And they give food, in spite of their love for it, to the poor, the orphan, and the captive (saying): “We feed you seeking Allah's Face only. We wish for no reward, nor thanks from you.” (76:8-9)
It may not be possible to provide food directly for the captives of Guantanamo and the secret prisons but, we can and should exert the utmost effort to ensure they receive justice and, that they are never forgotten or abandoned. This is even more incumbent upon us knowing that most of the prisoners were handed over for a bounty - without any legal process - right into the hands of nations that labelled them 'enemy combatants'. And, although the following Quranic verse refers to Jewish tribes in pre-Islamic Arabia failing to implement their covenant with Allah it can so easily be applicable to the present day turmoil in Muslim lands:
The Prophet [s] also said: “Feed the hungry, visit the sick, and free the prisoner.” And, “It is upon the Muslim faithful to free their prisoners and to pay their ransom.”
The Messenger of Allah [s] paid the ransom for two Muslim men with a man who he [s] had taken from Bani Uqail, and he paid the ransom for two people with a woman who was given as a gift by Salamah bin al-Akwa.
The classical scholars, some of whom were unjustly imprisoned themselves, have been clear about the financial obligations regarding freeing prisoners:
Imam Malik said: “It is obligatory on the people to redeem prisoners with their money. There is no contention on this point”.
Ibn Taymiyyah said: “Freeing the prisoners is one of the greatest compulsory deeds and spending ransom money and other means towards that, is one of the greatest ways to come close to Allah.”
Al-Qurtubi said: “Our scholars have said that ransoming the prisoners with money is waajib (obligatory), even if one dirham does not remain in the Islamic Treasury.”
Many Muslims choose to pay their Zakah during Ramadhan – to earn increase the reward. However, it is our obligation as Muslims that we often forget that working for justice and freedom for those unlawfully imprisoned is very much a part of this duty (fardh) by which to purify our wealth (zakah).
Contemporary scholars, again including some who were imprisoned, have described what it means to assist such prisoners in the modern age.
Mufti E.Desia (Council of Muslim Theologians, South Africa) on the obligation Towards the Prisoners
Question: "Asalamu alaykum shaykh. As you are aware many of our Muslim brothers are currently imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. What is the duty of the rest of the Muslims towards these imprisoned brothers? JazakAllahkhair. Wasalam."
Answer: "Respected Brother in Islam, Assalamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullaahi Wa Barakatuhu. When Muslims are imprisoned unjustly, as is the case in Guantanamo, it is the Waajib [obligatory] duty of all the Muslims of the world to do whatever is in their capacity to free these oppressed brothers. Together with our efforts, it is our duty to continuously make du'aa for them. And Allah Knows Best. Was-salaam."
Shaykh Jafar Idris was asked about giving Zakah to free prisoners:
Question: "Traditionally it has been permitted to give zakah in order to help free a Muslim prisoner. The concept was essentially to pay a ransom for the prisoner in order to ensure their safe return. Today we have Muslim prisoners who have been detained for purely political reasons without having been charged or tried for any crime. There is no way to pay a ransom for these prisoners in order to secure their release, could zakah be given instead to fund activities such as paying for their legal costs, campaigning and lobbying. Could the work of a human rights NGO that works to have these prisoners receive the zakah in order to carry out its work?"
Answer: "The basic position related to the giving of the zakah for the release of the prisoners, is that the effort should be made in order to gain their release. With the current context of Muslim prisoners around the world, the zakah can be used with any aspect of work related to freeing the prisoners. Of course there is no guarantee that the prisoner will be released, however the zakah money can go towards working towards that goal inshallah. There is nothing wrong with using the zakah money for the purposes of running an NGO that has this specific role. Allahu Alam."
Shaykh Salman al-Awdah said (regarding the Guantanamo prisoners):
“We must form commissions to keep track of their affairs from both a legal and a humanitarian perspective....We must be generous in our financial support. Whether we use our money to secure the release of some prisoners, or use it to defend their rights and publicize their plight, it is the same. We must also help their families on their behalf. All of this is spending in the way of Allah. It is in performing these acts of good that we as Muslims should strive to outdo each other.” (End quote)
Giving zakah is how a Muslim purifies his wealth and assists those in need in the process. It is the third pillar of Islam and its importance is second only to the obligatory prayer. As an action it is mentioned over 80 times in the Quran - often in conjunction with the prayer. And, if paying zakah is an undeniable Islamic obligation (the abandonment of which is a major sin) then, seeking justice and freedom for the prisoners is a means to fulfilling that obligation. And, those who spend in this cause, whether zakah or sadaqah (voluntarily charity), are promised a bounteous reward:
And the likeness of those who spend their wealth seeking Allâh's Pleasure sure in themselves that Allâh will reward them, is the likeness of a garden on a height; heavy rain falls on it and it doubles its yield of harvest. And if it does not receive heavy rain, light rain suffices it. (2:264)
The only question for us is: Who is he that will loan to Allah a beautiful loan, which Allah will double unto his credit and multiply many times? (2:224)