Connect with us


A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 3] What Is True, And What Matters


This Ramadan, MuslimMatters reached out to our regular (and not-so-regular) crew of writers asking them to share their reflections on various ayahs/surahs of the Quran, ideally with a focus on a specific juz – those that may have impacted them in some specific way or have influenced how they approach both life and deen. While some contributors are well-versed in at least part of the Quranic Sciences, not all necessarily are, but reflect on their choices as a way of illustrating that our Holy Book is approachable from various human perspectives.

Introducing, A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series


What is True, and What Matters

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.

By Wael Abdelgawad


Dania leaned back on the stool, rubbed her eyes, and turned to speak to Rawan. Except that her young Muslim colleague wasn’t there. Dania scanned the handful of lab stations, all dedicated to testing water samples for the presence of a wide spectrum of contaminants. Her eyes went to the clock: 1 pm. Wow, the day was half gone. Rawan was no doubt eating lunch.

An entire morning staring into a microscope and typing notes on a keyboard could do a number on you. Dania’s back was stiff, her eyes tired, and her hands were like chicken feet. Now that she was in her 30s, these things seemed to bother her more. She was 35 and unmarried, which in her Egyptian Christian family was a disgrace. She’d dated plenty of boys, but… The Egyptian-American men all seemed shallow. Money and girls, that was all they cared about. And some were as prissy as women.

As for the American boys, it never worked. Dania’s family were dedicated members of the Coptic church. They attended Sunday services as well as Matins and Vespers on Saturdays and Wednesdays. All their friends were Copts, and when they got together socially the conversation was in Arabic, and consisted of a combination of gossip and talking bad about Muslims. It was too foreign a world for American boys to fit into.

In fact, it was a world that left Dania herself feeling bored and empty. At services, the Bible reading was in Arabic. But Dania, though she was fluent in Egyptian conversational Arabic, could not read the language. Then the Liturgy of the Word was in Coptic, which no one but the priest could understand, and probably not even him.

She’d tried taking up guitar, but it was painful and time-consuming. Nowadays she spent most of her time in this lab, working twelve-hour days.

She removed the elastic band from her hair, letting her red curls fall loose. By some freak of genetic circumstance she’d been born with milk-white skin, flaming hair, and green eyes. Americans never believed that she was Arab. Oops… Coptic. Her parents would have seizures if they heard her refer to herself as Arab. Which was so weird. She spoke Arabic, she came from an Arab country. But she’d been lectured many times: “We are Copts, not Arabs. We are the true Egyptians, the word ‘Egypt’ means Copt!’”

She wandered into the break room. Her parents were there, as well as her brother, all still wearing white lab coats as they ate stuffed cabbage leaves, lentil soup, and saffron rice. She did half the work in this lab, yet no one had even called her to come for lunch. 

This entire lab belonged to her father, Boulos Khalil. Their clients were mostly large corporate farms. The lab had done well. Her family was wealthy. 

“I still don’t think it’s right what’s happening to the Palestinians,” her brother said in English. He was five years younger than her, lean, and clean-cut.

Her father grimaced. “What do we care,” he replied in Arabic, “about a bunch of terrorists in the desert? What do you think Hamas would do with us Copts? They would slaughter us like black sheep.” Her dad had been in America a long time, but had never learned English well.

Her brother shook his head. “I don’t think so. There are Palestinian Christians too, they’re integrated.”

“Stop worrying about the Arabs and the Muslims,” her mother said. “Leave them in their mess. Their religion is evil. All they know how to do is oppress and destroy.” Her mother was as elegant and graceful as she’d been as a teenager, but was so full of anger and bitterness. Every day it was the same thing, running down the Muslims, and vilifying their religion. It was very old-world and tiresome.

“I hope Rawan doesn’t hear you talking like that,” Dania said.

“Oh, Dania! Come and eat.” Her mother waved to an empty chair at the table.

“No. That’s alright. I’ll go see what Rawan is doing.” She walked to the exit door.

“Dania!” her mother called after her.

Dania found Rawan in the small garden at the center of the office park. The mid-twenties hijabi sat on the grass, engrossed in her reading. She was a small woman of Iraqi origin, skin the color of Arabic coffee and with big, dark eyes. Rawan had come to work at the lab a year ago, and Dania had always found her fascinating. Rawan was a near genius, yet she liked to laugh. She was assured, but not cocky. She tended to keep to herself, and who could blame her, considering the work environment?

Dania sat beside her and stretched her arms to the sky, reveling in the feeling of the soft grass against her skin, and the sun on her face.

“How come you’re not eating?”

Rawan marked her spot in the book, which Dania saw now was the Quran, then adjusted her blue headscarf. “Ramadan started last week. I’m fasting.”

“Oh, right! I knew that. How’s it going?”

“Really good, alhamdulillah.”

“Listen, Rawan…” Dania picked a blade of grass and put the end in her mouth. “I’m sure you’ve heard my family sometimes. How they talk… I feel ashamed. I can’t understand why my father hired you when he feels like that about Muslims.” Realizing what she’d said, she hurried to explain. “I mean, I’m glad he hired you! It just surprises me.”

Rawan grinned. “Mr. Khalil hired me because I have a bachelor’s in organic chemistry, a master’s in environmental sciences, and I speak English, Arabic, and Spanish. And he pays me well, so hey, no worries. You know what your dad always says: ‘American is American. Zis mean – ‘”

“Business is business!” The two women finished in unison, and both laughed. One of the many Boulos-isms that barely made sense, perhaps not surviving the translation from Arabic to English.

Dania nodded to Rawan’s copy of the Quran. “What were you reading about?”

“Oh.” Rawan’s brow furrowed. “I don’t like to talk about religion at work, especially considering…”

“Considering my family.” Dania sighed. “It’s okay. I really want to know.”

Rawan opened the Quran to the bookmarked page and handed it to Dania. “The Quran is divided into thirty parts, and I’m trying to read a part each day. Today I’m reading a chapter called Aal Imran, the family of Imran.”

“Who is Imran? One of Muhammad’s relatives?”

“No. Read it, you’ll see. Start at verse 33.”

Dania swallowed the blade of grass she’d been chewing – a habit she’d had since she was a kid – and studied the book. It had Arabic on one side of the page and English on the other. She found verse 33 and read the English part:

  1. Indeed, Allāh chose Adam and Noah and the family of Abraham and the family of ʿImrān over the worlds –

  2. Descendants, some of them from others. And Allāh is Hearing and Knowing.

  3. [And mention] When the wife of ʿImrān said, “My Lord, indeed I have pledged to You what is in my womb, consecrated [for Your service], so accept this from me. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.”

  4. But when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allāh was most knowing of what she delivered, and the male is not like the female. “And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled.”

Dania frowned. “Which Mary? Our Mary? The Christian Mary, I mean?”

“Mm-hmm. The very same.”

Dania was confused. She was reading the Quran, and it was talking about Mary. In all the times she’d heard her parents insult Islam, its Prophet, its book, and everything else, she’d never heard them mention anything about Muslims believing in Mary.

She read on. The Quran went on to describe Mary’s seclusion and her care by Zakariyyah, and some angels bringing Zakariyyah and his wife the news that they would have a son, which would be Yahya. Dania knew this was the Arabic name of John the Baptist.

The next verse made her eyes widen:

  1. And [mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allāh has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.

“Are you serious? You guys worship Mary like we do?”

“No. We revere her as a great woman. A woman of God. But we don’t pray to anyone but God. No son, no saints, none of that.”

“Sounds… uncomplicated.”

Rawan shrugged and smiled. “I suppose. Islam is a natural religion. Very pure.”

Dania read:

  1. O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow with those who bow [in prayer].”

  2. That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal to you, [O Muḥammad]. And you were not with them when they cast their pens as to which of them should be responsible for Mary. Nor were you with them when they disputed.

  3. [And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allāh gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allāh].

  4. He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous.”

  5. She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allāh; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.

  6. And He will teach him writing and wisdom1 and the Torah and the Gospel

  7. And [make him] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allāh. And I cure the blind [from birth] and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allāh. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.

  8. And [I have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear Allāh and obey me.

  9. Indeed, Allāh is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path.'”

Dania read on to verses 59 and 60:

  1. Indeed, the example of Jesus to Allāh is like that of Adam. He created him from dust; then He said to him, “Be,” and he was.

  2. The truth is from your Lord, so do not be among the doubters.

With trembling hands, Dania replaced the bookmark, closed the Quran, and handed it back to Rawan. “I don’t know what to say. There are details here about Jesus that are not even in the Bible. And… It’s clear. I always found it confusing in the Bible how Jesus calls himself the son of man, and humbles himself, yet we Christians claim he is God. Your book is consistent. It’s not what I expected at all.”

“Would you like to hear part of it in Arabic? Just to know what it sounds like?”

Dania nodded. “Sure.”

Rawan began to recite. She had a mellow voice, and it was pleasant to listen to. Dania began to notice that this book sounded very different out loud from the Arabic Bible. There was a rhythm and rhyme to it that was captivating, and the language was very high level. Dania was actually able to understand most of it, but it was like listening to poetry composed by the archangel Gabriel himself, if Gabriel were a poet. The language, and Rawan’s beautiful recitation, reached inside Dania’s chest and struck her heart, making it ring like a gong. For the first time in a long time, her heart didn’t feel like an empty room. The Quran flowed into it and filled it up. Dania felt like she was sitting in a boat on a calm river, drifting as the sun shined down on her, growing steadily brighter and hotter…

Something broke inside Dania and she began to weep. Embarrassed, she stood quickly and returned to the lab, where she washed her face in the restroom. Her father and brother had apparently gone on a purchasing run, and her mother was alone in the break room, using a compact mirror to adjust her makeup.

Her mother looked up. “What happened? Why are your eyes red?”

Dania paused, thinking. “Have you ever read the Quran?”

Her mother grimaced. “Of course. I attended public school in Cairo as a child, we all had to learn some of it.”

“What did you think of it?”

“I hated it. The teacher used to hit our palms with a ruler if we did not memorize.”

“Okay, but I mean the book itself. What did you think?”

“What are these ridiculous questions? By the Messiah, I don’t understand you. You are 33 years old, when will you get married and -”

“I was reading it just now,” Dania interrupted. “The Quran, I mean. You know what? It seemed true to me.” Dania brushed her hair out of her eyes. “It seems like the truth.”

Her mother flicked her hand dismissively. “That girl, Rawan. I told your father not to hire her. As soon as he gets back I will tell him to -”

“If she goes, I go. And you’re missing my point. I said it seems like the truth.”


“What do you mean, so?”

“I mean, so what?”

“You don’t disagree?”

Her mother tilted her chin, saying nothing.

Dania opened her palms. “You don’t have an opinion? You always have an opinion. I said it seems like the truth.”

Her mother slammed her palm down onto the table, making Dania jump. Her mother was like an ice sculpture, she never lost her cool. Yet as Dania stared, stunned, her mother began to shout:

“Of course it is true! Do you think we are stupid? I know the Quran very well. It is Arabic of another level. Islam keeps growing everywhere, do you think it’s an accident? Soon they will outnumber Christians. Of course, Muhammad was a Prophet, it’s obvious. Of course, he was the one that Jesus told us would come. Any intelligent person has to recognize it. But so what, my dear Deedee, so what?”

Her mother wiped spittle from her chin and waved at Dania as if to dismiss her. Dania was dumbfounded.

“You don’t think the truth matters?”

Calmer now, her mother nonetheless spat out the words. “Stupid girl. No, truth does not matter. What matters is that we are Copts. That is our identity, our culture, our history. Islam came to our country from outside and took over, will we now join them? Our Coptic language goes back two thousand years. Our ancestors resisted joining Islam for 1,400 years, should we betray them? We are the true Egyptians, we are more ancient. There is truth, and there is what matters. We are Copts, that is what matters!”

Her mother stood and stalked out of the lab, slamming the door behind her.

Dania’s heart beat like the sound of running feet, and sweat stood on her brow. She wiped her forehead with a sleeve, then fished the hair band out of her pocket and tied her hair back. Her mother’s words rang in her head. “There is the truth, and there is what matters!” Yet even as she pondered these words, they rearranged themselves in her head: “Truth is what matters.”

Rawan entered the lab. “Dania, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to -”

Dania held up a hand to silence her. “It’s okay,” she said. While her brain whispered:  “Do not be among the doubters. Truth is what matters.”



A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 1] Reflections On The Opening Chapter

A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 2] “I Am Near”

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.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *