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Short Story Contest ’08 GRAND PRIZE – “Sadaqah” by Azra Tashfeen


*Duff roll*

Without further ado, I present to you… the one… the only… GRAND PRIZE WINNER of MuslimMatter’s Short Story Contest ’08: Sister Azra Tashfeen of Qabeelat Hayl, Columbus, Ohio!1st prize package includes: $150 Cash + Book: “Towards Understanding Our Religion – collected articles from al-Basheer, the magazine” edited by Sheikh Jamal Zarabozo + 1 Free AlMaghrib Registration.


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Sadaqah Azra Tashfeenold-coins_pile_1.jpg


It was the first night of Ramadan in Columbus, Ohio.  I listened with awe as the melodious voice of Sheikh Abdelkarim echoed through the ISNA convention prayer hall.  My younger siblings were beside me taking turns to pray, struggling not to fall asleep.  When it was over, I felt a sense of accomplishment descending upon me, satisfied that I had just prayed all twenty raka’at.  After all, Ramadan was about increasing in one’s worship, praying nawafil, reading more Quran, and staying up at night making dhikr, right?  Or so I thought.

As we waited for the men in my family to join us, my mom and siblings sat down exhausted and thirsty.  Around us, all the restaurants were closed and there were no water fountains in sight. My mom asked me to go search for a drink, anything at all, and said she would wait until I returned.  I left upon her request with three little ones tagging along.  “Behave!” my mom admonished them.

We walked and walked through the main hall of the convention center, passing by the crowds of people still pouring out of the prayer hall.  Nothing.  No sign of water, juice, pop, coffee, nothing.  Finally, my little brother spotted a vending machine in a corner so I immediately pulled out a five dollar bill and waited for the people in front me to finish.  They were a group of brothers, bearded ones, who seemed to be struggling to get their choice of soda.  “Is it jammed?” I inquired.  Apparently, all the drinks were sold out.  Just when my siblings felt relieved to finally be able to quench their thirst, my insides melted in having to explain that the machine was empty. Poor kids.

“So which is the magic button?”  One of the brothers asked just as a Nestle’s Iced Tea popped out from the machine.  It seemed that Iced Tea was the only bottle in stock.  When the guys moved away, I quickly helped my little brother straighten the five dollar bill and insert it into the machine.  It didn’t go.  I attempted once more, but still no luck.”It’s only taking change,” one of the brothers turned around to say.  When I opened my wallet, however, all I had was a quarter, a penny, and some foreign currency.  So for the second time, I looked down at my little siblings and gently explained that I didn’t have enough change, thus could not purchase a drink.  The two girls clung tightly to my abaya as I tried to sift through my purse, keep my hijab on straight, and re-explain the concept of “SOLD OUT” to my seven year-old brother.

Before I could even zip my purse shut, however, the brothers began pulling out nickels and dimes from their pockets and held it out before me.  “No, no! JazakumAllahu kheir, no it’s okay!” I persistently refused.  But upon looking at the three innocent little faces around me, I slowly extended my hand, cupped, so they can drop the change in it.  Those brothers must have thought I was a mother of three kids, desperately seeking to feed her children.  Immediately, my siblings rushed to insert the coins in the machine, one nickel at a time, shrieking, “I want to put the big one in!” “That’s not fair, he already got a turn!” “Can I keep one?!”  The generous men kept producing coins until they were assured the machine read $1.50.  I hit the last button on the machine, and at last, out came the much waited for Iced Tea.  But by the time I turned around to thank the brothers, they were gone.

I was highly embarrassed.  For the first time in my life, I felt what it was like to be on the receiving end of charity.  The idea of not being able to afford something had never even occurred to me in the past.  Yet, now a matter of a few nickels and dimes made a world of difference.  And though I didn’t want to take their sadaqah, I felt compelled to accept it because there were six other people depending on me to satisfy their thirst.I went home that night awe-struck.  If this was how needy I felt for one moment in time, what then of the thousands, millions of children who will wait for food every sunset of every day this month but won’t receive any?  What then of the parents whose hearts are crushed because they will return home to their families with nothing to feed them?  I will not pretend to understand the suffering they face.  But that night, just for one moment, I believe I got a taste of what it might be like to genuinely be in need of something, as simple as a drink of water, as cheap as $1.50.It is likely that I will never find out who those good-hearted brothers were.  Yet, the charitable act they showed towards me and my siblings will remain etched in our faith forever.  Their kindness illuminated a deeper meaning to Ramadan than prayer and fasting.  It is to rekindle that sense of human compassion that is so much a part of our fitrah, that we as Muslims should care for others as we do for our own families.  It is that of giving, spending from one’s wealth, and doing so without attaching a “You owe me” price tag to it.

Allah SWT says in Surah Insan, “And they [the pious people who will enter Jannah] give food, out of love for Him, to the poor, the orphan, and the captive [saying] “We feed you seeking only the Pleasure of Allah; we neither want from you reward nor thanks.” (76:8-9).

Dear brothers and sisters, Ramadan is the month of sharing with others.  Give, give, and give more; do not underestimate the potential of even the most trivial quantity, even if it be nickels, dimes, and a couple quarters.For the brothers who moistened the mouths of seven thirsty people, may Allah SWT provide them with an endless supply of drink from the river of Al-Kawthar. Ameen!

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Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a Canadian Muslim woman who writes on Muslim women's issues, gender related injustice in the Muslim community, and Muslim women in Islamic history. She holds a diploma in Islamic Studies from Arees University, a diploma in History of Female Scholarship from Cambridge Islamic College, and has spent the last fifteen years involved in grassroots da'wah. She was also an original founder of



  1. AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    October 17, 2008 at 1:10 AM

    Allahumma at’im man atamanaa, wasqi man saqaanaa. O Allah feed the one who fed us, give drink to the one who gave to us.

    MashaAllah, that story is grand. :)

  2. ilmsummitee

    October 17, 2008 at 1:19 AM

    Mabrook sister Azra! BarakAllahu feeky and fee ahlek (May Allah bless you and your family) and reward those who quenched your post-taraweeh thirst. They probably never thought to themselves what great ajr they had recieved for a simple, small price. This shows you that you should never underestimate any potential khayr or act of goodness no matter how small it may be.

    @ AbuAbdAllah – nice duaa. I’ve read it before , but thanks for the reminder.

  3. ilmsummitee

    October 17, 2008 at 1:21 AM

    You know for the MM staff, just a request for future contests. l dont think that the runner-ups should recieve a free registration to the TX Dawah conf even though its a very honorable prize, because many people may not be able to attend, some even being outside of the US.
    Maybe a monetary reward, or a book may be of better choice? WaAllahu A’laam.

    So, I guess there are 2 more stories to post?

  4. AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    October 17, 2008 at 1:25 AM

    MashaAllah, and on that note from ilmsummittee: here is a tiny act of goodness to show your appreciation to Sister Azra, and which could lead inshaAllah to more good-deed-dividends for the brothers at the vending machine!

    Digg this article.

    I know, I have been pushing Digg quite a bit, but this article is posted in the “People” section of Digg. Currently the ten “hottest” articles measured by interest from readers bottoms out at about 26 diggs.

    So, if just 25 people Digg this short story right now — this grand prize winner will get the benefit inshaAllah of speaking to people far beyond the confines of our URL.

    Don’t be the last to respond, be awwal-ul-Muslimeen!

  5. ibnabeeomar

    October 17, 2008 at 1:35 AM

    if they can’t attend, prizes can be donated to others. in any case, the tdc registration is just one part of the total prize package :)

  6. ilmsummitee

    October 17, 2008 at 2:08 AM

    @ ibnabeeomar – yea your right, I missed that they also recieve the 50 bucks, walhamdulilah.

    By the way, will you guys be posting up any quran contests or maybe seerah contests anytime soon? You know how all of us get really excited for challenges. You dont need to provide any prizes, just give us a deadline before posting the answers. I really wish you guys will take the initiative and continue on with more of these, inshallah.

    barakaAllahu feekum.

  7. AmatulWadood

    October 17, 2008 at 2:56 AM

    Ameen! MashaAllah that was superb! Very nice ukhtee Azra :) May Allah azza wa jal increase you and your family, ameen!

    Allah ta’ala reminds us in special ways, and indeed the reminder benefits the believer.

  8. Ameera

    October 17, 2008 at 10:12 AM

    This was such a simple and beautiful story – it could happen to anyone! :) Jazakillah for sharing this with us!

  9. usman

    October 17, 2008 at 10:32 AM

    Salaam, that was a great story, i think the best part of it was the fact the sister actually reflected on it and came to a true realization…most ppl would have just went about their day..congrats sister..wsalaam

  10. ASC

    October 17, 2008 at 12:27 PM

    Mashallah, this story is beautiful.

  11. Meena

    October 17, 2008 at 1:08 PM

    Masha’Allah what a beautiful story sister Azra. Congrats Azra…

  12. UmA

    October 17, 2008 at 3:54 PM

    What a genuine story ma sha alllah. Just a side note: do qabeelahs have to be mentioned? Muslim matters is not an almaghrib endeavour.

  13. Amad

    October 17, 2008 at 4:55 PM

    UmA, yes MM is not an AlMaghrib endeavor, but we like to support and prop up AlMaghrib wherever possible because of the positive impact that this institute has on Muslims in America. And in this case, AlMaghrib sponsored the prizes as well, jaza’Allah khair. Also, it was entirely optional for the winner to state their qabeela or not.

  14. Maryam

    October 17, 2008 at 5:44 PM

    Masaha’Allah Didi what a nice story!

  15. tabman

    October 17, 2008 at 10:16 PM

    we might just bump into any of those brothers over here in the comments :)

  16. Azra

    October 18, 2008 at 12:08 AM

    JazakumAllahu kheir everyone for your feedback and duaas! I think all the writers had amazing, inspirational stories mashaAllah. With my own narrative, what I really hope for–I don’t want to get beaten up for saying this–is to spark up the chauvinism in the brothers out there, which seems to be have been suppressed in our age by the feminist movement. Our culture has branded chauvinism as taboo and has poisoned our females to believe that accepting help from a male automatically deems them inferior. Brothers–I’m telling you your kindness does not go unappreciated.

    @Tabman, yeah it would be pretty funny if they actually read this!

    @Maryam, shukriya ti najvece!

    Bottom line, I strongly feel that we need to produce a new breed of Uthman bin Talha’s
    . LOTS of them.

  17. AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    October 18, 2008 at 2:58 AM

    bismillah. jazak Allah khayr, Azra. perhaps if we call it chivalry, the brothers will not take up the less-desirable aspects of chauvinism…

    or we could move all Muslims to Texas. not against their wishes, and not to W and Cheney style internment camps, nor to W’s ranch either, but just to Texas.

    yes, ma’am, it is true that a lot of “furreners” have moved here in recent years. but in general this is still a “please-thank-you-holding-the-door-open-we-call-everyone-sir-or-ma’am” state, an evangelical-chivalry, if you will. which is probably why Bubba did considerably better here than Kerry come-sail-with-me-come-sail-come-sail-away… all the way to neverland by way of W-are-us.

    Qadar Allahi wa maa shaa’a fa’ala.

  18. Azra

    October 18, 2008 at 11:53 AM

    Chivalry! That’s the word I was looking for. Thank you for the correction!

    You’re right, Br. AbuAbdAllah, the “please-thank-you” form of chivalry still exists. I guess what I meant was taking it to a level beyond that, as in fulfilling roles that may not be obligatory, but someone has got to do them. What I’m seeing more and more is that our men are backing out of such roles because “well it’s not haram if I don’t” and consequently the women are being pressed to take their places. In Columbus alone, it’s become an issue finding qualified khateebs, imams, speakers, teachers, and reliable brothers in general. AlMaghrib is currently dead in this city because there isn’t a single brother willing to step up to the plate and take up Ameer’s responsibility. That’s a shame! So to make up for the male incompetency, we have a bunch of masculinized women taking over.

    In my opinion, it shouldn’t be that way. The men should be willing to accept positions of leadership because they shouldn’t want the sisters to be forced to do their job. That is my idea of chivalry.

    • Zahrah Kirby

      September 8, 2009 at 9:03 PM

      Salams, Dear Azra,
      This is zahrah from UK. Do u rmember me? Ur Mom taught me Quran in 96. I googled ur name and it took me here Subhanallah! Its been a long time, please send my salams to your Mom and your family.

  19. Ameera

    October 18, 2008 at 12:02 PM

    *ahem* Resident medical student is monitoring a strange turn in the discussion. Non-medical terms like “chivalry” are better, no?

  20. MK

    October 18, 2008 at 11:16 PM

    amazing story, Masha’Allah!

  21. MK

    October 18, 2008 at 11:28 PM

    er, ‘masculinized women’???……seriously?

  22. Jawahir

    October 19, 2008 at 12:31 AM

    Mabruk sr Azra…mashaAllah wonderful story!!

  23. AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    October 19, 2008 at 1:17 AM

    innalhamdolillah. bismillah.

    i ask Allah to forgive me if anything i write would displease Him, and pray to Him to forgive all of us for any mistake or excess, and to strengthen us and our communities, and to make us successful over the fitnahs that test our communities.

    sister azra, may i please commend to you two resources and offer a few thoughts?

    (1) the search feature here at MM. it’s in a small box at the top right of (most) every page. a person would only recognize it from the small magnifying glass-submit-search-icon, but the feature works “like a charm” (but happily it is not a charm, so it’s perfectly halal).

    i searched for “gender” and got these results.

    (2) the last article in the list: “Where Are the Women Scholars?

    growing up in this country wreaked havoc on my perception of appropriate gender roles, as well as what type of woman i would want to marry. concepts like hayaa and the proper role of a husband in his family, much less the roles of men and women in the muslim communities in which they live and beyond — all of these i learned, alhamdolillah, only within the past few years since Allah put it into my heart to study the religion from authentic sources and qualified teachers.

    that said, i do believe that Muslim women can contribute significantly to their communities (outside their homes), just as the sisters in China do, just as did the female scholars spotlit by Shaykh Waleed Basyouni in his course Torchbearers. and that those contributions need not masculinize them nor emasculate their men.

    wAllaho’Alim. He alone Knows what is in the heart of any man or any woman. so I pray He Guides the Muslims in Columbus, those who work hard for the community, those who might work harder, and those who observe and comment.

  24. Yus from the Nati

    October 19, 2008 at 1:56 AM

    “AlMaghrib is currently dead in this city because there isn’t a single brother willing to step up to the plate and take up Ameer’s responsibility. That’s a shame! So to make up for the male incompetency, we have a bunch of masculinized women taking over.”

    That’s because all the masculinized men dipped out the city! Better tell Mr. Asheer to grap the ropes!


  25. Naima A.

    October 19, 2008 at 11:55 AM

    Masha’Alllah Azra great story. May Allah reward those brothers

  26. umtalhah

    October 20, 2008 at 8:19 AM

    as salam alaikum wa rahmatullahi,
    incidences like these happen to each and everyone of us. and not just w.r.t. food/drink, but kindness, small favors, very ‘insignificant’ blessings that Allah azzawajalla gives us (w/ or w/o involving others). but how many, many times we go thru them thinking all these favors of Allah are our ‘basic right’. we in fact feel upset at their absence. sometimes even furious. losing our temper on ppl/factors we believe are responsible for their absence. and then the minute we get our hands on the ‘missing basic right’ we go back to being arrogant not realizing how helpless we are (even with a $5 bill in our pockets!). Allah has told us that He shows us signs, day in and out, around us and within ourselves.

    but we take no heed.

    and so the beauty of this story, that brought tears to my eyes is that the sister

  27. Azra

    October 21, 2008 at 8:34 AM

    Bismillah. JazakAllahu kheir Br. AbuAbdAllah for your feedback, and Ameen to your duaas.

    I have given some thought to your comments over the last couple days. I think I would need to support my claim with much more evidence in order for you to understand where I’m coming from and this probably isn’t the best place to do so. If I composed an essay about it, would you be willing to refute it? I’m very much interested in understanding these and other issues from multiple perspectives because it allows me to reflect upon them, which, in turn, expands my own frame of thought, not to mention the intellectual pleasure I get out of it. So your input–and everyone else’s–are very important to me. More than that, however, I appreciate your sincerity. JazakAllah kheir.

    @Yusuf…Asheer? Who’s that?? I think the strings are being passed on to Asheer Junior :) Perhaps you too can send some Yusuf juniors back to Cbus someday, inshaAllah!

  28. AbuAbdAllah, the Houstonian

    October 21, 2008 at 9:08 AM

    bismillah. sister Azra, inshaAllah, i would be more than happy to read your essay and review it. inshaAllah, there would be no need for refutation, and i would not approach your essay with that intent: to do so would be more chauvinistic of me than chivalrous. so, write the essay. and i agree that it should not be too focused on Columbus. there are best-practices for naseeha in our religion, mashaAllah, and public exposure of the faults of a community is not a first-resort. so try to write your essay in a way that does not hurt any one person or group of people. that’s my general encouragement as you begin. and may Allah purify your intentions and ours, and accept from you and from us. ameen.

  29. sadia

    October 21, 2008 at 10:13 AM

    beautiful masha Allah!!

    how many millions of muslims in the world fast each with no sunset to look forward to……

  30. Pingback: LAST Day to Vote Today for Favorite Ramadan Story Contest |

  31. Nabeel

    November 1, 2008 at 8:43 PM

    That was a Great Story. its so simple but powerful. how can we organize our youth to be active in Dawah. we do have some men in columbus but not in almaghrib. that does not mean that are no leaders. also ladies can play a role too not as leaders but as Great Mothers. Great mothers can raise a great nation. we have been waiting for a long time……………………

  32. Nabeel

    November 2, 2008 at 9:11 AM

    @ sister Azra, yes there are MEN leader in columbus Ohio.
    @Br Abuabdullah i totally agree.
    i believe we need to stop blaming each other and start working for the common Good for Muslim Umma. we already have too many groups in columbus Oh and may be in other places in the same way. i WISH we can get togther as One Umma and show others YES we are ONE. let’s play our role as individuals and get togther at least in our hearts. Question we need to ask ourselves is WHAT AM I DOING? Where i want to be in 5 years. as individual and as ONE UMMA.
    Open for Feedback…………..

  33. Your biggest Fan

    November 7, 2008 at 12:22 PM

    MashaAllah that was a beautiful article. It touched my heart! You should write more stuff for this website!

  34. Amna

    November 7, 2008 at 12:38 PM

    Subhanallah! Mashallah!!!! Very well written; it touched my heart. Jazakallahu khair.

  35. seema ibrahim

    November 8, 2008 at 1:59 PM

    dear sister azra, asalam o alaikum,
    Mashahallah, you wrote a beautiful essay. The best thing about it is, it’s true. yes in our lives we do not realize the truths and realities of life. But if we see closely we do come across lot of incidents in our lives which can make us think ! provided we pay attention. May Allah SWT reward those boys and you and your family for all the good deeds .ameen.

  36. jay

    November 9, 2008 at 2:21 AM


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