Muslim Teen Angst

I had a feeling she wanted to talk about something, her body language gave it away. At first, she spoke about random things and then she hit me with the question she had been waiting to ask.

"Well, I actually wanted to ask you that if you break up with someone, can you be friends with them afterwards?"

There we go.

My mind immediately launched back to ISSA's training in Winnipeg. While we didn't cover how to work with Muslim teens in relationships at the conference, I tried to rack my brain for a response that wouldn't push the girl away from me yet somehow would get the message across to her that dating is not a great idea.

So she told me her story and I listened and gave her my insights here and there and then she hit me with another statement. MashaAllah this showed her maturity and how much she had been reflecting on her issue.

"I think I need to forgive him, since there's a Hadith that says if we don't forgive someone then there's a chance Allah won't forgive them either"

While I admitted that I wasn't sure about the Hadith but it sounded familiar, I reassured her that her thinking was along the right lines. We spoke about forgiving people, forgiving ourselves, and also asking for forgiveness during prayer. I gently suggested she stay away from relationships at her age and explained why, and she seemed keen with the idea that teens need to focus on themselves since in order to be ready for marriage, we need to first prepare ourselves. I also gave my insight into the fact that she needs to enjoy her life as a teen and the freedom she has to focus on herself, since she has many years ahead to spend it with someone. And lastly, I threw in the killer "ah-ha" moment that if her parents ever found out about this, they would not only get super mad but potentially revoke many of her privileges. I think (InshaAllah) she got the point.

This is NOT the first time I've heard of Muslim teens being in relationships. It happens a lot, especially thanks to the internet and smart phones. But the positive side of all of this (and YES, there is one!) is that Muslim girls especially are being open with female adults in their lives. To be honest, I'm glad that the girl trusted me enough to come and chat about her concerns. Adults who yell "HARAAM" in these teens' faces and spit out verses from the Qu'ran do no justice to guide them along the right path. In fact, I didn't even mention anything related to Islam until she brought it up.

Which made me think how often we normalize feelings that Muslim teens have? Instead, the general consensus is that Islam directly prevents anything like the above situation from happening. But Islam doesn't say that Muslims are not human! Muslim teens go through puberty and changes in brain structure and experience hormone surges as do all teens. Add low self-esteem and trouble at home, and you've created the perfect mix for teens to seek out attention in their lives.

And don't think that banning the internet is the solution, because it isn't.

We really need to make teens feel safe enough to approach us to talk. We need to be open and be able to put ourselves in their shoes in order to understand what they're going through. While speaking with the teen above, I tried to think back to when I was in Grade 9 and I could totally empathize with her. I tried not to sound like an aunty or mother giving her the obvious scolding these individuals would give her. But rather I tried to sound like a concerned friend who has lived a few years longer and has some insight that may be helpful.

At the end of the day, the outcome depends on the choices this girl makes, and all I did was try to help her developing pre-frontal cortex see some of the consequences of her actions. I didn't recite verses from the Quran, throw "Astagfirillahs" her way or condone what she did and tell her she should know better.

After all, Muslims are human too and we all need a little help along the way.

Comments

  1. dayummm..word to that! I think about counselling was good for this one, if you were an active listener and apply the the counselling skills very good. first you get her trust, then you get the message across in a nice way

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