Short Story

A Barren Piece of Rock

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This piece is part of the 2017 MYM Ramadan Writing Contest Collection.

She was one of the most famous women in her town. Famous not for her wealth or lineage but for her never ending ability to give – if someone needed a shoulder to lean on, she was there to provide soothing words of comfort; if someone was in need of money, she gave whatever little she could; if someone came to her with a broken heart and confused mind, she was there to send them back with a smile on their face. There was never a moment where an outstretched arm would leave empty handed.  People often wondered where she found her strength from.  Little did they know that the more she gave, the more she was receiving…

I want a forest, a garden…not a barren piece of rock” she kept repeating to herself every time she engaged in a good deed.

But things weren’t always like this for her. Forty years ago, on this day, her life had changed forever.


Forty years ago…

A flood of memories rushed through her mind as she walked back home. She remembered how as a kid, she would run across the street to attend her Quran classes, squeezing herself amidst the line of rows filled with children almost her age. They had one goal in mind – to finish the Quran cover-to-cover. As a 7 year old, little did she know the treasures this book held or the secrets it so fiercely guarded. She didn’t know that a book which was read so often could reveal a different secret every time the reader pondered over it. She didn’t know the ability it had to drag the reader into its enchanted pathways…pathways filled with love, hope, mercy and forgiveness from the Lord above.

Today was going to be different. It had been years since she read the Quran. After her mother’s death, dunya got the better of her, making Quran take a back seat. She wondered where the brown covered Quran lay. It was a special one – gifted to her by her mother who in turn got it from her grandmother. It had passed three generations. She recollected her mother’s words as she breathed her last: “No matter what you face in life, remember to hold on to the words of Allah, remember to hold on to this Book, it can fix that which you don’t even know is broken.”

Recently, she was contacted by a charity organization to help them conduct one of the biggest charity drives that would ever take place in her city. Filled with a new zeal and vigor to help the poor, she had directed all her efforts and money in collecting funds to help the needy. It was one of the biggest charity drives to ever be held. She strove tirelessly for days on end, spending many sleepless nights and throwing massive amounts of money.

After reaching their target, the organization did the unthinkable – devalued her hard work, mocked her for “not” being helpful enough, and belittled all her efforts. She felt a stabbing pain inside her– a pain that was beyond physical. How could they hurt her with their careless words?

“All of this… in vain?”, she muttered to herself. While anger, fury and disappointment were engulfing her mind, a strong voice in her head started pushing her to open the Quran and read it. She entered her house and found herself rushing towards her room. There it was, on the top most shelf, hidden far away from her day-to-day belongings- the Quran which she had ignored all these years.

With tears flowing and hands trembling, she randomly opened a page and began reading:

“O you who believe! Do not render in vain your Sadaqah (charity) by reminders of your generosity or by injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and he does not believe in Allah, nor in the Last Day. His likeness is the likeness of a smooth rock on which is a little dust; on it falls heavy rain which leaves it bare. They are not able to do anything with what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.” (Surah Baqarah, 2 :264)

Her mind went numb as she began wondering if this verse speaking to her.

The hand that gives is always better than the hand that receives ”, she recollected her mother’s words.

This could not be a mere coincidence. Did she donate her hard earned money just to please others? Was her deed going to be in vain – like that of a rock, which had its soil washed away when a heavy rain lashed on it? Was her good deed going to be washed away, with no traces left in dunya or akhira?

With her chest pounding and her lips trembling, she continued reading the next verse:

“And the likeness of those who spend their wealth seeking Allah’s Pleasure while they in their own selves are sure and certain that Allah will reward them (for their spending in His Cause), is the likeness of a garden on a height; heavy rain falls on it and it doubles its yield of harvest. And if it does not receive heavy rain, light rain suffices it. And Allah is All-Seer of (knows well) what you do.” (Surah Baqarah, 2:265)

This! This is what she wanted for herself. This is what her heart had been yearning for all this while. She wanted a garden flooded with fruits. She wanted every single deed of hers to be multiplied every time there was a heavy shower. She wanted to magnify every single deed she did. And here was the simplest answer to it – “Please Allah, not people”.

She hurried towards her prayer mat – begging Allah to accept her charity, beseeching Him to keep her intentions sincere. This was the day that changed her outlook about life.

From that day onwards, she repeated to herself “I want a forest, a garden…not a barren piece of rock…I need a garden filled with good deeds. So let me give to others whatever little I can, whether it be kind words, pieces of advice or money in charity, let no one leave without a smile on their face, let no one go away from me without having their heart lightened from worries…for Jannah is what I seek, and I shall strive to sow a garden of good deeds to be harvested in the hereafter.”


A barren piece of rock was never an option for her. And that is where her secret lay. She was able to give to others because Allah was constantly filling her with love, strength, mercy and good deeds- paving her way for Jannah – and making her beloved in dunya as well. Her strength came from giving, not receiving.

Top 10 Contestant for the 2017 Muslim Youth Musings Ramadan Writing Contest!

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