Fire In My Belly A Short Story by

Reflective thought is utterly addictive. The mismatched colorations of my most vivid realizations and the caviler notions of my shipwrecked self are often enough to leave me consumed. As of late, I’ve been ruminating over a particular conversation. Dialogue highlighted by misplaced anxieties, a dream’s fragility and advice drenched in gold.

My friend and I sat in a small coffee shop while the melodious hissing of espresso machines and overcast chattering of other customers filled the vaulted room.

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too!”, she solemnly declared.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

I hadn’t realized that I was laughing before she retorted, “Hanaa, I’m serious!”

I wasn’t entirely convinced she was as serious as she wished me to believe. She let a demure giggle escape and lightly flicked my arm.

“Alright, alright,” I said, attempting to regain composure. “What cake are you talking about?”

“Imagine this is a cake”, she motioned to my tea saucer. “Now imagine that this cake is called the Dunya. With me?”

I smiled and affirmed.

“You’re alive in this world which means you have the Dunya but you can’t eat it, because if you do, you won’t have Jannah”, she broke into a wide grin as she placed the saucer down and searched my eyes.

Essentially, it all added up. I couldn’t have this world because there was something far greater awaiting me, should Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) have mercy on me. In the midst of all my prayers and supplications, there it was: an abode of angels and prophets.

“It’s either one, you know?” she attested.

“Yeah, I guess so.” I intently replied.

That evening, our conversation echoed through my scattered thoughts. I tried to reproduce the scenario again, wishing I could have been more assertive in my reply. It was like I was traveling through a contemplative minefield and with each step I was never sure what conclusion would shatter me. Education, employment, family, and friends, I thought, are all Dunya. Elation, anguish, and overwhelming vivacity are all emotions I’ve experienced here, in this world. I mused over how I would rearrange my cataclysmic state of consciousness. How would I be able to reconcile the two?

I lay my fingers onto my keyboard and let my thoughts infuse themselves into an email to my friend.

“Subject: A Fire in My Belly”.

Amidst the loving salutations, I began,

“When I said that ‘I guessed so’ I should have said, yes, I have a hijab wrapped around my head. Yes, I am a Muslimah. But, I have dreams in my heart and a fire in my belly”.

I achingly continued, “You see because my dreams and passion for life are for Allah and Him (subhanahu wa ta’ala) alone. The limited sweetness of this Dunya can only be found in our pursuit of the Akhira. Contentment, jubilation and the silver lining stretched across a dark and barren sky are all from Allah.”

I paused, lifted my fingers from the keys they were nestled atop of and forged ahead.

“I am persistently fighting for my dreams because I have a soul that is not of this Earth. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) created us all as unique individuals and blessed us with unique talents and abilities; all of which can be used to please Him (Azzawajal). The Dunya is intertwined with our future in the Akhira. Yes, the spatial divide is vast but how we live our lives now, in this Dunya, irrevocably matters. How we use what Allah has granted us in this world is truly how we can invest in the next life.

I’m building ladders here in this Dunya. Ones that I hope will one day allow me to, bi’ithnillah, reach the castles in the sky, in Jannah.

So yes, I choose to endlessly strive for my Akhira. But, I also choose to enjoy the permissible pleasantries of this world. To travel and marvel at the beauty of Allah’s creations, to taste the sweetness of love and knowledge on the palate of life and to express my deepest gratitude to my Lord for each and everyday that I am alive and that He has mercifully blessed me with Islam.

The fire in my belly is fury of dense emotions. It is the sentiment that says that Allah and the Akhira are never omitted from anything that I do, from my education, to my job, to my hobbies. Because in the end, “…the Hereafter is better for you than the first [life]” (93:4).

I pray that Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) grants us the best of this life and reward beyond compare in the next. Ameen.

Love,
Hanaa

Presently, this email sits taking shelter in my drafts folder, but today I have a feeling that my friend will finally have the chance to read it. I hope that by sharing this piece the lingering sentiments that I entreated upon myself to consider that day will be planted in your own mind and can be stirred to life by the raindrops of quiet reflection.

It’s your world, so what’s the fire in your belly?