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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Moving Past Adversities: #1 Dealing with Isolation

It's not easy being a girl in any society despite what the American media would like us to believe.  From body issues to drugs to bullying to teen pregnancies, navigating adolescence  presents the type of challenges that are monumental.  And many decisions that young girls make in the time it takes to type a text message have long lasting negative repercussions even though our young girls haven't even reached fully maturity and understanding. So now let's pour Islam into the mix ......can you feel the tension, the misunderstandings, the tears (of parents), and the never ending questions and fears?   I do because I went through it too as a young Muslima! How do we as mothers, sisters, friends, and elders help our daughters move past so many adversities that are apart of  the tests and trials of life and develop their Islamic identities to become confident Muslim women?? Sheesh, Umm Juwayriyah, that's a tall order! Rocky Road ahead, any takers? Today we are going to discuss isolation and some tips to alleviate it.

Enter The Unknown: Isolation

Check the scenario: There are a couple of girls hanging out in the local masjid's lobby. They're laughing and joking and just chillin' with each other. Another young Muslima comes into the masjid's lobby and spots the group of girls. The all politely smile and offer the salam. The young girls walks off to make wudu then goes into the musallah to offer Asr prayer. When she completes her prayer she sits inside the musallah waiting on her family. The group of girls enter and offer salatul Asr as well. They  finish their prayer and leave right out of the musallah. Never extending an invite to the young sister sitting alone......

Point: Isolation hurts!

When our daughters feel isolated by their peers, it can cause an erosion of their self esteem. Unfortunately, today many Muslim youth are dealing with isolation. Yet,  Muslim families and communities have not devoted much, if any energies into addressing this serious issue. Some Muslim families don't even value companionship for their children. They overwhelm them with Islamic lectures, Qur'an and hadeeth memorizations, and tagging along to various conferences hoping enshallah to fill up their void with something seemingly beneficial - yet often they are causing more harm. Sometimes parents throw Islam on so thick, it suffocates their children and  they begin to resent some of the most beautiful aspects of Islam, if not Islam in its entirety.

We don't want that! Islam is not a punishment or  a billy club either. It is a complete way of LIFE (you know, for the LIVING) and our daughters have to see it lived: with joy, love, fun, companionship, honesty, and all the real things that bring fulfillment to our lives. Companionship is a huge part of life, especially for young girls battling their way  through puberty. Girls are hard wired social beings. Our daughters NEED to fit in some where, to share and to be encouraged with good.

However, the reality is, even when we as Muslim parents are on board with the understanding that all of our children (Yes, including your sons) need social lives, the town or city that will live in just may not have enough Muslim youth for our children to form bonds with.

What then?  I've compiled a short list of really simple - common sense ideas that I really hope some of you will try out and let me know how it goes:

#1 Dua (Supplication) - Yep, it is the best weapon for the believers and Allah has instructed us saying (what means):  "You Alone we worship and You alone do we seek for help" Qur'an 1:5 
Pray for your daughters that Allah grants them good companionship and that He makes them good companions for others as well. In every salat and in the last third of the night, invoke Allah and ask Him to give to us and them that which is better for us. And even more important is that we encourage our daughters to do the same for themselves. 

#2 Travel  - It doesn't have to be a long journey. Often traveling 30 minutes to an hour to another community where there are more young Muslim girls and teens the same age as your daughter will suffice.  Allah says (what means): Say (O Muhammad ): "O My slaves who believe (in the Oneness of Allah Islamic Monotheism), be afraid of your Lord (Allah) and keep your duty to Him. Good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world, and Allah's earth is spacious (so if you cannot worship Allah at a place, then go to another)! Only those who are patient shall receive their rewards in full, without reckoning." Qur'an 39:10 Monthly activities with a welcoming and vibrant group of youth might not seem like a big deal to you, but it could mean the world to your daughter in developing a positive outlook on Islam and Muslims in general.The idea is build positive associations with Islam and Muslims by cooperating and interacting with Muslims who remind us of Allah and all of His great bounties. If Allah has blessed you with the ability to get your daughters out of a isolation or worse, a toxic community - do it, even if it is just once a month! You might find a new friend too!

#3 Pen Pals - It's old fashion and may seem a little corny to preteen and teens in the beginning, but I'm telling you that once they find a good match and they start receiving letters from their pen pals, it will soften their heart, enshallah! Who doesn't like good news? Exactly! And you can encourage them to spruce it up by not only sending emails or texts on their cellphones, but to write real snail mail letters on pretty stationary! Ask around to your own companions in your town and online, and even put an ad at your local masjid to bring in a larger pool of pen pals. 

 Enshallah, try all three simple ideas to alleviate isolation in your daughters. If it seems like none of the ideas are working quick enough, go back to #1 and increase other ebadah, right? And don't forget to be  friendly and loving with your daughters! Teens needs hugs and kisses too. Keep their spirits up and remind them to trust in Allah to send aid! Please do let me know how things work out and if you have any other tips leave them in the comments sections and I will add them to the blog!

Next post in the M.P.A series: Mean Muslim Girls....

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Hard Lesson To Teach....

 You never want to see your child hurt. You know, there is that "Super Mom" complex that we mothers step into when ever we sense danger approaching our little ones. Kinda like the fight or flight instinct, it just kicks in and you react to the danger in order to protect your child. As the little ones grow up and into themselves, "Super Mom" goes through many transformations. Your learn (or force) yourself to pace your  instincts and let the not so little ones make mistakes, trouble, and even problems that you foresaw miles ahead. The idea is that children must learn to think, process, and make responsible decisions (age appropriately) on their own. You start off slow, easing back, then forward, back again, closer and tighter, and the dance continues until one day, enshallah, you know - you feel it inside of you that they are prepared, ready, and able to think, process, and make responsible decisions without (most of the times, Mamas never stop giving out advice!).

Today wasn't that day. Today, I was by my little (big) ones side the whole time, but allowed her to lead and follow through. It wasn't the best decision. In fact, I'd seen years ago, how this was going to play out, wallahu Yallim, she needed to make this (wrong) decision and I needed to be by her side while she made it. This wasn't an easy day for either of us. My stomach had knots and I had a light headache, slightly throbbing through out the whole day. But we prepared for this evening like it was going to happen. She invited some folks over - but, well, it wasn't the right set of people for her to invite over. "But Mama, I made them all bracelets and I went over to their house, too!" Mashallah, gift giving is great and it is something that we should do with others, but why did you give them those bracelets and go to their homes and sleep overs. I probed trying to rev up her thought process. "Because Mama, we're friends and that's what friends do."

It was simple and clear in her mind and I wished it could have been that simple, but it wasn't. There was history there, deep, dark, hiding the closet history. I seen this before. I knew what it looked like, what it smelled like. I myself am no stranger to being a stranger in a community I was born and raised in. The snickering, whispering, the exclusions, the holier than thou bullying wrapped up in something that many confused with some thing that is noble, loving and compassionate that we call advice, usually, wasn't. It was instead hauntingly eye rolled, lip puckered, and tucked neatly into the silent treatment aimed at an ill-prepared 12 year-old. She stared blankly during the interrogation among other little ones: "why do you wear so many colors? you're supposed to wear black, its in the Qur'an not to draw attention to yourselves, you don't want to cover your face?"- the whole mean girl or cut a girl down script sunnafied - I guess. Nonetheless, the outcomes are the same and the causes are too. We all know what it is about because it's a game that big girls play very well too and Queen Latifa even rapped about in the '90's, U.N.I.T.Y!

But before Latifa, Allah Azza wal Jal, Al Malik, spoke of it. He encouraged it. He demanded it. He honored it too. So much so that he mentioned it plenty of times through out the Qur'an for us to reflect on.

The believers are but brothers 
Surah Al Hujurat: 10

We forget. We do. I do and I know you do too some times. And we get caught in our own cliques, groups, posse, ace boon coons and all that jazz.  But here's the deal: It is isn't haram or bad to have special friends! In fact this is a great blessing from Allah to have good, close companionship. Friends that you can trust and depend on are a limited treasure. It's not the greatest blessing though because we are always racing against our own selves.  When we truly can dig that idea that Allah has placed us on this earth treat every single person that we meet with dignity, kindness, and respect, well that's when the ni'mah from Allah increases and we move from one from just being a good homey, sissy, or rode dog to a couple of select people to just being a grade A upright person to everyone for the sake of Allah alone. 

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.

The party wasn't what she expected. It was a no show for those others. But you know the "Super Mom" kicked in and I had a plan waiting in the lurch for her. I had invited family (thank Allah from grandparents and extended family) and I made her favorites dishes: cabbage and baked chicken wings and desert was chocolate covered strawberries and you know,  it was what it was. Alhamduleelah, she was sad, but she also smiled. She learned a lesson too, I hope. Being upright and good, is not a color, a style, a club, or a trend. Being upright is just that....being a person who gives others their rights and treats people well for the sake of Allah alone.