Conflicting Values: Muslim Teenagers and Highschool
By Karen Pryer-Salahuddin
For young Muslims, living in a non-Islamic society, the pressures to conform and to be like everyone else are oftentimes overwhelming. School dances, senior proms, co-ed class trips, weekend trips to the movie theaters, malls and countless other places and activities that not only involve intermingling, but also promote other non-Islamic behavior, are all parts of the tapestry that make up a teenage Muslim's life in the West. As parents we have to acknowledge the dichotomous nature of our teenagers' existences, and offer support and assistance in making good decisions. It's not enough for us to simply say no to these activities, but we have to explain why they are not acceptable and offer Islamic alternatives. As a young Muslim or Muslimah , you may be finding it very difficult to even come to terms with your Islamic identity, when the majority of your peers dont even know what being a Muslim means, or what Islam is really all about.
As a parent I can think of at least three issues that readily come to my mind, when I look at our Muslim youth:
1. They feel alienated and frustrated because of the duality of their experiance of living in a Western society in which the deen of Islam has yet to be fully propogated.
2. They are struggling not to adapt the ways and characters of the people they come in contact with everyday.
3. Some are exhibiting signs of rebellion that arises when they are often being told that many of the things they desire to do are harm.
Since I did not become a Muslim until 28 years of age, I may not truly know what it feels like being a Muslim teenager in a "I CAN DO AS I WANT" world. Only Allah knows best what challenges this presents for the youth. But Allah in His Infitite Mercy has promised to provide a place under His Shade on the Day of Judgement for those who speak and practice Islam in their youth. For Allah to grant such a reward testifies to the difficulties of doing the right thing, and following Allah's Decrees, when you're young. To speak of Islam, for example to your friends and peers, when all around you is talk of the haram, takes tremendous faith and courage.
The question now becomes, do you choose now or later? Do you choose those activities and behaviors that you know Allah, in His Infinite Knowledge has prohibited, for the gratification of "NOW"? Or will you strive to indulge in those activities and behaviors that will enable you to stand beneath the shaded doors of Paradise "LATER"?
Parents, you need to help your children choose to strive for a place under Allah's shade on the Day of Judgement and to help them want to be among the people of paradise. Offer them Islamic alternatives, which will give them a sense of belonging and community.
- Hold separate boys' and girls' youth meetings to first collectively identify you as young Muslims and to familiarize yourselves with one another on that basis. What better way to nurture and foster an Islamic identity and personality than to communicate with fellow Muslims.
- Plan separate boys' and girls' activities such as the trips to the masgid, Islamic outings, sport activities, and make sure that all other activities and getting together have an Islamic focus. The key is to infuse Islamic values into all of your activities.
- Adopt the concept of "each one teach one" which means to constantly be in the mode of teaching your fellow Muslim and non-Muslim friends about Islam; not simple theoritical knowledge, but showing and explaining how you have integrated what you know into your practical way of life.
As Muslim parents and a Muslim community, let us support our young people. Let us not sacrifice our youth for the instant gratification of this life. We need to continue to demonstrate to them that there exists a practical way of living Islam, from what we say, to how we act and what we wear. Remember, Islam is truly a way of life; not just a religion with rituals. May Allah continue to shower His Mercy upon our young Muslims as they struggle with all of their hearts and souls to reconcile two worlds, the Western society and Islam, in pursuit of that shaded place on a Day when there will be no shade, except that of Allah subhanuahu wa ta'ala.
Reprinted from Al-Jumu'ah Magazine