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The Nejma Collective

  • Who we are:

    We are a UK-based collective of Muslim volunteers who work in solidarity with people in prisons by sharing resources (financial grants and books) and mutual support. We are motivated by Islam’s holistic approach to justice that contextualises harm rather than defining people solely by their actions, and that seeks accountability and reparation rather than simply caging people and making them more vulnerable. We are also motivated by our experiences organising around prison justice, supporting family members in prison and detention centres, and campaigning against the criminalisation and policing of Muslims through counterterrorism laws. We support people in prison of all faiths and none. 

    Nejma means star in Arabic. We called ourselves the Nejma Collective in reference to Surah Yusuf in the Quran, wherein the moon, the sun and eleven stars bowed before the Prophet Yusuf (may peace be upon him) in his dream. Surah Yusuf reminds us that people in prison must not be maligned or ignored, even Allah’s chosen messenger was imprisoned on account of unjust circumstances. The interactions he has with other prisoners also remind us that people who experience prison are as valuable and important to society as everybody else.

    Our Aims:

    1. To share resources (financial and books) with people in prison based on their needs as expressed by them (through grant application forms and letters).

    2. To develop relationships of mutual support with people in prison and grassroots collectives working to that end.

    3. To draw public attention to the needs and experiences of people in prison (as/if they want).

    Our Process:

    • The Nejma Collective are a Community Interest Company registered at companies house, registration number: 14832284. We advertise our grant service to people in prison through the Inside Time newspaper which goes out to all prison estates in the UK. This advertising is funded by a grant received from Fearless Futures in 2022.

    • In response to our advertisement, people in prison write to our Freepost address (license for which is also funded by the Fearless Futures grant) asking for a grant application form: FREEPOST – Nejma Collective.

    • We send out application forms to people in prison asking for their details to pay them and examples of what they might purchase. The list often includes things like underwear, phone credit, food, toiletries, craft supplies for mental health reasons etc. As of December 2022 we also offer the option for applicants to apply for us to purchase books for them up to the same amount as a grant. Until April 2023, a prison officer was also asked to verify how much money is in the person’s spends account and how frequently they are sent money, however HMPPS asked us to remove this verification process.

    • When we receive completed grant forms we allocate up to £65 as a grant. The money is sent to people in prison via the government’s official payment portal where it is processed before being deposited. People in prison do not receive money directly, it is kept for them in a prison account which has a weekly threshold. People in prison can only buy items from the prison shop which sells things like food and toiletries, or from companies approved to order from by the prison via mail order. To find out more about money in prisons see here.

    • An important part of Nejma Collective’s process is asking for feedback forms from people once they have received a grant to ask what other services we could provide for people in prison in the long-term and to shape our future projects. You can see some of these on our social media.

    • Throughout the process the Collective documents and evaluates our processes to improve the support we can provide and be accountable to our funders.

    • After one year of our activities (by August 2023) we aim to release a public report reflecting on our pilot project (June 2022-Summer 2023) and evaluating aims and objectives accordingly. Our pilot project focused specifically on Muslim women currently housed in the twelve prison estates in the UK. Muslim women in prison face unique challenges, including stigmatisation from families and communities as well bullying and harassment from fellow prisoners and prison staff. Join our mailing list above to keep up to date when our report is released.

    Our Vision:

    We begin from the recognition that the criminal justice system is not ‘just’. Contemporary policing and prisons are rooted in histories of European colonial domination and its accompanying systems of white supremacy and capitalism. Since their inception they have been methods of controlling and disciplining poor and working-class people, and repressing and monitoring indigenous Black and brown people who threatened that system of oppression. Despite safety and justice being the stated aim of the system, on top of deliberately targeting working-class and racialised people, in the neoliberal context of today, policing and prisons also work to secure profit for privately-owned corporations, at the expense of securing justice for oppressed communities. Nejma Collective works to support those that it harms.

    Muslims are disproportionately behind bars in the UK – comprising 18% of the prison population compared to 4.8% of the general population and imprisonment rates continue to grow. Additionally, Muslim prisoners often have their religion weaponised against them. For example, being punished by being told they cannot attend Jummah (Friday) prayers, or not being woken up to fast during Ramadan despite having no alarm clocks of their own. Many Muslims find solace in Islam during their time in prison, but this makes them more vulnerable to suspicion and hostility by prison guards and members of staff. In addition, Muslim women in prison face unique challenges, including stigmatisation from families and communities as well bullying and harassment from fellow prisoners and prison staff. 

    These difficulties are compounded by the fact people in prison and their families are often also harmed within and after experiences in prison due to structural racisms, and the impact prison experiences have on family wellbeing and finances. Many people leave prison with no fixed address or job prospects because of pervasive employment discrimination. Many criminal justice charities and grassroots groups have also highlighted the consequences of imprisonment on children including being sent to foster care homes, thus repeating the cycle of poverty and incarceration. 

    We believe the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ as well as the early Companions promote a vision of justice that is far more holistic than ours today. For example, in the early Muslim community under the leadership of Umar RA, the punishment for theft was suspended due to famine. This demonstrates that justice demands context. We believe that prisons have no place in conversations about justice when there are current contexts of racial oppression, state surveillance, policing, and economic impoverishment and dispossession of the majority, for global elites and corporations to make profit. Justice demands the end of these conditions of oppression and exploitation, which lead to and amplify the types of interpersonal harm and vulnerability marginalised people experience.

    We believe Islam upholds the sanctitiy of life, that people have a right to live in safety and dignity with access to wellness and justice. This requires there to be no oppression, no exploitation, no economic deprivation, no prisons, no racism, no capitalism, no ableism and no systems of policing or surveillance which prioritise the security of the state and property rather than the safety of ordinary people. 

    Allah’s 99 names include Ar-Raheem, the Most Merciful, and Al-’Adl, the Utterly Just. We therefore also work knowing that the truest form of justice lies with Allah, and not within this world, but that it is incumbent upon us as Muslims to emulate characteristics of mercy and justice as far as we can. The Nejma Collective is a result of this aspiration that is therefore far bigger than simply supporting people in prison. We also call for redistribution of resources globally to break the control capital has over our economies; we call for thriving and fully funded welfare systems; an end to imperialism in its military and ‘development guises, closure of all detention centers and decarcaration of prisoners – to instead build societies organised around ensuring people’s wellness and access to processes of accountability when they experience harm or their rights are violated. This is the future we want to build. However, we intend to support those criminalised and incarcerated to be able to live lives that are safer and more dignified on the way to building that broader future.

    Further reading:

    • Agenda and Women in Prison, Double Disadvantage (2017)
    • Ishtiaq Ahmed and Sofia Buncy, Muslim Women in Prison (2014).
    • Amanda Brown, The Prison Doctor (2019).
    • Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003).
    • Carl Cattermole, Prison: A Survival Guide (2019)
    • David Lammy, The Lammy Report (2017).
    • Maslaha, Time to End the Silence: the experience of Muslims in the prison system (2020).
    • Prison Reform Trust, What about me? (2019).
    • Prison Reform Trust and Women in Prison, Home truths: housing for women in the criminal justice system (2016).
    • Miriam Skinner, Jailbirds: Lessons from a women’s prison (2019)
    • James Trafford, The Empire at Home Internal Colonies and the End of Britain (2020).
    • Jackie Wang, Carceral Capitalism (2018).
    • Andrea Riche, Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color (2017)
    • Eric Stanley, Nat Smith, Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex (2011) 

Contact us at: – please note we are a volunteer-led organisation so there may be some delays in getting back to you, please be patient with us.

Nejma Collective are a Community Interest Company, no: 14832284