Shaikh Hamid was raised in an average American household with an industrious and loving mother and step-father. However, in middle and high school, he became involved in gang culture in spite of his parents’ attempts to keep him out of it through private schooling. He was very attracted to the brotherhood aspect of the gangs.
Over The Wall is a brief autobiography/conversion story written by Shaikh Hamid Hussein Waqar. Shaikh Hamid was raised in an average American household with an industrious and loving mother and step-father. However, in middle and high school, he became involved in gang culture in spite of his parents’ attempts to keep him out of it through private schooling. He was very attracted to the brotherhood aspect of the gangs. During this time period he also decided to investigate religion, and looked into Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hare Krishna – all religions that were either monotheistic or had some influence in the area where he lived. He was immediately turned off by the Hare Krishna faith and also not at all attracted to Judaism. He rejected Christianity because of the Trinity, and he ultimately decided Islam was for him.
He was attracted to Islam because of its logic and the clear doctrine of the Oneness of God. God as presented in Islam was the only model that made sense to him. He did not know any practicing Muslim and did his best to learn what he could from books. The lack of a guide often created confusion, for example, he found a book on how to pray that included both the required and recommended acts but did not explain it so, leading him to believe everything was required. He thus found each prayer with the du’as and specific Qur’an recitation easily taking him an hour and did not understand how Muslims could possibly pray five times a day. He persisted in his chosen faith with limited knowledge, but unfortunately became involved in a gang-related fight which resulted in a prison sentence.
He found prison to be a very dangerous, difficult place, but was also blessed to meet some practicing Shia Muslims there who were able to guide him. He comments on some of the problems of the United States’ prison system and discloses its dark reality. While serving his sentence, he became motivated to turn his life around and be serious about his chosen religion.
When he was released from prison he tried to make amends to his family, whom he consistently speaks well of throughout the book, and made efforts to build connections within the Shia community through contacts he had made. He remained steadfast in his desire to live a reformed life, and ended up going first to Lebanon and then to Qom for Islamic seminary studies. He learned both Arabic and Farsi, got married and had children. At the conclusion of the story, he is continuing his studies and working on translating Farsi religious works into English whilst working with Shia youth in the West through camp programs and lecture visits.
Over The Wall is written in simple, plain, straight forward language, in a style as if the writer is speaking to you directly. Only seventy-six pages long, it can be read in a short time. While it has a fair number of spelling and grammatical errors that can easily be addressed by an editor, its honesty, humbleness and sincerity make it a worthy read. It should appeal to teenage boys in particular, yet can be appreciated by all.
Over The Wall is available in print or can be downloaded as a pdf file (costing less than two dollars) from Muntazar, along with other works produced by the same author.