‘Can’t Believe They Did That’ | Umm Zakiyyah

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?”

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“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 Allah.”

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 Allah’” 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.”

“I will.”

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.

What’s that?”

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?”

“Of course.”

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 Allah.

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 Allah. 
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 Allah that everything would be resolved smoothly.

“Just pray for the Muslims, Barakah,” Rania said, sadness in her tone. “Ask Allah 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.


24 / View Comments

24 responses to “‘Can’t Believe They Did That’ | Umm Zakiyyah”

  1. Siraaj says:

    Ouch-what if Khan Academy was run by the local masjid :(

  2. Umm Meriem says:

    Subhannah Allah! This is one thing that drives me mad as a Muslim. Whenever we fall short in a business contract, we expect our brother or sister to “fear Allah” and let us off, but we don’t give the same courtesy. We even throw the term, “feesabilillah” around like it’s a joke, astagherullah.

  3. Umm k says:

    Why is it that when it comes to the deen we want all rules aside. Does not Allah say, ” Li nabluwakum ayuukum ahsanu amalah…”. We are supposed to strive to do things in the best possible manner and best interests of every body, where is it when we photocopy stuff add it to our books and do not even give credit? Why is it that whenever I speak of copyright, I am told but it is Sadaqa Jaariya !!
    Truly spoken or should I say written…

  4. azmathmoosa says:

    I’m confused. is this a real story or based on it. and if it is real or if reality inspired this, what i dont understand is, why does she need to cry? she still has full rights over her work and no one can claim it. and she can give the school a finger for that check they are demanding without right. excuse me, i just dont see what is there for her to loose.

    • Its not about her losing something i.e. the rights to her work. Its more of the shock of realising that a lot of muslims now a days are as far from practicing real Islam as they have ever been. the way her friend turned on her even though she herself had encouraged her and told her to put the safe clause in the contract. The way they disrespected the time limit that they had which is so common nowadays, i mean i dont think i have ever met a muslim esp arab who respects time as in appointments or so. to cut a long story short muslims are a joke nowadays. follow bits and pieces of the parts that they like and abandon the true essence of islam.

      • Maya says:

        In my opinion, I wouldn’t generalize that statement. I know many sisters who are trying their best to not do such a thing in any matter of affairs they deal with. But, I sadly it’s true. Many Muslims now are falling in the trap of this Dunya we live in, & the more we seek it, the more it will destroy us. We are many in number Mashaa Allah, yet we lack the faith of our ancestors. I pray this Umma comes back strong and the glory of Islam restored to where it’s supposed to be..

  5. dawah4me says:

    Mashallah, so much on point. What can be said more. May Allah continue to give you the ability for keeping it real along with making everyone reflect , think and hopefully change!

  6. Tanveer Khan says:

    “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.”
    Couldnt agree more. :)

  7. mezba says:

    This is so true and I cam tell you it can be based on reality. I have been trying to market my work for Muslim kids for a long time and I have had to deal with people like that (and of course, also proper people).

  8. O H says:

    Tabarak Allaah, keep up the good work sister! Sad to see Muslims using Islamic phrases, excuses & acting all self righteous to act in a manner which is unislamic such as laying accusations without right!
    “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!” is an example of such as mentioned in the article.

  9. The loss of trust is an immutable reality and which I think is due to a lack of awareness of the finer aspects of Islam that govern the details of daily way of life.
    “for the sake of Allah” for some means being altruistic and most often it is. However, when it comes to human transactions Allah has codified in the Shariah laws governing contracts and this is an classic example of what those laws strive to prevent. Subhanallah.
    We have an option of holding each other to our verbal word of implied understanding or we generate awareness amongst the general mass on contracts and contractual obligations. I feel generating awareness would be a better option, difficult to implement but yields better long term results and less heart breaks.

  10. Majida says:

    It hurt! :(
    Masha Allaah! Amazing!
    May Allaah guide us to the Straight Path…again, aameen!

  11. Hyde says:

    “You can’t trust Muslims either, you know that niqbai over there, yeah you should have seen her few years ago and that girl walking in a mini-skirt, yeah she is so religious. That brother talking about lowering his gaze, was doing anything but that few years ago”…and on and on… why are we, Muslims putting so much writing about distrust and and whatnot amongst each other? Of course stories like these are true and exist and I am not saying we should be wholly ignorant of them, why spread rather air out the dirty laundry left and right ? I get the story but I am afraid not the long-term point of it. (Muslims needs to stop airing out their dirty laundry in public)

    • Gibran says:

      Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

      Yeah, I feel like a lot of this is just uncovering faults of the Muslims and not trying to rectify them.

      • Hyde says:

        Exactly, what was the moral of this story ? Any solutions ? Or just exposure…I can’t but think of the The Domestic Crusaders…absurdity & show & tell….

        • Konga says:

          The problem with Muslim communities is that they are very often in complete denial of their own shortcomings. Every time a concerned Muslim points to a problem in the Muslim community, he/she gets criticised by people like you telling them that “exposing” the problem is just harmful and that it would have been better to come up with a solution instead. Well, geniuses, can you please tell me how you can come up with a solution without talking about the problem?

          The moral of this story: Muslims are people just like any other people in the world. Some of them are trustworthy and some of them are not. There is absolutely no grounds for believing or trusting everything an individual Muslim says just because he/she throw the word “Allah” at the end of every other sentence. That would just make you an easy target for swindlers and charlatans.

          To the author: Good story. I really appreciate the contribution that MuslimMatters.org presents to the community.

          • Hyde says:

            Brother, Muslims are so distraught that if there is one thing we are not in denial is that we are in denial. Just look around you: look at the way this deen is being hacked by either secular liberalists, or mad-dog nihilistic fundamentalist. No body said we should not be talking about issues; of course we should be. But what are the channels ? The Manners ? The methodology ? Highlighting Muslims problems seems to be in sync with making fun of them. There are Muslims who openly mock and even straight-up bully our beloved sisters in niqab and hijab. Are they concerned Muslims ? Why do more Muslims show up for a domestic violence fundraiser (which is undeniably momentous problem in our communities) then they do for prayer in the Masjid ?

            Muslims are just like anybody else, they lie, they rape, kill, hate, love and of course “go off to the wayward path”. Yes this is true but a very materialistic way of looking at things. If we are like everyone else, then why don’t I just go to a church to pray behind a lesbian priest among other followers of all other faiths ?

            I do the intentions of your comment, but can’t understand the language you you used to write it.

  12. Konga says:

    @Hyde April 18, 2013 at 12:46 PM:

    “No body said we should not be talking about issues; …. But what are the channels ? The Manners ? The methodology ?”

    Of course the channels, manners and methodology are important in discussing issues, but are you suggesting that this is not the right channel, manners and methodology? This is a forum where many young Muslims who grew up in the age of technology are active. The mere fact that they participate with their essays, comments and engage in discussions tells me that they are the people who are most likely to take initiative and make a social change in the Muslim community. Additionally, presenting the problems in the form of a story is a creative and effective way to raise a discussion. Honestly, I don’t know a better suitable channel to discuss our problems that a channel similar to this.

    “There are Muslims who openly mock and even straight-up bully our beloved sisters in niqab and hijab. Are they concerned Muslims ?”

    No one was mocking niqabi women here. That is, however, not to say that satire is not a constructive form of self reflection. But this was not even satire.

    “Why do more Muslims show up for a domestic violence fundraiser (which is undeniably momentous problem in our communities) then they do for prayer in the Masjid ?”

    Because women are actually and physically do get hurt right now, in real life, in the name of Islam and it’s effecting entire families. But whether you pray in a mosque or at home is something that effects only you and hurts no one else.

    “Muslims are just like anybody else, they lie, they rape, kill, hate, love and of course “go off to the wayward path”. Yes this is true but a very materialistic way of looking at things. If we are like everyone else, then why don’t I just go to a church to pray behind a lesbian priest among other followers of all other faiths ?”

    I really don’t know what you mean here. Muslims can lie, rape, hate and love. Christians who go to a church to pray behind a lesbian priest can also lie, rape, hate and love! So do Hindus and atheists. What is your point? My point from earlier is: just because you claim to be a Muslim and end every sentence with “for the sake of Allah”, that does not automatically make you a better person. You have to work as hard as anyone else to be a better person even if you were a Muslim.

    • Hyde says:

      It seems to me that you are looking for excuses to justify those liberal-secular point of views.

      Yes Muslims Matters, Imam Suhaib Webb and others are good websites and places for Muslims to come and see & write and read what are some relevant issues connected with the muslim community, but let not this be a way to some sort of cyber anarchy, where we start flushing out every dirt on fellow muslims. I mean if somebody would want to write a an ugly anti-semitic article to be submitted on these websites, would it be allowed to published ? No and rightly so. Even if the article was lukewarm critical of the double standards of the West, it would hardly appear, yet anything critical of Muslims, how are parents are like this or what not, it seems to be published. Artilcles about homesxuals seem to be flourishing, but articles about how nationalism (of our parents generation) does not get too much spotlight. Don’t get me wrong, I like these websites. I am just stating a point of view.

      Same thing is happening in MSAs. They always bring in secularist and people who may have only a muslim name and allow them to speak about islam. Yes there is constructive criticism and we should have that, but completely disagreeing with you, the issue should be starighforwdly talked about, not through a story or some other plot.

      And yes, the atheist, jews, christians and everybody else is our brethren in humanity, but don’t you dare forget that Muslims have certain obligations on them by other Muslims (not in the jurisprudential sense of the word). If muslims are like everybody else, then what is the point of anything ? Why don’t I just start having my children with girlfriends, or accpect that pronrogrpahy is regualr part of my life, or …and etcetera etcetera.

      (Can there be an atheist muslims ?? There are secular muslims right ?)

  13. asiahkelley says:

    Great story. I echo another poster that this is a welcome addition to Muslim Matters. I think it’s a great idea to use fiction to flesh out problems in the Muslim community. It’s a way to address problems without exposing actual people or communities. Well done.

  14. Munira says:

    This is a great story. Is there anyway to get stories you’ve written yourself on Muslim Matters

  15. Hafsa says:

    assalaamu’alaikum warahatullaahi wabarakaatuhu :)

    i hv bn reading stories of umm zakiyyah here @ MM … but the thing thats missing is the discussion that should follow
    but what happens is an argument instead :( ……. hope sm1 brings smthn constructive out of these brilliantly written stories.

  16. I understand and sympathize with both sides. Obviously Barakah has the right – according to the contract – to take her project somewhere else, especially if she doesn’t feel the school is giving it the right attention. But the school paid a good chunk of money for the cover design, and now that money is lost. Islamic schools typically have meager resources to start with, so it’s understandable that they would be upset about wasting almost $2,000.

    Of course it was a bad idea in the first place to give the contract to a school. Barakah should have done a deal with a software development company from the get-go. You don’t hire a typist to fix your car, or a mechanic to bake your wedding cake.

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