Some moments remain with you forever. In December 2001, school was out for the year,Ramadhan was in& we were on holiday near the coast which was a heady combo of trying to complete the Qur’aan in the shade of the palm trees under a summer sky and savouring the post taraweeh desserts whipped up by my aunt, something on CII caught my wandering attention. It was a snippet of an Afghani man who was being interviewed regarding the attacks by America. There was discussion amongst the American government whether to halt the attacks or not during Ramadhan but cruelly and like the beast it is, America hit them at a very vulnerable time.
This Afghani man after stating his opinion, broke out into a song in Pashtun describing his love for Nabi SAW. The courage that gives him, that even being bombed during this month would not shake him.
My dessert spoon halted midway.
There was something greater than just my childish pleasures and whims. And the reports I heard a few days later on an American that was captured by the US forces, made my young heart aspire to greater goalsI have never forgotten the gruesome pictures they published on him. His steadfastness to his Deen and his humility blew life into my conscience.
His name was John Walker Lindh. His Muslim name- Sulaiman Al- Faris. And he had to bear the brunt of the American nation howling for “justice.”
John Walker Lindh was born on February 9, 1981 and baptised as a Roman Catholic. Marilyn Walker describes her son as a “sweet, shy, kid,” who had wanted to work with poor people and perhaps go into medicine. “Everyone who knows him loves him,” she says. “Everyone expected him to become a scholar.” In an interview, she painted a portrait of her son as an intelligent, articulate young man with a gift for languages and a commitment to social justice. He was an ordinary American teen who liked to listen to hip-hop music.As a teenager, he talked to his mother about wanting to work with poor people, perhaps becoming a doctor.
By 15, he was intently exploring other faiths, including Buddhism, Native American practices, and Islam. Lindh’s direction took a dramatic turn after he read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. He already had some idea of the faith, when he was 12 his mother took him to see Spike Lee’s film Malcolm X. She says he was moved by a scene showing people of all nations bowing down to God. In his later statement to the court, he wrote, “I had first become interested in Islam during 1993, after becoming aware of the Hajj, in which thousands of Muslims all over the world gather at Mecca, a holy site in Saudi Arabia. I learned that all Muslims are required to make this religious journey at least once in their life. I was very moved by the image of thousands of people praying together. Perfectly equal and perfectly humble. I began to read all that I could about Islam.”
When he was 16, he converted to Islam, and changed his name to “Sulayman Al-Faris.” His father said “I told him once that maybe he was always a Muslim, because he had clearly found something important for him there.” Another newspaper quotes him telling Lindh, “I don’t think you’ve really converted to Islam as much as you’ve found it within yourself; you sort of found your inner Muslim.” (Newsweek once reported his name as “Abdul Hamid,” though I can’t find any corroborating evidence.) Despite his parent’s lack of experience with Islam, they were pleased to see their son had found something that moved him. While they knew other neighborhood families who were coping with kids involved in alcohol and drugs,Sulaiman’s interests made him an even better human.
Judging by his online posts and the photographs of him through his past, he got rid of all his rap music and started growing a beard. He cut back on cursing. He swore off girls and alcohol. “He was always intellectually coherent and he had a wonderful sense of humor,” his father said, “and none of that changed when he converted to Islam. I never had any major misgivings.” A fellow Muslim who used to drive him to the mosque recalls that when he first saw Lindh, he stood out immediately, not simply because he was a white man in a mostly Indian congregation, but also because he was “on his own,” meaning already devoted to Islam and without a referral from another Muslim. Some residents of San Anselmo recalled that they used to see him walking down the streets in Islamic clothing. “He actually looked very lonely,” recalled a shopkeeper. “I got the impression that he did not fit in.”
Later on in 1997, he met followers of the Tablighi Jamaat, a nonpolitical missionary group of sorts that looks to rejuvinate Muslims. He joined a group at a gathering in Santa Clara, California, and began to share a bond with people he felt were like him. He began to spend weekends at a mosque in San Francisco, where they would pray, eat, and set out on missions to nearby mosques.
In 1998, when Lindh was 18 he traveled to Yemen for nearly a year, with his parents’ approval, so he could study Arabic and learn the Quran in its original language. He said it was the best country to learn the “pure” dialect of Arabic used in the Qur’an. His friend later told the reporter he chose Yemen because the Arabic was said to be closer to the language of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and also felt it would be easier to practice Islam in a Muslim country. The director of the language center he studied at said Sulaiman complained about the lack of orthodoxy at the school; the worldliness and the co-ed classes (his school was secular). “He quickly became disillusioned with the other Muslims in our language school and with Yemen in general,” his former classmate said. “I watched Walker get exasperated one afternoon, trying to rouse Muslim students at prayer call, only to hear most of them say they were going to take a nap instead. He was incredulous. Muttering how he couldn’t believe Muslims would forgo their duty to pray, he left the room in disgust.
“Those who were raised Muslim didn’t much enjoy having their faith questioned by a beginner. They were usually polite and patient with Walker’s irritation with their perceived lack of devotion to their faith. But they treated him as a curiosity — someone playing make-believe. ‘Why would anyone convert to Islam anyway?’ a Canadian-Indian Muslim asked once after an encounter with Walker. ” (Imagine how much that hurts when a Muslim says that to you)
Halfway through the school year, he dropped out, having come all the way from California to Sana’a only to find a spiritual void. He spent the rest of the semester traveling to mosques and other holy places in Sana’a. He later enrolled in Al-Iman University. He came home and lived in the US with his parents for eight months. During that time, his parents separated. Lindh returned to Yemen in 2000.
His visa expired and had problems renewing it and went to Pakistan to study at a madrassa. “He’s learned Arabic, and is memorizing theQuran. He’s a very good scholar,” remarked his father at the time. Later defending his son’s actions, he said, “It’s the goal of every scholarly Muslim to memorize the entire Koran verbatim, and John’s goal was to become both fluent in Arabic and to memorize the Koran so that he could then go on and become a Muslim scholar. His goal was to attend the Islamic university at Medina in Saudi Arabia or a comparable world-class Islamic university.”
Lindh spent several months at a seminary-like madrassa in Bannu, in Pakistan‘s Northwest Frontier Province. The people treated him as a respected guest, his teacher said that his wish was to graduate and become an Islamic teacher back in America and get married. While there, he focused on memorizing chapters of the Quran (he memorized a third of the entire book while there) and learning some Urdu.
Lindh told the headmaster how, after converting to Islam, he began to feel uncomfortable living in the United States and became naturally drawn to Islamic countries, where his adopted faith supposedly played a part in everyday society. Lindh said that he felt as though he could neither explore his newfound religion deeply nor live by the commands of Islamic scripture properly in America, where he saw many societal ills. In his conversations with him, he said, John Walker talked about feeling alone in the US and “comfortable and at home” at the madrassa
Over the course of several months, sources who spoke to reporters later on said that he was becoming disappointed with all the secularist governments. He would read the newspapers about the atrocities that were occuring against the Muslims in India-controlled Kashmir. He also listened to reports that the Northern Alliance, a rebel group in Afghanistan, was massacring and raping innocent Muslims.
After a period of time, Lindh took a leave from his studies, and sent an email home to his mother saying that he was going to “some cold mountainous region.” He asked permission to take the trip and his father gave it, but insists he wouldn’t have if he know Lindh was going to Afghanistan. He hardly packed anything. He took only a backpack, sunglasses, a white shalwar kameez, and a sleeping bag with him the day he left, leaving a full suitcase and his library of books on Islam for safekeeping. He didn’t say when he’d be back, but imagined he’d be back in California by Christmas 2001 but in the interim America invaded Afghanistan. This is the series of events from then on.
1) He was captured near Mazar Sharif by the Northern Alliance (allies of America and also very nice people, famous child rapists, sodomists & mutilating murderers.) and imprisoned.
2) Sulaiman and other prisoners break free and hide in a basement. They are flooded with water by US forces and are forced to exit. He is shot in the leg.
3) Michael Spann, a CIA agent who questioned him was killed in the attack on the prisoners. The outrage of the American public that a CIA agent was killed grew into an inferno against Sulaiman although there has been no proof that Lindh had a hand in it.
4) Sulaiman said he wanted to be a martyr in his interview. And why not? He had witnessed a shaheed’s blood smelling like musk just as the words of my Nabi predicted. The Americans took his statement to mean- I want to kill Americans.
5) A CNN reporter saw him and immediately interviewed him on camera. CNN reported it as breaking news, and on December 2, John Walker Lindh became a household name. He was shown on televisions all over the globe; ragged, unkempt, dirty, unshaven, and looking like he was just trapped in a basement for a week without food and shot. He was frail-looking,disoriented, and in pain.
6) He is stripped naked, strapped to a cold metal stretcher and sent to America via ship. In.this.condition. With a festering gun wound. Donald Rumsfeld the devil instructed the US forces to “take off the gloves” when interrogating him. Hmmm.
7) US authorities torture him severely. He is brought to court and accused of “being dedicated to killing Americans”, “training under Usama Bin Laden”, “plotting to kill Israeli’s.”
8) Sulaiman said none of these allegations were true. In a surprise move he suddenly admitted to guilt. Bear in mind he was being tortured, under torture and the decision of the US not to let him go no matter what, he made certain statements. It is my (the author’s) belief that these statements were made under duress.
9) He was convicted on 10 charges ,eventually all were dropped except one. And for this one crime, he was sentenced to TWENTY years in jail.
What was this crime? Breaking the economic sanctions imposed on Afghanistan. Yes you read that piece of utter ridiculousness right. So if he offered a piece of bread to a starving Afghan child whose legs were blown off by a landmine, he deserved jail for 2 decades.
10) Intially he was not allowed to read or say anything in Arabic,not even greet fellow Muslim prisoners with Asalamu alaikum.
11) He has spent his years studying the Qur’aan and continuing with his Hifz.
And in the middle of all this darkness, comes a ray of light…
Sulaiman was not allowed to pray in congregation, he sued for the right and won the court case this year. (2013) Allahu Akbar!
We in our homes,with our comfort and cars,let our laziness control us and don’t read salaah in jamaa’ah. Or for the sisters, we don’t read on time or even worse, not reading our salaah at all…may Allah forgive us& protect us.
Oh Allah give us hearts which are steadfast and love you no matter what condition we are in.
What a man,Sulaiman Alfaris/John Walker Lindh. There are so many pearls to adopt from his life. May Allah free him from the clutches of evil soon, remember him and all Muslim prisoners who remain heroes for us, they are like rocks of faith, a tsunami can pass over that rock but if it’s rooted in the ground, it will not budge an inch.