Bible Smuggling

Mariam IbraheemBy Mariam Ibraheem11 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Shackled: One Woman’s Dramatic Triumph Over Persecution, Gender Abuse, and a Death Sentence by Mariam Ibraheem


Chapter 36
Bible Smuggling

I truly felt called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the prison, but I needed His guidance. Ministering to the mothers and their babies was fulfilling, but I still needed nourishment for my own spirit. I needed to be fed by the Word of God. I had to find a way to smuggle a Bible into the prison. One day, I sent word about this need to Mentor Chris. He immediately sent back word through one of his friends that he would help sneak a Bible in to me.

Some of Mentor Chris’s friends worked outside the prison building and outside the courthouse selling newspapers and water, and they often acted as a communication channel to transmit messages back and forth between the church and the prisoners. One young man who posed as a worker outside the prison said he could get a Bible to one of the guards if I could make arrange­ments on the inside.

There was only one guard who might possibly help me smuggle a Bible inside. Mohammad had always been extremely nice to me. When he saw how his fellow guards and other prisoners treated me, he would often apologize on behalf of the prison. I could tell he didn’t agree with how I was being treated for my faith. Mohammad also had a reputation of getting contraband into the prison if someone was willing to pay the right price.

I saw him near one of the offices and decided to take a chance. “Mohammad, I have something I need to bring in. I heard you could help me.” I had never asked him for such a thing, and I had a reputation for abiding by the rules. I never caused any trouble, so I think my proposal startled him for a moment.

“Maybe,” he said, without making eye contact with me. “But it is going to cost you. What is it?”

I didn’t answer his question right away. I was afraid to tell him.

“Listen, I can’t bring anything in if I don’t first know what it is.”

“It’s the Book of Life,” I said, trying not to say Bible in case someone over­heard us.

“What?” he asked, clearly trying to control the panic in his voice. “Are you crazy? Are you looking to get us both killed? No way! I am a Muslim. I am not even supposed to touch that book.”

“I can pay you double or triple,” I said quickly, hoping to calm him down before someone noticed us talking. “And I can have it wrapped in plastic, so, technically, you won’t be touching it. Just the plastic around it.”

“Girl … you are not easy.” He said this in a way that let me know he was going to help me. “Why do you need to be so difficult? Do you know if you get caught with that in here, they are not going to chain you with shackles; they are going to hang you in the courtyard?”

“Don’t worry about that,” I said calmly. “I am not worried. Why should you be worried?”

“If you get caught, it had nothing to do with me. You understand?” He demanded that I look at him as he said it again. “Do you understand?”

I nodded and agreed to pay him more than double the normal rate.

Within a few days, Mentor Chris gave a Bible to the young man working in front of the prison, who then gave it to Mohammad. It was wrapped in plas­tic so none of the Muslim chain-of-possession would actually have to touch it. Mohammad handed the Bible to another guard named Asha and told her it was a package for “O’Martin.” Most of the guards called me O’Martin, which simply means “mother of Martin.”

Asha then gave it to Shukria and asked her to pass it to me.

Shukria had no clue what was in the package, but she knew to keep it hidden. Shukria was a Muslim, so she was the safest person to hand it directly to me. No one would suspect her of delivering a Bible to another inmate.

When she learned from me that she was holding a Bible, she freaked out. “What am I going to do with a Bible? I am not even allowed to touch a Bible.” She half whispered so other inmates wouldn’t hear her, but she was visibly frightened. Her face flushed red, and her eyes protruded from their sockets. She knew the punishment for smuggling a Bible into the prison would be harsh.

“I promise I will make it up to you,” I told her.

“I really don’t understand you,” she said. “When it comes to smuggling a phone or SIM cards or makeup—no-o-o, that you can’t do because it is break­ing the rules. But this? This you do? This is a hundred times worse!”

I opened my mouth, then clamped it shut as if I had something more to say but couldn’t. She understood right away.

“What? No! No way! You can’t ask me to do that.” She peered at me, and I met her gaze. “Seriously? You are really asking me to do this? Does my life mean anything to you?”

“I will be forever grateful.”

I am not certain if it was the pitiful expression on my face that finally convinced her to hide my Bible for me, or if it was the fact that I was pregnant and in shackles that guilted her into helping me, but I was so thankful to the Lord to have a Bible again.

My secret Bible could not have arrived at a better time. The tempo of attacks from guards and inmates increased daily, and I needed the strength of the Lord. I knew I could not survive by wit, grit, intellect, special contacts in high places, cleverness, or negotiation. My survival would not be “‘by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zechariah 4:6).

After I had been in prison for about a month, I was sent to the front office, where an imam was waiting for me. I had never seen him before and had no idea what to expect.

“You have an evil spirit in you,” the imam declared while motioning for me to get down on my knees in front of him. “Today, we are going to cast that demon out of you.”

Following the authority of the imam, the guards also motioned for me to kneel. I felt bewildered by the strange declaration until one of the guards said, “According to the judge, you have been possessed by jinn and have been manipulated by the church with black magic.” Jinn is a type of spirit, similar to a demon, that Muslims believe in. They were convinced the church used jinn to control the behavior of women. “As part of your incarceration,” the guard continued, “you must come into this room every three days and go through ruqyah.”

I was not familiar with ruqyah. I thought I knew all there was to know about Islam, but when I knelt down before the imam, I realized there was still so much I didn’t understand.

Ruqyah is the Islamic form of exorcism by which an imam recites incan­tations from the Koran over and over again while performing certain religious acts to cast out evil spirits.

I put my head down and began to pray. I could tell this was not only going to be physical torture but also a spiritual battle.

Excerpted from Shackled: One Woman’s Dramatic Triumph Over Persecution, Gender Abuse, and a Death Sentence, © 2022 by Mariam Ibraheem, published by Whitaker House. Used with permission.

Order your copy of Shackled: One Woman’s Dramatic Triumph Over Persecution, Gender Abuse, and a Death Sentence by Mariam Ibraheem