Wednesday 24 August 2016

Little Muslimah’s and the Teen Dream Life

I am debating whether to turn this post into a full on rant, but I think it’s sometimes more useful to be reflective than angry. We are more than half way through the holidays and the refrain of “we are bored” and “what do we do when you’re not at home” has been ongoing. I have made it clear that it is not my job to entertain anyone and that they must find things to do, although I have been taking them on day trips here and there.

The one thing that has been different this summer holiday has been the requests from Little Lady to be allowed to go out alone, to go to the park unsupervised with friends and to be allowed to hang out….

Up until LL has been so sensible and mature that I was happy to note that growing pains of teenage seemed to have passed us by completely. I was wrong, it lulled us into a false sense of security and then leapt us on fully fledged. Part of this was inevitable and it is only fair we get out share. I believe that there is a second cause also.

Earlier in the year, Little lady achieved good grades and did well in her mid-year tests. Because of this I gave her more freedom and allowed her access to the internet, which her brothers do not get freely. I think this might have been a mistake. She ended up watching back-to-back Vines and YouTube videos, all the time reassuring me that her homework was done. At the end of the year, at her parents consultation day I found her grades had dropped for both Islamic and mainstream subjects and her exam results were not as good, to the point that her teacher questioned if she should continue to study for the Alimah (scholars) course next year. I may or may not have overreacted…I did feel quite devastated. Having a child study to be an Alim (scholar) or Hafiz (Memoriser of the Quran) requires sacrifices. The least of these is financial, there is also the investment of time, attention, effort, changes to lifestyle. In addition there is the full attention on you as a parent of both those that disagree with your decision to put your child in Islamic child and those that wish you well and are considering the same for thier own child. This shouldn’t matter to me, but it is there all the same and people ask regularly about how LL is doing. So yes, I may have overreacted a little and gotten upset.

As a consequence, I have limited internet time and ask regularly what the children want to go online for. I have asked Little Lady to continue revision through the holidays and get herself up to a good level again. I have tried to focus on motivating her and reminding her why we went down the path of Alimah studies. Simultaneously I have this pulling away in a bid for more freedom. 

So is it fair to blame the internet, YouTube and Vines? No the responsibility lies ultimately with me as her parent and also with her to be respectful of my need to protect her even if she doesn’t agree with it. At the same time I think it is something we need to be aware of.

Many people won’t even be aware of what the Vine’s are. They are six-second-long looping video clips, often these are grouped together into a fast moving YouTube video. The Viners and YouTubers are a mixed bunch, but pretty much I am finding them to be focussed on gaming, beauty, life hacks for young people and humour. They seem to be self-aware, have a strong social conscious and revel in their youth and a sense of fun and play. The video’s my children like to watch (apart from the boring gamer ones my boys watch) are the ones where Viners and YouTubers play pranks on each other, gently make fun of their parents (look for “Brown Parents be Like…” videos for an example), undertake social experiments (reactions to hijab, reactions to homelessness) amongst other things. YouTubers and Viners are even the new equivalents of the boyband crushes for young girls.

In itself I don’t have a massive problem with these guys and what they do, although I do think the pranking is going too far in many cases. They seem less vacuous and more clued up than we were as kids. I think what concerns me is the subtle effect they have on children, well my kids anyway. Certainly my children have picked up the language. I heard Little Lady a few time start sentences with “Brown Parents be Like…”, before I asked her how I was a typical brown parents in any way before she stopped saying it. 

They also seem to be enamoured of the lifestyle – the fashion for instance for Van’s (from the “
Damn Daniel, back at it with the Van’s!” vine) and this strange trend of wearing very bright red trainers worn with everything. I am a bit annoyed with this, because bright red ballet pumps or heels with all black is one of my fave signature styles. Then there is the preoccupation with contouring, ombre nails, colouring your hair strange pastel or grey colours and the  re-emergence of the 90’s style, which I remember was completely hijab/modest dress unfriendly in the first place.

I think even that part doesn’t bother me. I think many of the Youtuber’s/Viners, even those that are very young, give the impression that they have a lot of freedom to travel, move around and try new things. Many of the most successful ones own their own homes and are seen spending all of their time hanging out with friends, going on road trips or attending big events. I think this creates an image of a lifestyle that becomes very attractive to young people, and this in part is causing Little Lady to bridle at the restrictions we have on her and is causing her to try and wrangle more freedom.

The Muslim equivalent of the Youtuber’s/Viners are hardly a real alternative, because the level of Islamic behaviour I am seeing is questionable and people still seem to be presenting these perfect lives, these amazing Instagram-friendly homes, and these perfect marriages or relationships which young girls aspire to. Anyone who has lived life will know that it is a learning curve, you improve through your mistakes. You build your relationships through humility, tears and forgiveness, not through banter and the perfect wedding. A life well lived is directly counter to a perfect home without any clutter. Your teens and your 20’s are your time to be confused, mess up and learn things the hard way. Your 30’s are your time to find yourself and become sure and confident. But youthfulness seems to be where it is all at and anything after 30 is about being relegated to the irrelevant Aunty brigade.

All of these things on their own are enough to deal with, but when we have tried really hard to impart religious values such as modest dress, respectful behaviour and respect for parents, it almost feels as if everything we are doing has been undermined. So after weeks of negotiating back and forth, my husband has put his foot down and said he doesn’t want her going out alone to the park or into town. There have been tears, sulks and moody silences. For once I have decided not to try and fix things and cheer people up but to give her space to think about what we have been saying.

It’s interesting how we try to manage one kind of influence (TV) and it gets replaced by another that is even more influential. I can’t see an end to this and I suspect we will be dancing around this issue for a long time, at least until she is old enough to have less supervision. One thing that comes to mind is the 
advice given at a talk I went to about establishing daily taleem in the house:

This is taking time to study Islam with your child every single day, even if for five minutes. There was encouragement for the children to be encouraged to take the lead or for everyone to get the chance to read a little. The speaker emphasised that there are so many routes of fitnah (evil) into our homes and the lives of our children, that there is no way we can stop them. Instead the daily taleem or study is the only way to counteract these. Books like Fazail-e-Amal (the Virtues of Good Deeds) and Fazail-e-Saadaqat (the Virtues of Charity) were given as good examples alongside books that described the sunnah (traditions) of our beloved Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wasallam). The purpose is to inspire the members of the family and encourage them to learn and act on what they learn, so that rather than telling the children what to do, they are concerned for their own deeds e.g. reading salah on time. In our home examples would be books on knowledge (because Little Lady is studying to become a scholar), books on the virtues of Quran (because Little Man attends hifz, or memorisation class) and books on salah (because we are trying to get Gorgeous to pray and it is an uphill struggle). 

Accordingly I have started taleem in the house again which we have stopped and started in the past. I am encouraging Little Lady to take the lead. I am very mindful that this is just the start. My husband used to say that the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet SAW) are our role models not footballers and actors, therefore we need to dress and act like the Sahabah (RA) (hence his decision to grow a beard at that time before it became fashionable). In the same way 15 year old YouTuber’s and Viners are not our role models and I will have to work hard to convince my children of this.


  1. This is exactly something that crosses my mind when I think about raising muslim children in europe. I am a convert muslim and i want to learn beforehand what i would like my future children inshaAllah to learn but I understand of the influence other people or the society may have on them. I look forward to know how things go with LL. I know i can not apply your approach with any child because of the different personalities they may have but it will inspire me to know that they will get through somehow inshaAllah. Will keep you and your family in my prayers. ☺

  2. It's a stuggle we can all fall into. Teens, young adults and even fully grown folk. It's difficult and overwhelming. I remember one of the last things that made me revert was the material side that made me very overwhelmed both on the inside and out. That's why just before my 20th birthday I decided to revert and obviously various other things. But I was so done with the pressure of society's standards. And don't get me wrong it's still a struggle a HUGE one. But I'm in a different place.

    So it is more than understandable that you've chosen to tighten the social media schedule. I really admire the decision to school your children in these ways. And I pray they blessed in doing so Ameen

    I really loved this post btw

  3. SubhanAllah! This is exactly what's going on in my house at the moment. Felt very emotional reading it. We ask Allah to guide us and our progeny. Aameen

  4. I find it difficult to find the line between what is right, wrong or acceptable when it comes to modern technology, media and the islam perspective. But for my husband pictures of people are banned in our house, i can't take photographs of our family using a camera and he says TV & all programmes are banned because they are are not allowed in Islam. This ban extends to YouTube and the internet for watching video's . I can't cut it out but he has for himself and wants that for our young kid. It's a dilemma for me and I wonder the impact on the young one being cut off from everything apart from school and books etc. I wonder if my husbands view is actually islamic? or is he being super strict in his beliefs? He does tableeghi jamaat work here and thats where he learns all of his Islamic knowledge from but makes me wonder why there is people like mufti menk posting his selfie type images on Instagram showing his travels and life and my husband believes pictures/videos of people are wrong in Islam. Doesn't make sense to me. Any thoughts?

  5. Assalamalaikum HMM, you and ur husband made the right choice. We gave my lil sis complete freedom with the computer n friends n didnt snoop thru her phone. We trusted her completely. Now were just praying she finds good muslim friends to help her come back to the deen.

    So yeah all that freedom she wants, can only serve to corrupt, n she shud undersfand you guys arent jail wardens out to punish her but ur looking out for her best interest.

    It's easier to prevent issues than deal with the aftermath of them.

    You guys were right abt not letting her go to parks or out to town on her own. With the anti muslim sentiment esp for muslim women, its very dangerous. Plus, kids shudnt be left to their devices and go out alone at such a young age in these times.

    If other parents give their kids the green lighht, thats their issue. Hopefully she realizes out of love and concern and her overall safety these rules have been made. Islam wasnt created to punish us with austerity but to protect us from fitnah.

    sorry for the long post and she will come around n understand when she hears stories of kids with massive freedom and their outcomes. She will feel grateful for ur rules n boundaries.

  6. Umm Shareef30 August, 2016

    Assalaamu aleikum,

    I feel your anxiety - so much of this resonates with our family. I do agree that a daily taleem is a really important part of the routine and should be non-negotiable.

  7. You are preventing her from having a normal lifestyle like her non Muslim friends--I understand she is only 13 but there will come a time when you will have to scale back or risk losing your daughter.
    especially in the UK where there is so much freedom once you turn 18.

  8. Salam

    I have read your blog with great interest and admiration for a few years now. Little Lady is clearly as articulate and intelligent as you, and I am sure is growing to be a lovely and well-balanced young woman.

    Islamically I have read that there are three phases of raising a child: the first seven years are to love and nurture them; the second seven years are to teach them and the third phase extends beyond adolescence and it involves being a friend to them.

    I have followed this thinking in raising my own children and strongly believe that at the age of 14 and above it is time to start letting them make their own mistakes and being there to help and guide rather than to reward and punish.

    That does not mean allowing your child to put themselves into danger but that they are now allowed to be slightly more independent.

    It seems as though you have a good relationship with your daughter and that is the thing that will protect her the most, keeping those channels of communication open so she can share her feelings and discuss her problems with you.

    I pray that our children all grow to be shining beacons of Islam and are the leaders in solving the difficulties facing the world in these troubled times.

  9. Salaams sis, I love reading your post. As a working mum of 2, I feel the strain of giving into their requests or staying firm resulting in sulks. To the point now I am considering a career break just to be with them dedicating the much needed time and attention they need. Just wondering what your thoughts are on this and if you think it is something that would make a difference?

  10. Am so worried am a mum of one, his almost 2.I haven't a clue how am gonna instill Islamic values to my little one. I don't know how to strike a balance.