ف ,س and ش: Confidence, TikTok, and the Tumultuous Teenage Years.

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

[translatable to: With the Name of Allah, The Merciful, The Compassionate]

Just as the sky goes through distinctive phases, so do we, throughout our lives. Photo Creds: Mazhar Alam, Allah hummabārik.

“Why are you Muslim?”

Seven-year-old ش puts her hand up.

“Because… our parents made us Muslim!” She later added:

Our destiny is to be in Jannah*.”

  • Abu Huraira reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “No child is born but that he is upon natural instinct (Fitrah). His parents [are the ones who may then] make him a Jew, or a Christian, or Magian.

As an animal delivers a child with limbs intact,

do you detect any flaw?

This is validated by what Allah tells us in the Qur’an:

“So direct your face toward the religion [i.e. Way], inclining to [the truth of Pure Monotheism].

Fitrah of Allah upon which He has [set all the] people.

No change should there be in the creation of Allah.

That is the correct religion [Way], but most of the people do not know.” [Qur’an, (30:30)].

Ten-year-old س adds that, although we are fortunate enough to have been born Muslim, ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ (Praise be to Allah), we still have to work for it (i.e. Jannah).

Thirteen-year-old ف is here too. She tends to smile a lot (Masha Allah; may Allah preserve this about her) and she is very close to our other cousin, ا (Allahummabārik: may Allah bless their friendship, their sistership).

ف has a Qur’an app on her phone. She has almost read through the entire Qur’an again, she says, cheerfully.

She also much enjoys watching videos on TikTok.

س enjoys watching TikTok too, because “I just find them entertaining whenever I’m bored.”

Some key questions may emerge from all this. Young boys, and their typical inclinations towards gaming, YouTube, and the rest. Girls, and their typical inclinations towards TikTok, makeup, and the rest. “Bracelets, earrings. And flowers,” ش sweetly adds.

She (ش) is currently unaware of what TikTok is. “What you talking about?!” ش had a little princess doll here with her, and she seems to be fond of accessories.

In Islam, we are not barred from ‘life’. Trade, socialising, eating; there is no monasticism in this religion. Yet, balance is essential. We enjoy things, within limits; we take our lives seriously, remembering that this life is not the only one.

“Eat and drink, but do not be excessive/wasteful/extravagant. Certainly, He loves not the prodigal (al-Musrifūn: those who are excessive/wasteful/extravagant).” [Qur’an, (7:31)]

And letting children into internet-based wormholes with little to no restriction or guidance: sort of similar to letting a child… wander into a big room or hallway filled with strangers saying, filling their impressionable minds with, all sorts of things. Children need to play, yes; children also need good teaching, guidance, and protection. These souls of theirs are precious things, Masha Allah.

س currently has her own blog: www.beyourbeautifulself.fashion.blog. She says that it is about making people feel more confident in being themselves. “Helping people to be themselves” is its tagline.

Being ourselves: again, the balance, there, is essential. Not to ‘be ourselves’ and claim to ‘love ourselves’ so much that we blindly, doggishly follow our own whims and desires. But, certainly, there is such value to embracing whom we are, within the bounds of Goodness:

“Keep it Halāl,” in the words of ف, recorded in my notebook by س. And:

Don’t get drunk because other people are around you. You can but…” [it doesn’t mean you should.]

س also writes: “love who you are and never stop doing what you’re doing. And remember, don’t change just because someone said something!”

It is often the case that certain people enter our lives — and may perhaps stay, in that capacity — as a form of trial for us. For us to be tested through. Because the Purpose of this life is to worship Allah (in how we pray; in how we behave towards others; in how we carry ourselves in our work, what we do, and more) and to be tested.

Who has created death and life, that He may test you which of you is best in deed.

And He is the All-Mighty/Majestic, the Forgiving.” [Qur’an, (67:2)]

There are many rude people in the world, explains س.

We talk about this a little more. Sometimes it is out of sheer arrogance, maybe: a spiritual disease, a feeling that one is ‘better’ and ‘bigger’ than others, and ‘deserves‘ to make others feel small and unworthy of decency and respect. Some people seem to rarely contemplate upon their attitudes and actions, unfortunately.

Sometimes, it is insecurity that seems to do it: an inability to face the deficiencies of the self, perhaps. A projection of said insecurities and turmoils upon others, maybe out of envy, maybe to make self feel better.

The pre-teen years, and those teenage ones, tend to be such a tender, and perhaps tumultuous, period for any of us. A reckoning, maybe, with the incoming of the adult self. Who am I?

Am I pretty? Am I pretty? Am I pretty?

Am I enough?

Do I deserve to be loved? Do I deserve to be loved?

[Let’s face it: going ‘boy-crazy’/’girl-crazy’, in our heads and via our hormones, for whatever while.]

What is my place, in this world? Who am I? Where do I fit in?

[What is ‘wrong’ with me? Why am I like this, while others are like that? Our ‘flaws’ may be magnified, in these minds of ours.]

How can I fit in?

And the

Why am I here?

that tends to arrive part-and-parcel with maturity.

A girl who is about to become an adult tends to be on the look-out for signs of acceptance. Validation. Fearful of disapprovals. ‘Sensitive’ and fragile; afraid of what boys may think, and, perhaps, eager for them to think well of her. But sometimes we resolve to wear steely faces: others ‘should not’ know of our weaknesses.

Am I normal?

Am I okay?

Do I have real worth?

How can I be liked? What might people like me ‘for‘?

I love that some fathers, for example, show such love and affection towards their daughters. Their little princesses. The teenage years: we tend to be looking for love, even when this may not be so obvious. A holistic validating of great importance. “Be yourself.” Maybe this is when tenderness and affection is most needed, even when seemingly railed against by all that ‘teenage angst’.

(Within those Divinely-Ordained boundaries,) what have we to lose, save for the ‘approvals’ of people who will not ‘accept’ us? Why, in truth, might their approvals matter so much? Are they, somehow, the ‘rightful gatekeepers’ of whatever is True, and Good, and Beautiful?

What are our expectations (of ourselves, for example) and ideas of what is ‘normal’ and/or ‘desirabledetermined by?

Norms tend to be normatively defined, in line with values. And in line with statistical norms.

If there is a group of girls with a particular tone of skin colour, and this is the norm of that place: as soon as someone with a different type of skin tone walks in, she may either be socially rejected on account of her being different, or appreciated on account of the ways in which she is different.

And we tend to look, so much, to people, don’t we, to see if parts of us are ‘okay’. Are these features of mine ‘okay’? Is my nose ‘okay’; is my height ‘okay’, and so forth.

Dear reader, you were made by the Best of Creators, and there is no question at all about that. ‘Trends’ may ebb and flow: thick eyebrows, for example, may be ‘scary, brutish’ one day, and ‘bold’ and desirable some other day. It is ‘better’ to be ‘very thin’, one day, but then the ‘trends’ change, and we sort of seem to fall for them each time.

The beauty inherent in how Allah made us, however: timeless. How could it fluctuate, between time and time, between place and place?

At a certain point, my brother came to us with light-green (play-)slime on his arm. “I didn’t sneeze,” he lets us know.

With regard to all the things that make up whom we are: people will pretty much always ‘say things’. And completely pleasing the creation is a tiring, ultimately impossible, game. But if Allah is Happy with us, then we have won, even if armies of people ‘disagree’.

Today I went to the masjid to pray; I think I had been on the brink of having a ‘bad day’, until then, that is, and what had followed. Not a ‘perfect’ (absolutely ‘Jannah-like’) experience, but one that I felt had been comfortingly and soulfully enriching, Masha Allah (Laa Quwwata illa bi Llah. There is no Power except with Allah).

[Being Muslim; the experience of Deen — is not to be measured by how ‘aesthetic’ the whole thing is. Not by how ‘TikTok-worthy’ a sitting-at-the-masjid experience is; not by snapshots of NikkāHh ceremonies, pretty Abayas; not necessarily frames of Arabian coffee sets and rugs and dates, or whatever else. It is nice when things look nice, but the holistic experience of being Muslim is not, I don’t think, one that is so reducible to beautiful, and beautified, images.

Because part of being Muslim are also things like finding oneself in the belly of the Qur’anic whale; at the bottom of a well. Mental unwell-ness and feelings of messiness and confusion; experiences of such things as disease, hunger, poverty, loneliness, and otherwise.

There is beauty to be found, wherever there is Islam. However, those ‘aesthetics‘ are not the foremost consideration].

While sitting in one of the small rooms behind the main women’s prayer area, a little girl (who is adorable, Masha Allah, may Allah bless her) started playing peeka-boo with me, across the glass, hiding intermittently behind one of the white separating panels. We waved at each other; two little girls who were with her started waving too.

On the other side, the little girl’s mother, having finished being engaged in Salāh, apologised if her daughter had been disturbing me or anything.

Not at all. [In fact, in my anxious mind, I worried, for some reason, that these adorable kids might not like me or something. And maybe that I had been embarrassing myself…].

I love that whether in Makkah, or in Turkey, or here in London, what we tend to see in masjids is Deen and sisterhood; little children, running around, playing and praying in Allah’s house, like it is all intrinsically part of them, and they just know how to be, and what to do.

Pretty much everybody around them becomes an ‘uncle’ or ‘aunty’ figure to them. And how pure these, children, are, Masha Allah. In some ways, they are what we are seeking to return to. A state of purity; may we be ready to return to our Lord, when we do.

Today, following the prayer, a Janāzah prayer had taken place.

إِنَّا لِلَّٰهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ

Indeed we belong to Allah, and indeed to Him we will return.” [Qur’an, (2:156)]

According to ف, a good Muslim man is one who, for instance, goes to Jummah every Friday [men are encouraged to regularly attend congregational prayers] and helps out in the kitchen. Our Example, Muhammad (SAW), whenever he had been at home, would carry out personal chores (e.g. mending his shoes, sewing his clothes, carrying water, milking the sheep), and would also be in the service of his family, according to his wife ‘A’isha (RA).

ف says that Muslim girls should pray, read (Qur’an), and observe physical modesty. [Modesty is very important in this religion.] س adds that giving (sincere) advice to others is good too. According to a Hadīth (report, narration) from Sahih Muslim, Muhammad (SAW) said that this Deen is Naseeha (sincerity, sincere counsel/advice).

ف advises that we do not hang out with people who will influence us negatively. Don’t do drugs; don’t go partying. She adds that, in her eyes, she is able to identify a good Muslim by “the way they act — towards people, towards their learning.”

When asked about what she feels is ‘wrong with the world’, ف talks about the world that is “online”. People saying bad things. [Rampant, breeding insecurities; competition; deceptions, and all the rest.]

But, to use the words of س’s blog handle: we must exert ourselves, to be our beautiful selves: in Truth, in Goodness. More or less everyone here is fighting some harder battle (or battles). Allah, the Witness, is watching; the ‘right people’ for us are here, ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ, too. [Is it not better to have the true and deep love of, say, one or two people, who truly love and want the best (in Dunya and Ākhirah) for us, than those ostensible and precarious ‘approvals’ of hundreds of people who may ‘like’ us on account of face-value things, and/or of what we are not?]

May Allah grant us, dear reader, the strength to get through our own unique tests in the best possible ways, Āmeen.

“Bear in mind that the present life is just a game [amusement], a diversion, an attraction, a cause of boasting among you, of rivalry in wealth and children. It is like plants that spring up after the rain: their growth at first delights the sowers, but then you see them wither away, turn yellow, and become stubble [straw].

There is terrible punishment in the next life as well as forgiveness and approval from Allah; the life of this world is only an illusory pleasure [deception, the enjoyment of delusion].” [Qur’an, (57:20)

Underlinings my own].

*Jannah paradise, garden. Where we hope to end up in the life after this one, by the Will and Mercy of Allah.

*Masha Allah what Allah Willed [has happened]. We tend to say this, for example in the presence of beauty/good things, acknowledging that they are from Allah.

“What Allah willed [has occurred]; there is no power except with Allah.” [Qur’an, (18:39)]

*Āmeen amen. Said to close and affirm Du’as (calling upon Allah; supplication).

*ٱلْحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ Praise be to Allah. Al-Hamdu-li Llah.

*Dunya this temporary, fleeting (and illusive) world, as opposed to Ākhirah.

*Ākhirah the (Eternal) Life after this one.

*Jummah the congregational Friday prayer, which also includes a Khutbah (sermon).

*NikkāHh contract of marriage.

*Janāzah Islamic funeral, which encompasses the prayer and the burial.

*Halāl permissible, according to Islamic law.

*Salāh the Islamic method of ritual prayer, which should be done (at least) five times daily.


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