Convicted murderer in a Dubai prison atones by helping other inmates memorise the Quran

A former clothing designer from Egypt is serving a life sentence at Dubai Prison for involvement in a 2008 murder case

A Dubai inmate is using the power of faith to give fellow prisoners an opportunity to make a fresh start. Antonie Robertson / The National
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An inmate at Dubai Central Prison has told of how he embarked on a journey of redemption by assisting in the release of hundreds of fellow prisoners by helping them to memorise the Quran.

He said his mission was “driven by a desire to atone and find a sense of purpose”.

The former clothing designer from Egypt, who came to the UAE aged 27, was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of murder three years later in 2008.

The inmate, who is in a wheelchair while he recovers from a hernia operation, is now 47.

I hope society would look beyond the mistakes of the past, especially since we once lived outside of prison walls just like them
Inmate, 47, Dubai Prison

Dressed in a standard-issue white prison uniform, he met The National in a small room outside the ward, where he also guides other inmates as they learn the Quran.

He agreed to give The National a glimpse into his daily life behind bars, a routine marked by reflection, education and a quest for redemption.


His day begins at 4.30am before fajr prayer and the rest of the prison wakes up.

“I pray and draw closer to God Almighty until it's time for fajr prayer,” he tells The National.

Breakfast at 6.30am offers a variety of international dishes alongside Emirati cuisine.

“Some days it's Emirati balaleet and other days there will be labneh, jam, eggs. It's different every day," he says.

He then returns to his cell for a shower and heads to work, not the design work of his past, but a mission of teaching and learning.

Having memorised the Quran within a year and a half of his sentence, he took on the role of a teacher, helping others in their efforts to rehabilitate themselves.

Dubai Central Prison houses thousands of inmates, with the jail having a capacity of up to 4,000.

He has to go through several security checks before he leaves his ward to go to the Education and Training Department of Dubai Police’s Correctional and Punitive Establishments, where helps to others memorise the Quran.

“It has been my mission for nearly 11 years, driven by a desire to atone and find a sense of purpose,” he says.

His background in art education has proven invaluable, enabling him to apply teaching methods that transform students into teachers themselves.

“During the period I helped other inmates memorise the Quran, hundreds were able to obtain reductions in their sentences and were released. This made me very happy,” he says.


After Quran lessons, it is time for lunch.

“We have lunch between 11.30am and 2pm. There are different dishes featuring chicken, meat and fish, all served with rice and salad,” he says.

Afterwards, he will perform a dhuhr prayer and then nap.

“I wake up for asr prayer, perform the prayer then head to a Quran memorising session at the small prayer room in my ward,” he says.

In 2021, his Quran memorising lessons with the education department stopped and he developed a passion for reading.

Each morning, he visits the library to read books on philosophy, science, and stories that he says have all broadened his worldview.

“Reading has made me see the world with a broader eye,” he says.

His quest for learning has led him to participate in more than 28 training courses over the years, from computer skills to organic farming, each new skill offering a broader understanding of the world outside his cell.

These were part of 60 inmate education and skill development programmes in 2022, organised by the education and training department in co-ordination with various institutions, authorities and ministries.

They covered multiple topics and were made available to all inmates.

Last year, the number of programmes grew, with 83 different training courses, workshops and lectures on offer, covering topics such as computer basics, mechanics, planting and sewing.

Refusing visitation

Since his first day in prison, he has denied prison visits, but he did inform his siblings before beginning his sentence.

“I maintain contact through phone calls, a lifeline to the world I left behind,” he says.

Reflecting on his journey, he speaks of a personal transformation, from anger to calm, guided by the principles of the Quran and the kind treatment he has received from prison staff in Dubai.

“I've become a different person,” he says, highlighting the shift from a nervous person to one who embodies patience and kindness, even in the face of challenges among inmates.

As he awaits the decision on his request for early release, he dreams of a future where he can rebuild his life, hoping to share the lessons he has learnt with others.

“I hope to find a suitable job, rent a house, and transform it into a home with a wife who will bless me with children," he says. “I will dedicate all my efforts to being a good father and teaching them the lessons I learnt the hard way.”

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Updated: April 15, 2024, 4:35 PM