn al Khattab (ra) in East London Mosque. I also went to the lecture ‘a goodly word a goodly tree’, and you even came to my secondary school. I love you for the sake of Allah. I wanted to know if you are going to do any other lecture series. JazakAllah. May Allah reward you with good.

  32. zNo Gravatar says:

    Alhamdulilah, we were praying for your affairs to go well. Looking forward to the reflections and naseeha.

    -Old friends from Fort Collins

  33. Abu UthmanNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamualaikum. I wanted to also ask, how many books did you actually manage to read in prison? Also, could you say a few things on seeking knowledge, and what to do if you find it hard to read books yourself and difficult to memorise like those amazing ppl you mentioned, and of those sh.yusuf uyayri?

  34. Abd-ur-RobNo Gravatar says:

    Asalaamu Alaikum wa rahmatullah. sheikh i found out about your talk recently- and enjoyed all of them…sheikh would you ever come to london if so please let me know…….. jazakallah khayr..

    Wasalaam…….. Abd-ur-Rob

  35. ourdialogue02No Gravatar says:

    alhamdulilah u are out now.
    so please share the knowledge with us and marhaba ya shaikh.

  36. abu muhammadNo Gravatar says:

    SALAMWALAKUM SHIEKH may ALLAH increase you in sincerity because i think that is what is making your talks so full of barraka may ALLAH give you jannah i love you for the sake o ALLAH i want to study with you please get back to me PLEASE your brother in islam abu muhammad

  37. amar iqbalNo Gravatar says:

    Asalam alaiakum Shaikh, I pray you are in the best of health and emaan and may Allah (swt) preserve you and your family. I would fist like to say jazakallah for your time and effort in helping us with your knowledge with this website. May allah reward you and the brothers/sister who came up with the idea with jannat al-firdous ameen!. I have sent you a message using the contact but unfortunatley i have not recieved a response (maybe its not working) therefore i need some naseenah on 2 questions, so if you can send me your email or contact details so that i can contact you. As I am from the UK 1st Question in brief is about about doing Hijrah to pakistan and the 2nd is about living with a disobendiant wife for the sake of the kids. Will expand the question once i have your contact insha’allah.

  38. KhadeejahNo Gravatar says:

    Salaam sheikh

    Thank you so much for sharing tour experience with us.

    May Allah always always protect you and grant us all, as an ummah and individually, an eternal taste of His never-ending mercy, the ability to truly understand His words and never forget that we are just passers-by in this dunya.

    May we find the best of return with Allah ta’ala.

    Please make du’aa to Allah to increase my imaan and make me sincere to Him, and that my heart be solely directed to His Pleasure. Jazakallah…

    Salaam alaikum wa rahmatullah wa baraqatuhu.

  39. Faris ul-TawhidNo Gravatar says:

    Salaam sheikh!
    time is short and the ajr is great!

    don’t stop the lectures, it is imperative for those Mu’mineen in the western lands especially to get the correct info and facts.

    there are many sufi ideologists rampaging throught the musaajid confusing the masses,so if you have advice for the holders of the Banner of Tawhid, please inform..

    Jazakullah ghairan

  40. amadNo Gravatar says:

    assalamalaikum Shaykh Anwar,
    I look forward to reading your gems of knowledge inshallah. May Allah give barakah in the beneficial work for the Ummah.


  41. UmmShaheedNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Ameen to your Duas.

    Jezzakhullahu Khairun, for this wonderful Blog Masha’Allah

    May Allah swt graqnt you and your family Jannah Al Firdous AMEEN.

    To speak to Haqq and live by the Haqq is indeed something that earns the pleasure of Allah swt.

    wa alaikum salam

  42. UmmShaheedNo Gravatar says:

    To speak the Haqq and live by the Haqq is indeed something that earns the pleasure of Allah swt.

    correction to above sorry about that

  43. lightningNo Gravatar says:

    May allah bless the shiekh and all of us, but please don’t throw sand in your brothers face with the constant flattering

  44. AlbaNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuhu.
    Dear sheikh, Ireally can´t tell you what my heart fellt while reading your letter. Really you have been blessed in your hardest moments with the best of our religion our noble quoran. Not everybody can come to that state of understanding it´s verses as you discrive it. Inshallah may allah open our hearts the same way ya rab. I would like to hear about it from you, it would be good for os to focus in quoran vers by vers, taht way inshallah would allah guide us to the rigth way of dawah, ummah… May Allah suparna wa ta alla give you power and encoragement to keep on your goodness in this world ya rab. (excuse my arabic, but inshallah I´ll get better) Sincerlly Alba.

  45. Muhammad KhodrNo Gravatar says:

    I thought your audio materials were works of art, your article impressed me even more!
    You never cease to excite our passion for learning Imam Anwar and may Allah never cease to shower you with sincerity and wisdom!
    Wassalaamu Alaikom from Sydney, Australia

  46. adanNo Gravatar says:

    salam alakum brother,good work i really like the blog manshallah, brother i was reading the quran and hadith the other day and on verse 68 42 it says allah has a shin, the hadith further explains this, is this making allah have antromorphism, i,e assoicating human aspect with god

  47. Farid LoukiliNo Gravatar says:

    May Allah (swt) continue to bless you, AMEEN, AMEEN, AMEEN!!!

  48. KomalNo Gravatar says:

    Your post reminds me of a story I heard, of a man who would always be helping everyone in his community, to the point that he had no time for himself. Everyone would call this brother to drive them somewhere, to get groceries, etc etc, masha’Allah he was very kind. Then, one day, he became paralyzed from the shoulders down.

    Everyone was consoling him, but he replied in the negative, and said something to the effect: “Do not offer me your condolence, for Allah has answered my du’aa, and it is only now that I can free myself of the obligation of helping others and fulfill the obligation of being a slave of Allah, now with all the time I have, I will memorize the Qur’an”.

    SubhanAllah, perspective changes everything. Your perspective and how you viewed the time in prison is truly moving.

    In your hereafter series, you ask your audience to stop whatever they are doing and just imagine a day when a baby who died without any sins, an infant if you may, will rise from his/her grave and out of fear, their hair will turn white. My friend who isnt, or wasnt as practicing, was listening to the cd with me and subhanAllah, I cannot tell you how much it changed her life.

    JazakAllah Khair ya Shaykh, may Allah swt continue to increase you in all that is good, and more. Allahuma Ameen.

    PS. Please keep posting.

  49. AbdulfatahNo Gravatar says:

    May Allah reward you for sharing your knowledge with us. This truly increases our imaan.

  50. Abul-QasimNo Gravatar says:

    May Allah reward “”OUR”" Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki.

    I’m sorry for the spelling mistaking.

  51. ezat habibNo Gravatar says:

    Asalamu alaikum Sheikh, may Allah be most pleased with you,and your family.

  52. Hafiz Ali AhmedNo Gravatar says:

    may Allah give you the good of this world and hereafter and may He give you a long life with khair, Ameen. Your fellow student from the masjid in San Diego, CA

    Ibn Sheikh Ahmed

  53. SameerNo Gravatar says:

    Salam alaikum brother,
    Alhumdellelah to hear that you are set free.. May Allah reward you for sharing your story with us.. I highly appreciated your contribution to the Ummah!

  54. samiaNo Gravatar says:


    May Allah gives you patient and strength. May allah gives you glad-tidings and rewared you Jennatul-firdawus in this world and the next world. inshaAllah we all muslim will stand by you and all muslims who are in prisons. Abshir May Allah Yebeshiruk jennah Ammen Allahuma Ammen
    you know that Allah tests whom he like, so inshaAllah May Allah be please with you

  55. FaatimahNo Gravatar says:

    Wa Alekumus salaam wa rahmatullah wb wm,

    Ameen to your dua,


  56. a muslimNo Gravatar says:

    salam alaikum..MAY ALLAH BLESS YOU IN BOTH DUNYAA AND AAKHIRA…dont you have any feeling of kibr or riyaa when people praise you?? i mean shaytaan is behind everyone right? so..

  57. MubeenNo Gravatar says:

    JazkAllah ya sheikh for sharing your experiences with us. Please do dua that Allah also opens up the secrets of the quran to us and accept us for the service of his deen inshaAllah.

  58. Abdulhakim sharifNo Gravatar says:

    Subhanallah, what it is better than coming to understand and ponder even just over one verse: Allah says: “You might dislike a thing and in it Allah puts a lot of good” What amazes me is that the experiences that our beloved sheikh went through and the benefits that he gained through his priosn time were someway in another were same as those experiences that our past imams like shaikhul islam went through in prison.
    May Allah protect and bless the scholars and their families.

    Ya sheikh, i would like to ask you a question that we can all benefit, and that is what can make a person strong and adhering to his faiith particularly at times of distress and hardship, and how can we prepare ourselves for the attainment of such steadfastedness and total yaqeen in Allah?
    May Allah protect you and bless your family ya sheikh and may Allah rewrd you for the sharing your experiences with us so that we may benefit.


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