Mustafa was never going to get into medical school. All those years of studying to get good grades had been a waste of time. Mustafa kicked his Organic Chemistry textbook under his bed. He sat on his bed, picked up his thirty-pound dumbbell to weight lift to keep himself from cursing and ruining his whole Ramadan fasting.
He couldn’t believe that after two years of applying to med school that he had just gotten one rejection letter after another. It wasn’t fair. He had the best grades, highest MCAT exam scores. Oh, he knew he wasn’t the only one Mustafa had met plenty of wannabe medical students at shisha lounges downtown. What a crook America was! He believed that if he did everything that these people asked, that he would get his dreams. Instead, nothing, he was still the same refugee Somali guy living at home, except now a biology degree hung on his wall. Life sucked.
“Are you still mad Mustafa? You need to have faith everything will work out Insha’Allah,” said his younger brother Guled leaning against the doorframe.
“Shut up.” he snarled. “Mind your own business.”
Yes, Guled and him looked alike. They both were six feet, with the same bronze skin coloring, same fine features, and curly hair, but that’s it. Mustafa was very ambitious and could never still sit still. He worked all day at the Riverside Hospital then still had extra energy to burn, on the basketball court, which is why he had twenty extra pounds of muscle more on his body.
Guled, on the other hand was always so relaxed and calm. Guled was double majoring in African and Islamic studies at Ohio State. He wanted to get his PHD one day. He never worried about anything. He waited and hoped things worked out Insha’Allah, and somehow they always did.
Mustafa was not so lucky. He had to work hard to get the luck that came so easily to his younger brother.
“Dinner’s ready!” His mother called from downstairs.
“We’re coming Mom!” Guled shouted.
Finally time to eat, Mustafa set down his weights. He passed starving hours ago. Fasting in the summertime was the hardest, because you couldn’t eat until the sunset, and it was August.
Mustafa’s tongue watered when he saw the Iftar meal spread out on the Arabic rug. He inhaled the smell of curry and cilantro. His stomach growled in anticipation. Mustafa rubbed his hands together. The best part of the month of Ramadan had to be all the great food you get to eat every night.
He sat on the floor next to his brother Guled. His mother and fifteen-year-old sister Marian had filled the Persian rug with the silver serving plates full of food. They had cooked suqaar beef sautéed in green and red peppers, rice brewed in spiced and fragrant water, ari goat meat stewed with potatoes, ground beef sambusa wraps, fresh maize muufo, xalwo gelatins squares, and strawberry banana smoothies.
“Are you going to eat that?” Mustafa asked, snatching a ground beef sambusa wrap from Guled’s plate and took a bite out of it.
“This is so delicious” said Mustafa while grabbing food and putting some of the food on his plate and some of it in his mouth. “Thanks. The trick is to eat as much as you can, so won’t be hungry when you fast.”
“Brother, you should not eat too much, because the Prophet (Peace be upon him) said a few mouthfuls are enough, one third for food, one third for drink, and one third for air.”
“But I am starving, I nearly died today. Mom you make the best food. Thank you.” Mustafa moaned with delight as he bit into the succulent goat meat.
Mustafa slept in a deep sleep. Sprawling, out on his bed until he felt a nudge, he peered from under the blanket, and the sun burned his sleepy eyes.
He glared at him. “What do you want, Guled? I’m sleeping.”
“Wake up. You cannot sleep all day. The whole point of fasting is to practice self-discipline, so you know how it feels to be hungry.”
“Hungry- I am still full. I think I ate too- much food.”
Guled raised his eyebrows. “You need to get up. I will be downstairs. We are going to watch the Messenger of Allah movie”
“Count me out.” Mustafa groaned. “If you won’t let me sleep I will find something else to do.” He didn’t want to stay home and worry all day about not getting into medical school.
“Guled, you missed the best basketball game. My team was the kings of the court. We won like ten straight games. ” Mustafa boasted as he limped into the living room.
Mustafa sat down on the couch. “I took the ball from Ahmed Texas. I had a clear shot. I decided I was going to slam-dunk. I ran. I jumped so high, Guled. I swear I flew. I dunked. It was perfect. Until I started falling, Next thing I knew-.”
“Are you okay?”
“Why are you wasting time playing basketball? This is not a vacation. It is Ramadan.”
“Wasting time? I took off work, so I am on vacation. You might not have summer classes, but I have a job. ”
“Look I am fasting. Last, I checked Guled it is not a sin to play basketball.”
“Brother, I know but fasting is not just physical, it is spiritual as well. I know we are all in different places in our Deen, but you need more faith.”
“Faith-I had faith, I worked and prayed, but it’s pointless. I will never be a doctor.”
“Mustafa,” His mother shouted.
She came waving a letter, “you were accepted to Ohio State Medical School!”
Unshed tears filled his eyes, “I got in -?” She handed him the letter, “Oh Allah, forgive me, have mercy on me, and grant me repentance,” Mustafa whispered.
by Sindiya Darman