A Short Story
By Umm Zakiyyah
“You should really consider accepting their offer,” Mona said.
Barakah sighed as she balanced the cell phone between her shoulder and ear as she finished typing an email to the editor of the university newspaper. “It's too much to think about right now,” Barakah said, her voice exhausted. She pressed send and leaned back in her desk chair as she held the cell phone to her ear now that her hands were free. “I have to retake the GRE next month.”
“Do you know what this can mean for you?” Mona said. “You can pay for graduate school.”
Barakah laughed. “And if nobody buys the program?”
“Then at least you'll have an impressive resume. Do you know how many undergrad students can say they authored educational software?”
“But I never planned for it to be a CD. It's just some notes I jotted down to help children with reading.”
“Some notes?” Mona repeated. “You have pictures, diagrams, and even songs in there. I teach at a so-called prestigious elementary school, and I don't even go to the teachers' resource room for reading. I go to your blog to get what I need. And the students love it. Even some of my 'slow' readers are reading better now.”
“But it's my life's work,” Barakah said. “I've been writing down these ideas since I was tutoring special needs students in middle school. It feels like selling my soul to just hand it over to someone else.”
“That's why you do an option agreement,” Mona said. “You give them exclusive rights for a year or two, and if they haven't published and marketed your software by then, then it's all yours to do what you want; or you option it to someone else.”
Barakah was silent as she considered what her friend was saying. Maybe it could work. She didn't know much about the Muslim school that was offering to convert her educational blog into reading software, but Barakah did like the idea of giving a Muslim business the chance to benefit financially if it should become successful.
“But would they agree to that?” Barakah said. “I thought companies always bought everything outright.”
“Not small companies,” Mona said. “They need time to get funding and build interest in the product before they can buy it outright. It's a business investment. It might work out. It might not. That's why they work hard during the contract period so that you have a finished product at the end.”
Barakah sighed. “I'll think about it.”
“Just think of all the blessings you'll get for helping Muslims,” Mona said. “Do it for the sake of Allāh.”
One Week Later…
“Please tell me you're not even thinking of doing something stupid like that,” Rania said.
Barakah steadied her breaths as she walked rhythmically on the treadmill in the living room of the university apartment she shared with her older sister, who was in law school. Rania sat on the couch thumbing through a magazine, her face contorted as she looked at her sister.
“You can't trust these people,” Rania said, “especially the ones who can't shut up about all the stuff they want do 'for the sake of Allāh'” She spoke sarcastically in a high-pitched tone for the last words.
“Well, Rania,” Barakah said between breaths, trying to keep from sounding as aggravated as she felt, “there are Muslims who actually believe in that.”
“And you think Mona is one of them?”
Barakah glowered at her sister. “I've known Mona since sixth grade.”
“Barakah, stop being so naïve. Don't forget her uncle owns that Muslim school that wants to take your work from you.”
“She's not impartial.”
“Does she have to be?”
“Yes,” Rania said, discarding the magazine on the couch next to her as she glared at her younger sister. “Especially when it comes to you losing everything you've put your heart into all these years.”
“I'm not losing everything,” Barakah said, rolling her eyes. “I'm getting a percentage too.”
Rania grunted. “But whose name will be on your work? And how do you know you can trust them?”
Barakah pressed a button on the treadmill to slow her steps. “They're a Muslim school, for goodness sake.”
Rania's eyes widened. “Please tell me you're joking. That's about as sensible as saying, 'They're Christian, for goodness sake.” Rania shook her head. “Muslims and Christians are people, Barakah. And some people are good and some people are bad. It's their reputation and good character that makes them trustworthy, even if they don't have a religion.”
Barakah stepped off the treadmill and lifted her towel from the arm of the couch and wiped the sweat from her head. “Well, if I'm going to trust anybody,” she said, “it'll be Muslims.”
Rania sighed and shook her head. “Well, then at least insist on a one-year cap in the contract. That's long enough to see if they're serious.”
“Of course,” Barakah said, “that's the one clause I said has to be in there.”
Rania pursed her lips as she looked at her sister, concerned. “Just pray Istikhaarah.”
Fourteen Months Later…
Who do you think you are?
Barakah's heart nearly stopped in shock as she read the email from Mona.
We spend all our time and money on designing a cover to the CD,
and you say you're not going to let the school publish it?
Barakah closed the browser window, and her hands trembled as she pushed her chair away from the computer desk.
“The contract expired,” Barakah had told Mona when they went out to the mall together the week before, “and I don't think I'll sign again to let the school publish the CD.”
Barakah thought she sensed a change in Mona's demeanor, but she couldn't be sure. “I mean, I know they're sincere and everything,” Barakah said. “But all this time, they didn't do anything to fund the software. All they did was focus on a cover design.”
“Well, that is important.”
“Yeah I know, but…”
“But what?” Mona glared at Barakah.
“I just don't feel like they're the right ones to do it.” Barakah's voice was shaky. There was so much more she wanted to say, but she didn't know how to say it to Mona.
For one thing, the school kept prioritizing other projects over hers, and they rarely even made time to meet with her so she could express her concerns. But every few weeks Barakah would get an email or a phone call from yet another administrator apologizing to her for how busy they were or saying so-and-so was sick and so-and-so had to travel and so-and-so this that and the other—all to explain why nothing significant was being doing with the educational property she had given them exclusive rights to.
“I thought of the coolest idea,” Mona told Barakah four months into the contract after Barakah had expressed to Mona her frustration with the school just sitting on her project.
“I was thinking about what you said about doing something to really move this project forward.” Mona grinned widely. “And I found a professional designer to do the CD cover!”
“Okay…” Barakah was thinking it was more important to focus on the actual software design, but she figured Mona knew what she was doing. Besides, the school still had eight months to focus on the software.
“That way, when people see the nice cover on the school's website, we can build up interest. We might even get someone to pay for the software design itself.”
“You think so?”
Barakah smiled, feeling a bit more hopeful. “Then let's do it.”
“Then let's do it.” That's what you said about the CD cover idea.
Barakah's head pounded as the cruel words of Mona's email wouldn't leave her mind.
So how dare you say we didn't do what you wanted! You're the one who said we needed to do more for the project. If you don't want the school to do your software, then the least you can do is pay us the $1,850.00 we paid the designer. We thought we could trust you. That's why we invested all that money! You need to fear Allāh.
Barakah walked to the bathroom and turned on the water, the throbbing in her head making it difficult to concentrate on the steps of wudhoo' as she prepared for prayer.
“That's why you do an option agreement,” Mona's words came back to Barakah suddenly. “…and if they haven't published and marketed your software by then, then it's all yours to do what you want…”
And don't tell me about some stupid clause in that kaafir contract you made us sign. We're Muslims. We thought you were doing this for the sake of Allāh. Now it's clear you just want to make a big name for yourself!
Barakah's jaw quivered as she lifted a handful of water and wiped it over her face. Tears spilled from her eyes, and her shoulders shook as a whimper escaped her throat.
So you better send us a check for what we paid for the CD cover design, and the over 100 billable hours we spent working so hard when you didn't offer a single penny to help us!
“Allaahuakbar,” Barakah said, proclaiming God's greatness as she raised her hands in surrender, signifying the start of prayer.
“Don't worry,” Rania said as she embraced a weeping Barakah later that day. “I have some lawyer friends who can get you out of this mess inshaaAllah.”
“But…” Barakah murmured between cries, her voice muffled by Rania's hair. “I just can't believe they'd do something like that.”
Rania sighed and shut her eyes slowly, silently praying to Allāh that everything would be resolved smoothly.
“Just pray for the Muslims, Barakah,” Rania said, sadness in her tone. “Ask Allāh to return them to Islam.”
Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy and the novels Realities of Submission and Hearts We Lost. She is now writing juvenile fiction stories under the name Ruby Moore. To learn more about the author, visit themuslimauthor.com or join her Facebook page.
Copyright © 2013 by Al-Walaa Publications. All Rights Reserved.
WRITTEN FOR MUSLIMMATTERS.ORG