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Education of Muslims in Kentucky Prisons

Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, USA




Education is the birth right of every Muslim and Muslimah. Islam puts considerable emphasis on its followers to acquire knowledge. Investment in education is the best investment one can make, because it eventually leads to intellectual property. Intellectual property is the intangible property, which no one can steal or destroy. It was as a result of application of knowledge that Muslims were the superpower of the world for twelve centuries. 

Today, globally Muslims have the lowest literacy rate. Hence it is no surprise that the literacy rate among the Muslims who are incarcerated is very low. Those Muslim inmates in the Kentucky prison system are no exception. It is a serious task to educate our Muslim brothers and sisters in Kentucky Prisons. This is a formidable task. The main source of Islamic knowledge they acquire is through Jumuah Khutbahs delivered by volunteer Imams or volunteer educated Muslims. 

The incarcerated Muslim brothers and sisters want to acquire Islamic education. They are very sincere in their intentions and goals to acquire Islamic knowledge. The vast majority of the Muslims in the Kentucky prison system would like to acquire Islamic knowledge through the study of Qur'an, Arabic, Hadith, Sunnah, Seerah, Fiqh, Islamic history, and allied subjects. In many Kentucky Prisons the Muslims have allotted days and times for acquiring the Deeni or Islamic education. Unfortunately there are no teachers, paid Imams or even volunteer teachers or volunteers Imams available to meet the acute need of the Muslim brothers and sisters who are striving hard to acquire the knowledge of their Deen. In almost every prison the Muslim inmates have established a small library containing copies of Qur'an, Hadith, Fiqh us Sunnah, and some books on Islam. They also have acquired videocassettes on Islam, particularly those of Shaikh Ahmed Deedat.  

This paper seeks solutions for this acute condition in the Kentucky prison system, including the drafting of Tabligh Jamat followers to do Da'wah in the prisons free will, instead of doing in the free stranding Masajids. 

      The Prophet (S) encouraged the literacy among Muslims.

      The prisoners of war that were captured in the Battle of Badr,

      Were released by the Prophet (S) on one condition: That each

      One of the prisoners was supposed to teach 10 Muslim children,

      To read and write. 

The situation in the State of Kentucky is very bleak with regard to Da'wah work in prisons. There are no paid Muslim Chaplains or Imams in the State of Kentucky. The Da'wah work is done mostly by volunteer educated Muslims or Imams. As it is a voluntary job, there is no incentive on the part of the volunteers to visit the prisons regularly for doing Da'wah work or to give Deeni Taleem to the Muslim inmates in Kentucky prisons. 

The education, particularly the Islamic education of Muslim inmates in Kentucky prisons can be achieved by one or more of the following methods: 

  • Qur'anic correspondence course:

    The Islamic Research Foundation, Inc. has a Qur'anic correspondence course consisting of 20 lessons. Each lesson varies with 12 to 24 pages. At the end of each lesson there is a 20-question quiz. A certificate will be awarded to those who have successfully completed the course. The passing grade is very high. A maximum of one or two questions can be answered wrongly. More than that the candidate has to repeat the whole course from the beginning.  

    It costs money to make copies of the Lessons, question papers, mailing, postage, etc. Due to lack of financial support and volunteers to handle the volume of mail, the Qur'anic correspondence course has not been popularized.

  • Tableegh Jamat

    A number of brothers are volunteering their time, money and resources for the cause of Tableegh Jamat which is a party of Muslims for propagating the religion of Islam among the Muslims who are supposed to be derelict in their Islamic duties and responsibilities. Almost every Mosque or Islamic center is visited by Tableegh Jamats from within America or outside America coming from far off countries, such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Tableegh Jamat brothers take off from their homes for about 40 days or 4 months visiting the Masajids in different cities in North America, Central America, and South America. They also hold an annual Ijtemah in different cities in North America with a gathering of few thousands. Such annual gatherings are also held in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. I believe they are an excellent source for the education of Muslim inmates in Kentucky prisons. As their mission is to revive Islam among the Muslims, the Muslim inmates in Kentucky prisons will be highly benefited.  

  • Video Cassettes

    Most of the prisons in Kentucky have the facilities to watch the videocassettes. Hence the small library of the Muslim inmates contains several video cassettes of famous Da'ees, such as Shaikh Ahmed Deedat, Shaikh Yusuf Hamza, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Imam Siraj Wahaj, Da'ee Yousuf Islam, etc. Videocassettes are an excellent for the education of Muslim inmates in Kentucky prisons. Videocassettes are an instrument in the audio/video educational curricula. 

  • Audio Cassettes

    There are several hundred if not thousand audio cassettes available in the market on varied topics covering many, many Islamic subjects, such as recitation of the Qur'an and its tafseer in English, Ahadeeth, Aqeeda, Fiqh us Sunnah, Fatwahs, Questions on Shariah, Arkanul Islam, etc. There are many audiocassettes devoted the Jumuah Khutbahs. Some others are the life experiences and reasons for revert to Islam of Yousuf Islam, Yusuf Hamza, Siraj Wahaj, Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, Sr. Assilini, and Dr. Amina McCloud.  

  • Copies of Qur'an

    Many Muslim publishes are selling copies of the Noble Qur'an at a cheap price when purchased in bulk volume like 100 copies. The cheap price comes at a price, the Qur'an copies contain only the English translation and no Arabic text. The copy of the Qur'an and English translation and commentary comes at a higher price. There are some Islamic organizations or Institutions which are willing to donate the copies of the Qur'an to the Muslim inmates. 

  • Islamic Books

    The Library of the Muslim inmates in Kentucky prisons have a few copies of the Noble Qur'an, a few copies of the Hadith, and some books covering different Islamic topics, such as the Yusuf al-Qardawi's most popular book " Lawful and Prohibited in Islamic Law" Maurice Bucaille's "The Bible, Qur'an and Science." Shaikh Ahmed Deedat's booklets: "Is the Bible God's Word?" "What the Bible says about Muhammad", " Resurrection or Resuscitation", "Crucifixion or Crucifiction". 

  • Life Changing Books

    In this category come books such as the Qur'an, Books on Seerah, particularly Haykal's "The Life of Muhammad." "Forty Hadith", Maurice Bucaille's "The Bible, Qur'an and Science." Etc. There are many booklets and books written by shaikh Ahmed Deedat published by the Islamic Propagation Center International, Durban, South Africa. They are also available from New York, Toronto and Bombay (Mumbai).  

The following are the Specifically Religious Books-to-Prisoners Organizations: 

    • American Muslim Foundation

      1212 New York Ave, NW Suite 525

      Washington, DC 20005


    • Islamic Center

      22551 Massachusetts Avenue, NW

      Washington, DC 20008

      Free Koran (Qur'an) and study guides. Can send through Chaplain 

    • Mostazafam Foundation Book Program

      500 5th Ave., 34th Floor

      New York, NY 10110

      Free Koran (Qu'ran) for Muslim prisoners

      * * * 


      Book Sold to Muslims in Prison at a Discount 


    • Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an
    • The Muslim Reading Room

      P O Box 1246

      Champaign, IL 61824

    • Darul Kitab El Islami
    • Noor Foundation

      P O Box 758

      Hockessin, DE 19707

      Tel: 1-888-937-2665 

      • Dar-us-Salam Publications

  • Magazines

    Magazines such as JUMUAH, ISLAMIC HORIZONS, FINAL CALL, MUSLIM JOURNAL, MESSAGE INTERNATIONAL, THE MINARET, CRESCENT INTERNATIONAL, and other magazines published in North America are very popular among the Muslin inmates and they read them with great enthusiasm. 

  • Computer software and Internet

    There are scores of computer software in the form of CD-ROM on many Islamic subjects. The most popular is the 'AALIM. Unfortunately PCs (Personal Computers) and Internet are not accessible to the Prison inmates at the present time. The Internet has hundreds of WEB pages on Islam. The most popular being, Islamicity, Ummah, Al-Islam, etc., etc.

  • Pen Pals

    There is a need for pen pals who can write to the Muslim inmates answering their questions on Islam. The type of postal correspondence keep the minds of the Muslim inmates active at the same time they get educated on Islam. 

  • Newsletter

    There is a need for a Newsletter for all the Muslim inmates throughout the United States and Canada. At least one copy can be sent to each prison, which has Muslim inmates. The Newsletter is a good vehicle for Islamic Taleem and also with regard to imparting Islamic knowledge pertaining to food, hygiene, the five pillars of Islam, dates and times of Jumuah prayers and Eidains. It can also cover news items of Muslim inmates in the various prisons of America. 

  • Ware House

    There is a dire necessity of having a warehouse, which will act as a clearinghouse for supplying, Books, Videos, Audiocassettes, Printing and mailing Newsletters for the Muslim inmates throughout North America. The Muslim inmates can fill-up the required requisition form and the materials can be shipped to the Muslim Chaplains or Imams of the respective Prisons, which in turn can stock the library of the Muslim inmates. This warehouse can also supply Musallahs (prayer rugs) and Kufi caps, which are in great demand among the Muslims throughout America and Canada. 

  • Taleem Classes

    Taleem classes are didactic lectures on Islam, given by the Muslim Chaplain or an Imam. The Taleem classes can be scheduled as lessons, covering topics, such as Arabic, Aqeedah, Qur'an, Hadith, Fiqh us Sunnah, etc. In many Prisons, educated Muslim volunteers are giving Taleem classes. In many prisons a particular day such as Thursday and a particular time such as between Maghreeb and Isha prayers is allotted for Taleem classes. Although the Muslim inmates are keen and interested in obtaining the Deeni knowledge through the Taleem classes, the problem is the paucity of Islamic textbooks and teachers. The teacher must prepare for the class and also prepare one or more quizzes for each lesson, correct them and go over them.

  • TV and Radio Broadcasting

    There are TV programs on Islam in large cities in America and Canada. For smaller cities they can be accessed through the Cable TV. However this facility is not accessible to the Muslim inmates.  

    There are also Radio Broadcasting Stations in large cities broadcasting programs on Islam. They also broadcast interviews of Islamic scholars covering many subjects that affect the lives of Muslims in America.

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