The Fun Years

Vol 5 - Issue 1  The Fun YearsTeenagers are funny creatures! And I don’t mean it humorously.

They find everything funny. You have more chance of finding teenage girls giggling than you do of finding middle-aged or even 25-plus-women chortling and guffawing. That’s why when one hears the word ‘giggle’ adolescents come to mind. Under this broad generalization, I can safely say that most of us suffered the same insanity during our teens. From the same bouts of inexplicable laughing fits to goose-bumps for things as minor as favorite brands of chocolate spotted among gifts.

Psychology says it’s healthy. Teenagers should be allowed to express their feelings and indulge in recreational pastimes. But living in the world of recreation has a variety of meanings – from favorite cartoons to favorite drugs … the choices aren’t really that simple any more.

The biggest dilemma of a Muslim teenager is the confusion (a separate dilemma from identity crises) between what is fun and what isn’t. What jokes to laugh at, what movies to enjoy, what books to read, what people to hang out with, what fashion is acceptable, what ideas are reasonable, so on and so forth. This is the very point, where Muslims need to remember that while Islam does not want people to forget the hereafter, it also does not wish to suck the marrow out of life. A Hadeeth states: “Don’t consider anything insignificant out of good things, even if it is that you meet your brother with a cheerful countenance.” (Reported by Abu Dharr and recorded by Imam Muslim)

Ideally, Muslims are known for their dignity. However, most people tend to misinterpret what we mean by that. I’ve seen parents look disapprovingly at their children, if they laugh too much. A loud guffaw or maybe a painful jibe at someone else is where you may want to draw the line – but stopping teenagers from laughing altogether? That’s something that won’t end well. Parents need to seek this balance, while rearing their kids.

On the other side of the fence, the teenage Muslim can sometimes undergo shame and self-doubt, while mingling with the ‘it’ crowd. This can result in either of the two: they turn into loners … or become over-serious about everything. Either way, it’s not a fun way to spend one’s teenage years. Teens need to find themselves in the concoction of mixed norms and the melting pot that we call ‘culture’ today.

Teenagers follow norms. They follow peers. This was the most interesting conclusion I drew from all the havoc that came into my life, due to the excessive confusion between the ‘good fun’ and the ‘bad fun.’ Psychological studies of adolescents prove that teenagers have a stronger tendency to listen to their peers than to their parents. And once a peer group becomes strong, its sense of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ develops. It does not follow particular ideas of good and bad – rather, what is ‘cool’ or ‘un-cool.’ This revelation struck me as revolutionary. It meant that if I was being penalized in one group for not wanting to have fun ‘their way,’ I could just as easily be accepted in another peer group – if they shared my opinions. That choice proved to be such a breakthrough that I ended up starting my own group. I ended up becoming my own voice, instead of representing the prevalent teen culture.

If no one likes your way of having fun, find someone who does. Start your own norms. Be your own person. Because, after all is said and done, that is what being a teenager and a Muslim is all about.

From the Pen of a Woman on the Other Side

closeup of fountain ink pen over white pages spiral notebookSome of you may be surprised by the kind of comments you get to hear, when people find out you’ve worked for television.

I’ve been working for television for about ten years. My first programme was when I was in class six, in which I recited a group of riddles in a children’s programme that aired on Pakistan Television. Back then it meant something to me, my friends and every child viewer. Maybe it was because there was no Nickelodeon, nor was there the overwhelming number of TV channels bamboozling the poor child. Or simply because watching TV was as much of a novelty then, as the latest version of play station is today.

I worked with Geo, ARY and FM 100 at a time, when debates about television being the greatest tool of Satan surfaced. Wars erupted among family, friends and teachers regarding the pros and cons. Those ‘pro-television’ thought nothing wrong with it whatsoever and saw it as a new feat of technology. People couldn’t travel on camels in today’s world now, could they? The ones against it argued from the stand point that pictures were prohibited in Islam, and that the West was using television as a medium to brainwash Muslims against the true and honest principles of Islam.

It was too much to bear at eighteen, when I was suffering from acute identity crises, worrying about what headgear would do to my permanent image and about brainwashing debates based on classical Aristotelian logic. But I did as much as I could. I turned down offers for music videos, dramas and soaps. I refused to let male make-up artists apply makeup before I went on-air. I refused to work with people, who did not have purely academic or knowledgeable programmes. Perhaps that is why I have somewhat stereotyped myself as a woman, who covers her head, and can only appear on Independence Day or Ramadan programmes, even though I have done a series on psychology (in which I am a post graduate student).

After watching constructive efforts of many authentic Islamic scholars, especially such as Dr. Zakir Naik, I have become confident. I have resolved the debate of right or wrong by coming to terms with a plain and simple logic of keeping it simple. Nudity, obscenity, profanity and useless programmes were out. Shows that spread awareness, appreciate

Islam and its wisdom, celebrate peace and good will, promote good and forbid all that is evil in the eyes of Islam, propagate a message that needs to spread faster in the world today than any other time, are agreed upon.

I have been stereotyped negatively so many times, in spite of the headgear and my strict policy on no-commercialism and no-pop-culture. It often makes me wonder, why we still have not resolved this issue, even though we all welcomed the famous singer, who gave up his pop career to recite Hamds and Duroods and appeared for Dawah on television channels.

Somehow I still find Pakistani society trapped in the question of what is good and what is bad. Once we grow out of this harassingly old dispute, may be we can move on to what is important and needed. It is not compromise; we cannot call science or media evil. It is what is inside that makes us Muslims.

So what do you think?

Is media good or bad?

The question is wrong altogether. Rather, we should say: “Media. What’s good in it? What’s not?”

From the diary of the young

Vol 2-Issue2 From the diary of the youngMonday,

June 21, 2004.

8.59 p.m.

These six months have been wonderful, poignant, eye-opening, enervating. Being a 20-year-old may not exactly be the most wonderful thing since childhood – but I would not exchange this period of my life with any other known or unknown one. My ideals are still being built, my sense of practicality isn’t too refined yet, but then again, I’d rather feed on my idealism. The world has not lost its charm – it does, however, seem bleaker than it once was. People take me seriously only because I do not reciprocate their gravity. If I did, God knows, I’d either be in tears or in constant fits of rage.

Hope has a renewed form and rain isn’t entirely unromantic – as long as the lights aren’t out. From the kaleidoscope of life, this is the time, when I’m laughing out loud, a booming hearty laugh. This is the age, when I have the time and the mind to hang out with my close group of friends at our popular hangouts. This is when I can get away with funky jewellery, mismatched clothing, unwashed dyed hair and too obviously coloured lenses. This is the time, when I get excited about a new dress, low mobile phone rates or at the opening of a new restaurant. This is when I’m confident enough to believe that I can change the world. This is when I’m scared about it all too… but not enough to back off.

The apple is red – shiny red. My horizon goes beyond my sight, yet my decisions are my own. Life is good. It does sting sometimes. But it doesn’t stop my eyes from welling up, when I read about twenty or so innocent teenagers being slaughtered in Thailand or Iraq. I’m still indignant at the low amount of taxes on cigarettes. I’m taken aback by the flaws in our educational system. My world is limited, but it is full. It is full of hope, dreams, ambition, strength, love, and faith. I know I will not always feel this invigorated. Nobody stays young forever. But all my experiences are my investments – and my life to come will build on these assets. Youth is not an age that passes. It is not a vacation from life that you’d merely like to remember fondly. It’s a filling station. You get the fuel you want — all the supplies, hope, joy, wonderful memories, corny jokes, laughs, and strength — to carry you through.

I see Allah (swt) as my Guardian. I see Him as my Hope… maybe that is why I am not afraid of things big and small, come what may. Perhaps it is this Way of Light that helps us define the fine line between youth being reckless and youth being confident.

I have been laughed at for thinking that I am able to make changes … in the way people think and in the moulds of society. But I cannot find my laughter, when I see a young Ali (rta) or a young Ayesha (rta) working in the way of Deen … age cannot be enclosed in stereotypes … it is the power of Allah (swt) that puts us through all our hurdles and all our struggles, when we are young and bright; old and gray.

Life and its Worth

image life and its worthA friend once told me that the most certain thing in the world to be believed in … is death. It is as palpable as life, but more dominating, more capturing than life itself. From that point onwards one cannot sustain a thought process that considers death a mere neutralizer of life. From that point onwards thought processes focus on death as a pivot and deeds as neutralizers. Therefore let me suppose that the very next moment I live is my last, and that I might not get to complete this article, and that death not only finishes my earthly pilgrimage but also manages to make me immortal.

Most of the aforesaid statement sounds acceptable. Most of it … except the last little bit: death, bestowing immortality. Although it sounds far beyond possible, human history is filled with examples to suffice the above-mentioned phenomenon. Men have proven their lives to be worthy of death only because of the immortality it gives. Martyrs, freedom fighters, soldiers and rulers, all live in deeds, not in years.

If death takes me this very moment, I will be dead before the 20th year of my life. The time I have spent may not be enough to evoke revolutions or change the world. But it is enough to impact, to affect and penetrate many lives around me. Subsequently the lament I would want at my funeral is not to be “… and so young!” I would want it to be, “Well lived”. Come death this minute taking me during a cause worth fighting for, my age is not going to be the crux of it all. It was not the crux for Rashid Minhas. It was not the crux for Keats. Nor was it in the case of the thousands of youngsters dying in Kashmir and Palestine every day. They have not measured their lives in years.

Holding on to life as a treasure is quite justified, I agree. But each moment can only be worth living if we understand that the number of our birthdays have not given us our sagacity or our magnitude. Our deeds have.

If we spend every minute of our lives as if they are precious, as if they can impart some good one way or the other, the number of years we live will cease to be of any consequence. Each moment will be an eternity lived.

I believe in death – as soundly as I believe in goodness. I believe in the exalted chance of life Allah (swt) has given to me. I believe in the extraordinary potential of a human to make one moment a lifetime. Therefore, I believe in the measure of deeds for a human. Hundred years lived, as weasel cannot weigh a grain. Yet the single-day life of the lion will have the ounces of glory. A life without purpose, a life without passion and dedication will certainly be measured in years. It is the lowest measure of human achievement. But a life with a dedication to improve, to help and to hope is a life that sets a standard for all those around us. It creates immortality. Those who choose to tread this path have listened to the call of the righteous.