Friday, June 07, 2013

Coming of Age in a New World

Modern society marks the transition from childhood into adolescence with contemporary constructs such as issues of identity and angst. For young Muslimahs in the West, these struggles are compounded with further questions about religion, spirituality, and their place as citizens in societies whose values are often at great odds with those of Islam’s.

Ama bint Khalid was one of the first young Muslimahs to grow up in a non-Muslim environment, and whose love for the Messenger of Allah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) blossomed in her heart before she ever met him. Her parents were amongst the earliest believers in RasulAllah, and were of those who made the first hijrah (emigration) to Abyssinia.

As a result, Ama was one of a handful of young Muslims who grew up in a distinctly Christian society. Though she undoubtedly faced difficulties and challenges, her identity as a Muslim was strengthened by her circumstances, rather than weakened or driven to compromise. Her parents would regularly share with her and remind her of the reason for which they emigrated: their belief in Allah and His Messenger. They would tell her stories about RasulAllah (sallAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) – his kindness, his generosity, his concern for others even if they were not his family or friends, and how he worked so hard to save everyone from the terrifying punishment of the Hereafter. Long before she ever met him, Ama loved this amazing man of whom her parents spoke so fondly.

Ama was a young girl with faced with a massive challenge: living and growing up in a country foreign to her family, struggling to learn a new language and a new culture and, more importantly, retaining the faith for which they had emigrated in the first place. In the midst of this utter strangeness, she fiercely held onto her belief in God and His Messenger, her savior. 
Though the challenges are many, young Muslims in the 21st century are not the first to experience isolation, alienation, and negative propaganda directly concentrated on their faith. Youth such as Ama bint Khalid and Ali ibn Abi Talib, both of whom were raised upon Islam from a very young age, grew up in a society where they were labeled as either crazy people, terrorists, or both. Most Muslim teenagers often think that they have little in common with famous and awe-inspiring Sahaabah of the Prophet’s time, but the truth is that their struggles were very similar to those we are going through today.

Today, young Muslims in the West have far more available and at their disposal than Ama bint Khalid had over 1400 years ago. Masjid youth groups, Islamic schools, youth conferences, CDs and DVDs; these resources provide not only knowledge, but a strength of solidarity for young Muslims growing up in non-Muslim societies.

Teenage Muslim girls who are trying to juggle their non-Muslim school environment, culturally different home environment, and plain old teen hormones need look no further than Ama bint Khalid to feel both comforted and inspired. If Ama could do it – in a time when there was no internet, no halaal takeout, and no varieties of cute hijaabs – why can’t you?

Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 22:
    Narrated Sa'id:
    Um Khalid bint Khalid bin Said said, "I came to Allah's Messenger along with my father and I was wearing a yellow shirt. Allah's Messenger said, "Sanah Sanah!" ('Abdullah, the sub-narrator said, "It means, 'Nice, nice!' in the Ethiopian language.") Um Khalid added, "Then I started playing with the seal of Prophethood. My father admonished me. But Allah's Apostle said (to my father), "Leave her," Allah's Apostle (then addressing me) said, "May you live so long that your dress gets worn out, and you will mend it many times, and then wear another till it gets worn out (i.e. May Allah prolong your life)." (The sub-narrator, 'Abdullah aid, "That garment (which she was wearing) remained usable for a long time)

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a young woman who finds constant inspiration in the lives of the Sahabiyaat and other great women in Islamic history. She hopes that every Muslimah is able to identify with the struggles of these inspirational women and follow in their footsteps to become a part of a new generation of powerful Muslim women. She blogs at 

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