La Hawala wala Quwwata llla billah (al-allyel Atheem) (No change can happen in creation either for benefit or harm except by the will of Allah)
My Name is Orlando Cordia Hall Sr. The Muslim name given to me is Shakib Wali. I’m a Black American man, 49 years old. I am a father of 6, a grandfather of 13, a brother, a friend, a loving companion to my soul mate, and above all your fellow human being.
I have been on federal Death Row since 1994, accused of drug trafficking and murder. It is extraordinary to know the precise moment of your death – I am scheduled for execution on Thursday, November 19th, at 6 pm EST. If there is no stay, that is when they will kill me.
It is also extraordinary to have a government that glances briefly at you with hate-filled eyes and sees no hope of redemption. I know that redemption is possible because I have witnessed so many turn their lives around for the greater good, not because they were getting something out of it, but because something in them wanted more from life. For me, redemption is Allah’s Mercy and this gift is possible for all of His creation who accept it.
There is a long story behind what happened, but that is not the purpose of this essay. But before going any further, I would be remiss if I omitted the victim of my crime – an innocent 16-year old called Lisa Rene. Her loving family has been traumatized by my selfish act, just as has my family. I am fully aware that I may soon be murdered myself and, for me, that underlines my own sinfulness.
I was 24 when I was sent here, and I am now 49 – so I have spent most of my life on death row. I undergone transmutations, for Life’s lessons will catch up with you no matter where you are, and mine just happened to find me on death row. “There are two important days in our lives,” said Mark Twain, “the day we are born and the day we find out why.”
When I am sad, I think of how, as a young father, I never realized that I needed a ‘why’. For many years I was confused. Life had to be more than consumption. My birth inheritance was Black and Christian. I credit my Christian family for introducing me to God as they understand God to be, yet inheritance is no substitute for the ownership born of choice.
I was first introduced to Islam in 1993, but I wasn’t ready for change. As a Christian I would often engage Muslims, debating who was right, but I felt that if I “converted” I might be once again betraying my own family. I felt lost more than anything. I knew Jesus hadn’t saved me.
Then about 15 years ago I converted to Islam – or perhaps I “reverted” to my original state of submission to Allah. I was challenged to read the Life story of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Then I got a Quran and started my journey in earnest. I read where Allah says that He will give us an abundance of what we desire: If we want amusement we can have it, but if we want good we can have that. Belatedly, I chose the latter. I took a leap of faith and found my own path. It didn’t take me long to come back to the Muslim brother and take my Shahada (testimony of faith).
So I will inevitably be judged by Allah, and I hope to find more mercy than I have received from the United States. But allow me for a moment to pass judgment in turn: How does Islam relate to the Trump Administration that seeks my execution in a matter of days?
Simply put, it does not. The U.S. applies systemic racism to subjugate people of color and the poor. Death Row U.S.A. has always been used as a tool to terrorize the black community, whether by the lynch mob or the Department of Justice. When I was dispatched to death row, I was essentially illiterate, but I also wasn’t a fool. I was judged by an all-white American jury. I felt like thousands before me: doomed. Everyone in the courtroom with any power was white. The white prosecutors chose to try my case in a conservative white community in Texas to improve their odds of “victory” in the execution lottery.
True Islam is the antithesis of the American judicial apparatus. There is a full and fair investigation. There is no jury selection to favor one race over another. With bias stripped away, only the facts remain. Although Islam has the death penalty it isn’t designed for revenge or terror, but to heal and even better the injured. Execution is not carried out in the name of the government. To be sure, the victim’s family may desire a life for a life. Perhaps, as we better come to understand the mercy of Allah, they are themselves led to show mercy, which is their unilateral right. And finally, they can seek restitution in money.
Once everything is done according to Islamic law the injured party can choose – but Allah always wants us to forgive.
Soon – very soon – I may face my ultimate judge. But as I leave you, may Allah favor your efforts. Indeed, I leave you as I meet you in peace. As-salaam Alaikum.
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