A female prisoner has walked free from a life sentence in a UAE jail as reward for learning the entire Holy Quran.
Fatima bin Mohammed (pictured), from Cameroon, is believed to be the first woman in UAE history to learn Arabic then completely memorise the holy book while in prison. Bin Mohammed, who was serving 25 years for importing hashish, converted to Islam while in prison and spent almost six years learning every word of the Quran.
Bin Mohammed is enjoying days out with her nieces and nephews after walking free from the sentence because she dedicated six years to the task, regularly going back and forth to her tutors at Dubai Central Jail to get the exact pronunciation and meaning of the words.
Now back in her native Cameroon, Fatima plans to set up a restaurant, travel and find a husband. She is living with her sister and enjoying family life.
“They had a little family event for me when I came home. It was very special,” she said. Until March, Bin Mohammed was serving 25 years for importing hashish. Now she talks by phone with her former prison roommate, who also dreams of getting a sentence reduction.
Fatima bin Mohammed is believed to be the first woman in UAE history to fully memorise the Quran to win freedom from jail
“You need a lot of patience,” said Fatima. “It is not easy. But I put my faith in God and knew I wanted to see my family again.”
Fatima also said that her mother’s side of her family are Muslim so it was very natural process for her to convert.
“The message of Christianity and Islam are universal – to love others, help others and thank God, we all worship the same God so it was easy for me to convert,” she said. Bin Mohammed was released in March under a scheme introduced by UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
He decreed that prisoners be offered their freedom in return for memorising the Quran and said that he hoped to give prisoners something to which they could aspire. The Dubai Department of Islamic Affairs oversees the prison Quran recitation, with Quran experts sitting before the applicants at each exam.
An expert reads out a segment of the Quran and the prisoner must pick up on that sentence and continue with the passage until told to stop. Anyone who fails the exam can retake it three months later.
For life sentence prisoners, the exam typically involves 12 to 15 recitations and the exam session usually lasts up to 45 minutes. Amal, a Quran tutor at the department, taught Fatima and found her an excellent student.
“She was so dedicated to memorising the holy book. She showed a lot of interest in reading the book and spent most of her time revising different verses of the Quran until she got the whole of it in her head,” said Amal.
She said that Fatima failed several tests but passed her sixth exam.
“The Dubai International Holy Quran Award (DIHQA) gave her a prize of Dhs10,000 for managing to completely memorise the Holy Quran,” added Amal. “We now have 70 women prisoners trying to memorise the Quran so they can be pardoned or have their prison sentence reduced.”