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A Wish And A Cosmic Bird: A Play

The lives of several very different people are connected in this short play that delves into themes of greed, gratitude and dua’.


Albatross in the sky


By Wael Abdelgawad


Act One – Jeff Bezos’ Yacht

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Location: A corner office in a New York skyscraper. An amazing view from the window.

Man 1 is 60ish, dressed in a beautiful suit and tie. He sits in a desk chair, looking out of the window, with a small table beside him. Man 2 stands behind him holding a bottle and two glasses. He is younger and more casually dressed.

Corner office with a view of the city and bayMAN 1: Look at that view! You can see all the way across the bay. I guess this is the top of the ladder for me. Executive VP of Kleiner Industries. I can’t go any higher.

MAN 2: It’s a great achievement. Let’s toast.

Man 2 fills both glasses and the men touch glasses and drink.

MAN 2: To success! You earned it. You worked your way up for thirty years.

MAN 1: Thirty-five. I just wish…

MAN 2: What?

MAN 1: I wish I could have gone higher. I’ll never be CEO. I’ll never be one of the powerful people.

MAN 2: It’s a family-owned company. Only Kleiners will ever be CEO. You get paid well though, right? How much was your bonus this year?

MAN 1: That’s confidential.

MAN 2: More than ten million?

MAN 1: (Smiles to himself) – Again, I don’t like to share –

MAN 2: (Interrupts) – More than twenty?

MAN 1: (Frowns) – Don’t get crazy.

MAN 2: Okay, so between ten and twenty. That’s not bad. Really, pretty good.

MAN 1: (Turns to partially face the younger man) – What do you mean? How much was yours?

MAN 2: (Grinning) – I thought that was confidential.

MAN 1: (In a hard tone) – I’m serious. How much was yours?

MAN 2: Twenty-two.

MAN 1: (Stands up) – Twenty-two million dollars? You’re not even forty years old. You’re not even management. You’re a damn salesman!

MAN 2: I brought in the Saudi contract. That’s a three-billion-dollar deal.

MAN 1: (Glares for a while, then sits and faces the window again) – What does it matter? Ten million, twenty. It’s pennies. See that yacht out there? It’s nothing. Jeff Bezos’ yacht is 127 meters long. It cost 500 million dollars. That’s money! That’s the power to control things, to rule the world. Everything else is a joke.

MAN 2: You live well. Didn’t you just take your family to Paris?

MAN 1: (Sneers) – A month in the damn Paris Hilton, fighting with my wife. My daughters hate me, won’t speak to me. They say I’m a merchant of death. Doesn’t stop them from driving the Ferraris I bought them.

MAN 2: (Sets down his glass) – Does it ever bother you though? What we do? Our weapons kill people every day. Those DU artillery shells have a radioactive half-life of millions of years. Our clients drop them on villages and whole tribes get sick. There are children out there dying of cancer. I have relatives in that part of the world, you know.

MAN 1: You’re the one who sells the stuff.

MAN 2: I know, but I don’t know if I can keep doing it. It’s immoral.

MAN 1: Morality is a fiction created by the poor to hamstring the rich.

MAN 2: What about God? Faith?

MAN 1: The opium of the masses.

MAN 2: You’re quoting Marx?

MAN 1: Do you want to give back your twenty-two million dollar bonus?

MAN 2: I’m not saying all that.

MAN 1: Then shut up, you miserable hypocrite. My daughters are right, we are merchants of death. But we’re rich. We sold our souls. Accept it.

MAN 2: So you’re totally happy?

MAN 1: Of course I’m not happy! Haven’t you heard a word I said? I’m miserable, I have a miserable family, and I’m stuck in a dead-end job. That’s why I need to be a billionaire. At that level you become your own god. A five hundred million dollar yacht, can you imagine that?

Man 2 walks away.

Act 2 – 30th Birthday

Location: The kitchen of a middle-class home in California.

Two Muslim women sit at a kitchen table. One is wearing hospital scrubs. On the table is a small cake with birthday candles on it, and a wrapped gift.

breakfast with the khansBIRTHDAY WOMAN: Did you really have to go and put all 30 birthday candles in there? It looks like a porcupine on fire.

FRIEND: Might as well face reality.

Birthday Woman blows out the candles.

FRIEND: Did you make a wish?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: More like a dua’.

FRIEND: You probably wished you didn’t have those wrinkles around your eyes.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Uh! You jerk! (Swipes some cake frosting and smears it on her friend’s face).

FRIEND: (Scoops the frosting from her face and licks it) – Thank you! That’s better than anything in the hospital cafeteria.

Birthday Woman begins cutting the cake and serving it.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Are you sure you can’t come to the party tonight?

FRIEND: I’m working a double at the hospital. I’m not lucky like you, I don’t have a rich husband, remember?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: I work too. Everything I have I struggled for, and Allah blessed me. Did you forget where I came from? When we were kids, I used to fix my shoes with duct tape. The kids called me Raggedy Ann.

FRIEND: I know. I’m sorry. How’s your yoga supplies business going?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Alhamdulillah, it’s growing. And I enjoy it. I still do yoga every day. Would you believe my yoga instructor is doing a five-day seminar in the Bahamas? Five days of yoga on the beach, meditation, and sleeping in a hammock.

FRIEND: You should go.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Can’t afford it. It’s five thousand dollars.

FRIEND: (Whistles) – Who has five thousand dollars for a yoga seminar? Can you imagine being that rich? Seminar in the Bahamas? Let’s go. Feel like having fish and chips? Off to London! There are people like that, you know?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: I don’t want that kind of money.

FRIEND (Incredulous) – Why not?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: My way of life is poverty, not the pursuit of wealth. Win a name through hardship, not by selling yourself.

FRIEND: Who said that?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Muhammad Iqbal. Look… Remember Christina, the wealthy woman I worked for when I was in college?

FRIEND: The lady with the mansion.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: I never told anyone this. But she was depressed and nearly suicidal. She’d throw these grand parties, which I would cater, and she’d be bubbly and laughing. When it was over I’d walk her upstairs and put my arm around her while she wept. She was alone with her antique furniture and art, and all her money. The woman wasn’t even fifty years old but I used to put her to bed and tell her Mullah Nasruddin stories until she fell asleep. She actually wrote me into her will, then she saw a newspaper photo of me at a rally for Palestine, and she fired me.

FRIEND: I would still want to be able to fly to Paris whenever I wanted! Can you imagine? That’s the definition of a good life, right there. (sighs). I can only wish.

Birthday Woman’s phone rings. She listens to the caller and looks shocked.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: (Talking into the phone) – Is this for real? There’s no doubt? What can we do? (Listens some more) – La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah. Okay. Okay, let me know. (Hangs up and turns to Friend) – My brother is alive. Or at least, some aid worker talked to a witness who says he’s alive.

FRIEND: What will you do?

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: I don’t know.

FRIEND: You should call your cousin Saleh.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Saleh? He’s a jerk. He’s a rotten human being, actually.

They sit silently for a moment.

BIRTHDAY WOMAN: Okay. I’ll call Saleh.

Act 3 – Do You Miss Them?

Location: A bare room in a decrepit home, somewhere in the Middle East.

Two boys sleep on the floor. They are thin, with dirty faces and ragged clothes. They wear the traditional clothing of their country – thobes, or shalwar kameez. One is a few years older than the other. The older boy wakes up, and then sits cross-legged with his face in his hands. The younger boy begins to moan in his sleep. The older boy goes to him and wakes him up. As he does, he makes an effort to put a smile on his face.

Dusty bare room in old houseOLDER BOY: Hey, wake up. You’re dreaming.

The younger boy wakes slowly and sits up, rubbing his face.

YOUNGER BOY: Is there any food?

OLDER BOY: No. But we’ll go to the Green Crescent station. They might give us bread or soup.

YOUNGER BOY: It’s too far.

OLDER BOY: We can sneak into the back of a truck and get a ride.

YOUNGER BOY: I wish Baba was here. Do you think he’ll ever come back?

The older boy’s smile fades.

OLDER BOY: It’s been two years. If he was alive he would have returned to us, or sent a message. But it’s okay. We have each other, and we have this house. We have Allah, He’s on our side. Whatever Allah has planned for us, we’ll find it.

YOUNGER BOY: I miss our parents. Do you miss them?

The older boy stands and turns away.

OLDER BOY: Yes. I miss them.

YOUNGER BOY: I heard that in Europe people have refrigerators and there’s always food in them. They open the refrigerator anytime they want and eat cheese, or meat, or whatever they like. Even cake.

OLDER BOY: (turning back to face his brother) – Yes, I heard that.

YOUNGER BOY: I wish we were Europeans. I wish we had a refrigerator. Can you imagine what that’s like?

OLDER BOY: I don’t want to be European.


OLDER BOY: Because I’m Muslim, that’s worth more than anything. I wouldn’t trade that for a thousand refrigerators, even if they had lamb and Syrian cheese in them.

YOUNGER BOY: I’m so hungry.

OLDER BOY: We’ll find something inshaAllah, I promise. If we have to, we can go up the mountain and pick flowers. I heard that people can eat flowers.

VOICE CALLING FROM OUTSIDE: The IR aid station has rice! Rice at the aid station!

The boys’ eyes grow wide.

OLDER BOY: Rice! Grab your bowl!

They grab two bowls from the floor and rush off the stage.

Act 4 – Something Better

Location: A bare, dark room.

Scene 1

Two men (between 25 and 35 years old) sit in a bare room. They are bound to chairs and hooded. Their clothing is ragged and bloodstained.

Old and dirty prison cellPRISONER 1: They’ve never taken us out of our cell before.

Prisoner 2 does not respond.

PRISONER 1: Are you there?

PRISONER 2: I’m here.

PRISONER 1: Why didn’t you answer me? Do you think they will beat us?

PRISONER 2: They beat us all the time anyway.

PRISONER 1: (Getting agitated.) So why did they bring us here? They never hooded us before. Are they finally going to kill us?

PRISONER 2: Allahu a’lam.

PRISONER 1: Oh my God, you think they’re going to kill us. But why? Why should they kill us just for protesting and demanding freedom?

PRISONER 2: They can only do what Allah permits them to do.

PRISONER 1: (Angrily) – How does that work? Will Allah come and take away their guns?

PRISONER 2: If every human being and jinn who ever lived wanted to hurt us, they could only do what Allah permits them to do.

PRISONER 1: I’m not ready to die. I want to see my family. They need me. Just imagine, there are places in the world where you can say whatever you want, travel where you like, and no one kidnaps you or kills you. You can live your life and be free. I wish we lived in a place like that.

PRISONER 2: We have something better than that.

PRISONER 1: What? What do we have?

PRISONER 2: (Recites Quran 9:72 in Arabic, then in English): – Allah has promised the believers, both men and women, Gardens under which rivers flow, to stay there forever, and splendid homes in the Gardens of Eternity, and—above all—the pleasure of Allah. That is ˹truly˺ the ultimate triumph.

PRISONER 1: I don’t know. That sounds good but I wish I could feel the sun on my face again, just one more time.

the birdPRISONER 2: A wish is a firefly. It glows for a minute and makes you feel good, then it dies. Make dua’ instead. Like a firefly, dua’ has wings, but it’s a cosmic bird. It doesn’t just buzz around your head, it flies to the Throne of Allah and makes itself known. What do you want representing you, a firefly or a cosmic bird?

PRISONER 1: Dua’ is just words.

PRISONER 2: If you’ve ever believed anything I said, believe this. Dua’ can tumble mountains and overthrow empires. Dua’ can open a path for you into the garden. Make dua’ and Allah will not let you down.

PRISONER 1: O Allah save me, O Allah save me, O Allah save me, O Allah save me, O Allah save me.

PRISONER 2: (laughs) – You know what you want, I’ll give you that. Ameen!

Two guards wearing ski masks enter the room. They both hold guns and flashlights.

GUARD 1: Which one of them is it?

The guards pull the hoods off the prisoners and shine the flashlights on them. We see that the prisoners’ faces are bruised and bloody. The prisoners blink at the light and peer around. Guard 2 touches the barrel of his gun to Prisoner 1’s forehead.

GUARD 2: This one.

PRISONER 1: No! You don’t have to do this. Please, I don’t want to die!

GUARD 2: Untie him.

Guard 1 unties Prisoner 1’s bonds and helps him to his feet.

GUARD 2: You’re a lucky man. You’ve been ransomed. You’re going home.

PRISONER 1: What ransom? What are you talking about?

GUARD 2: Someone paid 22 million dollars to free you.

PRISONER 1: 22 million dollars? I don’t know anyone with that kind of money.

GUARD 2: Some rich weapons dealer named Saleh. What do you care? You’re free.

The guards begin to lead Prisoner 1 toward the exit. Prisoner 1 stops.

PRISONER 1: What about my friend?

GUARD 1: No one paid for him.

PRISONER 1: I’m not leaving without him.

GUARD 2: That’s not happening.

PRISONER 1: (Looks around wide-eyed, closes his eyes for a moment, then settles into a look of resolve.) – Then… then I’m staying too.

PRISONER 2: No! You made dua’ for freedom, now you have it. And you have a family. Go! I’m okay here. I have Allah by my side. I’m not afraid to die, truly.

GUARD 2: It’s not your choice anyway. You’re the one they paid for, you’re the one they get.

The guards drag Prisoner 1 off the stage as he protests, insisting that they should free his friend as well. Prisoner 2 stares after them, then smiles.

Scene 2

First rays of sun

Location: The home of the two boys from Act 3.

The boys sit on the floor of the room, eating meager portions of rice from their bowls.

YOUNGER BOY: I chew every bite seventy times. That way it lasts longer. I wish we had salt or pepper.

OLDER BOY: Alhamdulillah for what we have.

YOUNGER BOY: This is a good day, huh?

OLDER BOY: (smiles) – Yes. It’s a good day.

Prisoner 1 walks in. The boys shout, “Baba!” and run to him. He kneels and they all embrace for a long time. Finally they break the embrace, though the children continue to hold their father’s hands.

YOUNGER BOY: Where did you go? We thought you were dead.

FATHER: I was a prisoner.

OLDER BOY: How did you get out?

FATHER: I don’t really know. I think one of my cousins paid a ransom. I have a friend who would say that Allah freed me.

YOUNGER BOY: Which friend?

FATHER: Someone I had to leave behind.

OLDER BOY: What’s his name?

FATHER: Sit down, I will tell you about him. Maybe together we can think of a way to help him.




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 and Zaid Karim Private Investigator – are available in ebook and print form on his author page at


A Ramadan Quran Journal: A MuslimMatters Series – [Juz 18] The Bird

Breakfast With The Khans [Act One] – A Play

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. Shoaib

    June 11, 2024 at 10:13 PM

    Br Wael, so happy to read your writing again! Thanks for this powerful play. I love how you tie everything together. So clever how each pair of characters is worse off than the previous ones.

  2. Shoaib

    June 11, 2024 at 11:04 PM

    By the way, your image of a cosmic bird reminded me of a famous verse of Iqbal : Ae Tair-e-Lahooti! Uss Rizq Se Mout Achi
    Jis Rizq Se Ati Ho Parwaz Mein Kotahi. O divine bird ! Death is better than that subsistence which hinders you from soaring high. (

  3. Wael Abdelgawad

    June 11, 2024 at 11:23 PM

    I appreciate that, brother. If I get the stamp of approval from Shoaib, I know I’m doing alright. I mean that sincerely. I respect your opinion a lot.

  4. Zainab bint Younus

    June 13, 2024 at 3:10 AM

    Another brilliant piece, mashaAllah – I truly hope that one day, we see your plays acted out on the stage! (Perhaps some Muslim high schools would like to incorporate your screenplays into their own theatre classes…)

  5. Wael Abdelgawad

    June 13, 2024 at 3:27 AM

    Thank you Zainab. I need to publish them then figure out how to get them into the hands of the companies that supply materials to Muslim schools.

    One play, which dealt with events in Palestine and which has not been published on MM yet, was performed by Islamic high students earlier this year. The children outperformed my expectations, and the response was amazing. I had parents come to me with tears in their eyes. It was unforgettable. The only hitch was that the director of the Islamic center blew the ending. It was supposed to end with a group of children coming to the rescue of two wounded Palestinian children. They would give them first aid and try to save them. They would save one but not the other. One would lift the dead child in his arms and cry out, “Who will help us? Why is no one helping?” The director felt that this was too dark of an ending, so just before that final line was delivered he got on the mike and announced, “They saved them! MashaAllah!” Hahahahaha. It annoyed the heck out of me at the time, but now I can laugh about it.

  6. Abdullah Salman

    June 13, 2024 at 10:03 AM

    Salaam Akhi so great to have you back. I understand you’ve had a busy two years but I was wondering if you’re still writing the all that is in the heavens

  7. Shoaib

    June 14, 2024 at 1:54 AM

    Thank you Br Wael, that means a lot coming from you

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