Islamic Fiction Contest Winner - 2016
Adult Category - 1st Place
The Magnificent Mirror
by: Aisha Kureishy
Pin drop silence fell over the room as the students focused their attention on their science teacher, Mrs. Gul. They were anxious to learn about their final assignment, except Tanya, who was twiddling her thumbs and seemed apathetic to it. As the other students carefully studied the rubric and assignment requirements, Tanya only glimpsed over it before shoving it in her backpack. Mrs. Gul noticed Tanya’s restlessness from the corner of her eye as she continued to explain the project. Tanya stared at the classroom clock and mumbled, “Five more minutes and I’m outta here.”
“I know that this project means a lot to all of you. I want everyone to work their hardest and make Inaarah Institute very proud. This project should also inspire you to check out the early works of the Islamic ancient scientists such as Al Razi, Ibn Al-Haytham, Ibn Sina, and many more great inventors who contributed tremendously to the field of science. They also laid the foundation of principles and formulas of the scientific inventions that are a part of today’s highly evolved, and sophisticated tools and gadgets. Always remember that Allah has given us wisdom, and we can then enhance and refine it with education. Therefore, when we combine wisdom with education, it will take us to places we have never been, and will open doors of opportunities we never imagined. I wish everyone good luck Insha’Allah.”
Mrs. Gul concluded her motivational speech, and the classroom was in awe of their inspirational and beloved teacher.
“Can I talk to you for a minute, Tanya?” asked Mrs. Gul after the class ended.
“Oh no! I know exactly what she wants to talk about,” said Tanya in her head. “Yes, Mrs. Gul,” replied Tanya.
“Tanya, I know that you are an excellent student in all of your classes, but you are struggling here. You know that you can bump up your grade with this project and increase your GPA overall. Do you understand that?”
“Yes, Mrs. Gul.”
“So why aren’t you excited about this assignment?”
“Well, because no matter how hard I try, I won’t get a good grade on my final exam. So why bother?” answered Tanya with a sigh.
“I’m sorry, but I disagree with you,” replied Mrs. Gul with a frown.
“Listen, Tanya! I understand what you are saying, but Allah doesn’t want us to lose hope. He wants us to keep trying until we get it right.”
“Okay, Mrs. Gul I’ll do as you say, and I really appreciate that you care about me so much.”
Mrs. Gul smiled and said, “Good luck dear, and I can’t wait to see it.”
Tanya never thought how much Mrs. Gul cared about her and her education. Her teacher’s encouraging words echoed in her ears for the rest of the day. “Sometimes we are too busy structuring negative preconceived notions around ourselves that we become the prisoners of our own thoughts.” Therefore, Tanya promised herself that from now on, she would always stay positive and always be hopeful, because this is what being Muslim is all about.
The next day, Tanya went up to Mrs. Gul and told her how much her pep talk meant to her, and helped make new promises. Mrs. Gul was very delighted about Tanya’s impetus, and told her that she is very happy for her. Tanya had two months to prepare her assignment. She started to brainstorm and came up with infinite ideas, which she omitted one by one because strangely none of them clicked. Tanya threw her pencil down with exhaustion and stormed off to bed. Time was running out and the submission date was inching closer. The students discussed their issues and concerns along with their progress, but nobody actually talked about their chosen projects because they wanted to keep it a secret. Her classmates, Ali and Sara checked with Tanya about her selection of the assignment and progress—Tanya said that she was still not sure but will have something very soon.
Tanya came home and tossed her backpack on the sofa. She was very tired and her stomach growled like a whale. She pulled last night’s leftovers from the fridge and stuck them in the microwave. While washing her hands, Tanya noticed in the mirror a huge zit erupted right on her chin.
“Great! Now I have to worry about this too.” Suddenly, it clicked—she knew exactly what she was going to do for her last science assignment.
“What if I could create a magnificent mirror which will make a person’s imperfections insignificant by paralleling it to another person’s distress due to severe ailments, diseases, birth defects, or perhaps dying of no access to water, food or shelter?”
“What if nobody values my idea, and they laugh at me? Tanya questioned herself. Hey, hey, hey! What did I just promise myself— only positive, only hopeful, remember? So let’s get started.”
Tanya whipped out her sketchpad and drew the design of her interactive mirror. Tanya had previously taken computer engineering and software programming, so she knew how to make her magnificent mirror work.
Tanya was bubbling with excitement about the fast approaching weekend so that she could work uninterrupted on her genius idea. She put together the blueprints for her design like a jigsaw puzzle.
Tanya’s enthusiasm for her project grew exponentially by the day.
She reviewed her programming textbooks, watched countless tutorials to get it all right and finally she did it. “Alright! Time to test this magnificent mirror.”
Tanya felt on top of the world. She put the mirror against her bedroom wall. She stared at her reflection and waited for the magic to happen. She programmed the mirror to project an image of a lesser fortunate person every time someone looked into it, perfect or imperfect. Tanya lifted her head and instead of being met with her own brown eyes, she was met with piercing green eyes of a young, shy girl. Tanya’s first thought was that the girl looked like a porcelain doll, but when she looked closer, she could see that the girl could not see. Tanya held up her hand to the mirror and wished if only this girl could see how beautiful she really is. She knew that no matter what she was going through, she was one of 7 billion people of the Earth, and she was thankful for her place, high or low in this beautiful world. Tanya’s eyes were teary with sorrow and joy. She stepped back from the mirror and made du’a.
“Oh Allah, ease the suffering of everyone around the world.”
The final day had arrived. One by one, each student unveiled their project and gave an informative presentation about the function, operation, and purpose of their inventions. Surprisingly, everybody exceeded Mrs. Gul’s expectations, and she was overcome with joy at how much hard work and effort her students had put in.
Tanya was met with everyone’s anticipating gaze, as her project was the grand finale. She looked towards Ali and Sara, who were anxious to find out the mystery behind the curtain.
“Tanya, you’re up!” exclaimed Mrs. Gul with a smile.
Tanya marched up the stage and faced everyone’s wide-eyed stares. With a slight smile, she pulled off the curtain from her magnificent mirror and everyone held their breath waiting for the big reveal. Tanya excitedly explained the concept, design, and purpose of her mirror, and the entire class looked back at her with their jaws hanging. Tanya then asked Ali and Sara to come take a peek in the mirror. They were both ecstatic to go up to the mirror and witness its impact. Ali and Sara stood in front of the sparkling panel, nervously waited for it to turn on, and jumped back when they saw a young boy and girl in tattered clothing staring back at them. Ali and Sara inched closer to the mirror, their eyes filled with tears at all of the times they had been ungrateful when so many people’s sufferings go unnoticed.
Mrs. Gul had a trail of tears running down her cheeks. She joined Tanya who was bursting on the stage with joy and happiness. Mrs. Gul grabbed the microphone, and told the entire room about how proud she was of them all, and especially Tanya who created the most impactful piece of all. Ali and Sara congratulated Tanya, and said Jazak Allahu Khair to her. Tanya received a standing ovation for creating such a magnificent mirror that would help the fortunate feel the suffering of others.