“Islam feels so hard to practice. I feel no matter how hard I try, I am going to be the people of Jahannum. It is so hard to be strong in high school…..”
“I really liked how you said that worship could be be going to the gym or doing homework…I have never heard that before…”
“I really am the person you described. I don’t believe in myself at all. How can I change that now….”
“You have really inspired me! I didn’t know that there is a career for Muslims who do what you do. I had cancer last year, and I now speak to people who are diagnosed with cancer. Is there a way for me to do that for Muslims….”
” I am in the category you described – people only motivated by money. I don’t want to have to ever ever rely on any man for money. This way I am always taken care of…… “
” I loved the exercise, but how can I ever figure out how to make this happen…”
“Your workshop was so inspiring! I never thought about all of this before……”
(comments from students)
I recently had the opportunity last Saturday to speak at UCLA’s Muslim College day, a program for Muslim high school students intended to offer them guidance, preparation, mentoring and inspiration for college. The event lasted all day, and I have to say I was impressed by the number of activities and workshops provided for the students, all developed and organized by the UCLA Muslim Student’s Association.
I did a workshop which geared towards helping the students clarify what they are passionate about and what inspires them. With this clarity, we formed a purpose statement. As I spoke I wondered what was going through their heads. Was I reaching them, were they inspired?
After my workshop was finished, immediately a young brother came up to me with questions. Soon after young sisters approached me with questions. Then there were 3 girls in the bathroom, outside at lunch, out in the courtyard. Every 10-15 minutes a different set of students approached me. Alhamdulellah, the workshop had gotten them interested and raised many questions for them.
As a youth speaker and mentor, I have always worked hard to present to the youth the fears and concerns I know they have inside of them before they have to ask. I want to create an environment where they feel validated, understood, and feel safe to express their deepest concerns and questions. Today’s Muslim youth are taught to think independently and challenge everything based on the style of learning in the present educational system and the social environment that surrounds it; to formulate their own opinions and lifestyle. If we want to reach them and keep them close to the Deen, our methods of communication and presentation must peak their interest, and keeping the interest of an auditorium of Muslim youth who have enough electronic gadgets on them to entertain my children for a week straight is no small feat!
What I learned was that the same questions I ask adults, the same tools and exercises I do in my coaching is as needed if not more needed with our youth. And here is why.
There was 15 Mohammad* – who has a fear of failure in the Deen. He fears he will never make it to being a student of knowledge. He feels like he should give up. What could be the result if that fear is left unchecked……how would it grow? Develop? Get stronger?
How about 17 year old Anisa* – who outwardly is beautiful, well spoken and I imagine makes friends easily, but feels she is not capable of working towards her dreams, who believes she isn’t good enough. What could be the results of this belief over the years….
There is 14 year old Ameena* – who is shy and lacks confidence in making friends and trying new activities, limiting herself from new experiences and happiness. How might this effect her decisions over the years….
In each scenario the following statement applies ” Practice does not make perfect, it makes permanence.” The more we “practice” certain behaviors, the stronger they become, and the pattern of results happens over and over again. As a coach, I help people attain those light bulb moments where they finally understand what has held them back all these years from true success in their lives. Most adults go back to a memory in their teenagers years where a negative belief or pattern begun.
Imagine if it could have been discovered then. And conquered then.
As one of the youth mentors there said in her email to me “I just wanted to express to you again how much I loved your presentation at college day. It really was great. I was particularly impressed by how you were able to get to the heart of the matter in such a short time! That is a skill I really need to master.”
I believe my work as a coach needs to reach a different generation insha’Allah……
*names changed from their original