Modeling Love For Muslim Youth: Host A “Muslims in Love” Panel

Youth group Activity with Muslims finding love, hosted for high school students. Reflections and tips for recreating this event included!

Love was in the air at the masjid on Valentine’s Day 2016. As a youth group teacher for our masjid’s Sunday School, I organized a panel of married Muslim adults to speak about their personal experiences with finding love as Muslims. On the panel that day were six members from the community, a mix of men and women, with just one spouse from each marriage. The panelists represented a range of backgrounds in terms of their ages, length of time being married, being raised as Muslim or converting to Islam, some were born in the US or while others immigrated, a few shared their cultural background with their spouse while others were of interracial and mixed cultural marriage. We made sure that all ends of the spectrum from traditional “arranged” marriage to those who individually seek out a spouse were included.

 

When I brought up the idea of the “Muslims in Love” panel to my husband, I thought it would be a nice break from traditional gender relations talks. It was so frustrating for me as a teen to repeatedly hear about the restrictive Islamic principles that seem completely alien in the broader American society. In my oversimplified thinking, I remember asking myself, how am I supposed to get married if I can’t even talk to boys? Keeping the demographic of our students and my frustrations as a teen in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to present our students with models of romantic relationships in an Islamic context. Our youth group class were mostly 8th and 9th graders who attended public school and have immigrant parents from the Arab world and Indian Subcontinent. I assumed that my students were mostly bombarded with ideas about relationships from pop culture depictions and their peers, while at the same time having little to no exposure to relationships between Muslims. I wanted to swoop in while my students were still young enough and plant ideas of what love looks like for Muslims, so that they at least have something to reference when they get a bit older and want to get married.

The format of the panel was that everyone introduced themselves in a minute, answering some basic questions. Then, we went through a list of questions that were more specific and could be answered in up to three minutes. All of the panelists were sent the introduction questions beforehand, as well as two of the six discussion questions, to give them a chance to prepare their responses. If anyone wanted to answer a questions that was not specifically assigned to them, they were free to do so on the spot. We also allowed the students to send in anonymous questions the week before the panel, and then took those submissions into consideration when forming the questions.

After the panelists spoke, we broke into gender-segregated groups to allow the students to ask questions if they had any. To my (disappointed) surprise, they mostly asked questions regarding gender relations in their immediate contexts.

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The questions the panelists answered were as follows.

Introductions:

  1. List three adjectives to describe your spouse. Also, ask your spouse to list three adjectives to describe you.

  2. How did you meet your spouse / how were you introduced to your spouse? When did you realize that you two were written for each other?

 

Discussion Questions:

 

  1.  What does love mean to you? When would you say you “fell in love” with your spouse?

  2. How did your Islamic beliefs play a role in how you got married?

  3.  What is the biggest misconception you had about love/marriage before being married?  How has being married taught you differently?

  4. What is the most joyful part of your marriage?

  5. How does your being Muslim influence how you approach your marital life?

  6. What surprised you the most about being married?

I personally enjoyed the panel and it was a nice break from our usual routine. However, there were some shortcomings that came to mind when I reflected on the event. Due to the nature of the subject, it was hard to get students to share what they thought about the panel because they were hesitant to give feedback. Although it seemed incredibly important to me to host the “Muslims in Love” panel, I wasn’t sure how beneficial it was to our students at the time.

I would definitely suggest hosting a similar panel in other communities whose youth seem to have little to no models of what love looks like for practicing Muslims. So here are some tips.

  • Keep it mixed: It’s important for youth to hear both men’s and women’s experiences.

  • Target age should be late high school to early college.

  • Gather a diverse panel with different experiences.

  • Use discretion when choosing panelists because these are meant to be models for youth to follow. At the same time, there are many perfectly acceptable ways to get married all while following Islamic guidelines—so don’t be stuffy.

  • Make the panel a private event for only the students, youth coordinators/teachers, and panelists. You don’t want parents helicoptering in—believe it or not we received a lot of pushback from some parents after the event.

 

I hope this idea reaches different communities and that the idea is rightfully adapted to each community’s specific needs. American Muslims are facing a marriage crisis, and I think we will be better off in the long run if we start modeling positive marriages to Muslim kids and youth.

6 / View Comments

6 responses to “Modeling Love For Muslim Youth: Host A “Muslims in Love” Panel”

  1. NC says:

    Great concept to show role models and successful case studies of the “marriage process” working for a variety of people.

    It’s a challenging process, often frustrating and lonely, so this could lead to good things to youth and adults in the audience. InshaAllah it’s valuable. Jazakallahukhair for sharing.

  2. Saba says:

    Asalaamu alaikum, well done for doing this! It’s a fresh and practical idea. Growing up I never saw a happily married Muslim couple (due to many reasons, but none of these people were emulating the Islamic etiquette) and it did have a negative impact in terms of the views I formed on Islam. Something like this definitely would have gone some way to countering that mindset. I agree that parents shouldn’t hover at these types of events as it makes the kids less willing to ask questions.

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