by Sharmin Sadequee
My family’s connection with my brother dates back to the time when my parents, grandmother, two siblings and I were stationed among the masses of people dressed in two-piece seamless white linen. We were meditating in the Arabian desert of Arafat under the scorching heat at the holy pilgrimage in 1985. We joined thousands of pilgrims sweltering in the blazing sand under white tents thirsty for cool breeze but all raised their hands up in prayers. My parents wanted a child, and they prayed that day for a son. Melting in supplication with the worshippers, we implored God to bestow upon us a little brother. We were all ecstatic when my little brother was born in Northern Virginia in 1986.
He became the jewel of our family because he was the manifestation of our prayers, my mother’s prayers, grandmother’s prayers, delivered to my family, humbling my parents to their relationship as human beings to the sacred universe.
Shifa’s wellbeing behind bars is always confining our minds, especially my parents as they are unable to be there for him. This is a punishment for us that began with his illegal kidnapping and incarceration. The horrid Bureau of Prison in Atlanta made us visit him through a video monitor and headphones when he was in solitary confinement for over three years before his trial had even begun. When we were allowed contact visits once or twice a year for holidays after many requests, the prison forced us to see him in orange jump-suit shackled with chains in his feet and hands. The iron manacles did not allow him to open a soda can or eat anything we bought him from the vending machine.