(Part 1) Parents as Counsellors

counselling-in-the-workplace-1When was the last time your child came to you to share something? A survey conducted in the city of Karachi with a sample of significant number of kids/teenagers indicated the following results:

They were asked: “Who are those five people in your life you can trust blindly to share your inner most troubles/stressors in life?” The percentage that included one parent or both parents at the fourth position or maybe last position among the five preferred individuals was as follows:

77% – 11 – 14 years

60% – 14 – 17 years

30% – 17 – 20 years

Appalling responses surfaced. The younger age group could somewhat trust either of the parents but not both. The older group was most comfortable with a virtual friend. The oldest sought counseling from complete strangers. In their sight, the parents were too naïve or outdated to understand their issues. They felt worse, when confided in their parents.

We might fathom this better, if we take the example of a mirror. What is the function of a mirror? It reflects our image with all its beauties and flaws. And we all love to admire or gaze at ourselves in it. However, the day this mirror finds a voice and dares to offer judgmental phrases, its opinions and perceptions about us, how many of them will survive? Maybe none. Their fate will inevitably be shattered.

A counselor is similarly a person, who places a balm on an emotionally injured person’s wounds. He does not cut open gashes with his scalpel to infect the wound further. The role of a mentor steps further to help analyze the injured, as to why and how he is injured in the first place. But that comes at a later stage. Clearly, there is a difference between the roles of a counselor and mentor.

Role of parents as a counselor

Our children today are passing through an era, where they face a lot of turbulence and challenges socially and emotionally. Firstly, Allah (swt) has placed within every person a mechanism to subside his hurt feelings. This threshold again varies from person to person. If a person is unable to settle these inner disturbed emotions, his family serves the purpose of ideal counseling. Why?

If an external counselor is hired, he is an unknown authority who is unaware of the affected persons’ context, background, strengths and weaknesses, etc. A close relative or friend again will have to brief the expert thoroughly. This expert in light of his learning will review the case and offer an expert advice which may or may not work eventually. But family and specially parents who are a natural institution of counseling must be able to dissolve up to 90% approximately of problems in their kid’s life. They brought them into this world, raised them up, can read their face and feelings like no one can, provided they share a special bond.

Realistically in order to become ideal counselors, parents need to learn some qualities. It is pivotal for them to understand that if they do not serve the role of effective counselors, their child will go somewhere else to address his needs, as humans do not live in isolation. But this counseling will be at the cost of values. It could be to a friend, who offers them relief in the form of an innocent ice cream or a puff of a cigarette or indulgence into drugs or alcohol or other profanities, etc. It could be simply an icon on their internet screen that is constantly available and luring “Do you want to chat?”

And this does not mean that the kid is bad/evil. It must be understood that when an individual is emotionally disturbed, three areas are negatively influenced: his thinking ability, his behaviour and his creative potential. He is so desperate to find relief that he can’t rationalize his own choices. As parents, the first thing that needs to be done is to pull the child out of disturbance and bring him towards normalization.

What could be the probable pressures in your kid’s life?

  1. Academic
  2. Parental
  3. Peer

On top of the above puberty/adolescence brings its own physical changes that create havoc in a child’s body now transforming into an adult. This is a time when most kids are emotionally weak and vulnerable.

What kind of perceptions a child is locked into and might travel through in a month about himself and others?

  1. I cannot be good at studies.
  2. Teacher will be angry at my work.
  3. Subject is difficult and boring.
  4. Everybody will laugh at my question.
  5. I never have a good idea to share in class.
  6. I am not intelligent and creative. I am stupid.
  7. I cannot speak well.
  8. Teacher does not like me.
  9. I always have disturbing thoughts.
  10. I don’t know whether I am right or wrong.
  11. I wish I was born free.
  12. Nobody is pleased by my work.
  13. Nobody likes to be my friend.
  14. Nobody likes me.
  15. I soon forget what I learn.
  16. I can’t solve any problem on my own.
  17. Nobody understands me or trusts me.
  18. I am a bad boy/girl.
  19. I quickly get bored, don’t know what to do.
  20. I feel restricted; I don’t have freedom in my life. Everyone scolds me.

Some children think any of the above for a while, unstuck themselves and move on. Those are the ones, who are intellectually developed and emotionally secure. Other kids think and get stuck in their negative perceptions and begin to lose themselves. That’s when they underperform.

[To be continued Insha Allah…]

Adapted by Rana Rais Khan from an interactive workshop at L2L Academy Karachi.

Still Not Safe: Have a Smart Focus on Your Child

enjoy your lifeParenting has become a multifarious science in the modern milieu of living where kids are Google smart but parents still run on MS DOS. Let’s explore ways on how this job can be made simpler or rather fun for a parent in today’s “Smart” society.

The Home Remedy

The best alternative comes from within the house. We term it as the “Home Remedy”. The home remedy is using the elder sibling to watch out for the younger ones and vice versa. This strategy will develop a sense of teamwork, confidence and interaction between the parents and the kids. This way kids will consider keeping track of their siblings as one of their responsibilities. Ultimately, they will evolve as mature and responsible individuals.

Get smart with your Smart Phone

It is a famous saying that people with same challenges in life understand each other better as compared to those who have never gone through a similar challenge. Applying this allegory of words here, a mother can turn out to be an ideal aide for another mother. Let me tell you how you mothers can be in league and an aide to each other. If your kid says that he is going to X’s place to study or to attend a social gathering, the first thing you as a mother should do is to call X’s mother and confirm it.

Keep a Hawk’s eye

It is observed that majority of youngsters start to dope while doing a group study at a friend’s house or something similar that the parents would just overlook. The smartest way to keep a kid unpolluted is by evaluating his or her mental state after such informal get-togethers and late night parties. Kids are smart and they will make excuses of fever or something to keep you away. Act smarter and insist on taking them to see a doctor for a blood test.

A Thorough Screening

Books are one’s best friends, and the youth presently acknowledge this fact by keeping everything evil hidden in their books that are zipped in their schoolbags. A thorough room check is necessary, not forgetting the drawers and pillows. Your kids ought to be foolproof.

Hence, there are numerous other ways to keep our children safe and prove ourselves as smarter parents. The only thing we need to do is to think creatively and help each other to achieve our collective goal. Youngsters are indeed smart but bound to transgress due to their docility and immaturity. This is our responsibility to keep the runway clean so that they may takeoff comfortably with the right prospects in life, without any distraction. Remember you need to first Get smart, then Connect and Protect!

May Allah (swt) protect our children from all the evil elements in our society and make us better guardians for them.  Ameen

Parental Pressure – Tips for Teenaged Boys


  •  Are your parents forcing you to select a particular field in studies?
  • Are they giving you too many responsibilities now that you are growing up?

Listen up
You need to take it to your head that you’re growing up, and anyone would expect a boy to be mature in thinking as well as responsible! It’s not necessary to start arguing, because that’s not manliness!

Explain clearly
Talk to your parents about what you wish to choose and why. Sometimes, they may not even know what your choice is.

Be organized
Being organized can help you a lot with your responsibilities! If you are forgetful, maintain a little notebook where you can write down what you’re supposed to do!

If you are stressed out, always turn to Allah (swt) first!
As a boy, you may be a little hesitant to express your emotions or tell anyone how stressed out you are. But remember, you don’t have to lock yourself up, because Allah (swt) is willing to listen!

“If My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. They should therefore respond to Me and believe in Me so that hopefully they will be rightly guided. (Al-Baqarah 2:186)

May Allah (swt) make your tasks easy!

Parental Pressure – Tips for Teenaged Girls


  • Are your parents planning to get you married off to someone you DON’T like?
  • Are they planning to stop you from acquiring further education?
  • Are they planning to stop you from working?

Listen up, girls!

It’s not necessary to get into a fight with your family members, or depressed over their decisions. They will always want the best for you!

Speak up
There’s no harm in doing so, but be wise. Use your words carefully. Be gentle, and lay out your reasons on the table clearer than a logarithmic table! (You know it looks ugly when girls start shouting, and getting angry).

Be patient
“Oh you who believe! Seek help with patient perseverance and prayer, for God is with those who patiently persevere.” (Al-Baqarah 2:153)

Keep praying!
Sometimes, no matter how much we speak, it doesn’t work. Always remember only Allah (swt) can change people’s minds! Don’t ever undermine the power of Duas, and pour your heart out to Allah (swt).

May Allah (swt) give us what’s best for us! Ameen!

Tackling Teenagehood


Raising teenagers is a herculean task. Raising teenagers in the West is even more wrought with obstacles. Or so I thought, until I realized that I was approaching my duty with a wrong frame of mind. I read the following. It is a letter written by Ali (rtam) to his son. It exemplified my feelings and set me thinking about approaching parenting from a different angle. Ali (rtam) wrote:

“I found you a part of myself; rather, I found you my whole, so much that if anything befell you, it was as though it befell me, and if death came to you, it was as though it came to me. Consequently, your affairs meant to me as my own matters would mean to me. So I have written this piece of advice as an instrument of help…

Certainly, the heart of a young man is like an uncultivated land. It accepts whatever is strewn on it. So I hastened to mold you properly, before your heart hardens up and your mind gets occupied…”

My task was clear. This is what I need to do:

  1. What I should not do. I wasn’t supposed to stop my son from logging into Facebook, or from tweeting all afternoon, or from asking silly questions that made no sense. My actual task was to instill in him three things. Prophet Muhammad (sa) said: “The best gift to children from parents is their correct training.” (Tirmidhi) Once these things became second nature, he would monitor himself, and my job would be done. We all forget that when we ourselves were teenagers, we used to have an insufferable attitude: “I can do whatever I want, because I’m an adult.”
  1. The meaning of Abd-Allah should be clear to your teenager. “The most beloved of your names to Allah are ‘Abd-Allah and ‘Abdur-Rahman.” (Muslim) Iman is a wavering thing. Sometimes it is strong, while at other times it becomes weak. Do not be hard on your teenager; he will follow his peer group, which does not mean he is ‘bad’. It only means that he needs a direction. Give him an alternate. Make him think it is his choice.

I met a young high school girl at the Masjid. She always dressed decently and wore Hijab. It’s been a year since we met, and I have never seen her in skinny jeans, t-shirts or tight revealing clothes. I asked her what her parents did that made her so confident. She said they gave me a choice: either I practice Hijab correctly or I don’t do it at all. “What if you had chosen not to wear Hijab?” I asked. “Actually, I knew that Allah (swt) commands women to cover their beauty, so the choice was obeying Allah (swt) or disobeying Him.” I was stunned… so simple. Conclusion: instill in your teenager the love of Allah (swt), His Prophets (as) and His Taqwa. Your child will choose the correct path by himself.

  1. Teach your child the Quran. You would say that every parent does it. What’s so great about this piece of advice? Actually, teach your child the Quran, in terms of the stories and what they signify: the commandments, the recitation and memorization, the meaning and depth of the message, and the philosophy. This will elevate your child’s intellect. He will no longer accept anything at face value, unless he double checks and verifies it against the Quran and the Sunnah. It will inculcate in him Islamic morals, values and manners. Most importantly, your child will look beyond his daily routine and ponder over the reason for his existence, his real aim in life.
  1. Just don’t talk the talk, but walk the walk. The single most important factor is you as a role model. If you lie, your child will know it is acceptable. If you indulge in questionable behaviour, your child will find the door open. One day, my daughter started yelling at her younger sister for not wiping the toilet sink clean after herself. I asked her to calm down. She looked at me and said: “But Mama, you always use that tone.” I was taken aback! Now, we, as a family, have decided to get rid of our habit of yelling at each other. Accept your vices, as we are not perfect, and work on them with your kids. They will learn that life is about continuous striving to please Allah (swt).
  1. Pray for your children. Always, everywhere and in everything they do. We can only guide. Allah (swt) is the One, Who will accept their struggle.

Nouman Ali Khan: The Shame Series

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Thinking about the Extended Family

By Qainaf Najam

family6“The world is a very big house, many people living in many boxes,” says Dawud Wharnsby Ali in one of his Nasheeds. Every day I walk around in this big house – I explore new pathways, discover fresh stones and cross numerous boxes on the way. I peek inside each box and see people. Each box is unique… each box has its own type of people, and every person is different in their own tremendous way.

I interviewed a couple of youngsters, posing to them the following question: “Who is your favourite relative and why?” Here are the choices they made:

  • 13-year-old Maryam Sharif said: “I like and prefer Ayesha Tahir, my female cousin, the most. I idealize her for her caring nature towards her young cousins and everybody else. Apart from that, she loves art and crafts, which is a common trait in us. So naturally I enjoy, when she stays over at our place, and we watch movies and do fun stuff together.”
  • Hamza Arshad, a 9th grade student, says that his favourites would be the sons of his cousin, namely Khursund and Asfand. “They are my best pals, because we are almost the same age and, hence, share similar interests. I love playing cricket, and it is like a blessing, when I get the company of other two in it as well. Also, I feel close to them, because I can totally open up to them and talk about anything,” observes Hamza.
  • “My cousin Aidah,” replied Saman Arif promptly, without a moment’s hesitation. Saman, a 19-year-old girl doing her A’levels from a prestigious institution, says: “I hate people, who talk when I want them to just listen, and Aidah is my best ‘silent’ listener, who is always there to hear my long and never ending gossips patiently… and giving wise advices often. We have a lot in common. Even though she lacks the ‘adventure’ genes that I have inherited, I usually drag her into my activities, which makes them even more enjoyable. My stomach literally aches, until I have rattled off my day’s routine to her. I often wonder, if her ears ache after my talking, but it doesn’t matter… she would be too sweet to admit even if it did. She’s my best friend, sister, helper and advisor.”
  • Another teenager Tanzila Raza speaks about an extraordinary relative of hers: “My favourite relative is Daboo. He is the son of my nana’s driver. It may sound funny, but he is as good as a relative to me. He is a man, who knows how to manage blood ties, when no blood ties exist. He has always devotedly served our family just like his father. Despite having children as a doctor and a lawyer in Melbourne, Daboo continued his love and care for us and dropped us to school as always. He remained our dear caretaker and butler, and I salute his loyalty and love for my Nana. Unfortunately, he died three years ago in his late sixties. People like him are rare to find and must be treated with great care and warmth.”
  • This is how a 20-year-old undergraduate Dabeer answered the query: “It has to be my elder cousin, simply because we have lots in common, and she is about the only person, who understands me, so I can totally confide in her. She is the only person and that’s the only reason.”
  • “I like my Mamun most. He is generous, sympathetic and helps others without any worldly intentions. I’m not sure, whether he takes care of his prayers or not, but I bet he is always ahead to help humanity just for the sake of humanity and for the sake of Almighty Allah (swt),” came the wise response from FD Sheikh, a 22-year-old student doing his CA.

Allah (swt) has laid great importance on maintaining blood relations, so much so that those, who break blood ties, have openly been declared as losers. Allah (swt) has bestowed upon us all the beautiful earthly relations. It is mandatory for us as Muslims to enjoy these relations, handle them with love and teach the same values to those under our care. May Allah (swt) guide us all towards the right path, Ameen.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Final Part

7 habits

In the previous issue we discussed your personal bank account (PBA) of deeds and how three different types of small deposits can eventually enrich you in the long run. Now we will discuss the remaining three ways of meaningful deposits to build your (PBA). Similarly an opposite action would end up in withdrawal from your (PBA).

PBA Deposits

  • Keep promises made to yourself
  • Initiate little acts of kindness for others
  • Handle yourself gently
  • Be honest with yourself and others
  • Renew yourself
  • Let your talents bloom

PBA Withdrawals

  • Break personal promises
  • Be a loner and keep to yourself
  • Beat yourself up
  • Be dishonest with yourself and others
  • Wear yourself out
  • Neglect your talents

Be honest with yourself and others

Honesty begins with self. When ever we lie or cheat it makes us unsure of ourselves. It casts a heavy shadow on our heart and is an immediate withdrawal from our (PBA). As they say you can’t do wrong and feel right.

Have you been fake or dishonest with your parents, friends or at work? We know that we all have a tendency to impress others even if we have to act phony. Next time be yourself and you will feel a lot more wholesome. It takes strength and courage to be honest with yourself as well as others.

Sean Covey shares a story of a teenager called Jeff. Jeff was smarter in mathematics than his other friends. He came up with an idea to start charging them for every test he helped them cheat on. Initially, he felt great making money and helping his friends get good grades. Later, he realized he hadn’t really been helping them at all. If they didn’t learn now, it would just get tougher down the road for them. So he quit his game and took a brave stand by being honest with himself and his friends. It was hard but it was the right choice, which served everyone’s best interests.

Honesty may not be a trend anymore. You will find people get ahead in life by cheating and lying. But remember – every act of honesty is a deposit into your (PBA) and will build strength eventually, because your heart will be pure.

You may begin by not exaggerating or embellishing your point of views. Or next time when your parents ask you to tell them about something, just factually narrate the complete story without misleading them or deliberately leaving out some information.

Renew yourself

We all think that only medicines and magazine subscriptions expire. Wrong! As human beings, we also sometimes feel low and need a place of refuge to re-energize our mind, body and soul. If we do not learn to relax and renew ourselves occasionally, we tend to lose the zest for life.

How you can do it depends on your daily routine. Some people like to relax by writing in a journal, painting, playing a sport, going to the gym, etc. Some like to retreat to a quiet place for some quiet thinking in their homes, such as in their bedrooms, terrace or the basement. Some like to head outdoors to a favourite spot, such as a park, garden, river-side, etc.

I know a teenager, who used to keep hitting his tennis ball on a particular wall to relieve tension and after half an hour of playing ball, he felt de-stressed and renewed.

Of course, if you can build a habit of listening to a soothing Qirat by one of your favourite Qaris, it works like watering a wilted flower. When done, you’re in full bloom!

So next time you end up in an argument with your parents or friends or are simply worried about something try to slip in to your favourite place of refuge and re-collect your thoughts and emotions. Once you have renewed yourself, you will feel much better, Insha’Allah. And that will work as a deposit in your (PBA)!

Decide on a fun activity and do it today. If you feel lethargic go out for a walk or run.

Let your talents bloom

Allah (swt) has gifted talents to every single human being on this Earth. Even people with certain disorders such as Dyslexia or Autism are greatly gifted and intelligent. The key is to tap into your talents and draw on the best. Try figuring out what pleases you most and what skill you are inspired to polish?

And if you haven’t figured out fantastic ways to make deposits into your (PBA) yet, try to find special interest and then develop it. Nothing is more rewarding. And we don’t need to be stereo-typical and traditional about it. Why just think of being a writer or an athlete? You can be good at anything and carve a niche for yourself.

Talents come in different packages. They are all about self-expression. One can be a great collector of leaves, exhibit leadership skills, be a patient listener to others, write backwards, etc. Don’t ever think that it sounds silly or small. People, who have believed in their ideas and pursued their dreams, are the ones who have ever achieved anything. Most importantly they found joy and an identity for themselves. Stuff they did or made equally benefited others, too.

Make a list of talents you want to develop this year and how to achieve them. Secondly, list the name of people you admire the most for their talents and maybe try finding out how they got there!

When the Bumpy Ride Begins…

July 11- When the bumpy ride begins

By Sameen Sadaf

“O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a fire (hell) whose fuel is men and stones!” (At-Tahrim 66:6)

Adolescence, or the teen years, is a stage in a person’s life between puberty and adulthood. After the first two years in a child’s life, this is the only other stage in which a significant growth spurt occurs, bringing about a lot of physical and emotional changes. At this crucial point in life, the teen needs almost as much attention as a baby. However, the nature of the required attention is different.

The problems start when most parents fail to realize this need of their teen. A common mistake parents make is that they reduce (or sometimes completely let go of) the need to guide the child. Dr. Ron Taffel, a prominent psychologist, says: “Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.”

Creating a balance between the ever-changing emotional and physical states during adolescence is a difficult task for the teen to accomplish on his/her own. Parents can quite easily prevent the formation of an unbalanced personality by providing the right environment at home.

If the teen has a loving and friendly environment at home, he/she will never look for solutions outside. It is vital to discuss with the teens the physical and emotional changes at puberty, as each stage comes along. This will save them the trouble of seeking solutions elsewhere.

“Tell them, because if you don’t, someone else will,” says Memoona, a teacher at an Islamic school.

George R. Holmes in his book “Helping Teenagers into Adulthood: A Guide for the Next Generation” says: “It’s important for a teenager to be given as much responsibility as early as he or she can accept it – it promotes a sense of being trusted and a sense of being mature, and gives one an increase in self esteem. When people are ignored or indulged, or must have things done for them, they find themselves inept and inadequate in the world and usually very, very angry.”

Devising and assigning different tasks to teens at home helps them to become more responsible and keeps them occupied, leaving lesser time for TV, video games or chatting. Mothers can involve their teens in doing different household chores by assigning such duties as filling up the water bottles, throwing out the trash, washing the dishes or ironing the clothes. You can also give them a choice of chores they prefer to do.

Watching informative programmes on the television as a family, cooking together on the weekends, playing mind games, discussing books, studying the Quran together with your teens and going to the mosque for daily prayers are all positive activities and good alternatives to modern-day technology, which tends to make children more passive than active.

Talking to teens helps. And this doesn’t mean interrogation such as: “Have you cleaned your room?” “Have you prepared for your test?” It also does not mean constant critical evaluation: “Look at your hair!” “You can’t even eat right” It means to hold a meaningful conversation where you are the listener and your teen does the talking. With practice, you will be able to bite your tongue and become a genuine listener, empathizing and understanding your teen’s views.

If some unacceptable habit or event comes into your notice, don’t panic or get angry. Patience is the only virtue that can guarantee success. Patience, love and prayers with consistent effort are the most effective tools to deal with your teens.

What a Teenager Hears Everyday…

July 11 - What a teenager hears everyday

6:00 a.m. Wake up or you will miss Fajr again.

6:15 a.m. The one who misses Fajr is a Munafiq (hypocrite) who will be in Hell. So get up!

7:00 a.m. You’ve got to finish your breakfast!

7:20 a.m. You look like a punk with that hairstyle. And what’s with your crumbled uniform?

7:30 a.m. Put on your sweater. Don’t you know its cold outside?

7:35 a.m. I expect you to get the highest score in your class test today, so don’t goof up like last time!

2:00 p.m. What happened on the test? How much did Ahmed score? He is so smart. You should be more like him.

2:10 p.m. Now, don’t throw your books and bag everywhere; you left enough mess for me to clear in the morning.

2:30 p.m. Eat the vegetables, too. They have all the vitamins.

2:45 p.m. By the way, did you pray Zuhr?

3:30 p.m. God knows what will become of you. With that attitude, you will land nowhere. Get serious about your studies!

5:00 p.m. Can you turn down this rotten noise you call music! One day, you will surely turn deaf.

5:15 p.m. Since I am sure you never heard the Asr Adhan, I have come to order you to pray right away.

5:30 p.m. Turn off that darn TV. Have you finished your homework yet?

6:00 p.m. Oh great! Now you are wasting time with video games. Clean up your room instantly. When I was your age, I did four times more work than you will ever even imagine.

6:45 p.m. Pray Maghrib. Why do I always have to tell you?

7:00 p.m. Why are you eating chips right now? We will be having dinner soon. And throw the wrapper in the dustbin. Really, sometimes I feel I am dealing with a toddler.

7:30 p.m. Don’t your friends have anything better to do than to chat on the cell?

8:00 p.m. Come to dinner. Why do I always have to look for you when it’s time to eat?

8:10 p.m. Try to eat your food when it is served warm. It is the same story everyday.

8:30 p.m. What are you watching now? It doesn’t look very good to me. Besides, did you pack for your school tomorrow?

9:00 p.m. Don’t forget to pray Isha.

9:15 p.m. Sleep early or you will be late for Fajr again.

The above chart was inspired by Dr. Glen C. Griffin’s observation of a typical day in a teenager’s life. If this is what they hear day in and day out, what kind of an emotional state or bonding will these youngsters have? Instructions and accusations will render them either highly sensitive or totally de-sensitized. Well-meaning adults can use some humour, logic or other warm gestures to motivate the youth to act more responsibly.

Teen Tales

July 11- Teen tales

I am worth it!

When I was sixteen years old, life was like a hell hole at home. My dad and I were constantly fighting. It came to this point that if I was watching television and he walked into the room, I would just shut it off and walk out of the door.

He was upset with me for many reasons. He would also embarrass me in front of my friends. Later, he would try to tell me, how much he cared and that he was eager to listen to my problems. Whenever I would test his sincerity, he would crack up and re-start his tirade. I could sense the disapproval in him that lashed out in the form of anger. He only wanted to shape me up and didn’t really want to hear me out.

Then, one day, something happened. Amongst many of his futile efforts, he once again approached me: “I know you feel as though I haven’t tried to understand you, but I want you to know that I am trying and will continue to try.”

I snapped back: “You have never understood me.” I stood up and reached for the door.

My dad called out: “Before you leave, I want to say that I’m really sorry for the way I embarrassed you in front of your friends the other night. I shouldn’t have done that.”

I whipped around and shouted with tears in my eyes: “You have no idea how much that embarrassed me!”

My dad walked up to me calmly and said softly: “Please come and sit down.”

For the first time, I actually felt that he genuinely wanted to listen to me. It was not some crap surface technique he was fooling me with. I began talking and he just listened. There was no moral evaluation and no judgement. It was as if he didn’t know my past at all. We just started on a clean slate, so much so, that it became and my mom came in to ask if we would sleep at all. I turned around to tell her that we had some more stuff to discuss. And my dad just nodded with a smile.

Later, when I asked my dad how he had managed to do it, he just said: “Because it was the right thing to do and you, my son, are worth it!”

Learning: We need to do a lot more private work inside our own mind and heart, before we begin to understand others. We have to let go off the negative spirit and past baggage inside of us first; otherwise, it will keep hindering us from understanding our loved ones.

Listening empathically means listening to others in their frame of reference. It also means that we might not be trusted initially, until others are certain of our sincerity. They will reject our overtures. But we need to keep coming back because they are worth it. And, eventually, we will win their trust and love with patience.

Life is overwhelming!

As a teenager, one thing that stands out in my mind was the feeling of being overwhelmed. I had to cope with the pressure of doing well at school, being on the debate team and being involved in three or four other extra-curricular activities simultaneously.

Though my mom was very strict about me keeping the room neat and tidy, there were times when she took over, especially when I had exams or my schedule was too time pressured. I would come home and find my whole room clean and organized. There would be a note that said: ‘Love, the Good Fairy.’ And I knew mom had just worked her head off to help me get ahead because I was so overwhelmed with what I had to do.

It really took a load off me. I would enter the spic and span room and whisper gratefully: “O thank you! Thank you!”

Learning: Little acts of kindness go a long way toward building relationships of trust and unconditional love. It could mean performing unexpected acts of service when you can sense that the other family member is struggling with his/her load of responsibilities. For example, you can wash the dishes, take the kids to the store for something they need for school, or call home to find out if the family needs something you might pick up on your way home.

Planned to the minute!

When I was fourteen years old, my dad promised to take me with him to Dubai on one of his business trips. We discussed it for three months, and finally the day came. He and I boarded the plane having planned our weekend to the minute. Dad was supposed to attend a conference all day, while I would stay at the hotel by myself. Later, we had planned to go dune bashing, and for a dow ride and dinner, etc. I couldn’t wait.

After what seemed ages, dad came to pick me up at 5:00 pm as promised for my treat time. But suddenly I saw him bump into his old friend. After warm pleasantries, he started to insist that dad and I accompany him to a thrilling cricket match at the grand Dubai stadium followed by dinner. I could almost feel my heart tear apart, as I knew how much dad loved cricket. I knew that was the end of my plans for the evening.

My dad profusely thanked his friend for the generous offer but explained to him: “Jazak Allah Khair for your kindness, but I have already promised my little angel this evening. And we are very excited to spend it together. Insha’Allah, next time, when I come to Dubai, I will see you.”

My heart just jumped with joy! My dad kept his word and, as expected, I had the time of my life that evening. It will always remain with me as one of the fondest memories of my father.”

Learning: Nothing makes a greater impact in the family than making and keeping promises. Just think about it! How much excitement, anticipation and hope is created by a single promise? Similarly, when we break them, how much heartache, anger and mistrust we create! These promises define our values and are the most vital and tender of all commitments we make.

The 7 habits of highly effective teenagers – Part 7

Apr 11 - 7 habits

The Man/Woman in the Mirror

Sounds like the title of a novel, doesn’t it? Well here’s what it means:

Sean Covey states: “Before you’ll ever win in the public arena of life, you must first win private battles with yourself. All change begins with you.”

He shares an interesting incident from his life. Sean wanted to be a quarterback footballer. He had been playing in high school and accordingly chose a university that could help him realize his dreams.

Once Sean stepped on the field, he didn’t do as well as he wanted to, and his coach was not pleased with his performance. He was clearly told that if he didn’t improve, he would be removed from the team.

He had to make a hard decision: either to quit football or triple his efforts and commitment. Over the next few weeks, Sean waged a war inside his head, coming face to face with his fears and self-doubts. He soon understood that he was scared of competing, being in the limelight and, perhaps, of trying and failing. That was holding him back from giving his best. In other words it was like: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Sean decided to brace himself for his one supreme effort: to stretch his full capacity and stand his full stature. He stopped holding back and gave his best. He didn’t know if he would be the number one, but at least he would have done his very best.

Once he made up his mind and set his heart to it, he managed to change a lot. He began to show improvements, and his coach noticed it. He led his team to victory at a national football event. It didn’t happen in a day but over weeks.

This in no way means that he stopped being scared or wasn’t nervous before the final game. Everyone congratulated him for his victory. Sean knew that he hadn’t won on the football field that day. He had triumphed several months back, when he decided to look his fears in the eye. Back then, there was no applause or reward at the victory he had achieved in the privacy of his mind. He believed in Siedah Garret and Glen Ballard’s statements: “I’m starting with the man/woman in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.”

Inside Out

Have you ever met anyone who has graduated from university before being enrolled in the kindergarten? If you have, I would like to meet that person, too!

Generally speaking, we crawl before we learn to walk. We master arithmetic before we learn algebra. We fix OURSELVES before we fix others. If you want to change your life, the point to begin at is yourself and not your parents, teachers, friends, fiancé, etc.

You have absolute control over your thoughts, actions and feelings. But you cannot control the others with the same power. This is also termed as Tazkiya-e-Nafs or self accountability, ownership and taking responsibility. Heavy stuff, huh?

A bishop once wrote the following about learning from his life:

“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world;

As I grew older and wiser, I realized the world would not change.

And I decided to shorten my sights somewhat and change only my country. But it too seemed immovable.

As I entered my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I sought to change only my family, those closest to me, but, alas, they would have none of it.

And now here I lie on my death bed and realize (perhaps for the first time) that if only I’d changed myself first, then by example I might have influenced my family, and with their encouragement and support, I might have bettered my country, and who knows – I might have changed the world.”

You can almost taste the regret and helplessness this poor man feels. It’s fortunate for you that you are still young and eager. Allah (swt) has still given you a chance. Leap forward and embrace the change. Change is always inside out – not outside in. Remember, it begins with you!

Insha’Allah, in the upcoming issues, we will talk about what we have termed as one’s ‘personal bank account’, from where the first three habits of highly effective teenagers stem from. They are all about personal victory and manageable tips to build self-confidence. Be on the lookout!

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – Part 5

Jan 11 - 7 habits teenagers

Paradigms of Life

Sean Covey explains that just as we have paradigms (perceptions) of ourselves and others, we also have paradigms of the world in general. We can find out what our life centres around by asking ourselves the following questions (as we did in our previous articles):

  1. What do I think about the most?
  2. What do I spend most of my time doing?
  3. Who or what is the driving force of my life?

Some popular life-centres for teenagers will follow. They all have certain good points, but they are also incomplete in one way or the other, as will be discussed.


We often witness people building their identity around being an outstanding sportsperson, only to suffer a severe injury; or around an outstanding career only to find out that someone outshines them. In such cases, the poor soul is left to rebuild from scratch. Similarly, many other interests or pastimes, such as theatres, clubs, etc., are based on unstable grounds. If one performs greatly in a particular play or event, it is most stressful to continue maintaining the same performance each time one puts his foot on the stage or in the club.

A wise man once said: “In a game, everyone cannot be a winner. There will be losers, too. And they are human beings. As long as one gives his/her 100 per cent, leave the rest to Allah (swt). It is for Him to decide who crosses the finishing line first.”


It is very common for the youth to centre their lives on famous celebrities, movies stars, sportsmen, politicians, rock stars, etc. They will even be able to tell you what their favourite personality has for breakfast! But if the same celebrity dies, ends up in prison or does something impulsively ridiculous, where will the fans go? They will feel embarrassed, angry and disappointed. As is the case of every person in the limelight: “What goes up, comes down.” And one day people do forget them, too. We have endless stories of the fans of Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, etc., who spent their lives in their favourite celebrity’s shadow, even after they were gone. So hero-worship is certainly a vulnerable and fragile centre.


Sometimes our entire life revolves around hating a particular person, group or an ideology. Just as an antagonist in a movie wants to take revenge from the protagonist, the aim of some people in life is just to make the lives of others miserable. All the positive energy and creativity turns into evil genius and is passed on to others like a fatal epidemic. They stoop to any level just to settle scores. Such ideologies are usually a by-product of hanging out with gangs or the result of broken homes or maybe, very low self-worth. This indeed is a warped centre. Not to mention how very detrimental it is to one’s faith and extremely heavy on one’s heart. Imagine carrying around so much venom inside one’s heart.


Workaholism is a sickness that generally afflicts people after they have crossed their teenagehood. But sometimes it can strike the young as well. One feels the need to have more money, cars, status and recognition. This obsession prevents the person from

enjoying what he already has, and drives him/her to greater ambitions. This further leads the person to be burned out from too much work and may deprive him/her of sound health and steady mind. Because there is no moderation in life and one is just slaving day in and day out, eventually it tends to make one very unhappy and dead beat.


This is a very common centre nowadays. This perception makes a person resistant to putting the mirror down. Sean Covey explains it: “One thinks that the world revolves around you and your problems. This often results in being so worried about your own condition that you’re oblivious to the walking wounded all around you.” One’s life begins with “my ugly pimple, my dead cell phone, my bad grade…” Get the picture? The list goes on and on.

So what will ultimately provide us with the stability we need in life? All the life-centres that we have discussed in this and our previous issues have proved to be shaky and uncertain. Sean Covey is not suggesting that we should quit being ambitious or passionate about people and stuff we believe in. What he warns against is that we should not rely on a life-line that may give out anytime without warning.

In the next part we will discuss the real thing – the actual centre that we should all try to acquire for guaranteed success, Insha’Allah.

So be on the lookout for our upcoming article.

What are habits?

They are not a machine, though they work with all the precision of a machine plus the intelligence of a human.

They may be run for profit or run for ruin – it makes no difference to them.

So form them wisely!

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers – 1

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Seven Habits

The Warm-up

Sean Covey did a great service writing his book titled “The 7 habits of highly effective teenagers!” I don’t care about the over two million copies sold. What engaged me was the truth and sincerity it held for a retired teenager such as me. If only I could have had this publication, while I was the impulsive, emotionally charged and blatantly smug teenager I was then. I wouldn’t have had so many regrets. Qadar’Allah! It’s never too late to learn a few good lessons in life for old disasters such as me. (Allah (swt) always pulls me out of despair.)

So, coming back to you! If you are anything like a regular teenager, you might be thinking any of the following:

  1. Here comes another lecture. I can surely skip this one.
  2. My set of trials is unique! How can anyone even come close to understanding them?
  3. Advice? I know better.
  4. I am what I am. Take it or leave it! Nobody is gonna change me.
  5. I’ll only give it a try if it works like a magic potion. No sweating involved!

Well, your suspicion and skepticism is respected. But you would agree that for anything to work for you, you need to give it a shot wholeheartedly. Otherwise, it’s just not fair to you or any strategy advised.

For teenagers, life is no more a play ground. In fact, it’s a jungle out there. You might be familiar with some of the struggles faced today globally by the youth. Believe me – you are not alone:

  • I feel as if I am tied to a clock. School, homework, friends, social commitments! It just goes on…
  • I am all the time reminded that if I were smarter, prettier, richer, I would be happier.
  • Nothing works for me. I just feel out of control.
  • My parents seem to nag about almost everything and just do not understand me.
  • I know I do stuff that I shouldn’t be doing, but I can’t say no to my friends.
  • I am overweight and have given up a million diet plans. I just don’t have the will power to change, though I want to!
  • I get moody and depressed every now and then.
  • I am afraid I can’t get the grades I need to get me into a decent university or college.

This is not a movie that ends after a bucket of popcorn. We are talking about real life here. And to handle real life challenges, we need a set of strong tools to help us deal with them effectively. Well, this is what Sean Covey offers. It has been briefly laid down here and is open to discussion in our upcoming issues in greater detail:

  1. Be proactive: It’s your life. Take responsibility for it. You owe it to yourself!
  2. Begin with the end in mind: Ask yourself: what is the mission and goal of my life?
  3. Put first things first: Be wise and prioritize. Begin with the most important things.
  4. Think win-win: Strive for universal success. It’s far more delightful to share triumph, rather than just bask in glory, in solitude.
  5. First, seek to understand; then, to be understood: Use your ears more often than your tongue. Listen to people sincerely.
  6. Synergize: Be a team player. Work together for greater achievements.
  7. Sharpen the saw: Renew and improvise on a regular basis. Constant learning is the greatest way of life!

Another Angle

Sean Covey’s diagram of a tree will aptly help you understand the power ofthe seven habits of highly effective teens

  • These habits build on one another. The first three habits that form the roots of the tree are related to victory on a personal basis. They deal with self mastery. Our plan of action must begin with private victory on a personal level.
  • The next three habits bring success in the public arena, forming the trunk of the tree. They are all about relationship building and team work.
  • The last habit, which represents the fruit and greenery of the tree, is the habit of renewal. This habit feeds all the other six habits.

The above mentioned habits are sequential in nature, and for optimum benefit must follow the sequence suggested by the author. Also, they might just seem ordinary, but in order to assess their real power, we can look at them from another angle. This will tell us, what these habits are not. So the following are the opposites – the reverse of an effective teenager!

Seven habits of highly defective teenagers:

Habit 1: React

This is like playing the blame game. When something goes wrong in life, blame the parents, teachers, relatives, neighbours, system, government, even strangers. Think like a victim, who has no control over anything, hence, take no responsibility. Act like an animal, who eats when hungry. Do wrong, in spite of knowing it is wrong.

Habit 2: Begin with no end in mind

Do not believe in a plan. Avoid goals at all costs. Live for the moment. Eat, drink, party, be merry, get wasted. Today is all that you have, and who has seen tomorrow? For tomorrow may never come. You just may die today. So make the most of it. Live for instant gratifications.

Habit 3: Put first things last

Whatever matters most, delay it as much as possible. Do stuff that can be done later, or better off not being done at all, such as chatting on the phone endlessly, watching TV like a couch potato, lounging around, etc. Always put off your homework until tomorrow, cram in studying for your exams right the night before.

Habit 4: Think win-lose

Always look at life as a vicious competition. Anyone, who even comes close to overtaking you in the rat race, is your staunch enemy. They are all out there to get you. Try to beat them, and if you can’t, try to drag them down with you. No one else should win at any cost.

Habit 5: Seek first to talk, and then pretend to listen

Consider taking your birth right. Always ensure that you dominate the conversation with anyone. Begin it and end it with you having the final say. Only after others have heard your views loud and clear, pretend to listen to them. While they talk, look distracted, nod occasionally not taking their views seriously.

Habit 6: Don’t cooperate

Be your own island. Worship your own ideas and think of others as weird, because they are different. Since they are different, what is the point of getting along with them? Do not believe in team work. That’s for the weak people, who wish to survive on other people’s creativity.

Habit 7: Wear yourself out

Be so occupied with your life, that you never find time to improve yourself. Do not believe in changing for the better. Don’t learn anything new. Avoid anything that may sound healthy for the body or inspiring for the soul. Stay away from exercise, good books, nature, etc.

Dear Haadia

I know parents have great rights in Islam but how far can they go in hitting children, insulting them in public and displaying anger whenever they want to? Please elaborate on a teenager’s rights to respect.

Answer: Alhumdulillah it is good to find you are aware of and in no means denying parents their rights. Unfortunately very little is said about the Islamic rights of children.

Parenting is not an easy job, but Islam has provided parents with several principles to follow when interacting with their young. The Islamic rights dues to all human beings in general is inclusive of teenagers, such as speaking to them kindly, not backbiting about them, keeping their secrets and dealing with them with honesty and justice.

Once, when the Prophet (sa) wanted to share a meal with those sitting around him, he turned to his right side first (as was his practice), to offer it to the child who sat beside him. On his left sat an older gentlemen, and so he sought the permission of the child to serve the older person first. When the child denied permission, he was served first. Our Prophet (sa) did not over look the child’s rights for that of the older person; rather he sought the child’s permission to give up his turn, and was treated in the same manner as any adult would have been.

Children also have rights of their own, Prophet Muhammad (sa) has said: “It is the right of children that their father provides them with a good education gives them a good name, and fulfills their duties according to their age and intellectual growth” (Bayhaqi)

The duties parents need to fulfill range from feeding them to advising them in all matters of Deen and Duniya. The Prophet (sa) advised, “Do not refrain from using pressure (of punishment) with a view to training them (children)” (Tirmidhi) Pressure does not mean brutally hitting them, as the Prophet Muhammad (sa) spoke strongly against hitting anyone in a manner which could cause injury, and he spoke of striking anyone’s face as Haraam. In fact, he spoke of beating children if they refused to pray once they reached the age of ten. (Bukhari), which many scholars interpret to mean that one should not strike a child for reasons which carry less weight than the refusal to pray.

Allah (swt) has commanded to ward off from ourselves and our families a fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones (Tehreem 66:6), and the Prophet (sa) explained that each person is the shepherd of his flock (family). (Bukhari); Hence parents are both responsible and will be held accountable for their young. Consequently some parents may inadvertently appear too harsh towards their children. Others, on the other hand, may be too permissive. There is a story of a young thief who when caught said: “Before you cut off my hand cut out the tongue of my mother. When I committed theft for the first time and brought home an egg, my mother did not warn me or punish me; rather she said her son was a full grown man. Had she not said that I would not be the thief I am now.” This is obviously a situation that most parents try hard to avoid.

As a teenager, do bear in mind that it is difficult to modify one’s parent’s behavior, and the only one whose behavior can be controlled is our own, try to reflect more on the situation, do we speak harshly to our parents? Are we making an effort to show them respect? Are we fulfilling our responsibilities towards them? Or are we demanding our rights without giving them theirs? If so, be the first to give them their rights, it may take a while, but Insha’Allah eventually they will see you as one worthy of respect. Regardless, you will get rewarded by Allah (swt) for doing your duty. May Allah (swt) make it easy for you and aid you in your efforts towards building a happy and rewarding relationship with your parents.