Early one Saturday morning, my partner in crime, Khadija and I set out to do a self-development and team-building workshop for a group of young Muslimah’s, from the Imaan Centre for Revert Girls. Not only did we have to drive out of urban Gauteng to the idyllic Vaal river banks of the North West province, we also had to shift gear, out of our comfort zones and safety nets.
The workshop we conducted was part of a weekend camp that was organized for the girls. These camps form a small getaway holiday for the girls as well as fostering the bonds of sisterhood, bringing together revert girls from different townships. To see girls as young as 12 years old taking to the faith in such a determined way was awe-inspiring, they had left behind their families and everything they knew, to join a religion and way of life worlds apart from their upbringing.
The only reason I had agreed to do this workshop, is because the organizer made it clear that the aims of his Da’wah project is to give these girls a better chance at life, by motivating them into tertiary education and careers which would benefit society in the long run. I am obviously not a fan of a number of token Da’wah organizations who bring women into Islam and shut them out from the rest of the world, leading them to believe they must lead cloistered lives, and that the ultimate success of a pious Muslimah is – marriage. Of course, marriage forms a crucial support structure for new Muslimah’s, but it is certainly not the outcome of what being a Muslimah means. Unfortunately I have come face-to-face with a few groups like these, too often. Forcing people into Islam by feeding them and then expecting them to buy into an Indianized religion with traditions which have no basis in the religion is not Da’wah. Da’wah – or calling to Islam, calling to Peace and Submission, is a call to a better life which betters society at large. It should be a beautiful calling, resonating with humility and sincerity, and certainly not with a hand-me-down attitude. My particular gripe is with Da’wah amongst women – Islam empowers women, as we Muslims love to say – and I was so impressed to witness how the Imaan Centre was doing just that – empowering these young girls to become strong, confident Muslim women, with so much to offer the world.
The face of township Islam is rapidly changing – a vibrant and energetic Islamic spirit is sprouting up – yet some of these environments are not conducive to bringing up Muslim children, with the rife spread of promiscuity, alcohol and violence. The Imaan Centre provides a safe haven for these girls – whilst not cutting them off from the real world – to the contrary, preparing them to face it.
Our presentation was initiated with introductions and each girl had to speak about herself and her interests. The first activity was a self-development one. After handing each participant a card, I asked them to write out their own obituary. This is a powerful reflective exercise – getting each participant to introspect deeply about their lives and what they wish to achieve by the end of it – always bearing in mind, that Allah is the best of planners. I watched with delight as each girl poured herself into the task – I could see them thinking and feeling, intensely.
Then, we moved on to the team-building exercise – one of my favorites. The larger theme of the camp was the “role of Muslim women in society”. I presented a 15 minute talk to them on my construction of the ideal Muslim women, based on the emblematic qualities of Mercy, Modesty, Confidence, Patience and Sincerity. Each quality I framed around a great women of our history, particularly Nusayba (ra) and Khadija (ra). Then, we asked them, to draw their own idea’s of the defining qualities the ideal Muslimah. It is always fascinating to see what people come up with when trying to express abstract concepts in pictures. Each drawing was original and depicted some virtue about Muslim women which the girls thought were imperative, particularly “education”, “kindness”, “love” and “sisterhood”.
The concluding activity was a short one – each girl partnered with someone she did not know very well, facing each other and holding hands, they had to repeat to each other “I love you for the sake of Allah”, staring into the others eyes without giggling. I got to partner 11 year old Aisha – and it was a beautiful moment!
What struck me most was the time and sacrifice made by the organizer, Shaykh Shaukat, who could have been anywhere else that weekend, yet there he was, with a bunch of boisterous teenage girls, inculcating in them devotion to Allah, love His Prophet (saw) and motivation to seek knowledge.
I urged them to keep the cards they had written their obituaries on, and to look at them months and years down the line and introspect further. Each girl had some idea of what she wanted to be when she grows up – from pilots to scholars. I’m sure as time passes, some of these will change and be replaced by other aims, the important thing though, is that they have the ability to dream, and a means of achieving those dreams through the work of the Da’wah centre.
As Muslim woman – we need to reach out, and reach into the hearts of our sisters, so I was very delighted to receive a text message from Shaykh Shaukat the next day asking us to please conduct more workshops for them, and indicating that the girls had all voted Khadija and I as excellent presenters 🙂 May Allah accept!