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By Hooruneen Sheikh and Binte Aqueel
Being young in this day and age is not easy. The youth have to grapple with a host of complex issues like an ever-fascinating world of popular culture, the lures of desires, peer pressure and the strong need to fit in.
Fortunately, a group of women, inspired by the teachings of the Quran understood this, when formulating the rationale for their new programme for teenagers – “Perceptions”. This was envisioned to be a series of weekly workshops for girls, between 11 and 17 years of age, introducing them to the Quran and the Sunnah in a way that they would best be able to relate to them. “Perceptions” began in 2006 in Karachi.
Five years after its launch, “Perceptions” has become a name many parents would like their young girls to be associated with. It is an English language programme with interactive sessions that focus on helping young girls build a relationship with Allah (swt). These weekly workshops empower students to sift through myths and stereotypes, develop critical thinking and understand reality by questioning and analysing misconceptions created by the media and popular culture and adjusting them according to the Quran and the Sunnah.
“The focus is on perception change,” explains one of the founders. “That is the reason we came up with the name ‘Perceptions’.”
“We basically form our reality on the information that we have in hand,” she continues, explaining the rationale behind the idea. “If you have lopsided information, your reality is going to be lopsided. Just like when you look at yourself in a funny mirror, you don’t actually look like that, do you? But that is the perception that you get. Hence, we need to adjust this perception of who we are and what this world is all about in accordance with the Quran and the Sunnah, so that we have a bigger picture.
“[Many people wonder] why do we need to understand this reality? Why can’t I live in La-la land all my life? As long as I am happy, what difference does it make, if I live in an illusion? But the fact is that every choice that we make takes us closer to our destination, and ultimately there are only two places to go. Now, if we are smart and don’t want to get a sudden shock of ‘Oh, my God! Where was I all my life?”, we might as well start making the right choices right now.”
The programme was initiated by a group of mothers, who were students at the Quran course conducted by Huma Najmul Hassan. They were motivated by a desire to help their daughters develop a Muslim identity. Several other moms approached them with a similar request and “Perceptions” was born. Gradually, it developed into a full-fledged programme.
The programme has covered about 200 topics related to perception change so far, with categories ranging from scripture, Sunnah and Aqeedah to personal development, interpersonal skills and Tazkiya. Topics discussed include: body image, Haya, gender relations, Salah, internet etiquette, etc. The group uses multimedia presentations and hands-on activities to deliver their message.
Classes are conducted every Friday from 3:20 to 5:30 pm. There are two terms in an academic year with summers and winters being off. Each term comprises eleven to twelve sessions. ‘Perceptions’ has also started a blog (www.perceptions.org.pk) and Facebook page for wider outreach and to give a platform to the students to express themselves.