How to deal with Peer Pressure?

peersHijab leads to an Abaya!  A 19-nineteen year old was surprised to see herself,and soon, the whole college was talking about her. Fatima was scared to face her friends.

Peer pressure is not a recent phenomenon; it is as old as history itself. All the prophets and their descendants faced all kinds of peer pressure. Hence, if you are facing such a thing in your life, you should be bold enough to carry it rightly and be on your straight path.

One should adopt the following rules to handle peer pressure.

1. Keep your vision upright and feed your faith

People love to talk aimlessly, and especially, when it comes to religion, they have their own golden rules and principles of understanding. Usually, they interpret rules which benefit them. Regarding Hijab, they’ll say it’s not necessary to cover your body and that one should be modest at heart.

Hijab- Gone by the wind

People totally alter the concept of basic modesty in Islam.  Thus, keep feeding your faith by:

  • Working on your relationship with Allah (swt).
  • Plug-in yourself with Quran and Sunnah

2.  Uplift your identity

The major cause of peer pressure is that we do not have a secure Muslim identity, which results in lack of knowledge about the rules in Deen. Therefore, learn about Seerah and lives of our predecessors for better acknowledgement of Deen.

3. Take lessons from those who are steadfast on Deen

Be in the company of those who practice Deen with great zeal and enthusiasm. As it is said: “The best of you are those who repent.”
So, try to be with those who can help you in moral uplifting.

4. Friends with ever-lasting benefits

Friends are the real asset. Try to be friends with those who can help you become a better Muslim.

If your friends make you feel out dated with respect to your vision about Deen, and give you grief for your beliefs- so that is their problem. All you have to do is:

  • to bail out
  • avoid their gatherings

5. Seek Allah’s (swt) help

You cannot attain anything in this life against Allah’s (swt) Will; hence, keep asking for His help and mercy, so that you can find your way easily.

  • Make Dua for complete Hidayah
  • Get down in prostration and pray for Istaqamah

6. No complains

You cannot get Jannah easily. Hurdles are always there; all you need is to act firm on your beliefs and work to gain Allah’s (swt) love. Therefore, be positive and build up your nerves to stay courageous in all circumstances.

7.  Ignore criticism and mockery

Follow the Sunnah of forgiveness, and you will be straight on your path; ignore insulting actions of ignorant people and make Dua for them.

8. Keep yourself cool

To keeping oneself cool is one of the most difficult tasks- especially, when the other half of the world is busy in making you lose control. But being a good Muslim, it’s our duty to stay calm. Allah (swt) and Prophet Muhammad (sa) love those who remain quiet at hard times.

Try to be positive and optimistic in every aspect of life; and never lose your focus just because of what others will think of you.There will be no one who will save you from the fire of Hell, except Allah (swt).

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Surviving Under Pressure

pressure

I often ask people, if they had ever thought of committing suicide in their academic life, and a reasonable number of them say ‘yes’, even the ones, who had been high achieving students in their lives. According to a study done by the National Institute of Mental Health, USA, suicide is the third leading cause of death in youngsters aged 15 to 24. Another study, conducted in Australian High Schools on students aged 12 to 14 years, revealed that students with low self esteem, depressed mood and perceptions of failure may be at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Our children live under enormous pressures these days. They are on a constant battle to survive against all odds. Almost every other child in this world undergoes a painful, psychologically uncomfortable and often dehumanizing experience in order to receive education. I believe there are at least three kinds of pressures that work upon them: academic pressure, parental pressure and peer pressure.

How does Academic Pressure Work?

The first kind of pressure that works upon our children is academic pressure. They are almost always burdened. They have to carry a bag filled with six to eight textbooks and notebooks for each subject. Homework is something that most of them do not enjoy and cannot escape from. These poor children cannot afford to be absent from class, even if they are not well. According to a survey, children aged between 11 and 14 do an average of three-hour homework, in order to survive and remain acceptable in their schooling systems. They carry a bag which is about 40% of their body weight. According to British Osteopathic Association: “Children should never carry more than about 15% of their own body weight. The long term effects from carrying heavy bags include strains on the neck and shoulder leading to headaches, fatigue and an early development of poor posture along with strain to arms and wrists.”

Majority of school going children hardly go for a morning or evening walk and do not experience the pleasant breeze and fresh oxygen, which is required for better brain functioning. Almost every second day is a test or some marked assignment. About 20% of their school days are allocated for exams. In between, there are such competitions as spelling bee and declamation contests requiring students to prepare five to six hours a day with immense pressure to win each of them. Tuitions are a routine, which they have to follow. And there are tests at tuitions, too. Students, who concentrate on their academics, look too serious, exhausted and often ignorant about what is happening in the world or in their families. They tend to forget themselves for the love or fear of exams. All that is important in their lives is to fulfill the academic demands at any cost. These poor children receive respect from society on the basis of their academic performance and not on the basis of their good intentions or great ideas.

It is generally believed that teachers cannot contain more than two subjects, while students are able to accommodate the diverse and often unconnected pieces of knowledge from eight subjects. Many children face immense learning difficulties, as they are not allowed to express their understanding in the language they know well. Classwork that is demanded on a particular pace with a particular level of perfection from every child becomes an instrument of torture. How strange it is to offer a break of twenty minutes in a school day of six hours. Sometimes even this twenty minutes break is also withdrawn from a child, who needs additional time for making up the academic work. If the school is located at a distance, then the travelling time in school transport adds to their miseries.

How does Parental Pressure Work?

Another pressure that badly affects children is parental pressure. I have heard many children saying:  “I wish I was born free.” Parents generally have very high and non-flexible expectations from their children. It has become hard for many parents to trust their children’s abilities and intentions, when they fail to do well in exams. In a majority of cases, the relationship between parents and children relies on the grades the children receive in their exams, which is so very unfortunate.

Given the above mentioned facts, it appears that children in today’s world are doing two jobs. They are employed at two places: school and home. They cannot take a day off at their will and are often not compensated for their work. They live a life where friendships, questioning, experimentation and wandering around are hardly appreciated. They are not encouraged for their natural curiosity and qualities of giving, sharing and frankness. Instead, they are chained to follow an agenda and a routine that is set for them without their consent. All children go through this, until they become able to exercise their own will and experience their independence. But many poor children are lost in this battle. Their creative spark is successfully extinguished by the collective efforts of parents and schools.

One of the ambitions of parents is to get their child admitted into a brand school. Under this vision, mothers start dreaming about some of the renowned schools already at the time of their pregnancies. Imagine the terrible pressure the poor child will be born with. She or he will be sent to preparation centres at the age of two years, in order to pass the entrance test of his/her parents’ dream school. Once the child is admitted, the vicious never-ending cycle of academic stress, competitions and loads of homework is on the way.

Much of the conversation that takes place between parents and children is governed by the following questions or instructions: “What happened in your school today? How was your test today? What grade did you get in the last paper? What is the homework today? When is the next test? Change your school uniform. Do your Salah. Have your lunch and, please, do it quickly. Get ready for tuition.”

Another form of parental pressure is their demand for discipline and maintaining a tidy and mess-free home. Girls in particular become a victim of this wish. In many families, the obsession to tame the children for manners and obedience in their early childhood supersedes any other wish of meaningful learning or relationship.

Many parents demand their children to choose a particular professional field, without considering the child’s interests. A majority of parents make their children realize that they spend a lot of money on their education, and that children have to pay back through getting good grades. When children somehow fail to meet the demands of their parents, they feel bad about themselves and lose self confidence.

How does Peer Pressure Work?

Peer pressure plays a phenomenal role in the lives of children. Children want to be liked, accepted and appreciated by their peers more than anyone else in the world. This peer consciousness causes some positive and negative influences on their personality. They learn from their peers and become interested in doing things, which are being liked by their peers. Mark Twain once put it beautifully in his witty style: “I have always paid the school master for the education of my kids, but these are the school boys who have taught him.”

Sometimes good habits and trends are initiated and reinforced by groups of children, while at other times it is vice versa. A child being a part of his social group gets influenced by his or her peers. At times, a child may not feel comfortable in adopting something from the peers. But the fear of being unpopular, disapproved and rejected by the social group surrounds the child and exerts immense pressure on him/her.

Although many children experience some sort of peer pressure, they usually do not realize it. Peer pressure takes a child into a complex state of varied feelings, ranging from fears and rage to hate, hope and jealousy. If a child is not confident enough, his/her self image will be severely influenced by the kind of treatment he/she receives from the peers. Sometimes, children stop pursuing their genuine natural interests, because they feel that they will be ridiculed for their interests. Often, many children tend to do things which are not of their choice but the desire of the group. Smoking is one such example, which a lot of boys and girls initiate, in order to look smart and cool. Sometimes, they smoke to seek additional appreciation from their peers. For some children, smoking becomes their social passport. Some children try to impress their peers through smoking or through any other activity, which is forbidden by the adults.

Peer pressure may be unspoken or unintentional. Sometimes a child may feel pressured not because peers are asking him to do a certain thing but the child himself feels that if he will not do a certain thing, he might be considered silly.

Nobody likes to be rejected by the equals. When children fail to cope with peer pressures or, in other words, do not conform to group norms, they isolate themselves or restrict their interaction with few class fellows. Many do not create friendships; rather, they limit themselves to acquaintanceships. A reasonable number of children willingly or unwillingly adopt what is being desired by their peers and conform to group norms.

One of the major causes of negative peer pressure is comparison between children. Many teachers and parents do it continuously in subtle ways. Some do it rather explicitly. When we do not recognize children, as who they really are, and fail to own them unconditionally, they learn to doubt themselves. Their confidence weakens and they become increasingly sensitive to the approval from their peers.

How Can We Reduce Academic Pressure?

  1. We need to believe that academics are not everything. A successful person is not the one who gets good grades, but a person who is well-rounded, happy and enjoys healthy body and mind with a vision to strive for.
  2. Schools should reduce the number and size of exams and introduce alternatives to formal testing like portfolio development and mechanism of self-assessment. This will help to eradicate the tuition culture and children will have some free time for family and other meaningful activities.
  3. Curriculum should be made child-friendly and flexible. There should be more opportunities of recreation, and the academic process must capitalize on students’ interests and experiences.
  4. Early education process must be carried out in the language children are proficient in. Education must not demand a child to switch the medium of his thinking.
  5. If we cannot reduce the weight of school bags, at least we can replace them by trolley school bags, like it is done by children in Europe.

How Can We Reduce Parental Pressure?

  1. Children are born with countless interests. Identify and respect the interests of your children and facilitate them to pursue their interests.
  2. Learn to trust children unconditionally. Accept your children for what they are. Help your children pursue their dreams, instead of forcing your own vision onto them.
  3. Never equate your children’s intelligence and creativity with their academic results. Grades tell us nothing about a child’s talents or creative potentials. Appreciate your children for what they do enthusiastically.
  4. Acknowledge the fact that your children are loaded with work, and that they need some time to relax. Keep an eye on yourself to ensure that you do not become the one who over-burdens your child.
  5. Instead of throwing questions on children and asking them to give a report of their day, wait and understand their situation and problems.

How Can We Reduce Peer Pressure?

  1. Give children a positive, stress-free and emotionally comfortable environment. They are likely to interact with their peers in a congenial manner when they are relaxed.
  2. Train children to realize why they feel how they feel. Help them recognize their different states of feelings. They will learn to be empathetic through your wise and friendly facilitation.
  3. Eliminate all forms of individual competitions and never use individual comparison as a strategy for motivation. In fact, it is something that de-motivates them and affects their relationship with their peers.
  4. Engage with your child in open and meaningful discussions to prepare them for dealing with the issues they might face in society.
  5. Make your child exceptionally confident and courageous. Confidence will enable a child to become who he or she really is, without feeling devalued or becoming dependent on the approval of peers.

Writer’s email: director@erdconline.org

“What you Think of me is None of my Business”

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Self-help guru Wayne Dyer said something very profound recently: “What you think of me is none of my business.” Islam taught us this way back.

You just started covering your head with a loose scarf. You are sitting with your friends and having a good time. All of a sudden, one of your friends, let’s call her Mona, starts talking about Hijab. She says something along the lines of “Hijab is only about being modest. I mean, the Quran doesn’t even say the word ‘hair’!” All of your other friends are nodding and looking at Mona like she’s some sort of saint. And then they look at you.

What to do? Speak up? Have them think of you as some preacher, or worse, an extremist? Or be quiet and not say anything? You decide to mumble something about “being pretty sure that wasn’t right”.

Of course, you say it just loud enough, I mean low enough, that they can’t hear you. But hey, at least you said it, right? Having done your duty, you relax and join in the “fun”. But when the scarf on your head slips down, you do not put it back on.

Now, picture another scene.

637 CE – Jerusalem offers a truce, provided that the Khalifah comes himself from Madinah to sign the treaty. Umar (rtam) sets out for Jerusalem with a slave and a camel. They take turns riding the camel. When they approach Jerusalem, it is Umar’s (rtam) turn to walk, so he enters Jerusalem holding the rope of his camel.

Abu Ubaidah (rtam), the commander-in-chief of the Muslim army, suggests that he change his clothes, so that the people of Jerusalem, accustomed to pomp and grandeur of kings and emperors, are not dissuaded from handing the keys over to him. Umar (rtam) hits him hard on the chest and reminds him that they had been a disgraced nation. Islam brought them honour; should they seek it from anything else, they would surely be humiliated again. “The only way for success is the way of the Prophet (sa),” he says.

What happened in the first scene? A Muslim began following Allah’s (swt) commandment – good intentions and all, faced peer pressure and caved under it.

And the second scenario? A strong Muslim, who doesn’t care what anyone else thinks of him, and does what his teacher has taught, and knows that is the right thing to do.

For us, practising Muslim wannabes, to get from scene one to scene two will take some serious working out.

Firstly, understand this: peer pressure is not a recent phenomenon. It is as old as human beings! All the prophets of Allah (swt) faced all kinds of peer pressure. So, if you face some unpleasant stuff when you begin your journey on the straight path – surprise, surprise, it’s no surprise!

Secondly, our public conduct is influenced by what other people think, because, like it or not, social pressure is a powerful force. Even when we know we want to do the right thing, we pause out of sheer terror of being labelled an extremist, fanatic or Mullah.

Good news, we can overcome this fear by making a concerted effort. Allah (swt) says: “Verily, Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves.” (Ar-Rad 11:13)

The strategy we find from the Sunnah can be summed up in a two-pronged approach:

Aimed Inwards – At You

  1. “Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death,” said a wise man.

This dependence on people’s opinion of us originates in weakness of faith – if our pride in Islam is not strong enough to provide the confidence we need to practice it, we get taken in easily by peer pressure. Work on your relationship with Allah (swt), plug into the sources of our Deen, the Quran and Sunnah, and, Insha’Allah, you will see a marked difference in your confidence.

  1. Understand your ‘identity’.

One major reason for falling into peer pressure is not having a secure Muslim identity. You can get that by going back to the roots. Arm yourself with the knowledge of Seerah and the lives of our predecessors for finding out who you are.

“Are those who know equal to those who know not?” (Az-Zumar 39:9)

  1. Get strength from the glad tidings for those who remain steadfast on Deen in the face of opposition and trials.

Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Islam began strange, and it will become strange again just like it was at the beginning, so blessed are the strangers.” (Muslim) Hello, stranger! You are in great company. Such news will keep you motivated.

  1. Don’t be a cry-baby all the time.

The road to Paradise is not for the weak hearted. Build up your nerves and learn to be thick skinned. When you mull over an incident, avoid the urge to magnify the negative.

“The strong believer is better and more beloved to Allah than the weak believer, although there is good in each.” (Muslim)

  1. Hang out with ‘real’ friends.

If people around you give you grief for your beliefs: (a) it is their problem and (b) you need to bail out. Allah (swt) says: “And keep yourself patiently with those who call on their Lord, morning and afternoon, seeking His Face.” (Al-Kahf 18:28)

  1. Beg Allah (swt) for help.

You can’t do this on your own for sure – without His assistance. So, get down in prostration and pray for Istiqamah (uprightness/steadfastness). This beautiful Dua of the Prophet (sa) is spot on: “O Turner of Hearts! Keep my heart steadfast upon your Deen.” (Tirmidhi)

Aimed Outwards – At Others

  1. Deflect criticism, mockery and rudeness.

Follow this Prophetic example and you will be on your way to the straight path:

Members of Quraysh poked fun at the Prophet (sa) by making reference to him as “Mudammam” (a play on Muhammad), which means ‘ugly’. Muhammad was a unique name in Makkah at that time and it means ‘the one who is praised’. The companions complained to the Prophet (sa) with tears in their eyes. His response was that they should ignore the mocking laughter associated with ‘Mudammam’ because his name was Muhammad and not Mudammam. He defused the irony, neutralized it and pulled the rug out from under it, with gentleness, wit and humility.

  1. Keep your cool.

When ugly situations arise and peer pressure kicks in to high gear, it is very easy to get caught up in the moment and forget that you will have to live with the choices you make. If you give in and do something that is contrary to your core value system, it will cause you distress later and you will feel regret.

Remember, peer pressure only works if you let it. If you refuse to let it intimidate you, it loses its power. The secret is to be assertive, without becoming preachy or self-righteous. Stand your ground, but refrain from standing on a soap box.

Resisting Peer Pressure

July 11- Resisting peer pressure

A common question of most teenagers is: “I want to practice Islam. But all my friends and cousins are into movies, music, girls and the usual teenage stuff. When I try to avoid them, I am either laughed at or left alone. I feel so isolated that I end up joining them – albeit reluctantly – in their pastimes.”

Is there a way out for such teenagers, who are inclined towards their Deen and yet succumb to peer-pressure for fear of isolation? The answer is – yes. First of all, such teenagers should realize that it is commendable that they are striving to practice Islam at this young age, when they are under considerable peer pressure. We ask Allah (swt) to keep them steadfast in their resolve and grant them the guidance to continue undeterred upon this righteous path and noble intention. Ameen. We hope the following steps will help, Insha’Allah.

Find like-minded friends

Join a class or an online group of similarly inclined young boys or girls and find people of the same age and gender, who share the same ideals.

Pursue extra-curricular activities

“Active Saturdays” in Karachi (activesaturdays.com) is a great outlet for young boys to combine fun with faith. “Perceptions” and “Quest” cater to girls.

Attend a weekly lecture

Find a men’s/women’s weekly Halaqah or Islamic Dars that you can attend. Make sure you attend this class, even if you have an exam.

Study buddy programme

Look inward for your strengths. What do you enjoy doing? Is there anything that comes naturally to you, which you can teach someone else? Like driving a car, solving math problems, or deploying science practicals? If you are good at something, start helping out others in it, even if it is teaching an illiterate child how to read! There is always someone who needs help. Eventually, as your teaching expertise and experience grows, you can start charging for tuition.

Pray Salah in congregation (for boys)

I cannot stress enough, how important it is to attend congregational prayer in the mosque. You will see how this action will keep you steadfast and strengthen your faith, Insha’Allah. Girls are also advised to be regular with their Salah at home.

Craft clubs

Pottery, stained-glass painting, baking, crochet, knitting, website design or even babysitting – there is so much fun teenagers can have. During my childhood, for example, I remember how the neighbourhood kids would organise an annual funfair in the complex. The end result was a fun, successful event – the result of channelised, collective youthful energy.

Humanitarian or welfare work

There are many welfare organisations that need young volunteers for their work. Whether it is education of poor children, rehabilitation of flood refugees, counseling sick patients in government hospitals, or spending some time in orphanages, ‘giving’ your time and company to the less fortunate is a very fulfilling way to pass extra time.

Camps and clubs

For young boys, camping out, safaris, boating, fishing, karate or playing sports at clubs are healthy options for physical recreation. For girls, picnics at parks, interning at magazines or newspapers, blogging online or organizing bake sales and book clubs can provide healthy outlets for creativity.

Youth is the threshold of adult life. If a believer passes the difficult test of steadfastness during this phase, and wises up about the company they hang out with, they can set forth upon the path of righteousness for life. We ask Allah (swt) to make the teenagers and young people steadfast, grant them high ranks of piety and faith and make them pass this test. Ameen.

Dear Haadia

Some of my friends have succumbed to smoking. When I try to stop them, they make fun of me. What should I do?

Answer: The topic of your question is a delicate one, as peer pressure can be extremely tough and exhausting to cope with. We often see that people are reluctant to give up smoking, either at gunpoint or through warning as to what is forbidden in Islam. They are unwilling to listen about the moral decadence of this addiction and the harmful effects associated with it. Although this is easier said than done, do not feel offended about being ridiculed, when inviting people towards the truth. Remember that even the messengers were mocked and ridiculed, when they invited people towards the good: “And never came a Messenger to them but they did mock at him.” (Al-Hijr 15:11)

First, sincerity on your part is absolutely essential. In warning your friends, keep your intention solely for the pleasure of Allah (swt).

Do not forget to make Dua for them and yourself that Allah (swt) may help you and grant you wisdom and strength in warning them.

Remember to invite with politeness and in non-argumentative ways; never strike on any individual’s integrity. You will have to build up your level of patience in this painstaking process; you might even be referred to as ‘Naik Bibi’ (pious girl). Do not get embarrassed or ashamed. In fact, when there is no negative reaction, eventually such jabs do fizzle out.

Also, remember that your role is to pass on the repercussions of this evil without nagging. An effective tool, which may be used for this purpose, is e-mail. May be you could start out by sending some interesting current discoveries and then discreetly move on to mailing information on smoking. There are many sites available, for example: http://www.missionislam.com/.

Hiba also had a special article on ‘Smoking in Shariah’ in one of its past issues. You may consult that to find out Islam’s stance and supporting evidence on the subject.

While giving the message, look for like-minded friends, so that you don’t get weakened and influenced in the process. In fact, they will be a source of strength for you, Insha’Allah.

If any of your friends wants to give up smoking, support them in any and every way possible, e.g., by offering counseling, medical help, financial or other resources. It is equally important to realize that beyond this, there is nothing else we can do, except continue praying for all such people with the utmost sincerity. Why? As we know, the ultimate guide is Allah’s (swt) will. Prophet Nuh (as) said to his people: “And my advice will not profit you, even if I wish to give you good counsel, if Allah’s will is to keep you astray.” (Hud 11:34)