A Girl’s Gotta Do What A Girl’s Gotta Do
As time goes on, generally the Islamic mental state of Muslim girls is unfortunately getting worse. Many Muslim girls are going through a massive phase of identity confusion and self-esteem ups and downs.
"Girls just wanna have fun" is absolutely right! It's not easy being a girl in today's world. Gender role confusion is at an all-time high, and today young girls are going through some major self-esteem issues. So some may say, "Well, not our Muslim girls! We've got the faith and none of this worldly junk matters." Sorry to burst those bubbles, but Houston, we really have a problem.
As time goes on, generally the Islamic mental state of Muslim girls is unfortunately getting worse. Many Muslim girls are going through a massive phase of identity confusion and self-esteem ups and downs. Today it is easy to see that sometimes we have really cocky Hijabi girls on one side of the prayer line, and on the other end we have the anti-social sister who comes to prayer but isn't really sure why.
As one of the "older" girls at the center, I am usually very fond of mingling with the teens. I absolutely LOVE being in touch with that stage of life: pimples, Hijabs pulled down to eyebrows, Abayas and Chuck Taylors – it is quite a scene! As I talk to some of the teenage girls, although they make me very proud, my little Islamic school troopers, there is a rampant new behavior style, which many refer to as "rebellion". I, on the other hand, call it the new-age "Muslim Identity Crisis". I am in no way blaming the young girls, nor their parents, or communities – it is actually the result of some ongoing War on Islam, culture clash, throw in a little bit of parent-child generation gap, and there you have it. The point, brothers and sisters: many of our young Muslim girls have begun to lose their self-identity as Muslim women. And with all the peer pressure, the media, the magazines, the new rise in teenage actors or singers from the Disney Channel, I feel for the young Muslim women. And the big question going through most young Muslim girls' minds is: "How can I – with my Hijab and religious conditions – be as cool as Hannah Montana?" Okay, not Hannah Montana, but just "cool". Let's face it, the number one thing our nafs wants so bad is to be the best, is to be liked by everyone, to get attention and praise, etc. How can teenage Muslim girls fight it when the temptation is far greater today than it was even three years ago?
That is when the light of Islam must shine through. First off, the beauty of Hijab is such an essential belief we need to instill in our young girls that it cannot be mentioned enough, and the problem is that it is not mentioned enough. We've all heard of how many young girls go through anorexia and bulimia in their attempts to look like the front of Seventeen magazine, and now it is hitting close to home for a lot of us. A young girl a few years ago, who attended the Islamic school in our community, had an eating disorder because she was trying so hard to look "pretty". We need to teach our girls about self-worth. Self-worth is defined as the value an individual gives to themselves. As I walk around our center, I hear the same things I used to hear in high school: "I'm so fat!" "Delete that picture, I'm so ugly!" or "You are so pretty, I wish I had your eyes/eyebrows/nose/mouth/ear, etc…"
We must explain to our young girls that Hijab, when worn properly and with pride, gives each woman a feeling of value and demands automatic respect. On the flip side, when we see girls in improper Hijab (clothes which reveal their figure a.k.a. painted-on garments, shirts which are too short, and bangs sticking out), instead of demanding respect, it shows an image of "trying to fit in". I am not saying it is impossible to have a fashion sense and wear Hijab, but I am saying it is impossible to wear correct and proper hijab and do ALL of the latest fashion. We need to clearly define to our teens, who we should tell that they are now young Muslim women, no longer girls, what Hijab is and how much it protects us living in today's society. We need to address why and, most importantly, how we can implement Lady Fatima Zahra (peace be upon her) as our role model. Rather than talking about how she married at age nine and died at age 18, let's put emphasis on the fact that she was maturing and fulfilling her purpose as a teenager! We need to start seeing more Islamically active and politically aware young women in our communities, rather than the-latest-album-released-aware and self-portrait-picture-active girls.
And, of course, there is the golden topic of relationships. Too many young girls and boys (you are not off the hook) are being caught in malls, book stores, or your nearest hookah-offering Arabic restaurant behind the backs of their parents or elders – and it is causing MAJOR problems! This can go back to the whole generation and culture gap issue, but putting all that aside, we need to train our teens to be representatives of Islam and practicing Muslims, in all ways possible. And when it comes to girls, pick the right friends!
Lately, it is sad to see so many young girls make 180s from being vocal, active, and logical young women, to becoming those who follow the crowd and forget their purpose. It is of dire importance that we train our young girls in picking the right friends. No, the girl who tells you that your Hijab is ugly and not in style is NOT your friend. Or the girl who tells you to sleep over at her house, since her parents may not be as strict so that you can sneak out and take pictures to post all over Facebook, is not your friend either. Islam is the biggest advocate of brother/sisterhood, and we need to bank on that belief. Friends should be the one telling you that your hair is showing or, if you're not ready for Hijab, encouraging you to wear modest clothing. Friends should be the ones reminding each other it is time for Salat or maybe to read a few lines of Qur’an. Some may be laughing and saying, "Yeah right, tell my teenage girl to make friends with someone who talk about Salat?" My answer: yes. Make sure you tell your teenagers that they are different. Muslims are different. Muslims stand out because they are leaders and not followers of the ills of society. If we didn't pray, read Qur'an, or practice modesty, what would make us different from any random person?
We need to find practical and routine ways of supporting our sisters, young and old alike. Whether it be a meeting for Hijab, relationships, or parental issues, support groups are ideal. Make it a habit to gather the young, older, and elders weekly, or at least bi-weekly, pick a topic, and just talk – it is what women do best anyway! Nothing helps more than to vent with a fellow friend who is going through the exact same situation you are in.
Encouraging discussion and questions about why Islam may call for women to this, and for men not to. Most importantly, talk to young girls about the value of women in Islam and their rights. Too many young girls are feeling invaluable because they do not know the importance that Allah has given to women. Talk about the four holy ladies and what contributions and examples they set for humankind. Most important, make what is being taught relative and real. If we continue telling our young girls that if they don't wear Hijab that they will go to hell, good luck. But if we tell them that Islam values women, wants to protect them from societal harm, demands respect, and regards women as pearls in their shells, you just may catch their attention.