This is Google's cache of It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Nov 2, 2009 16:46:26 GMT. The current page could have changed in the meantime. Learn more

Text-only version
These terms only appear in links pointing to this page: http anwar alawlaki com  
Food Reviews from Behind Bars: Everthing Else : Anwar al Awlaki On-Line

Food Reviews from Behind Bars: Everthing Else

September 15, 2008 - الاثنين 15 رمضان 1429 by Anwar alAwlaki  
Filed under Imam Anwar's Blog

I arrived at the Political Security Prison late at night so my first meal was breakfast. Before my imprisonment, I had discussions with former prisoners about how it was in jail, so there was some mental preparation for what was to come. I remember the words of one of the shuyukh who had been to this same prison. He said the food was so horrible, so I was expecting the worst. Early in the morning, while all the prisoners where asleep, I began hearing the opening of the doors and soldiers screaming at prisoners to pick up their meals. It was my turn and I was already awake. They opened my door and there were two soldiers, one holding a bucket and the other dragging a sack full of kudam. The one with the bucket took my plate and poured in it a cupful of steaming pinto beans while the other handed me six kudam. Before my imprisonment, former prisoners had specifically told me how horrible the beans were, so that was what I was expecting. But, to my surprise, the beans just tasted wonderful!
I have never bean a fan of beans. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t eat them. But somehow now I was very pleased that I would be served such wonderful food! The beans where served in a spicy tomato sauce with bits of chili pepper. The fact that they were serving them out of buckets that where identical to the ones we used in the restrooms (although they were not the same ones) was not really appetizing, but in jail one is not particular about such trivialities. However it happened once that the food bucket was not cleaned so the soldier just picked up a restroom bucket instead and served us our meal out of it.
So far I was happy; then came lunch. Now there were two soldiers carrying two buckets, one had rice the other had a vegetable stew. The rice was brownish in color so it must have been cooked with some stew in it, and to my surprise there was cardamon, cloves, and bits of cinnamon mixed with it. Because many readers of this blog may be brothers and sisters who are used to eating basmati rice, I want to note here that this was no basmati rice. This was a very bad quality rice that either came from the US or Egypt or some other country that produces rice that is short and fat and totally out of shape, rather than the tall and slim basmati.
The vegetable stew was mostly potato with some squash, tomato, okra, and carrots thrown in. It had possibly been cooked with chicken that had been taken out to be served to the wardens because I once discovered a small piece of chicken meat in it.
Again, under normal circumstances I would not have had the appetite to eat such a meal but probably because I had such low expectations, the food was appealing to me. Dinner was identical to breakfast.
The next day we where served kidney beans for breakfast and dinner. The following fava beans and the following lentils. This carried on for a while but after that we would be served mostly pinto beans while kidney beans and fava beans only once in a while. Lentils disappeared forever. For lunch we were served rice and stew for eternity.
After a few weeks I began to feel the same as every other prisoner I had met; this food stinks. Alhamdulillah, by then I was allowed to purchase some food items from outside such as yogurt, fruit, and tuna. I was also allowed to get hot food from home twice a week. However the prison administration would use this as a method to pressure prisoners. Under the pretext of searching our food for contraband items I would sometimes receive my food in an inedible state. They once mashed together my rice, chocolate cake and salad and then poured over it a package of cranberry juice. Even the guard who delivered the meal to me was saddened by the state of my food. I waited an entire week to receive some proper food from my family and then this is what I got. The issue here is not only that this is proper food served from one’s home, but it is also the memory of one’s family that he misses. It is the house where the food was cooked and the hands that cooked it. So for them to mess with it in such a way, is a violation of one’s sanctity and what the prisoner holds dear. What was even worse is that my family was being told that I was allowed to have food from home twice a week and then they stole that food altogether for a period of over two months because they claimed that I was uncooperative with the investigators. I made an issue out of it and eventually I would receive my food and they would search it without mixing the different items together. However, this improvement only came when I moved from my underground cell to the ground floor.
On the ground floor there was another major improvement; each wing had access to an electric boiler. This allowed us to make tea, coffee and Indomie noodles (instant noodles).
The best treat was at Eid. For each Eid we would be served beef for lunch for three days. Because this was such a monumental change in prison diet, prisoners would talk about this for weeks before and after Eid. All of this makes me wonder how we have taken for granted all that Allah has blessed us with.
O Allah we thank you and praise you for all that you have given us. O Allah we ask you to make us from your grateful servants.


36 Responses to “Food Reviews from Behind Bars: Everthing Else”
  1. AbdulfatahNo Gravatar says:

    What an experience you had sheikh. The bucket incident was really repulsive. May Allah (sw) bring something tremendous in this and other experiences inshallah, ameen.

  2. Asin BaigNo Gravatar says:

    Assalam alaykum shakyh..
    That story showed me the patience you had in the prison and how much i hate kuffar.. May Allah punish them for doing unjustice to our muslims brothers and sisters and what we see from them is only the front.. they’re hearts conceal more..
    O shaykh, May Allah help you and your family and may Allah help all those who strive in his path, indeed Allah is the best of helpers.. :D

  3. IsmailNo Gravatar says:

    May Allah(swt) give you the food of paradise inshallah.

  4. OmarNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu Aleikum Imam Anwar. Were you by yourself the whole time in jail or were you with other people at a point? And were you able to excercise at all?

  5. AbidNo Gravatar says:

    and here we are wasting food, may Allah forgive us

  6. JameelNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuhu.

    Dear Imam Anwar,

    I pray that you read this in the best of health and Imaan insha’Allah. Ramadan Mubarak to you and family.

    Just wanted to say that I am sorry you went through this illegal detention and that I totally empathise with you. And insha’Allah may we learn a lesson in this that we should show more patience and gratitude to Allah (SWT).

    Also can you please inform us of the outcome of ‘CAGEPRISONERS: Another Ramadan 2008 – Fundraising Dinner’? Will there be an audio or video posting of this event?

    Jazak’Allah Khair

    Your brother

  7. Ibn Na'eemNo Gravatar says:

    AsSalaam Alaikum Sheikh.

    SubhanAllah this post is very timely in this month of Ramadan. Reading this post has really got me thinking about how we whine when our mothers make vegetable dishes instead of meat, or beetroot curry instead of basmati rice pillau. I’ll be looking at beans and lentils in a different light from now on! InshaAllah.

    May Allah make us of his few grateful servants, ameen.

  8. Mohammed HassanNo Gravatar says:

    Imam Anwar, couldnt you find any other time except Ramadan to explain meals and there ingrediants, hehe half way down my stomach began to growl. SubhanAllah how one product by one person can be tasty or horrible depending on the circumstance. in regards to the gaurds messing up the food, you would think they would have the tiniest amount of adab at least? I hope that all you were deprived from is compensated in dunya and akhira. Assalamou Alaykum :)

  9. Mohammed MansoorNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamualaikum Sheikh
    your experience with the prison food indeed gives us a chance to lookand ponder at our state in comparison with millions of people around the world suffer from hunger, malnutrition, and many other food related diseases.
    Lets make this as a issue for propagating the importance of not wasting food as someone else in other part of the world like in Somalia, Darfur is dieing out of hunger.

  10. Talha SumaliNo Gravatar says:

    I still rememebr Anwar delivering friday khutbah in the US, how great he was, reading this review made me miss himso much,,,,
    i luv him for the sake of allah

  11. Ramadan MubarakNo Gravatar says:

    do you think the upcoming election will have any significance on things? i want to ask you who you would vote for….but my guess is that you would probably respond with the typical response i hear from other muslims “democrat or republican, they are all the same”

    and then, if you were to answer who you would vote for, some crazy media source would probably come out the next day with the headline “Islamic fundamentalist endorses X candidate”

    for me, I think that Obama would be good for the country and the world, only because the neocons have really pushed this holy war against the muslims. and while Obama might not be muslim, he has knowledge of islam…more than any other candidate

    but then, maybe he’d lock up even more muslims in his presidency….it’s not like the president of the united states is really in charge anymore.

  12. Abu BasimNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu Alaikum Sheikh
    You are right – we take things for granted and only when we are deprived of something, do we realize its importance. May Allah reward you. And i think in all prisons, the wardens / soldiers think that the prisoners are dirt and are treated as such. Just because one is a prisoner seems to indicate to them that the person deserves such treatment.
    There is no power or strength except with Allah.

  13. chameleon47No Gravatar says:

    subhanAllah brother Talha. you attended his Friday khutbah. how lucky. Even though I never got to attend any of his talks or khutbas. but subhanAllah I will never forget, a few years back when I happen to come across a CD labelled Life of Muhammad (Saw) makkan period. Out of no such curiosity I borrowed it of my cousin cus I didn’t have much to do while commuting to work and back. Allah hu Akbar that one small incident completely changed my perception of deen. Even today after such a long time, listening to Imam anwar’s CDs time and time again seems never enough. Truly as the sheikh mentioned in his lectures that Allah just drops an opportunity in your lap from no where and it can completely change your life. ( how true it is with many of us regarding sheikh’s CDs) May Allah bless his wisdom even more. We would never be able to thank a person enough who has instilled the love of our deen deep into our hearts.

  14. muslimah88No Gravatar says:

    may Allah forgive you shiekh…and acccept ur fasting and ours inshallah.

  15. Ibrahim MohammadNo Gravatar says:

    Assalaamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
    Reading this post reminded me of the so-called ‘fund-raising dinners’ that are so popular in the west. How ironical is it that while people are gathering in the name of helping those who’re hungry and starving, they’re so out of touch with what its like to be hungry that they’ll be throwing away platefuls of food at the event without giving it a second thought. May Allaah bless this ummah and elevate those who’re truly struggling for it with their wealth and their souls.

  16. IbraheimNo Gravatar says:

    Brother Anwar,

    It’s tragic that in a muslim country such as Yemen you get worse treatment than in a kafr jail in the US. We have prisoners here who get Masters Degree’s while locked up. You would think that the Muslim country would lead by example on how to treat prisoners! It is painfully odvious that this prison was run by some kafr’s. Now that your out brother have you been able to speak with any of the government officials on the conditions of the prison? If so has there been any changes made to make things better?

    Salam Alaykum,

  17. Hamza JenningsNo Gravatar says:

    ….And these guards are Muslims? subhanallah!

  18. Abdul AzeezNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu Alaikum Brother,

    You have given a complete program to live in prison with patience. May Allah reward you for your patience.

  19. SHNo Gravatar says:

    May Allah cause us all to exercise gratitude in our words and actions for all the blessings we have, especially in this blessed month. Brother Anwar, Allah tested you because you were an honourable recipient to his trials and you were raised through these trials. subhanallah.

  20. luqmanNo Gravatar says:

    salam akhi, my ustaz, subhanaAllah.. i heard about it. now that im reading about this makes me more sad. Im the last person that should say to you to be strong, cause you are strong. I listened to all your CDs about the stories of the prophets and they made me cry alot. the CDs on the hereafter also.. remember us in your prayer ustaz and I can only pray and dream that someday, I get to see you in the hereafter.

  21. Imam Anwar Via Tele-link @ Ramadan 2008 Charity DinnerNo Gravatar says:

    Imam Anwar al-Awlaki delivered this speech via teleconference at the Ramadan 2008 charity dinner organised by Cageprisoners on the 7th September 2008 in Wandsworth Civic Suite, London.

  22. MuamerNo Gravatar says:

    Asalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatuallahi Wa Barakatuhu
    Sheikh i have an understanding of what you were going through about the food your books an everything else, my brother is also imprisoned and he tells me of what its like inside for him and the other brothers who are jailed. We have bought many books for him that some he has received and others he never received, and every time there’s an excuse why they haven’t arrived yet among other things such as kitchen cookware he buys and doesn’t receive until months and months later if ever. The guards play games with them and try and frustrate them by telling them ill find out whats happening about your things and usually nothing ever gets done. Al-Hamdulillah they have been patient though its Ramadan and they are reading Qur’an. My brothers name is Mirsad he is listed on the cageprisoners website in Australia if you ever have an interest reading about him
    Jazak Allah Khayr
    Salamu Alaykum brothers and sisters.

  23. HaneefNo Gravatar says:

    Assalaamu Alaykum,

    This bit ‘Because many readers of this blog may be brothers and sisters who are used to eating basmati rice, I want to note here that this was no basmati rice’ made me smile as many of us Asian know precisely what you mean!

    But I must admit this portion ‘The issue here is not only that this is proper food served from one’s home, but it is also the memory of one’s family that he misses. It is the house where the food was cooked and the hands that cooked it. So for them to mess with it in such a way, is a violation of one’s sanctity and what the prisoner holds dear’ was altogether bitter sweet and touching.

    May Allaah azza wa jall punish the enemies of his slaves- Aameen.

    Wa Alaykum wa Assalaam

  24. HafeezNo Gravatar says:

    Assalam Imam Anwar,
    Unfortunatley this is the level our ummah has sunk to, you were treated such in a muslim country by the so called muslims, may Allah give them hadayat. I always wonder at how I would react if I was imprisoned as such, then reading experiences of Ulamas like yourself gives common people as myself courage and strength, may Allah always guide you and keep you and all of us steadfast on his deen no matter what, ameen!

  25. AbdullahNo Gravatar says:

    Latest Lecture By Imam Anwar AL Awlaki..Was delivered Via Telelink at Cage Prisoners event – Sep 2008..

    Jazakallahu Kairan

  26. Ismail IbrahimNo Gravatar says:

    All praise be to the Almighty Allah. in my openion your condition was far more better than the someone who are not languishing in jail, but suffering from poverty, desease and misery. There were times when someone have not seen rice and meat for a whole month. there was a time when someone got an apple (just an apple) after starving for an entire three days. and that apple was the most ever tasted food in his life. Sometime people wish to be in jail only to have one time meal in a day. Life is so mysterious.
    When you have freedom you do not value it.
    When you are healthy you are not aware of it.
    When you have money you think it is a normal thing to have it.

  27. JameelNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuhu

    Anwar al-Awlaki delivered this speech via teleconference at Another Ramadan 2008 charity dinner organised by Cageprisoners on the 7th September 2008 in Wandsworth Civic Suite, London.

    Your brother

  28. HasanNo Gravatar says:

    as salaamu alaykum wa rahmatulLahi wa barakathu,

    waiting for such a treat in Eid must have been real exciting alhamdulilLah. May Allah (swt) make easy for you the Day and shade you on that Day when there will be no shade except His.

  29. ShihaamNo Gravatar says:

    Wassalaam to sheikh….May Allah Ta’ala replace what you have lost with good Inshallah!!!ON this Doenia,Kabr and Aaakhirah Inshallah…We can be likened to teabags:-)we never how our strength until we’re thrown into HOT water!!!
    Your sister in Islam!!

  30. AabidNo Gravatar says:

    Assalamu aleykum,
    I would also would like to remind how difficult it is to even get a mizwak in prison to brush your teeth, when you do get it you would have a tiny bit left due to brothers sharing it and braking it for them. Jazakallah reminding me and others who went through what you did.

  31. AminahNo Gravatar says:

    Subhana’Allah I was just reading surah Yusuf and I came across your blog. Patient is something we lack on our daily lives. May Allah reward you brother for all the hardships you went through. It also makes me cry to know Muslims did those things to you while you were in prison. I wouldn’t be shocked if it wasn’t the muslims but it’s really sad to know it was our own that did what they did. May Allah accept all your duas and may you be those that enter jannah without hisab. Ameen ya rab.

  32. AbdillahNo Gravatar says:

    You are so lucky even inside the jail and Allah make it easy for you. Alhamdulillah.

    I myself dont even eat beef during the Eidul Fitr, also for long years, however everything which Allah has given us are such a blessing and especially when we are thanking Him, He will give us more and more and more

    what a wonderful thing to know about this Merciful and Great God to worship
    Alhamdulillahi rabbil alamin
    Allah is Great
    Allah is Great
    Allah is Great

  33. Umm DujanahNo Gravatar says:

    Masha’Allah that was an amzing review… I love the indolmie noodles part as in syria i have indomie evey day.. Alhamdhulillah alla kulli haal. May allah swt help all you.. masalam

  34. VMNo Gravatar says:

    Assalam Alaykum,

    SubhanAllah, the things we take for granted. This post made me cry. May Allah subhanna wa ta’ala reward you immensely and enter you into Paradise. Ameen.

  35. Abu CairNo Gravatar says:

    May Allah reward you for your enormous sabr.

  36. hurriyaNo Gravatar says:

    As Salaam Alaikum
    imam anwar as i read through ur blog pages i only comment to ones which i have read and this one i must confess snatched the tears from eyes
    when i was child living with catholic family i was run away at early ages to escape abuse and as a 8 year old i didnt have choice or say over the system that im was thrown in by my mom
    and she put me in a state mental hospital saying because of problems i gave at home and church and that i was rebelling
    reading ur blog page reminded all to well of the state food in mental institution compared to city food from city hospital as we called it and subhan Allah such memories flowed back
    the food given was just horrible
    and when i was in a pakistani jail for giving food to poor kids that food i experienced as child in institution was luxury compared to what they thought they was serving in that jail
    and i always remember these ordeals when im shop for food and when im cooking and when i do anything in regards to food i remember and thank Allah that i am not in that situation no more
    and i always ask for the ones who are in such ordeals that Allah fill their bellies with His Mercy so they can hold on a lil longer ameen
    and just to tell of a situation that recently happen
    couple weeks ago i was admitted to hospital with respitory issues (right lung was failing to operate) and i was not eat anything since 2 days and 1 night because it will not stay down
    so while i was in emergency room dr says that i will be staying and its almost dinner time as im muslim they dont have halal but they have kosher
    they only serve kosher and no pork food is admitted to the hospital kitchen as thats private jewish hospital
    so i replied i eat only vegan because of kidney issues with digesting protein i dont eat meat or seafood
    so he say ok
    he gave one plate that was a chicken and curry rice
    i say sorry cant eat it
    he gave me another plate with macaroni but it was with grounded beef
    i say sorry i cant eat this either
    he say im so sorry i will try find u something i say no its ok i will go get some ice and water
    but i had to go to another floor cause on that floor was no ice machine working
    i went to the floor below which was basement and as soon i get off elevator their was kitchen of the hospital
    i went to kitchen and there was a woman and a few men and i asked the woman for some bread
    the man said they are serving dinner upstairs
    i say yes but they only have meat plates and im vegan
    he say ok give me 5 minutes
    so i waited for the bread and i was shocked and nearly fainted
    when the man and woman come with a tray filled with a juice cup 2 fruit cups 4 pieces of toasted crackers 2 slices of wheat bread and a hot plate of stuffed cabbage with rice and lentils with a tomato sauce , peas and carrots, and potatos and i dunno how many languages i said thank u to them
    subhan Allah i only asked4 and expected a bread
    and i quickly remember the story of isa alayhi salaam in the verse of quran where Allah stated about when they asked for food and a table of food was sent from the heavens subhan Allah
    the woman even escorted back to my bed and held the tray for me as i had ivs in my hand and arm and holding the pole
    and subhan Allah i get to my bed and i was just sobbing and saying Alhamdullilah
    and i must admit Allah has been very generous to me and so ungrateful i am
    that a calamity befall me and i get weak in my ibadah
    and then something as that incident in hospital happens and i feel so ashamed as to how ungrateful i have been to My Lord
    and that makes me think of u imam anwar
    you make it possible for people with lack of education like me to understand and comprehend this deen in such easy way
    you allow 4 ur struggle to be our gifts in lessons
    and u are always improving and taking us along with u on ur improvements
    so just know that for whatever we go through insha Allah we will have something better than it when we go home insha Allah
    May Allah continue to give u taufiq and sabr ameen

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!