In the stark desert expanse of northern New Mexico, a chilling story unfolded that would leave a community in disbelief. It is a story that touches upon the realms of faith, extremism, and tragedy. In 2017, young Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj’s life took a heart-wrenching turn when a ritual intended to rid him of evil spirits went terribly awry. This ritual, known as ruqyah, was only the beginning of a harrowing journey for the boy and his family. Fast forward to a Wednesday in the present, a trial was underway that shed light on the tragic events that unfolded. This trial, which has gripped the nation’s attention, explores into the details surrounding Abdul-Ghani’s untimely demise, as well as the disturbing circumstances leading up to it.
The ritual of ruqyah, practiced by Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and his extended family, was meant to heal Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj from what they believed were malevolent spirits afflicting the toddler. It was a practice they had performed countless times before, but this time would end in tragedy. Instead of healing, it left the child foaming at the mouth until he stopped breathing. Shockingly, there were no calls to 911 or attempts to rush him to the nearest hospital, leading to a perplexing set of circumstances.
Remote Desert Encampment
Abdul-Ghani’s last moments unfolded in a remote desert encampment near the Colorado state line, a place devoid of basic amenities. Authorities stumbled upon a grim scene in August 2018 when they raided the compound. The defendants, including Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and his partner Jany Leveille, were found living with 11 hungry children in squalid conditions, without running water. Surrounding them were berms of tires and an adjacent shooting range stocked with guns and ammunition.
Resettlement in New Mexico
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and Jany Leveille had taken Abdul-Ghani to New Mexico, uprooting him from his home, where they continued their prayer rituals on him and the other children. Leveille herself faced initial charges of kidnapping and terrorism-related offenses, although she later agreed to a reduced sentence on weapons charges and did not appear at the trial.
Prophecy and Radical Beliefs
One of the most shocking aspects of this case was the revelation of the family’s radical beliefs. Leveille’s son, who was 13 at the time, testified about his mother’s prophecy that Abdul-Ghani would be resurrected as Jesus Christ. The group harbored a desire to recruit an army with the intent of ridding the world of nonbelievers. The teen also disclosed their firearms training and months spent hidden from authorities, living in substandard conditions underground and in camper trailers.
Life at the Compound
The teen, who now resides with an aunt and cousins in New York, testified about the misery of life at the compound. “I was stuck in a hole that I couldn’t get out of,” he said, describing the grim conditions and the constant fear of being discovered.
Legal Battle and Defense Arguments
As the trial unfolds, defense attorneys for Siraj Ibn Wahhaj’s sisters, Hujrah and Subhanah Wahhaj, argue that the terrorism charges are largely based on Leveille’s fantastical diary, which detailed her belief in Abdul-Ghani’s resurrection. They assert that the family’s efforts to secure basic shelter in a harsh, remote environment were misrepresented by prosecutors.
Dark and Rushed Departure
The ordeal began when authorities visited the family’s home in Georgia, shortly after Abdul-Ghani was reported missing. Following this visit, the family hastily gathered a few belongings and embarked on a journey to New Mexico, where one of the defendants owned land. The teen testified that his mother had received a divine message instructing them to move quickly. In a night that felt “dark and rushed and surreal,” they left Georgia, taking only seven outfits and a game console, leaving everything else behind.
The tragic story of Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj serves as a sobering reminder of the perils of extreme beliefs and the potential for tragedy when individuals are isolated from mainstream society. As the trial continues, the nation watches with bated breath, hoping for justice for the young boy and answers to the many questions that still surround this perplexing case.