Young Muslim Sisters

By the youth, for the youth

#LikeAMirror: Project Domestic Violence Awareness Reflection

By: Isatou Daffeh | NY

By the time you get to the end of this reflection, over 120 people would have physically abused--beaten, hit, punched, smacked, kicked, choked-- in some form by their intimate partner.

People of all ages, both men and women, experience domestic violence. The person who sat next to you in class or on the bus or train today could have been a victim or survivor. You may even be a survivor. Signs of abuse may not always be the scars and black & blue marks. Nonetheless Islam condemns all forms of violence whether physical, emotional, spiritual, financial,  or psychological as they very well may be as equally painful. So long as violence against women persists, men and women will not have the same opportunities and it will continue to be normalized over generations, the silence remaining over decades.

End the silence. Domestic Violence awareness is not something we focus on for a month and then move on. Continue to advocate against it with your actions, deeds, speech, and tongue, as our beloved Prophet (May Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) did. It is an epidemic that is not exclusive to the Muslim community; domestic abuse  crosses all religious, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic lines. Domestic violence is never a “mistake.” Victims and survivors don’t heal with a “sorry.” The pain and repercussions go beyond the victims and usually go over generations.

The next step to realizing and understanding that it is present in the Muslim community is to believe the women and men who share their survival stories and understand that it's never their fault. It is not always easy to determine if one will become an abuser, part of the reason being that domestic violence intensifies over time as perpetrators desire an increase in controlling their partner. Yet, more often than not, wrongful criticism and blame is placed on the victim. Stopping abuse is not as simple leaving the abuser therefore we should never undermine or degrade anyone’s traumatizing experiences. It is not a matter of poor choices, weakness, a “lack of patience” as we often hear, or irrational fear. Human beings can only handle so much. Often times, survivors choose to remain silent for different reasons, so when they speak up, be supportive and listen.

Now more than ever should we be steadfast in speaking out against domestic abuse. Our president elect is horrifying in so many ways, specifically in the scope of abuse. We have an obligation to advocate against, not just a few times a year, normalized violations like domestic abuse and remind people that it has no place in Islam. “The best among you is the one who treats his family the best, and I am the one who treats his family the best.” Prophet Muhammed, Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam

#LikeAMirror: Project Positivity Reflection

By: Musbha Chuddry | NJ 

When we are young, the smallest of things make us happy, whether it’s chocolate ice cream or getting a new toy. As we get older, this happiness diminishes and we are plagued with the world’s darkness.  The smallest of things don’t make us happy anymore and we seek bigger accomplishments to feel this happiness. When we end up achieving these accomplishments, somehow we manage to ruin it by thinking of things that put us down. We yearn for happiness so much, that when we do get it, we don’t let it last or we drill the negativity so much into our brains that it becomes the only thing we can focus on. Why is that? Why is happiness short-lived and sadness feels like it lasts for eternity?! We let negativity seep into our lives so easily and quickly but positivity seeps in too slowly and we push it out of our lives extra fast.  It’s also ironic how it’s easy to be negative but it takes more effort to be positive all the time. People think you’re crazy if you’re happy all the time. Why? Negativity has become such a norm, that we don’t even question it but we encourage it.

I never really thought about positivity and negativity in general until Project Positivity was announced.  Isn’t that unbelievable? We get so consumed in life, society, family and friends that we never take a minute to look at ourselves. This campaign was an awakening for me, it made me realize all the things I seemed to have forgotten.  It made me realize how powerful my words are not just to myself but to everyone around me. I didn’t know that if I smiled at someone, it would make their day or if I complimented them, it would have an effect on them. I didn’t know what I did mattered as much as it did until people started sharing how much it indeed did.  When someone compliments me, I brush it off or I don’t believe in it because somewhere in the back of my mind, I feel like I’m not worthy of that compliment but when someone would say an insult to me, it would hit me like a ton of bricks. That one insult would start to consume me and I would ponder and ponder, why they said it and I would make it my personal mission to accept the fact that they said what they said because I deserved it. If a negative comment affected me so tremendously, then how must it affect someone else? I realized that sticks and stones may break bones but words destroy you, and that day I came up with the conclusion that “don’t say things to others that you wouldn’t want someone saying to you.”

My second realization was that I don’t know what goes on in people’s lives. I have no idea what battles they have fought or what battles they are fighting. People go through so many hardships and suffer so much pain, that I definitely don’t have to be the one to sprinkle salt atop their existing wounds. Who am I to make someone’s situation worse when who knows what they’re going through?  What right do I have to make someone’s life harder than it already is? Why can’t I be that person, that makes them laugh, that makes them forget what they’re going through, the person that helps them? This world is hard and painful enough, so why don’t we just try to make it better instead of worse? What does one gain from being negative? Absolutely nothing. If you can have an impact on someone’s life, why not make it a positive one then? I was sitting in YM and I looked at all the faces in front of me. These faces were so innocent and vulnerable and it hurt me, when each and every one of them shared a story about them being abused whether it was verbally, mentally, or even being bullied. It shook me to my core that each girl had an experience they remembered so vividly. That this memory was etched into their brain like it was yesterday. The only question I had was, why would someone want to hurt them? Why is the world so cruel? These girls experienced people trying to bring them down, yet they prevailed and emerged even higher. They were sitting in front of me laughing and talking with their friends after they just told a story that impacted them so heavily. Yet, each and every one of them was positive. I don’t know any of these girls’ story nor do I know what they have endured but what I do know that the light in them hasn’t diminished.

I remember doing an activity called Positive Wanda and Negative Wanda. In the activity, everyone had to write compliments on a positive Wanda and insults on negative Wanda. After everyone was done, I read aloud all the positive things and the negative things. When I was done reading the negative things, I crumpled up negative Wanda and everyone cheered. But that wasn’t the point of the activity, I opened up negative Wanda and tried to straighten her. The point of this activity was that no matter how perfect a person may seem from the outside, they can be broken from the inside because we cannot always recover from the repercussions of the unkindness of others. The impact that this activity left on me and all the girls in that room was indeed powerful.

I want everyone from this day forward to be mindful of their actions and their words, we don’t need more Negative Wanda’s in the world we desperately need Positive Wanda’s and I hope that Project Positivity encourages you to make this world a better place because we are the change, we are the hope and we are the light. I’ll leave you with this: sweeten your words so it can fill all the voids of bitterness the world keeps leaving.

My Hijab Story

Exactly five years ago on a Monday, in the middle of the school year and in the middle of the school day I started wearing hijab. I definitely didn't wake up that morning and decide that I was going to start that day and I didn't walk into school with my scarf on either. After weeks of contemplation, insecurities, and fear, I prayed Duhr at lunch time and kept my scarf on as I walked into the cafeteria afterwards. It was that simple.

I wasn't 100% sure with my decision at the time, actually now that I look back, I probably was barely 50% sure of my decision. But I did it, and Allah SWT made it easy for me ever since.

It was a very difficult decision for me to make as there were several factors in my life that kept me from wearing it.

Raised by Pakistani, Punjabi parents my culture always found a way to override what Islam said. As a result, hijab was not required in my culture. In fact, it was only brought up when we children were told to pray or read Quran. This was all I really knew about the role of hijab in my life.

Even though I did not know much, I could not help but be intrigued by hijab. As a child, I loved to identify myself as a Muslim. Because I was proud of it. As a child, when I saw a woman wearing hijab it looked like the best way to let the world know that the woman that was wearing it was a Muslim. I loved it and I often pictured myself wearing it. Growing up I tried to talk to many girls about it and tried to soak up as much knowledge as I could on why we were told to wear it, how to wear it, once I even asked how to swim with hijab -- I wanted to know everything.

But I always kept my interest to myself because I knew my parents would not understand. In the beginning of 8th grade, I started going to YMS Piscataway. Every Friday I was surrounded by girls that wore hijab and it made me feel so comfortable. Soon I started to seriously consider wearing it myself.

When I finally told my parents that I wanted to wear hijab they were shocked.

Initially, my parents were against my decision and forbade me from wearing it as they feared that people would be prejudiced towards me because of my decision. I won't deny that over the past 5 years there truly have been a few bumps in the road.

But when I started, I did not think about how my decision would affect other people, I only thought about how it would benefit me.

For the first three weeks I snuck hijab. I wasn't allowed to wear it but I did anyways and as a result when I was in public with my parents I wore a hood instead or pretended to casually throw a scarf on my head because "it was cold". Alhamdulillah, I never had to actually show my hair in order to hide the fact that I started wearing hijab.

Weeks after I started, my parents finally came around and I didn't have to sneak anymore. They still weren't comfortable with my decision but five years later, I can happily say that they're proud of me.

If you ask me why I dress modestly and cover my hair I'll give you a different reason every time. I've learned to respect myself, it protects me from people that may not necessarily be the best for me, it forces me to be the best person that I can be (because let's face it-- by wearing hijab I'm a direct target in the public eye), and it constantly reminds me that looks are transient but a person's personality is forever.

It's been a tough past few weeks because of the Paris attacks and I see that there are girls out there that are starting to contemplate taking their scarves off as a result of the backlash they're receiving simply because they identify as Muslims.

As my hijab-a-versary approached -in the midst of Islamophobia- I realized that I shouldn't be scared because I'm not doing anything wrong. I was born and raised in this country and grew up under the notion of freedom of religion. I have the right the dress the way I please.

If people hate me because of what I represent then I'm better off without them in my life.

What they don't realize though is that while they're busy trying to protect themselves from a hijabi like me, I'm busy trying to protect myself too. I'm trying to protect myself from succumbing to the common perception amongst women in society where they think that they have to wear less, look a certain way or even act a certain way to be considered beautiful.

With the rise of Islamophobia these past couple of weeks have been rough for some, and I have no doubt that it'll only get worse. My only hope is that if any girl decides to stop wearing hijab, I pray that it's not due to Islamophobic backlash. May Allah SWT make it easy for me and everyone else that receives backlash for attempting to practice religion in public.


Hijab might be tough sometimes, but I can honestly say that wearing it was the best decision I've ever made in my life.

Written by a sister from New Jersey

 

Legacy

Upon hearing about the unspeakable tragedy that occurred in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I turned to poetry to express my grief. May Allah grant Our Three Winners the highest level of Jannah. Rest in power. 

On Tuesday night,
Gunshots tore through the veil of cozy silence in Chapel Hill And for those few moments, the world stood still

On Wednesday morning,
The sun rise seemed a little less exhilarating
Because three illuminated souls will no longer reflect it’s light

Although I am separated from them by hundreds of miles I can still feel the warmth of their radiant smiles
While I have never spoken to them for a day in my life The news of their passing still brings me incredible strife

You see, the example of our community is that of a body
When a single member aches, the entire body radiates with pain

And believe me when I say that the news of these murders Makes us feel as if our own siblings have been slain

While Deah, Yusor, and Razan’s bodies have been to the Earth returned
They’ve left hundreds of lessons that have yet to be learned
The smiles that Deah and Yusor repaired
The artistic designs that Razan shared

The volunteerism to which they were all devoted
The piety and faith in God that they all promoted

Deah dreamt of a structured community
Of a society devoid of religious disunity
Yusor declared that America was her home
While Razan advocated for the rights of the homeless

They’ve etched their signatures into the book of this nation
And even as the pages turn, we will continue to see that deep indentation That effect simply won’t go away
But you know what they say,
I guess the good really do die young.

The question remains, what will we do to keep their legacy alive? Will we take advantage of our 5 before 5?
Our youth before old age
Our health before sickness

Our wealth before we are poverty stricken
Our free time before pre-occupation
And our life before our expiration?

So my brothers and sisters, do not let our three winners’ stories go in vain
Let their memory motivate you every single day
Time and time again we are reminded that life is short

Kullu nafsin dha-iqatul mawt

Every soul shall taste death
But what impact will you have left on this world by the time you breathe your last breath? 

Written by Verdah Ahmad