Earlier this week, onTuesday, I left the masjid around 6pm with the intention of walking back home despite the freezing winter breeze. As I was about to exit, a little girl entered and I greeted her with the salaam. I had barely taken ten steps when a lady called me from inside her car and so, prudently, I approached her to hear what she wanted. She asked me if I saw a girl enter the masjid and I acquiesced. Without further ado, the lady started pouring her heart to me. She said that she was the young girl's carer and that she was having a tough time convincing her to attend the weekly madrassah class in the masjid. She informed me that she fostered the girl about 3 years ago and that she's the 7th family the little girl is staying with. I honestly wasn't ready for a stranger to tell me so much information and the lady herself said that she never usually talks to people about her private life let alone a stranger but she *somehow* felt something with me. I patiently listened to her despite the bitter cold, I was empathising with her situation and tried to ''advise'' her to remain positive, patient and seek help from Allah. As I was sharing these tips and ideas with the lady, I suddenly heard myself proposing to hold one-on-one sessions with the little girl. Do you sometimes have those moments where your brain and your tongue aren't in sync? I was thinking to myself 'uh-ho, Libin, just chill.. you don't have to get involved in this' but my tongue was much faster and I was already arranging a date with the lady. #typical
However, it felt like I had to propose a solution. The easiest thing that came to my mind was to say that I would happily give some of my time to connect with the young girl, get to know each other, discuss things, give her some attention, create that desire in her to want to come to the masjid ect. And that maybe just maybe, she could then find herself enthusiastic about attending the madrassah and the masjid. The lady was so pleased to hear of my proposition and we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet all together on the following Saturday.
Saturday arrived and I was expecting the lady to send me a confirmation message or something but nothing came until the very last minute. I got ready as quickly as I could and dashed out the house. I hate being late and making people wait especially when meeting someone new. Oh well..
On my way to the mosque, I was hoping that the young girl and I would manage to create a connection. Life is so much easier when you can connect with people. I felt like I could potentially have an impact on her if I managed to click with her in the first couple of minutes. I recited the du'a of Musa for Allah to open my chest and ease my tongue; I then quickly hopped to the store to grab two donuts -because surely everyone loves donuts right?- and off I went.
The girl is aged 12 going on to 13 and was such a sweetheart. I love her already and just wanted to squeeze her in my arms (and ofc I did). I can just imagine how tough her life must have been jumping from one foster family to another. I really think that all the misbehaving the lady told me about is just a cry for attention and that what she wants deep down in someone to give her time and a kind ear. Sometimes, we tend to dismiss kids and teenagers and we don't give them the eye contact or the time to let them express their thoughts and ideas which can make them feel unappreciated etc. I think she enjoyed having a grown-up specifically coming to see her and listening to what she had to say. I know that kids in foster homes/families speak to a lot of social workers and all those people so I really didn't want her to feel like I was another one of those annoying people.
You know when you're trying to attract someone's heart to you or to the deen, the first rule is to find out what they like and the second is to never directly criticise them for the things they like; if those things are contradictory or in conflict to our religion. That's exactly what I tried to do today. I didn't criticise her when she said she wanted to become a Youtuber. I didn't say anything negative when she said her dream job was to become an actress and that she loved photography. I didn't act shocked when she asked whether it's allowed to celebrate the New Year. You know what I mean? I feel like some of the religious folks out there ruin things more than they fix with today's modern teenage Muslim and make them resent Islam because everything is 'haram'. First, create the love of Tawheed in this kid's heart. Give them something to relate to, show them how impossible it is to live a great life without Allah.. then, move on to the various aspects of jurisprudence and matters of halal and haram. They will accept them wholeheartedly bi-idnillah.
I have to say that I was impressed with her knowledge of the deen. She knew quite a lot -Allahuma Barik- and she told me that lately she was having trouble concentrating in her prayers and asked me for advice on what she could do. It was so sweet and from that point onwards, I was reassured that not all hope was lost with her. She actually has a huge potential and I think she just needs a little guidance like most teenagers do at that age. She just needs someone to point her towards the right direction and give her loads and loads of encouragement and praise.
We spoke about the akhirah, I find that teenagers are usually very intrigued by the Day of Judgment, Jannah and Hellfire. These are their favourite topics and tbh they were also the things I loved reading about when I first started becoming interested in the deen. Towards the end of our conversation, she told me that she's more motivated to go to Jannah now and let me tell you.. that I was too!
She then asked me if I could describe the Prophet 'alayhi salaam to her. Do you know how touched I was by that question? I told her that from next week onwards, we'll take something from his blessed life and that we'll learn about him together. I think that she could recognise a lot of her own story through the seerah of the Prophet 'alayhi salaam especially through his childhood as an orphaned kid.
We also enjoyed our donuts and had all the other kids staring at us (or at our yummy donuts :p). Alhamdulilaah, I think I managed to create that spark and interest in her. We agreed to meet every Saturday from now on for 2 hours.
You know, lately I have been thinking about how we can ignite the love of Allah and Islam in the heart of our youngsters and teens? Most teenagers are completely unaware and heedless and this life doesn't help them at all. I also feel like us -older people- aren't necessarily doing enough in providing that guidance or help in that aspect. All we do is shout 'have you prayed yet?' when it's prayer time and then we get mad because they drag their feet for it. Are we blameworthy?
When I reflect to my own childhood and teenage years, I recall several event that triggered something in my heart and drew me to my religion. I shall mention only 2 here.
The 1st event was during one summer holiday, we were visiting my aunt in London for a few weeks (we lived in France at the time) and my aunt had a balcony with abandoned plants. I took it upon myself to water these plants religiously every day. For the first week, there was no improvements at all but I kept watering them. Slowly but surely, the plants started to sprout and grow. Flowers bloomed from the pots, beautiful colours appeared and it was such a gorgeous sight. This simple thing had a huge impact on me. It made me realise that Allah/God can indeed make anything alive and I had seen it with my own eyes! I had seen how dead the plants were and I had seen how beautiful and colourful they became! It touched a cord inside of me. Years later (I was about 10-ish at the time), when I read the Qur'an and I saw the numerous parables and metaphors Allah uses with water, plant, seeds, bringing the dead alive, the good soil bringing good ect. I was reminded of this experience and my faith strengthened a lot.
The 2nd event happened around the age of 14 during a trip to visit my uncle. Perhaps I will dedicate a post to my uncle considering how influential this man has been in my life. Anyway, one night, my uncle and I stayed up talking about different things. He always made me feel important, he always liked to listen to me, he made me want to be like him.. in other words he was my role model. This is why I really believe that we all need that figure in our lives as teenagers, we need that person that will make us feel special and who is willing to spend time with us because when we see that, we will want to listen to them in return and take on their advice.
One night, my uncle asked for my mom to allow me to sleep over at his place. I was so thrilled, I mean I always knew I was his favourite niece but this was the cherry on top of the cake lol! Mom accepted and off we went together. That night, we barely slept. We talked until late into the night. My uncle spoke about Allah, His Oneness, His Deen, His Creation. I had never heard half of the things my uncle taught me that night and more specifically, I had never heard anyone speak of God in such a beautiful manner before. I really believe that night was the first night my heart was awakened by the love of Allah and the recognition of Tawheed. He told me of the most beautiful of things, he taught me the basics of my religion and this is why my uncle means the world to me. Once the conversation ended, I couldn't sleep. To be honest, I couldn't sleep for 2 reasons.. I was scared to snore and thus disturb my uncle but I also couldn't sleep because of all the new life-altering information I had received that night.
These 2 events, for me, have been moments of spiritual awakening and it is my most precious conviction that we all need these moments in our lives. It happens at different times for different people. Some people need to be tested with death of close ones to feel that awareness and God consciousness in their hearts, others will go through sickness and difficulty to realise the closeness of God and for some, it never happens and they die without appreciating the sweetness of faith and of loving the Master... it all depends and Allah knows best for each person.
So, inshAllah.. for the little girl, I just hope that I can be that person that ignites her sweet little heart to love her religion and be proud of it. I hope that Allah guides me in this and makes me sincere. I thank Allah for giving me this opportunity. Thank You <3