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A Lion is Born | Part 1: Life After Lifelessness

Louis took the book from the shelf and studied it. What was it supposed to be? He looked at the cover. The Holy Quran, it said. No author listed.


Author’s note: This story is a sequel to “Pieces of a Dream”, picking up immediately where that story left off. If you haven’t read “Pieces of a Dream” then please go back and read that story first, otherwise parts of this story will not make sense.

October 2008 – San Francisco, California

With a last, longing look to the east, Louis turned and walked home.

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The front door was unlocked. A chill ran down his spine as he imagined a conspiracy whereby his apartment had been burglarized at the same time as Kadija’s. Or maybe the burglars had discovered his address and come here for retribution. He entered the apartment cautiously and silently.

Everything was in place. The apartment had not been disturbed. He must have forgotten to lock the door in his rush to help Kadija last night. Louis my friend, you are losing it, he thought.

He was exhausted after being up all night, but there was something he wanted to do before he slept. He took the Quran he had purchased off the bookshelf, then sat in his solitary armchair and opened the book. He’d already read the opening chapter – the one called Al-Fatihah – at the bookstore, so he skipped to chapter two, The Cow, and began to read.

Alif Lam Mim.

This is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah –

Who believe in the unseen, establish prayer, and spend out of what We have provided for them,

And who believe in what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you, and of the Hereafter they are certain [in faith].

Those are upon [right] guidance from their Lord, and it is those who are the successful.

Indeed, those who disbelieve – it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them – they will not believe.

Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and over their vision is a veil. And for them is a great punishment.

The last verse echoed in Louis’ head like a gong. Something about it reminded him of men he had seen in Iraq. There were certain soldiers who lost themselves in war until violence became their only language. On the other end of the spectrum were men who couldn’t stomach the violence, and couldn’t live with what they’d done. Sometimes both types killed themselves.

What was this book? What was it supposed to be? He looked at the cover. The Holy Quran, it said. No author.

Louis’ parents had not been particularly religious. They inherited Lutheranism along with their Swedish roots, and attended church on Sundays all through Louis’ childhood, but Louis had perceived it to be a social outlet more than anything else. He stopped attending services when he was fifteen, and though he felt vaguely guilty, he felt no desire to return. His mother had been disappointed, but after a year of complaints she stopped pressuring him to return.

Later, of course, his parents retired to Florida and his mother converted to the Southern Baptist church, and became a fanatic. All his poor father wanted to do was watch football, visit the chess club on Saturdays and do a little daytrading. Whenever Louis spoke to his father these days, the man complained that mom was constantly haranguing him about his “layabout” ways and pressuring him to get baptized.

Louis had always wanted to believe in something. Every man needed a cause. The modern world stripped men of their manhood. You went to work in an office, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. You sat in a cubicle and punched a keyboard. You came home and vegged out in front of the TV, or washed the dishes. How did any of that utilize a man’s hunting instincts, his protective drive, his body built for speed and power? How did “civilized” life fulfill a man’s primal need to stand up for something other than himself?

War was not the answer. What a young fool he had been to think otherwise. He’d enlisted partly for the job and salary, but also partly for the excitement. Idiot.

Christianity too was not the answer. Louis could not accept the fundamental premise of Christianity: the blood sacrifice. The idea that God had sacrificed his own son on a cross to save humanity made no sense. Why would an all-powerful God need to employ such a circuitous, paganistic stratagem? If God wanted to forgive humanity, why not do so directly? And if one son, why not two, or three, and a few daughters as well? In that case, Louis’ Norse ancestors might as well have continued worshiping Odin, Thor, Loki and the rest.

In Iraq he’d seen soldiers write Bible verses on their rifles, or paint crosses on artillery shells. Louis had kept his mouth shut because when you went in to clear a building you didn’t need to wonder if the guy behind you was holding a grudge, or thinking you were a godless traitor. Privately, he found it disgusting. He hadn’t gone to Iraq to fight a crusade, and he didn’t think of the Iraqis as pagans. In fact, he’d been impressed by the religiosity of the translators he worked with.

He resumed reading slowly, letting each verse sink in.

At some point, as he turned one page after another, he began to perceive that this book was unlike anything he had read before. This was not a third-person account of the doings of the Prophet Muhammad. It was not the “inspired” writings of his disciples, or the scribblings of a scribe generations down the line. This was God, speaking to human beings. How could such a thing be? Why wouldn’t everyone know it, or believe it? Why wouldn’t it change the world?

How can you disbelieve in Allah when you were lifeless and He brought you to life; then He will cause you to die, then He will bring you [back] to life, and then to Him you will be returned?

Louis had indeed been lifeless. He had been a sleepwalker. But this morning, standing atop the hill, he had felt alive for the first time in years.

He felt a prickling sensation on his arms and saw that the hairs were standing up, as if the room were electrified. He felt glued to the chair, unable to move.

They say, ” Allah has taken a son.” Exalted is He! Rather, to Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth. All are devoutly obedient to Him,

Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.

“I knew that,” Louis whispered. “I never believed that God had a son.”

The apartment was cold. Louis had not turned on the heater. He’d thought he would read only a few lines then go to bed, and the cold helped him sleep at night. But as he sat reading and the clock ticked in the chilled apartment, he did not rise to turn on the heat. He read and read, turning one page after another, unaware of the passage of time. The words struck like lightning bolts. At some point he realized that he was shivering. His teeth chattered and tremors ran through his limbs.

Those who do not know say, “Why does Allah not speak to us or there come to us a sign?” Thus spoke those before them like their words. Their hearts resemble each other. We have shown clearly the signs to a people who are certain [in faith].

Louis felt something on his cheek. He rubbed it and discovered that a tear had run from his bruised eye. It occurred to him that he had not scratched his scars since he sat down. Normally that thought alone would be enough to activate the scars and set his side on fire, but he felt nothing.

Our Lord, and make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.

Louis’ calf muscles trembled and he had to steady the book on his lap so he could read. What was wrong with him? He continued reading, but the book kept hitting him with truth after truth, until he couldn’t take it anymore. He felt like his chest was caving in under the weight.

He closed the book. His body shook with cold, and he was hungry. He would eat later. He put the book on the shelf and stumbled stiffly to his futon, moving like a mummy. He pulled the heavy cover over himself, covering even his head. He hugged the pillow to himself tightly and fell asleep.


Louis ran through a hilly green land, trying to escape a roaring sound that seemed to pursue him like a living thing. His breath came hard and rough in his lungs. Was this Iraq? Was that the sound of chopper rotors? But he couldn’t remember re-upping, and this place was too green and hilly to be Iraq.

The roar was closer now, and he looked for someplace to hide. He saw a hill topped with a thicket of trees, and he ran toward it, scrabbling his way up the slope on all fours. He reached the top and dashed into the clump of sheltering trees, but the roar was so close that it vibrated his teeth. There was no escaping.

He woke with a start, sitting up in bed, arms reaching for a rifle and finding nothing. The apartment was dark and frigid. His mouth felt full of cotton and his eye ached where he’d been struck yesterday. His wounded shoulder seemed to throb rhythmically, and he realized that the pain was keeping time with his heartbeat.

You were lifeless and He brought you back to life. He went to the bookshelf and picked up the Quran. He did not intend to sit and read again – his stomach was rumbling with hunger. He only wanted to see if he had imagined the power of the book. Maybe it was merely his deep weariness that had gotten to him, or an after-effect from the anesthesia. Maybe this was an ordinary book.

God, give me a sign, he thought. I need a way forward. I can’t go back to what I had.

He opened the book randomly and read:

Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and the alternation of the night and the day, and the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and what Allah has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth are signs for a people who use reason.

There it was again. Life after lifelessness. Signs.

Discomfited, almost frightened, he put the book back on the shelf and went into the kitchen to heat a frozen meal. He had not imagined the strange power of the book.

I’m not ready for this, he thought.

As he was eating, his cell phone rang. It was Kadija.

“I’m sorry if I’m disturbing you,” she said. “I want to thank you again for what you did for me. We don’t know each other that well and I fear I took advantage of your kindness.”

“No, it’s alright,” Louis said.

“Is everything alright? You sound strange.”

“Yeah, yeah. It’s nothing, just…”


“Well, I read the Quran for a long time today.”

The line was silent. “You still there?” Louis said.

“Yes,” Kadija said. “Listen, I think it’s great that you’re reading the Quran, but I don’t want you to do it for me. It needs to be for you. For your relationship with God.”

“Yeah, I know,” Louis said.

“Okay. Alhamdulillah. What did you think of what you read?”

“I think…” Louis exhaled in a rush. “I think it’s a lot. I was reading chapter two, The Cow. It uhh… it hit me like a hammer. I don’t know if I can handle it. It’s heavy, heavy stuff.”

“Yes, you’re right, Kadija said. “It’s a powerful book. But you can handle it. Did you get to the end of Al-Baqarah, or The Cow as you said?”

“No. I had to put it down.”

“Read the last verse. It might help.”

“Okay. Hey, let me ask you something. What does it mean when God talks about bringing the dead back to life? It says, ‘How can you disbelieve when you were dead and God brought you back to life?’”

“It could mean many things,” Kadija said. “It could refer to your birth, when you came into existence after non-existence, or not existing on a level that you can recall. It might refer to your sleep and waking. On a spiritual level, I would say it’s about being guided to faith. The Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him – said that the one who remembers his Lord – meaning Allah – and the one who does not remember his Lord are like the living and the dead. A person who has no God-consciousness is walking dead, from an Islamic perspective.”

“Wow. Okay.”

“Listen, I have to go, but thanks again for helping me. And read that last verse.”

After he hung up, Louis took the Quran off the bookshelf once more. He thumbed through the pages until he found the last verse of The Cow.

“Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned. “Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.”

I’m not ready for this, Louis thought again. He’d only been looking for a way forward. A little guidance, a little help. A way to get unstuck.

He could not become Muslim for so many reasons. His mother would flay him alive. Everyone he knew would think he’d gone off the deep end. His parents, his sister, Bernie his dispatcher, the few guys from his old unit who he stayed in touch with. And then there was the deepest reason of all, the one he could not discuss.

On the other hand, there was Kadija.

But Kadija said that Louis mustn’t do this for her, and she was right. This is between me and God. I can’t factor anyone else in.

Louis finished his meal, then set his alarm and returned to sleep. He had to be up at 4am for work.

Please continue to Part 2: Losing It

Reader comments and constructive criticism are important to me, so please comment!

See the Story Index for Wael Abdelgawad’s other stories on this website.

Wael Abdelgawad’s novels – including Pieces of a Dream, The Repeaters, Zaid Karim Private Investigator, and Uber Tales – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Wael Abdelgawad's novels can be purchased at his author page at Wael is an Egyptian-American living in California. He is the founder of several Islamic websites, including,, and He teaches martial arts, and loves Islamic books, science fiction, and ice cream. Learn more about him at For a guide to all of Wael's online stories in chronological order, check out this handy Story Index.



  1. Junaid

    January 8, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    Alhumdulillah! Looking forward to reading the rest!

  2. Humaira Khan

    January 8, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    Good to see another story from you, brother wael.

  3. Sarah B.

    January 8, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Masha’Allah! Such a great addition to Pieces of a Dream! The Qur’an is so powerful and can hit someone like a ton of bricks. I love being able to read more about Louis’ journey and how he is really trying to look into Islam for himself. This is very similar to what a lot of converts go through when looking into Islam. I know when I first read the Qur’an I was amazed by what was in it and the beautiful message it contained. I loved Pieces of a Dream so I really look forward to reading about the rest of Louis’ journey! Can’t wait for part two insha’Allah! Keep up the great work! :)

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      January 8, 2014 at 5:21 PM

      Thank you Sarah. Maybe you could do a writeup sometime on your first experience with the Quran. I’m sure it would be interesting.

  4. ummbilal

    January 8, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    I have been waiting so long for this. Just 2 days before i simply thought of pieces of dream and wondered
    When the story of Louis is going to come.. and today when i opened mm … here it is..

    Brother, pls post the next dose quickly… cant wait for a week..!!

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      January 8, 2014 at 5:20 PM

      Your wish is my command. But I’m afraid you’ll have to delay gratification and wait a week. Seriously though, I’m glad to hear that people still think of the story and have an interest in it.

    • Sam O.

      October 2, 2015 at 5:57 PM

      Poor guy, doesn’t understand what Christianity is about; that God’s Word is unchangeable; His rules are unbreakable.
      Excellent writing man; you are extremely talented. Just read Pieces of a Dream and, wow, I must say that God has graciously given you a great gift.
      God bless you!

  5. Muktario

    January 8, 2014 at 5:29 PM

    Masha Allah its a nice work. keep it up bro

  6. Muktario

    January 8, 2014 at 5:31 PM

    Masha Allah bro keep it up

  7. Eman

    January 8, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    Yay! I love this story it is the perfect mix of realism and intrigue. Can’t wait for next week!

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      January 9, 2014 at 4:31 PM

      Thank you Eman. That’s just the effect I’m going for.

  8. Maria Shamim

    January 9, 2014 at 1:01 AM

    Can’t wait to read the next part! :)

  9. Kifayatullah

    January 9, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    As salam alaykum. This story reminds me a lot about myself. May Allah reward you abundantly and help to put our brothers and sisters on the right part too.

  10. Muhammad Jassim

    January 10, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    You write kinda a little bit like dan brown. Nice. MashaAllah

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      January 11, 2014 at 2:42 AM

      Thank you Muhammad. I know who Dan Brown is of course but haven’t actually read any of his books. Now I’ll have to check him out, lol.

  11. salis bura

    January 11, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    Masha ALLAH.Great story.Jazakallahu khairan.

  12. Areej

    January 11, 2014 at 9:24 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum

    I love this series, it’s amazing. I hope you continue to make these stories. They’re perfect, “halal romance” with a lot of Islamic info, love it! I wish there were books like this out there for our youth who are indulging in other unIslamic alternatives instead. :)

    Keep up the good work.

  13. Bint A

    January 11, 2014 at 11:19 PM

    Glad to have you back in action again!

    But I would suggest having slightly longer reads, even though we are taking the serial method for this…

  14. Hussein

    January 12, 2014 at 6:38 PM

    Assalamun aleikum
    please i wish to read the other part of the story,is so touching story!!!
    hurry up!!!

  15. Pingback: A Lion is Born | Part 2: Losing It |

  16. Amy

    January 15, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    Sorry I’m late- meant to put this down last week. But I am so glad to see you back on the fiction trail!


    January 19, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    Mash’Allah nice to see your stories posted here again Brother Wael! Keep up the great work!

    • Wael Abdelgawad

      January 19, 2014 at 7:39 PM

      Thank you rchoudh. I think the series will continue weekly for some time Insha’Allah, so keep reading.

  18. Sister H

    January 19, 2014 at 9:49 PM

    I am so happy that you continued writing. Watching the characters develop is really heartwarming. Keep up the great work!

  19. kaleem

    January 20, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    As everyone said, a great read mashallah. I will read the 2nd part now.

  20. kaleem

    January 20, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    As everyone said, a great read mashallah. I will read the 2nd part now. Keep up the good work.


  21. Aisha

    February 2, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    Tooooooo addictive! Haha

  22. ukhty

    March 5, 2015 at 12:20 AM

    Asalaamualaikum brother i m rereading everything u have no idea how i am using it example when i feel lazy for salah Astagfirrulah !i read deal where jamilah gets ready for wudhu nd i feel energitic nd feel salah is a gift jazakAllah khairan i wanted to ask is this translation saheeh international ?

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