Cool New Muslim Fiction Novel

By wael | May 18, 2017

As-salamu alaykum. Do you enjoy reading fiction? Looking for some good summer reading? Check out Pieces of a Dream by Wael Abdelgawad. It’s available in paperback and e-book on Amazon.

This is “Muslim fiction” taken in a new direction, featuring an Iraq war vet and San Francisco cabbie named Louis, and his journey to the Islamic faith. It’s a difficult path he has chosen, compounded by his mother’s rejection, even as he tries to help his gambling-addicted father, and falls in love with an African-American Muslim woman named Khadija.

If you’ve already read the short story online, this is much more complete, with new chapters detailing Louis’s interactions with his sister, his parents, and an old enemy from the war. Buy a copy now, and remember to review it when you’re done!

Buy it now, and please remember to leave a review on when you’re done:

Pieces of a Dream

Quitting Weed

By wael | November 30, 2014

Marijuana joint

By Ibragim Israilov for

As-salaam alaykum, brothers and sisters I want to share with you my story about my weed addiction and how it started, this is especially for my brothers who think weed is (OK).

Before we start I want to say forgive me about my bad English as its not my first or second language anyways I try my best insh’allah.

So this begins with when I started to try those bad things out. I was 16, I was unsure about weed was haram/bad sin because I read so many good things about weed and when I read these articles on the internet I wasn’t able to find any bad things about weed, because these articles I read about was the people who was addicted to this weed. Those people who are addicted to weed and (like it) don’t have any problem at all to find weed bad as I did.

So this started when I for first time got invited to party of my “friend” I never enjoyed to go out for party because I simply didn’t drink alcohol like all my “friends” did, because alcohol is Haram right?. So I found this 2 “friends” and got good connection with them as the time was passing away, and these 2 guys who was my “friends” now was Invited to the same guy (These 2 used to smoke weed daily), I was Invited as.

So the party day came and these 2 “friends” of mine asked me if I wanted to join them to this party. I was unsure and said to them I didn’t drink alcohol because I was Muslim. They said it was okay and I didn’t need to drink if I don’t wanted to drink alcohol, so I said to them okay I can join you just to have a look.

So we took a bus to this guy who had this party and my cousin was with me as well. We reached where the party was and we went off the bus (we walked at least 15 minutes after we got off the bus). So when we walked these 15 minutes they took up this “weed joint” (its cigarettes but instead of tobacco its weed inside in this cigarette) and lighted this joint up and started to smoke it. Because I didn’t know if weed was haram or not I asked them to let me try because I wasn’t going to drink alcohol I knew it was haram, my cousin said to me don’t try it but i didn’t listened to him (He smoked as well when I did, I feel sorry for him til this day because he smokes still he say hes gonna quit insh’allah may Allah (swt) help him).

So we shared this “joint” and after 5 minutes I felt mood swings. It was little scary at first and I was far away from reality. I started to cry because I felt scared and my cousin said to me it was okay and nothing going to happen to me and I relaxed and after 10 minutes of walking we reached to this guy who had this party and we stayed there for 1 hour and in that time many things begin to happen. I wanted to fight everybody and felt strong/good/happy then after 20 minutes I began to cry suddenly out of nothing, and when I got comfort of my cousin I was relaxed again and happy. So after this 1 hour we decided to return home to one of these guy I was with and none of us 4 was high after we got home to him.

Quit smoking weed.

So after we got home to this guy these guys started to roll other one big joint and I was so stupid that I wanted that weed experiences again and smoked it (this time I was faaar away from reality) after we were done smoking the joint we went inside and I sat down on the chair, the time slowed down in reality at least x15. This time I was really scared my heart was beating like x10 faster then normal I thought my heart was going to fall out really and thought I was going to die. So I fell asleep or “passed out” that’s what they call it.

So after I passed out and felt asleep I begin to hear a song I used to listened to, its called (Vinnie paz end of days) and I saw Barack Obama speaking to this (Group of people it was many people they stood in front of him) and the song was playing in the background and I really saw Barack Obama I was so scared that while I was passed out I begin to seek refuge to Allah (swt). Subh’allah I thought that I was dead and I never going to come back, I thought I was done at this time.

And I begin to hear my cousin voice in my head while I was asleep I (passed out) while all of this going in my head. When I heard my cousin voice I tried to tell him to tell my mom and dad I love them and tell them to forgive all the bad things I done to them subh’allah. Then I hear the voice of my cousin again and I can hear he is scared because I was asleep and he didn’t know what was happening to me in my head while I sat on the chair, So I hear the voice of my cousin he says to these 2 guys we was with “Is Ibraheem (me) okay?” They tell him I have just passed out

I could tell from the voice of my cousin he was worried. He tried to wake me up and slapped my face carefully and I couldn’t wake up from this “dream” but I could feel him touching my face. He opened my eyes with his hands and I jumped off the chair and starting to hug my cousin and crying. I tried to tell him what I saw but I could not and these 2 other guys were shocked and said I have to relax. When these 2 were talking to me I didn’t want to listen because they were disbelievers. The only thing I said was “go away from me”. I yelled at them and I was crying when these 2 guys tried to relax me and I thought that I was back from dead and Allah (swt) gave me a other chance. But still I wasn’t sure if I was alive and the whole night the only thing I said was “la ilaha illallah” and told my cousin to say the same with me if he wanted me to relax subh’allah.

After that I became addicted to weed. I used to smoke weed 2 years after this I never felt happy from it. I lost a lot of money to this bad habit I used to have. I had a very bad experience one time while I was high also this was waswaas (may Allah (swt) protect us from shaytan and evil) with a friend. I heard hes voice in my head without really he didn’t said anything and I suddenly started to cry of what I heard. Again (may Allah (swt) protect us from evil). That person is not my friend anymore.

How I stopped was simple –  I just decided to quit. Really I didn’t like to smoke weed later on because I felt I always needed more then just weed. I never felt this happiness.

There was something more I wanted in my life which was a connection with Allah (swt). I wanted to stop this bad habit and return back to Allah (swt).

And now insh’allah I had no problem at all to quit after I returned back to Allah (swt). It is so easy if you ask deeply help from Allah, brothers and sisters. So yes weed is addictive and bad for health don’t lie to your self and Yes its haram! Please quit while you have chance and think about what you are going to say when you are in front of Allah (swt) May him forgive us all.

Wanted: Muslim Teen Writer

By wael | October 19, 2014
Hands on a keyboard

Writer wanted

As-salamu alaykum,

I’m looking for a Muslim teenager or young adult, ages 13 to 25, to manage this website. Your responsibility would be to write at least one new post every month, or to invite other Muslim teens to do so.

This is a volunteer position, but this website receives a steady flow of traffic, so it’s an opportunity to establish yourself as a writer.

The range of possible topics is very broad. You can write about:

  • Challenges of practicing Islam as a teenager.
  • Accomplishments of Muslim teens.
  • Opinion surveys of other Muslim teens.
  • Your own day-to-day experiences as a Muslim.
  • Dealing with peer pressure.

Or whatever comes to mind that would be interesting and beneficial to others.

If you’re interested, please contact me through the contact form.

Wael Abdelgawad, Founder

Muslim Teens Fight Back Against Bullying

By wael | February 29, 2012
Muslim teen basketball player

Fordson High School basketball player Hyatt Bakri in a game in Dearborn, Michigan.

Muslim Teens Deal With Bullying in the Post-911 Era

By Omar Sacirbey
Religion News Service

(RNS) At first, Sarah O’Neal thought the older boy’s comment was directed at the towel she was carrying to water polo practice.

“What are you looking at towel-head?” he said.

And that’s when it sunk in.

A freshman at Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, Calif., at the time, O’Neal, now 16, marched over and demanded the boy feel her Islamic headscarf. “Does that feel like a towel to you?” O’Neal snapped.

The boy never bothered her again.

Bullying is a nationwide problem, but many school officials and youth workers say it has become especially severe for Muslim students in the 10 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As the new school year coincides with the 9/11 anniversary, some observers worry the problem could worsen.

According to a 2010 survey of Muslim youths aged 11 to 18 conducted by the Washington-based advocacy group Muslim Mothers Against Violence, all 57 respondents reported being called a name because of their faith, including 80 percent who said they had been called “terrorist.”

While there are no firm statistics on how many or how often Muslim students are bullied, activists assert it is higher than other students because of post-9/11 Islamophobia. Responding to bullying can be especially complicated because of immigrant parents who may be intimidated by bureaucracies, or because adults charged with protecting students might be part of the problem.

As an eighth-grade student at Beckendorf Junior High School in Katy, Texas — the same town where residents infamously held pig races to protest a proposed mosque in 2006 — Abdul Hamed initially accepted a classmate’s explanation that jibes like “terrorist” and “you’re family blows things up,” were just jokes.

But the teasing continued almost daily, and soon escalated into shoving.

Abdul alerted his teachers, who separated the boys in class, but the bullying would continue in the hallways. In early February 2009, on the school’s track field, Abdul shoved back.

According to Abdul, the boy left but returned several minutes later and sucker punched him, knocking him out and breaking his jaw. That was how Abdul’s Palestinian immigrant parents first learned about the bullying.

Abdul said school officials made the boy go to anger management counseling. “For what I went through, that punishment wasn’t even close,” said Abdul, whose jaw was wired shut and missed several weeks of school.

Abdul, now a 15-year-old sophomore at Seven Lakes High School where his attacker also goes, said he’s moved on.

While ethnic, racial and religious bullying is not new, observers say Muslim American students face the added challenge of having to defend themselves against television images of American soldiers fighting terrorists in Muslim lands.

“Muslim kids are bullied for geopolitical reasons,” said Pia Britto, a professor at the Child Study Center at Yale Medical School. “They’re being bullied because this larger media portrays people of their religion in a negative way, and these young kids have to stand up against this portrayal, which is a different dimension of bullying.”

Britto said kids use the “terrorist” slur “all the time,” which can be harder to respond to than other taunts. “If you react you’re fulfilling the taunt,” she said, “and if you don’t react you get angry and resentful that your hands are tied.”

Despite the increased attention on bullying since a spate of teen suicides highlighted the problem a year ago, news reports and academic studies document dozens of examples in which school officials have dismissed Muslim bullying complaints. In some instances, teachers themselves are the bullies.

Among other examples, a substitute teacher at a school in Hillsborough County, Fla., was disciplined in 2007 for harassing a sixth-grader because his name was Islam. In 2006, a substitute teacher in Gaithersburg, Md., had to be escorted from a school after berating a group of students for speaking Arabic.

“A lot of times the teacher has the same viewpoints and takes the bully’s side, and somehow views that the Muslim kid is responsible for violence that has been committed against the United States,” said Maha ElGenaidi, executive director of the Islamic Networks Group in San Jose, Calif., which develops anti-bullying curriculum programs.

For her part, Sarah O’Neal said reporting the “towel-head” comment to school administrators probably wouldn’t have done much good. After she started wearing the hijab in sixth grade, someone spray-painted “Sarah O’Neal is a terrorist” inside a school bathroom. She told the assistant principal, who later also met with Sarah’s mother, but the school never documented or investigated the incident. Sarah said she still doesn’t know who did it.

Muslim youth workers say many parents don’t know their children are being harassed. Groups that try to combat stereotypes or misconceptions about Muslims in school say they also have to teach Muslim kids how to respond.

“A lot of it is self-esteem,” said ElGenaidi. “If they’re not confident of what they’re about or what they’re parents are about, it’s very difficult for them to defend against the difficult questions that they get asked.”

Interracial Marriage: Is It Worth It?

By somayya | August 5, 2011

By Aisha Faiz from New York

In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

Marriage is one of the most important decisions in one’s life. How are you supposed to know whether someone is “The One,” or if you are just blinded by her beauty, akhlaq (manners), status in society, or you are just plain ole tired of waiting so long that you are infatuated with the idea of a “special someone,” no matter who that someone might be? That is a tough question. A potential spouse cannot be compared to a suit, or the new iPhone that is out in the market. You cannot “choose” a partner, then “return” her if you see that you two do not get along very well. Although divorce is a permissible yet disliked (by Allah) option, let’s hope that we do not marry with the thought that if anything goes wrong, we can always get a divorce. A few characteristics should be looked for in potential mates.

Deen Comes First

In Islam, we are all equal to each other except for those who have a higher level of taqwa (faith in Allah). As such, a man should not discriminate against a potential spouse because she is from a different country, has fewer (or a greater number of) degrees than him, or if she is not as wealthy or as beautiful as he wishes her to be. There is a hadith which states, A woman is married for her deen, her wealth or her beauty. You must go for the one with deen, may your hands be in the dust! (if you fail to heed)” [Muslim]. This hadith applies to both men and women. We should not be preoccupied with how a person looks or how much money s/he makes per month. Beauty is important as you must be able to feel some sort of attraction to your partner. Wealth is as equally as important since you must be able to spend on your family and zakat. Nevertheless, deen comes first and should be the most important factor when choosing a partner. Beauty fades, money comes and goes (and eventually runs out), while a good person’s character gets richer by the day. It is important that we do not fool ourselves by judging a book by its cover. Just because a sister wears hijab and a brother dons a beard (perhaps because he looks quite handsome with it as opposed to having no facial hair) does not mean that they are doing it out of religiousness. It is your duty to ask around, or ask your elders to find out about this person’s habits and qualities.

Does Ethnicity Matter?


There may be a sister who abides by the deen, exhibits good behavior, has a good education, and is beautiful too…except she does not come from the same cultural background as you. Now what? I believe you should go about the matter as you would with a potential spouse who is of the same ethnicity. Allah (S.W.T.) says:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)” (49:13).

Therefore, it is clear that cultural differences should not stop us from marrying a partner of our choice. Allah does not care if I marry someone of the same race, or a different one, so long as we strive to keep each other on the right path. Allah will judge us for what is in our hearts, not our outward appearance. Nevertheless, we must be realistic about interracial marriage and its consequences.

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences are perhaps the number one reason why some people are afraid of marrying outside of their culture. What language will we speak? Maybe English, but what about our grandfathers who do not understand a word of it? What type of food will we eat? Which customs will we incorporate into our wedding—his or mine? What language will our children speak? Which culture will our children marry into—his or mine? Yikes. The list goes on and on, though the last question shouldn’t matter to such an open minded couple. The point is that interracial marriages can be very complicated. They can also be as simple as you make them. The husband and wife can teach one another his/her respective language. Though it is not a quick solution, it is possible. For the time being, if English is a common language, they can speak that. Language is nothing but a means to communication. Children can be taught both languages as children’s minds are like sponges that are ready to absorb knowledge. As a child, I was spoken to in Dari and Pashto as my mother is from Kabul, while my father is from Qandahar, Afghanistan. It was not difficult for me to learn Pashto, Dari, English, as well as understand Hindi just from watching Desi serials on television. Anything is possible as long as the couple and their families are willing to cooperate with one another.

Expect Many Stares

It seems that people are either fascinated by, scared of, or just curious about interracial marriages. Expect people to stare at you as though you have five heads and just landed from the UFO that came from Mars. You will have to learn to adapt to it. Sometimes some people may think to themselves, or even come up to you and ask, “Couldn’t she find a person within her culture? Is that why she degraded herself by marrying a ________?” People are inconsiderate but that does not mean you should disregard a potential spouse.

Convincing Your Parents

Some of us are blessed with parents who have knowledge of the deen. The rest of us, however, are not so fortunate. Some parents are stuck with the old ideology that one should marry within the race as opposed to ruining their “pure” (insert appropriate ethnicity) bloodline. This sounds more like Hitler’s logic in that he did not want the “superior” ethnicity to be lowered through marriage to someone of an “inferior” culture. We should point out Qur’anic verses and Hadith regarding the believers’ equality before Allah and how one’s level of deen will matter on the Day of Judgment. Our skin color will not matter, neither will our superstitious manmade customs, ideologies, and “status” in society. Many parents, though aware of the deen, will not allow their children to marry outside of their race for fear of what “society will think.” Some questions I would pose to those parents are:

1. Do you live your life for yourself, or to please others? Is your whole life a façade, such as a staged play in which your family members’ every action is controlled?

2. Have you forgotten the purpose of your life? Allah (S.W.T.) says, “I have only created jinns and humans to worship Me” (51:56). That is the purpose of our lives, but marriage is a blessing. It is half our deen as our partners help us stay on Siraatul Mustaqeem (the Right path).  Please stop obsessing over how your child’s spouse should be an engineer, doctor, or lawyer.

3. Ultimately, does your child’s happiness matter to you, or your selfish desires of having him/her marry within the race merely to please society?

Please, do not turn down a potential spouse because of something like ethnicity, or the person’s profession. Granted, s/he should be able to earn a decent living, but deen is of utmost importance, and it is possible that you may not find a person who is religious and meets your other standards while also being of the same background. If your parents do not heed your proof from the Qur’an and Sunnah, then ask an Imam to help. Regardless, remember to be kind to your parents even if they do not agree at first.

I hope that this article can benefit some of our brothers and sisters insha-Allah.

This article was written by Aisha Faiz.

What’s the Problem with Converts?

By somayya | June 11, 2011

I have noticed that some Muslims have a problem with Muslim converts. They will respect them in the mosque and greet them politely, but when it comes to marriage, suddenly a block appears. It’s especially true when a convert man asks to marry a girl who has been a Muslim her whole life. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it’s because the convert obviously once was a non-believer, but when somebody changes their life for the better, shouldn’t we be supportive of that? I actually once spoke to a convert lady who didn’t want her daughters to marry converts, because she said that the convert men may leave Islam. She also said that marrying a born Muslim would be better, because if he ever neglects his religion, he will always come back, which is silly to say, as someone not practising can never be better than a practising Muslim! It’s not right to say any of that, plus that lady was a convert herself, how would she have liked it if somebody doubted her belief in Allah? She converted to Islam and supposedly became a better person, yet she judges convert men like that?

Sheikh Yusuf Estes, who was once a preacher from Texas, alhamdulilah now a convert to Islam.

My own mother is English and converted to Islam in 1982. I feel that because my dad married her and she is a convert, then I should also be able to do the same. I have actually spoken with my parents on this issue previously, my mum was supportive of course, but my dad was not at all keen. It just makes me wonder why? There is the issue of some people believing a convert may leave Islam, but to be honest that is very rare, and I have only heard of one person doing that. I have a convert friend, who married a fellow convert, but he decided to leave Islam a few years after converting, and she divorced him. I would say that is an extreme series of events, and it’s not good to say you won’t marry or not let your daughters marry a convert because of a misguided fear or something that may or may not happen.

Perhaps one of the most famous converts to Islam, Malcolm X.

I myself am quite open minded about who I choose to marry. If a convert man asks for my hand, then I will of course consider him like any other Muslim man. I don’t see a problem, they have said their Shahadah and are now Muslims, we should not doubt their belief in Allah, or expect them to leave, just because they were previously practising another religion, or perhaps committing sins. If they have come to Islam, it means they have changed, or they want to change, otherwise why would they bother? If someone wants to continue a party lifestyle, then they will most likely not be religious at all, and not consider any religion, so a convert is totally different. They have made a conscious effort to change their life, so we as fellow Muslims should be supportive of that, and take them seriously when they decide to say the Shahadah and become a Muslim.

Abdur-Raheem Green and Yusuf Chambers, English converts who regularly appear on Islamic channels and speak at conferences.

I was also once reading a topic on an Islamic forum, asking other users whether they would marry a convert or not. Many men said they would, but from the women it was more of a mixed bag. Some said they would, but that their father would not allow it. One white convert posted his experience. He said that he had become friendly with a Somali man at his local mosque, and he felt he had gotten to know him so well, that it would be alright to ask for the Somali man’s daughter for the purpose of marriage. He allowed the convert to come to his house and plead his case, but ultimately, the Somali man told him he would rather his daughter married a drunk Somali than a convert. I was incredibly shocked to read this, and it was terrible to see how that young man had built up a relationship, but then cast out when he made the ‘mistake’ of asking for the Somali man’s daughter.

The only bad thing about converting would be doing it just to get married. Like a girl becoming a Muslim so she can marry her Muslim boyfriend, otherwise his family will not allow their relationship. In a marriage seminar I went to, the speaker said it would be better to break up, than try to change things just to try and justify their relationship. That is a whole different topic, but it’s something I wanted to touch upon. If a man is sincere, he will not ‘date’ you first, he will ask your father for your hand in marriage, and that’s the way it should be. Ultimately, we should respect converts for making such a big decision to come to Islam, and really only Allah knows if they are sincere in their efforts, but we as Muslims must take them seriously and try and help them in any way we can, and make them feel part of our community.


Muslim women buying lingerie forced to deal with male staff

By somayya | December 19, 2010
Muslim woman hanging lingerie

I was recently reading an article on the Huffington Post website regarding women in Saudi Arabia having to deal with male staff in lingerie stores. A group of women over there decided to stage a boycott of lingerie stores that only have male staff. There are only a very small number that employ women, but clearly not enough if this boycott was needed. As many lingerie stores don’t employ women, the ladies over in Saudi Arabia have to go into such stores and be served by men, including being looked up and down to determine their size!

I cannot even believe such a thing would be allowed in a country like Saudi Arabia. Wouldn’t it be un-Islamic to look at a woman in that way? Apparently the reason why mainly male staff are employed is for male customers, so they do not have to deal with female staff. But did anyone consider the female customers in this situation? There is no reason for a man to be working in a lingerie store, there needs to be female staff so that they can measure female customers with no embarrassment caused.

Even in the UK, which is considered a liberal Western country, only women work in the lingerie departments in stores. I think if men worked in lingerie departments in the UK, women here would probably stage a boycott too! A lot of women in this country even prefer to have a female driving instructor when learning to drive, so not everything bad that is said about the UK is true. Clearly some women believe segregation in some situations is a good thing. Gyms are another example. Many hold women-only sessions.

Saudi women walking in Riyadh

In the shopping malls of Saudi Arabia, religious police are present, on the lookout for men and women interacting. This is also why many religious hard-liners don’t want to see women working in malls, they see it as a mixed environment. The important thing to realise is when salespeople deal with customers, that is all the customer is, just a customer to be dealt with formally. Sometimes we have to interact with the opposite sex, as long as it is done in a formal manner and you are not alone with someone of the opposite gender, then there really isn’t a problem.

All these women in Saudi Arabia are asking for is a female-only environment when they are buying their underwear, that is really not a big deal at all, as men won’t be shopping in such stores anyway. Women want to be able to go and get measured by a female, and hear advice about such matters from a female. If you switch that situation around, it would be highly embarrassing.

In my volunteer work obviously I have to serve male customers. That is all they are to me, and I find having my head and body covered commands respect. A man sees you as an actual person if you dress modestly.

I don’t see it as a big deal for women to be working. Sometimes it has to be done anyway. What if you have grown up with not a lot of money in your family? That means even if you want clothes, you will have to work for it. Even after getting married it may not be a simple situation either. What if his salary does not bring in enough to support you and a family? There is a danger if we as women become too reliant on men for absolutely everything, if your father or husband dies before you, or you get divorced, it will render you utterly powerless and literally a damsel in distress.

I am looking for work myself, as I recently passed my driving test, and if I want to be able to pay for a car, insurance, tax, petrol etc, then I will have to work for it. I hope if you are one of those women who has never had to work to support yourself, please don’t take it for granted. You should be very thankful that Allah has provided for you and your family. Some people struggle everyday, and they have no choice but to work.

I must also mention what one woman said in the Huffington Post article, when she asked about women working in lingerie stores. This woman said that bad things happen in stores with female only staff, when asked why, she said they can sneak a photo of you changing on their mobile phones. I would actually be more wary of men in this situation, and I can’t help thinking this woman has clearly got the wrong end of the stick. Perhaps in such a patriarchal society such as Saudi Arabia, some women will have picked up on such things from males and then become wary of females working in stores.

Women have rights in Islam, we shouldn’t have to hide away and feel embarrassed like this. If you read the Huffington Post article, you will see one women even travelled away from Saudi Arabia in order to buy her bridal lingerie with zero embarrassment.

I hope the ladies boycotting male-run lingerie stores are successful. It’s time something was done about it.

Saving Muslim Teens

By wael | September 9, 2010
Muslim teenagers bowling at Yerba Buena center in San Francisco

Muslim teenagers bowling at Yerba Buena center in San Francisco

The Lost Boys (and Girls): Bringing Back Young Muslim Teens
By Zainab for

Anyone who’s been around Muslim teens between the ages of 10 – 17 will recognize a disconcerting and disappointing trend: youthful apathy. Selfishness, self-centredness, and almost total obliviousness to the world around them. And despite the self-absorbtion, there is still a lack of proper sense of self and strong identity.

It can be understood, perhaps, in that these are formative years in which children and adolescents are struggling with a huge input of information from the world around them that they can’t quite figure out what to do with. These years are recognized as the most difficult years for parents, and for the children too; but for Muslim parents struggling to raise their children upon Islam here in the West, the problems are compounded.

Many concerned parents complain about how their children prefer to remain with unIslamic influences and ignore the parents’ attempts to sway them towards coming to the Masjid and being involved with other Muslims. Time and time again I hear the same advice being reiterated, but unfortunately the problems persist. After a while, I wondered if another approach was needed – something a bit deeper and more long-term than one-off youth programs or conferences. Perhaps we need to re-analyse the causes of youthful misguidance, and come up with a more detailed method of reaching out to them.

Here I hope to present my own rudimentary theory of the reasons as to why so many of our younger teens, even those who come from relatively practicing Muslim households, become utterly disinterested in Islam and get sucked into the kaafir lifestyle. From there, insha’Allah we can work harder towards bringing back our lost boys and girls to the straight path.

It’s All About You

We’re always wondering what we can do to draw our youth back to the Masjid, back to Islam, to engage them and involve them and above all, keep them safe. In order to do this, we need to look at the other side first – what is it about the non-Muslim lifestyle that attracts the kids so much? A lot of the time, it’s the attention that they recieve – in a culture that celebrates and promotes individualism to an unhealthy extreme, narcissistic youth are dazzled by how it’s all about them. Sure, other factors are involved, such as how the culture appeals to all those budding desires, but when you get down to it, it’s mostly about the attention.

That’s where we need to start. We need to give our youth attention too, and indulge their narcissism… to a certain point. And above all, in a constructive way.

Know Thyself

We complain about our kids having an identity crisis. To be frank, most of these kids don’t even know who they are… forget about who they are as Muslims, they don’t even know their own personalities. Much of the time they’re just swept up in the latest trends and follow the fickle crowd without thinking about whether they actually like the items they’re wasting their money on, or the activities that they throw themselves into just because it’s what the cool kids do.

We have to help our youth know themselves. Once they know themselves, once they’re confident in themselves and have an idea of their own potential, of what they want to do with that potential, then they will be more solidly grounded and have a better foundation upon which to build their futures.

To be a strong Muslim, one must be a strong person; the key to being a strong person is knowing who you are at your very core, being able to identify your own characteristics and values which will remain unchanged no matter what situation you’re put in.

A solid Islamic upbringing from infanthood (as described in this ongoing series) goes a long way in building this kind of strong character, and as always is the first thing that parents must be aware of. However, for those who perhaps were not as Islamically practicing during their childrens’ early childhood, and now wish to change their parenting styles and their children for the better, then there are other ways that they can encourage their children to develop and strengthen their invidual characters.

It is now that we combine the teens’ desire for attention with the goal of helping them find themselves. Either at home or in a youth group/ workshop environment, our youth need to be invited away from all the clamouring, glamorous outside influences and given the space and time to focus on themselves, on who they are. Have them look deep within themselves, that space where they keep their deepest thoughts and desires, their hopes and fears, their darkest secrets. That space where they as individuals exist on a level where nothing and no one else can reach them except themselves. What do they find in that space?

Remember that soul-searching and personal development isn’t something that can be over and done with in a few hours, a day, or even a couple weeks. It is in fact a life-long endeavour – but it is something which must be fostered from a young age, so that there is a solid sense of self that can be analysed and improved constantly.

Castles in the Air

If you ask a five year old, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” you’re likely to get a long list that includes astronaut, cowboy (or cowgirl), firefighter, teacher, or even farmer. Ask the same question to a preteen or young teen, and you’re more likely to be answered with a blank expression, a careless shrug, and a muttered, “I dunno.”

This particular phenomenon in our youth is a distinct lack of vision. Stemming from the problem of not knowing themselves, our young Muslim teens tend to stumble through school and these important years of their lives in a confused daze. They rarely have a tangible idea of what they want to do with their lives; in this era of technology-centred activities, few of them recognize that they have other talents and skills which can be developed and used for the benefit of mankind.

We need to help our youth open their eyes and realize that there is more to themselves, and to life, than their shallow routine of chasing after the current fad. Teens have to realize that adolescence isn’t playtime; it’s the stepping-stone towards full-blown maturity and the rest of their lives. So what are they going to do with those lives?

Here is where we need to foster and encourage life visions. What life visions do these youth have? Do they think they’ll be able to achieve that ‘ultimate end’? If so, how? If not, how come? How can they achieve those dreams of theirs?

Let’s encourage our youth to open their hearts, minds, and eyes, and make their imaginations go wild. Let them build castles in the air!

Tools of the Trade

Life visions are pretty big dreams and it can be easy to be discouraged about them. So, break the “big dream” into a series of smaller, practical long- and short-term goals that can be steadily achieved and implemented. Accomplishing each ‘small’ goal becomes a stepping stone towards the final vision. As Muslims, our goal is Jannah; reaching that destination, however, requires a lot of work in a lot of different areas and in a lot of different ways.

Every goal of life is reached by utilizing skills and talents; discovering, developing, and strengthening them for maximum benefit. Now that our youth have an idea of what they want to do with their lives, they should also be able to recognize which skills they’ll need to reach those goals. It’s time for them to do a bit more soul-searching – or rather, talent-searching. What are their talents? What are they good at? What do they love to do? At this present time, how do they utilize those skills? How can they develop and improve these abilities? In the long term, how can they use these skill sets to reach their goals?

Another important point to remember is what the old proverb says: “Idle hands/minds are the devil’s workshop.” Too much free time causes our youth to seek out activities to stave off boredom, and these activities tend to be of the dodgy not-very-halaal kind. One way of killing two birds with one stone is to enlist these youth in serious activities at the masaajid; that is, coming up with ways to give the teens a chance to practice their skills in a work-like environment that benefits both the youth, and the masaajid themselves. However, make it something serious – actually pay the youth for their work, instead of doing it on a volunteer basis, as that gives the tasks the appearance of a chore rather than attracting the teens. Not only will the youth learn the basics of business and apprenticeship, but it gives them a far better environment to work in than the usual options of fast food and retail.

Strong and Free

In a nutshell, the above is part of what I percieve to be a rough guide/ method to dealing with the problem of lost, apathetic, confused Muslim teens who are sucked into a culture of shallowness, vanity, and selfishness. We have a group of kids who have so much potential, who could be the next great leaders of this Ummah, if only we could unplug them from their iPods, unhook them from their video games, and drag them away from the latest sales at the mall.

Our youth can be – and will be, insha’Allah – strong and free, secure in their identities as Muslims and their own unique personalities. In their submission to Allah, they will be empowered to becoming the next generation of movers and shakers, those who will improve the state of this Ummah in every field.

We just need to guide them away from the distractions of this dunyah and engage their hearts, minds, and souls… all we have to do is give them the time and attention that they crave, and that they need so that they may become the kind of glorious personalities they have the potential to be. It will be, and is, a long, hard road for parents, the youth, and those of us who have dedicated our lives for the sake of Allah to strengthen this Ummah; but insha’Allah the payoff in both this world and the Hereafter will be worth every agonizing moment of it.

May Allah guide our lost boys and girls, and guide us all, to the Straight Path; to that which is best for us all in this world and in the Hereafter; and to that which is most pleasing and beloved to Him, ameen.

Effective advice for Muslim teens

By wael | August 11, 2010
The author Shaheen Darr

The author

by Shaheen Darr
Reprinted from

Muslim teens, compared to most other teens, are facing some of their greatest challenges in modern times. They should use these to fortify their foundations through greater study of their religion and the principles it upholds.


Modern times have brought with them new horizons and opportunities that were not that readily available a decade ago. For teens, this means that learning a new subject or improving knowledge of an existing one has never been easier. The Quran stresses the importance of educating oneself because through knowledge you can improve yourselves and others and learn to cope better in the world in which you exist. An advantage most teenagers have these days is instant global communication via the Internet. This has made information readily available to them wherever they are in the world and opportunities to better themselves in all areas of their lives.

Education in secular matters goes hand in hand with studying Islam. It is imperative to understand the historical background in which the Quran was revealed and therefore the significance of its verses in their relevant context. This understanding is very important for modern teens who are sometimes misled by biased and prejudiced adults ready to exploit their impressionable minds to their advantage and to the detriment of other human beings.


Some modern teens have to cope with prejudice and hatred because of the fear that Islam invokes caused by the ignorant actions of some misguided individuals. This is an unfortunate state of affairs but as actions speak louder than words, it is better for most Muslim teens to concentrate on their education and careers and present themselves well in whatever they do. Islam should be used to guide their actions and behaviour in the best way possible towards other people as the basic greeting of Islam so aptly puts it, “As salaam O Alaikum” which means peace be to you.

Health and Peer Pressure

Looking after your health is a priority at any age and this includes Muslim teenagers. Islam frowns on intoxicants and this provides a natural deterrent for teenagers not to indulge in substances that will harm them and others. Drinking excessively and being out until the early hours of the morning can take toll on a person’s health and both the body and the mind suffer as a result. It is sometimes easier to become part of a crowd of youngsters just to be accepted, but taking a stand and not partaking in disruptive behaviour shows maturity and strength of character.

Relationships with the opposite sex are a natural part of growing up for any teenager and it is no different for a Muslim teen. He has to realise, though, that there has to be responsibility in his actions, as they will affect another human being. Having sex with different individuals without thinking of the consequences can place them both in difficult situations. This is where control and accountability of actions comes in and as this is one important aspects of Islam, a Muslim teen should adhere to respecting himself and avoid extra marital sexual relations.


Being part of a loving and caring family is a definite plus point for all teenagers because with a strong foundation, strong roots are formed. When you have good bonds with siblings and parents you feel part of a group where you belong and that cares for your well being. It is important for Muslim teens to take time to understand the family unit and its members and participate in their affairs to keep their links strong. This means understanding customs and taking part in cultural events to learn more about the family roots and background. It is having a strong family backing that a teenager can build himself into a proactive, mature and educated member of his community.

About the Author:
Shaheen Darr has been writing for Helium for nearly two years and is the sub steward for the Office and Small & Home business channel.
She was born in Kenya where she obtained her BA Hons degree in Economics. She has extensive retail experience acquired from working in the family book business in Kenya and then running a retail business in the UK for several years. She has also studied accounting and is currently self employed.
According to Shaheen, writing short stories and poetry appeals to her creative side, and she has also tried her hand at writing articles on a variety of different subjects, including spirituality, and health.
In December 2008, she won the Pulitzer citizens award for an article she wrote about US responsibility towards the Iraqi refugee crisis. Issues of world poverty, water conservation and the plight of women and children in some parts of the world are some areas she would like to highlight to awaken awareness and make a difference, no matter how small.
Shaheen says of Helium “It is a wonderful, life changing experience where I am learning all the time…lets see where this new journey takes me!

Growing Up in America: Indiana Muslim girls discuss their lives and aspirations

By wael | April 24, 2010

From Indiana’s, August 30. 2007

SOUTH BEND — In terms of academics, Serene Ibrahim, 20, resembles other college students. She has set her sights on a major, nursing, taking inspiration from her aunt, a nurse, and her favorite TV shows, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “ER.” She also plans on graduating after finishing four years of studies, in 2009, from Indiana University South Bend.

Serene, however, has never attended a typical college party, and probably never will.

But that’s all right with her.

Serene’s faith, Islam, prohibits dancing with someone of the opposite sex and drinking, so she finds other ways to have fun with her non-Muslim friends.

“We go to the movies, we go out to eat, we go shopping, and sometimes I go out of town” to visit friends in Chicago, Serene says.

Muslim girls growing up in America, like Serene, may face unique challenges in keeping their social life in rhythm with their religious standards, but some local Muslim girls say their lifestyles are more similar to their non-Muslim American counterparts than many people think.

In the wake of a recent Pew Research Center Study that shows Muslim Americans are largely “assimilated” and “happy with their lives,” five Muslim girls living in South Bend reveal they are no exception.

No strangers to fun

Serene, who moved to the States from Palestine when she was 2, spent most of her time with non-Muslim friends while growing up because South Bend has a relatively small population of Muslims. Faith, however, was always a dominating factor in shaping her social life, in knowing where to draw the line, such as declining college party invitations. As a child, neither Serene nor her younger sisters, Nadia and Heba, were allowed to attend sleepover parties, not as a result of religious restrictions, but because of cultural traditions. Their parents were simply leery about leaving them at the house of a family they had met only in passing, or not at all.

“I stay late, but I don’t sleep over,” says Heba, who, at 12, is in the thick of the sleepover birthday party trend. Sitting next to her on the couch of their home, Nadia, 15, says, “Even though we live in America, to (our parents) we still live in their country. …

“We have to respect that they’re our parents.”

Although Heba didn’t have a sleepover party for her birthday, she asked her Muslim and non-Muslim friends to join in an evening of fun.

“She invited a lot of her American friends over, and they all showed up,” Nadia says. “And we all did Arabic dancing” (essentially belly dancing). “They learned, and they got up and danced with us.”

Although Heba held a party with Muslims and non-Muslim girls alike, usually the Ibrahims split their time between non-Muslim and Muslim friends.

Nadia and Heba don’t see their Muslim friends often during the school year because both have classes on Friday afternoon, the time of congregation for mosque-goers. During the school year, most of their time is spent with their non-Muslim friends, whom they see every day. During the summer, when they are free to visit the mosque more often, they hang out with Muslim girls.

And, “when (Muslim) girls get together, we open our mouths and let everything loose,” Nadia says.

School, movies and fashion are the primary topics of conversation. And although these teenage girls don’t talk much about boys and relationships, they do dwell on their favorite actors, such as Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp, stars of the blockbuster hit “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Nadia says she and her Muslim friends don’t talk about relationships because dating is not seen as acceptable social behavior within Islam.

“Muslims are commanded to lower their gazes and have modesty — all these things to avoid social and family problems in our life,” says Imam Mohammad Sirajuddin of the Islamic Society of Michiana in South Bend.

“(Dating) leads to social problems — unwanted pregnancy — and (teenagers) cannot focus on education.” Serene says that, instead, the engagement period is reserved for a couple to get to know each other. Depending on the family, engaged couples can go out alone, or chaperoned, and call each other on the phone. If the couple find they are incompatible, they can end the engagement, which does not break any religious laws.

And just as many Muslim girls have found ways to look for their soul partners without having to date, likewise they have found ways to enjoy a night of dancing without visiting the club scene, which may entail mixing with the opposite sex, drinking alcohol and wearing revealing clothes.

Instead, at an all-girls party, girls let loose and strut their stuff.

“When I go to an all-girls party, I wear a jilbab (a gownlike traditional Arab dress) over my clothes,” Serene says. “I wear, like, a short skirt and a tank top or tight pants, and I still do my hair under the hijab” (the Islamic head scarf).

And not only do girls get stylish for the occasion, but they have fun dancing to Arabic music and chatting, laughing and joking with their friends.

Space in faith for soccer

Although expectations of modesty rule out wearing revealing clothes for Muslim girls, they can participate in sports in connection with school and during their leisure time with friends.

Abida Coric, 16, a Bosnian who moved to South Bend when she was 7, spends much of her time immersing herself in soccer, her favorite sport.

Abida, a junior at John Adams High, will be a “floater,” playing on both the junior varsity and varsity soccer teams this fall. She is an avid fan of international soccer, especially Brazil’s national team.

“(Soccer’s) kind of a family thing,” Abida says. “It’s from our country (Bosnia). We watch it and we play it.”

Abida enjoys more than just the thrill of soccer, though.

“It’s more fun than just ordinary practice,” she says. “Before a big game … we have dinner at one of the players’ houses, where we eat spaghetti or pasta or lasagna, and we just spend time together.”

Abida is allowed to wear the soccer uniform because the shorts extend to her knees and she wears her jersey and shorts relatively loosely.

When she starts wearing the hijab — which she plans on doing once she’s ready for the questions, stares and wardrobe changes — Abida will have to wear a soccer uniform with some modifications: full sleeves and long pants.

When exactly she’ll wear the hijab, Abida hasn’t yet decided. It’s a decision, however, that each Muslim woman makes on her own. It isn’t imposed on her by others.

Abida adds that her faith encourages her to strive hard to do well in whatever she does.

“Being a Muslim doesn’t stop you from being the person you are or who you want to become,” she says.

What about being an exotic dancer?

Ah, there are certain things Muslims can’t do … but by no means does Islam discourage girls from playing sports.

Part of the Potter fan club

With their story lines set among witches, wizards and evil dark lords, the Harry Potter books rank among favorites for Sairah Chaudhry, 13. Even though some Muslim scholars warn that children should not read the popular series because they might become fascinated with dark magic or witchcraft, Sairah’s parents are OK with their daughter reading J.K. Rowling’s series.

“They know I know it’s not real, and they know I like to read,” Sairah says.

Sairah did not attend any Harry Potter events the night of the final installment’s release, but when she finally got her hands on the highly coveted book, she finished it in three days.

“It was really, really good,” she says. “It’s the best so far.” Sairah is essentially a bookworm, having read the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine and “A Series of Unfortunate Events” series by Lemony Snicket.

Of course, Sairah still cherishes reading the Quran and knows about 20 chapters by heart. During the summer, she goes to the mosque to help teach Islam’s sacred book.

“I would go there and listen to the smaller kids read the Quran for me,” she says. “I check for (pronunciation) mistakes. I help the imam teach.”

Ambitious dreams

While their social lives may not run completely parallel to their non-Muslim counterparts’, Muslim girls see no conflict between adhering to their religious beliefs and joining the work force.

In fact, the South Bend Muslim girls in this story have ambitious goals.

Nadia says she would like to be a pharmacist one day, and a beautician on the side, since she loves to stay atop the latest makeup and hair trends.

Working hard to realize her dream, Nadia participates in the Notre Dame Educational Talent Search, a program designed to help low-income students, or children whose parents do not have a four-year college degree, prepare for higher education.

Meanwhile, Nadia nurtures her “beautician” side and keeps up with fashion trends by reading People magazine.

And yes, she would like to marry someday and have a family, but Nadia believes that will happen when God plans it.

“I personally think that when I get older, whatever happens. It all comes from God.”

Abida dreams of becoming a pediatrician. Right now, her mission in life is to return to Bosnia.

Not only does she not see religion as restricting her desires and aspirations, she sees her faith as encouraging her to pursue her dream of reaching out to people.

“In our old country, the kids were very sick (during the war). They weren’t really taken care of,” she says.

“So I always had a dream of helping them when I grew up.”