Good Behavior

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

mslmmn Time off for good behavior is what gives many convicted felons in America hope for exiting prison early. Prisoners eligible for possible early release follow the rules, do as their told and some even commit themselves to some form of organized religion while serving out their sentences behind bars. However, despite their best efforts, some fail to prove their worth to the community at large and remain behind bars.

A world away, in the prisons of the Middle East, prisoners have little option but to serve their entire terms regardless of how they behave on the inside. However, some Middle Eastern countries have implemented programs to help prisoners get out of jail early while also memorizing portions of the Holy Quran.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one such country that has a Quran memorization study program to help prisoners reduce their sentences. According to a decree issued by the UAE Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, any prisoner languishing in a UAE prison is eligible to participate in the program which has been organized by the Dubai International Holy Quran Award.

The number of parts of the Holy Quran completely memorized translates into a number of years cut off from the sentence. An inmate, for example, who memorizes fifteen parts of the Holy Quran will get ten years cut off his sentence regardless of the severity of his crime. The more an inmate learns, the more opportunity he has to get out of jail early. However, murders and inmates on death row are not eligible to participate in the program.

The decree is what prompted an inmate known only by his initials of  ‘M.S.’ to study the Quran. In a recent interview M.S. revealed that he has received great benefit from studying the Holy Quran six hours a day, for the past five years, and has memorized twenty parts. The Syrian-born father of four has earned a fifteen-year reduction to his sentence. Yet, even though several of his inmate friends have already been released for memorizing parts of the Quran, M.S. is still behind bars.

In jail on drug charges since 1998, the Dubai Attorney-General’s Technical Office has twice barred M.S. from receiving the term reduction. M.S. has not been given a reason why he has been barred and awaits further details from organizers of the program. However, despite the setback, organizers of the Quran program plan to move forward in the belief that touching someone’s heart with the gift of the Quran can change their lives for the better.


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