Passing With Flying Colors A Short Story by

Written By Fatimah Waseem and Amal K.

The minutes ticked by as I sat in the examination room. Pencils scratched their way across test booklets – a steady rhythm sometimes interrupted by a heavy sigh, the drop of a pencil, or the sound of someone erasing. It was one of the longest exams I ever had to take, but I remained optimistic that I would do well and finish in time. 45 minutes remained.

Soon enough, I came to the end of the exam and began reviewing my answers. I was pretty confident that I got all of the answers correct – all but one question that I simply could not get! Did the professor even mention this concept in class? I stared intensely at the blank space on my answer sheet, hoping that by some miracle, an answer would appear. Only 5 minutes now remained.

“…Okay, time’s up class! Please bring your papers up to the front and patiently wait in your seats as I quickly grade them and return them back to you,” instructed the professor.

I slowly trudged along with everyone else up to the front of the class and quietly submitted my exam. A few moments later, we received our exams back and the class was dismissed.

I didn’t dare open my examination results until I entered my house. I quickly yelled my Salaam as I entered and ran upstairs to my room. With the door locked shut behind me, I slowly slid up my examination grades from the manila envelope and looked down to see my final result.

I saw that I received a 48/50.

“Oh man, that’s one answer off!” I thought to myself in disappointment. I ended up getting that question wrong after all… I had to get it right, I had to get a perfect grade. My record was near-spotless. Couldn’t I just stick to that for once? Ignoring the intense headache pulsing at the upper left of my head, I frantically searched through my course syllabus until I found some extra credit options. I jumped with joy as I found a 25-point essay I could complete. I plunged right into the paper, getting my hopes up along the way.

Right then the Adhan rang in, its beautiful resonance soothing my ears and heart, making me daze off to another world. I quickly shook my head and woke myself up to reality. Yes, it was time for prayer, but I had to finish this assignment! I couldn’t move on to anything else until I was certain that I had that perfect grade. After all, I wanted to graduate with a 4.0 grade point average.

Time flew by and I finished my assignment. I looked up to my clock and saw that there was only twenty minutes remaining for ‘Asr prayer. I hurried up, made Wudu’ (ablution), and began my prayer. As I entered into that one-on-one call with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), other concerns floated around in my mind. I shook my head with dismay, hoping to lift the veil of thoughts that became a barrier in my prayer between myself and my Lord. I fell to the ground, then lifted myself back up like a mechanical robot. Again and again, I performed this robotic routine as I went through the motions of the prayer, unconscious of what I was doing, unconscious of what I was saying. I said the tasleem and ended my prayer, realizing that my prayer had not even begun.

I sat on my prayer rug and remembered how the Adhan had soothed my heart, how amazing it felt as I not only heard, but listened to it. And that was when it hit me.

I had been frantically searching for extra credit opportunities, hoping to fix my “required” assignment grade at the expense of an assignment far more important: my prayer. SubhanAllah, I was worried about a 48/50 on a mere exam, when I had most likely failed my prayer! Why wasn’t I chasing after an extra-credit assignment to make up the points I had lost? Why didn’t I have that same determination to maintain a 4.0 with Allah’s Record Book?

My head hung in shame, sitting in the same position with which I had ended my prayer. The worldly work called my name, but I simply sat. With tears drying upon my face, I rethought my situation.

I needed to work on my grade with Allah more than ever before. I spent so much time studying for tests, preparing homework assignments, taking notes, and striving for that good grade. What if I applied this to my Deen?

SubhanAllah, I recalled how some assignments are graded for completion – every student’s dream – and others for accuracy. While my prayer is graded for accuracy, I had been whizzing through my prayers just for that completion grade. It was like I had simply written “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” repeatedly for a history research report despite knowing that it would be graded for accuracy. Never would I imagine doing something like that on an assignment…and yet, I was doing this with my prayers! Where was my Khushu’? Where was my sincerity? Where was I as a Muslim?

I reflected on how utterly stupid it would be to leave a blank answer on a test question to which I knew the answer to. And yet, wasn’t this what I had been doing thus far? Take something as simple as music. I knew it was haram, and yet, I stubbornly persisted to listen to it – I stubbornly persisted to leave a blank answer for a question I was well aware of.  Was this rationality? Was this the way a Muslim ought to behave?

Likewise, didn’t I avoid getting deducted points for a careless error or an incorrect answer? Wasn’t this just like my sins? Was I making every effort to avoid careless errors or incorrect actions in my life? At the same time, I protected my grades from going down like a mother’s protection over her child. With my real grades – the grades with Allah – I couldn’t say the same. In fact, I was giving away my points, my good deeds, to others. How? Simple: backbiting. I’d been losing deeds all along.

I then asked myself, what would I think of a student who cheated off of another student’s paper right under the teacher’s nose? I’d probably refer the individual to a mental rehabilitation center, call them insane, or mentally challenged; but was what I was doing any different? After all, wasn’t I committing sins despite knowing Allah is the Watcher of all things? Wasn’t I copying others’ wrong ways whilst knowing the unacceptability of my actions?

Ask yourself, when you hear about the instructions for an assignment, don’t you write it down in your agenda so you won’t forget? At the least, you’d note it down in your memory. What if we did this with the Quran, the Book with contains instructions for our entire lives, guaranteed to ensure success?

And honestly, if your teacher or professor gave you all of the answers for your assignments, tests, quizzes, and exams, wouldn’t you use them? Would you just ignore that knowledge and try to find a way of your own? Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has given us these answers – plainly written in the Quran and His Prophet’s Ahadith (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). Then, what stops us?

This isn’t just about grades; it’s about our transcript with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). It’s about this life and the next. This isn’t about getting admission to Oxford or Harvard University. It’s about getting admitted to Jannah! It’s about getting admitted to the highest level, the highest college in that Everlasting Paradise!

Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has laid out the answers: we simply need to take advantage of the notes, study guides, and educational materials He has provided. Teachers can be boring, repetitive, and often incompetent, but by no means is Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) similar in any way. Teachers accept assignments on due dates and deduct points (or don’t accept them at all) after that date. But, Allah – Allah is the Most Merciful. He accepts assignments long after they’re due and accepts sincere apologies. And even when our assignments are not up to par, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) looks into our hearts and grades us upon our intentions! That’s one grading policy I would definitely kill for.

And finally, His extra credit policies are endless. We have a whole month to start out with a 100% again. We have Sunnah prayers to make up for missed Fardh. Reading our biology textbooks (or at least attempting to) doesn’t get us points like this, but with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), there’s so much possibility of maintaining our GPAs and starting again!

Now, I can only help but think about that Day that the score of my entire life will be revealed, the Day that I will learn if my work was sufficient, the Day that I’ll receive my final report card—the Day of Judgment. On that day, you, and all those around you, will be there, waiting for the final verdict. The opportunities are available and the grade books are open. The semester may end anytime soon, so let’s take advantage of the time we have.

I pray that Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) helps us make that Day one that we will not only pass, but pass with flying colors!