Connect with us

#Life

Advice for New University Students: Work Hard, Play Hard, PRAY harder

Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Are you a young Muslim starting university this month? Or a mature student, looking to improve your career prospects? Either way, life is about to change big time – new surroundings, new friends, and new opportunities – along with new trials, new temptations, and new traps. Change can be good, and change can be bad: so listen to the sage advice of some seasoned MM-ers to ensure that your life changes for the better, insha’Allah!

ISoc2Sick

A classic tip from King’s College London graduate, Bushra:

“Seek out your university’s Islamic society and SIGN UP! They will be your lifeline out in the scary world of student-hood.”

Logo for one of the best ISocs in the world. I may be biased.

A lot of ISocs (a.k.a. MSAs for you Americans) have Freshers’ (first-year) events in the first few weeks of term for new students. You can contact them before you start via their websites and Facebook pages (Google is your friend). If your university doesn’t have an ISoc, try searching for Muslim cultural societies, like Pakistani, Indonesian, Malay, Arab, Somali, etc. Even if you’re not from those cultures, they should still welcome you, and at the very least, show you where the best places to pray and eat halal are , inshā’Allāh.

It’s also important to remember prayer room etiquette: give salām, smile, be friendly and welcoming to all. Just because someone doesn’t seem as pious as you are (note: thinking you’re better than others is a sure sign to check yourself!), or they pray a little differently than you, doesn’t provide any excuse for you to give them the cold shoulder. You don’t want your prickly nature to be the reason why someone doesn’t offer their ṣalāh in congregation, or avoids attending circles of knowledge, or even regular ISoc socials, a‘ūdhu billāh.

“Don’t be judgmental- whether you are super-practicing or not. University will introduce you to many more different characters than those at school and will test your own patience by making you accommodate for these people. It will refine you.” – Bushra

Freeeeedom!

Beware the price of freedom.

A warning from graduate of Imperial College London, iMuslim:

“Don’t let your first taste of ‘freedom’ go to your head – especially true for those sisters like me, who were rolled up in cotton wool most of their young lives! Suddenly teachers and parents aren’t there anymore to keep their beady eyes on you, and Shayṭān’s whispers becomes more like Shayṭān on loudspeaker!”

Without raining on your parade, the amazing high of your first few weeks away from home can also be dangerous for your īmān. You don’t realize how much of your Islam is dependent on the opinions of family and other authority figures until they disappear from view. Strangers, especially non-Muslims, aren’t going to care whether you pray your ṣalāh, or ‘eat of the good things’. Now it really is between you and Allah; time to familiarize yourselves with His Attributes: As-Samee’, the One who hears all; Al-Baseer, the One who sees all; and Al-‘Alīm, the One who knows all. In conclusion: feel free to disobey Allah in the place that He can’t hear you, see you or know about it. {smile}

However, greater freedom and a strange place also has its advantages:

“Starting uni is a great opportunity to renew yourself. Often school can be a very suffocating place because there is so much peer pressure from your friends – and even the people you dislike! If you’ve always wanted to start praying, wear hijab, clean up your language, volunteer more, and so on, but your peers were holding you back, uni is the best time to break the chains, wipe the slate clean, and start again with a ‘bismillah‘.” – iMuslim

Friends Forever

The heart is precious. Be careful who you let in.

Leaving behind childhood friends can be hard, especially if it takes time for you to make new ones. As lonely as you may feel at times, try not to fill that void in your heart, and the gap in your social calendar with just any company:

“Surround yourself with good people. Not just ISoc members, but also good friends on your course who may not be Muslim, but they live clean, and they respect you and your faith. If you left one bad group of ‘friends’ behind, don’t fall into the same trap again now you’ve been given a second chance. The Prophet, ṣallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: ‘A person is likely to follow the faith of his friend, so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.’ [Sunan Abu Dāwūd]” – iMuslim

Campus Superstar

You are going to spend a lot of time in here. Study tip # 1 – try not to fall asleep.

With all the fun of new friends, clubs, and societies, you may forget that university is actually for something called, STUDYING.

To help you along, here are some awesome study tips from University of California student, Meena, and University of Washington graduate, Safia:

“Don’t give up the work habits that you established in high school. Most people have chiller schedules once they go to college and all forms of self-discipline and timeliness disappear. The hardest workers will do the best. Being “smart” isn’t enough. Make iḥsān in everything you do – even school.” – Meena

“Be a known presence, not just in the university community at large, but also in the classroom. It’s critical to visit during office hours and get to know your professors more. This is more general academic advice (of course, it’s a da’wah opportunity also), but when you familiarize yourself with the teacher, it has many advantages:

  • One, they’ll know you’re a serious student because you went beyond the classroom.
  • Two, the more memorable you are to professors, the easier time you’ll have getting the critical letters of recommendation that you will need for jobs and grad school.” – Safia

And a bucket load of academic advice from Wharton School of Business MBA grad, Amad:

  • Remember why you are at college: to earn a degree. Keep the focus. It’s only 3-4 years and if you put your mind into it, you’ll reap the benefits
    for the rest of your life. You almost have to treat it as an extremely important investment that may dictate your career, your future family, and where you might live.
  • Talk to senior students in your major. You can usually get great advice on professors, classes, and when you need something to lighten the load, professors who repeat the exam questions every year!
  • It’s not important just to “like” something to make a career out of it. If you want to be bread-earner, then you have choose something that will get you a job after you graduate. It affects what area you might be able to make a living in. For example, if you desire moving to the Middle East at one point in your life, scan the jobs that may be available in the region.

More practical advice can be found in this must-read MM post.

Don’t Forget Your Roots

This is how happy your pops will be when you call him (before you ask him for more money).

Our EIC, Hena – alumni of Wellesley College and the University of New Orleans – keeps it real:

Call your mom!! Dad, siblings, grandparents, and old friends too – if you call them and keep in touch, it is less anxiety for them and they won’t think that you have changed.”

Absence makes the heart grow fonder – but also more forgetful! Don’t let the excitement (and stress) of college life make you forget those who helped you to get there in the first place. That goes double for the One who provides for you in every way: Al-Razzāq. Keep in touch with your Creator via your daily worship, dhikr, and regularity of good deeds.

We hope that our sincere advice is of benefit to you. May you be successful in your studies, and enjoy every moment of this new and unique life experience, Ameen!
Feel free to share your own pearls of wisdom in the comments below.

Related Article: A Message to Anyone Interested in a College Degree

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Dr Mehzabeen b. Ibrahim joined MuslimMatters as a blogger in late 2007 under the handle 'iMuslim', whilst still a struggling grad student. Since then, she has attained a PhD in Molecular Biology and a subsequent Masters in Bioinformatics, and now works as a specialist in this field for a well-known British, medical charity, masha'Allah. Somewhere in between she found the time to get married, alhamdulillah. She likes to dabble in photo and videography, a sample of which can be found on her personal blog: iMuslim.tv.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    September 22, 2011 at 5:57 AM

    Yesterday, I began plans to enrol in and resume some free online programs. This post is a pleasant coincidence.

    College wasn’t my first taste of freedom; I was free long before that.

    Most students take college as a social theater. They and some lecturers made all sorts of horrible remarks concerning my principle, ‘I know why I’m here,’ until the end of the first year when it became obvious I had the highest GP in the entire year (approximately 2500 students in my year).

    The courses I had very little interest in were those with repeated exam questions; BORING!

    I surrounded myself with trustworthy colleagues (Muslims and non-Muslims) who kept me informed of the latest academic information. I, in turn, assisted them with their courses, including courses far removed from mine.

    Interacting with lecturers and Professors in and out of the classroom was a hallmark of my college life; some of them are still my friends. The downside included a lecturer ignoring me during lectures saying anyone who has additional comments to make should come to her office. I never did; interaction starts first IN THE CLASSROOM. Some other lecturers misconstrued my visits as an indication of nuptial interest and repeatedly planned my marriage informing the town without my knowledge and approval. I played along behaving as if I was unaware of the plans until I had had enough. I crushed the party.

    I don’t do clubs. They are a very easy way to make collective enemies and for someone like me who naturally makes more enemies than friends, I keep clear of any membership/ regular attendance of societies until I know who’s running the show. I am more of a freelancer; I belong to everyone.

    Always learning,
    Umm Sulaim

    • Avatar

      Umm ibraheem

      September 22, 2011 at 4:26 PM

      I am confused by what your comment is supposed to mean….it’s all very abstract? Which country did you attend university?

      • Avatar

        Umm Sulaim

        September 22, 2011 at 4:34 PM

        Which part of my comment is confusing so I can explain?

        My words are in response to the article.

  2. Avatar

    Yasmin

    September 22, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    Thanks for these great reminders! My only advice is to try your hardest and when it comes time to take the exams have Tawakul in Allah (swt). I always like to repeat surah Fatihah once and Surah Ikhlas three times before taking any exam!

    • Avatar

      umm abdullah

      September 24, 2011 at 8:31 PM

      Assalamualaikum

      I agree about placing our trust in Allah. But reciting surah fatihah and surah ikhlaas,… you might have to ask a trustworthy scholar about that. It’s better to make a general dua before your exam. Allahu ‘Alam.

  3. Avatar

    Khattaab

    September 22, 2011 at 10:31 PM

    Anyone have any study tips, how to ace the course?

    Not pass or decent grades- actual top marks?

    • Avatar

      mimi

      September 28, 2011 at 11:18 AM

      Assalamu’alaikum,

      Some tips based on my undergrad years:

      Find people who have already taken your courses and ask if you can borrow their course notes, assignments (e.g., labs for science students), and written tests/midterm exams. It doesn’t mean you study any less (or copy their work: so wrong!) but having this resource really helps to understand expectations and the amount of effort you’ll need to put in.

      If a prayer time starts and finishes within a lecture, you can do this: place a small MP3 recorder on your desk to record the part of the lecture you’ll miss, and then leave to pray.

      I did well in almost every course I went to see the professor outside of class time. You get an idea of what they expect, what material is most important to study, etc. Visiting the professor with one or more fellow students is best. Think of your Profs as your teachers and remember the amount of respect our religion requires us to give to our teachers (when you do that it’s not so hard to talk to them, whether M or F)

      I formed many ‘acquaintances’ in uni and just a few lasting friends (1 or 2 in 4 years). You don’t have to become close friends with every person you meet- just be helpful, friendly, and respectful to the students you work and collaborate with.

  4. Avatar

    Khattaab

    September 22, 2011 at 11:22 PM

    Also, what kind of sleeping patterns should Muslim students have? Do/should/could they pray in jama-a. What about for fajr? Is qiyaam in the picture?
    In the article da’wah was mentioned.. Is dawah an obligation?
    To what extent should a Muslim student take a non-Muslims as awliyaa? I mean how close can one get when the other desires you to party, yet you desire for them jannah?
    How can one pray dhuhr/asr? Do they conflict with lecture times?
    If a male student has a female teacher, what kind of advice regarding lowering the gaze.. I mean I have no problem staring at the blackboard/PowerPoint.. But any advice about this issue?

    Quite many questions I know, but if anone has any advise about any of them it’d be greatly appreciated.

    Assalamu alaykum.

    There is another thing.. What is the greatest benefit in university? Something you weren’t expecting, some kind of freedom, the change in atmosphere which allowed you to grow in..

  5. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    September 23, 2011 at 5:07 AM

    Wa alaykumus-Salam waRahmatuLlah waBarakatuH

    From personal experience, to ace your courses
    – Make the library your friend; look up relevant books to help improve understanding of your courses.

    – As soon as you have a free time, read through the day’s lectures and if it includes maths, attempt to solve the day’s examples without looking at your notes. If you get stuck, check your notes and NOTE WHY AND WHERE YOU MADE A MISTAKE. Doing that will help you avoid a similar mistake in the exam hall!

    – Aim for the top mark. Do not listen to anyone telling you a B grade is ok. If you do get a B, it is ok, but aim higher.

    – Sleep and wake up at a time convenient for you; this depends on how tired you feel. Sleep less during the week and make it up on weekends.

    – Keep in touch with your colleagues and practise past questions to have an idea of how questions are set and also, should the lecturer be one of those who repeat questions.

    Muslim women do not have the issue of Jama’ah, so you attend Jama’ah whenever possible. The first thing to note is your lecture hours and say your prayers at its earliest time if necessary. For instance, if you have a lecture from 1pm to 3pm, check the time the sun crosses its meridian in your area and pray before attending lectures. You might want to get in touch with other Muslim men to fulfill Jama’ah.

    Say Qiyam before sitting down to read. You might shorten Qiyam depending on your usual length.

    I always say the best form of Da’wah is ones conduct. Verbal Da’wah comes in when the occasion allows.

    If you make your objective to study well known to your colleagues (Muslims and non-Muslims) and stick to it, I doubt anyone will insist on pulling you into unhealthy social activities. They will criticise you, but won’t compel you to join them.

    If you participate/ respond to the lecturer’s questions politely and promptly, I do not expect they will be so concerned about eye contact. Some will of course make an issue out of it. Whether they get you to gaze at them or for the woman, remove your niqab so they can gaze at you depends on you and your participation/ grades.

    The greatest benefit in university is rediscovering oneself and moving ones cognitive ability to an upper level.

    Umm Sulaim

  6. Avatar

    Umm Sulaim

    September 23, 2011 at 5:08 AM

    Wa alaykumus-Salam waRahmatuLlah waBarakatuH

    Khattab, from personal experience, to ace your courses
    – Make the library your friend; look up relevant books to help improve understanding of your courses.

    – As soon as you have a free time, read through the day’s lectures and if it includes maths, attempt to solve the day’s examples without looking at your notes. If you get stuck, check your notes and NOTE WHY AND WHERE YOU MADE A MISTAKE. Doing that will help you avoid a similar mistake in the exam hall!

    – Aim for the top mark. Do not listen to anyone telling you a B grade is ok. If you do get a B, it is ok, but aim higher.

    – Sleep and wake up at a time convenient for you; this depends on how tired you feel. Sleep less during the week and make it up on weekends.

    – Keep in touch with your colleagues and practise past questions to have an idea of how questions are set and also, should the lecturer be one of those who repeat questions.

    Muslim women do not have the issue of Jama’ah, so you attend Jama’ah whenever possible. The first thing to note is your lecture hours and say your prayers at its earliest time if necessary. For instance, if you have a lecture from 1pm to 3pm, check the time the sun crosses its meridian in your area and pray before attending lectures. You might want to get in touch with other Muslim men to fulfill Jama’ah.

    Say Qiyam before sitting down to read. You might shorten Qiyam depending on your usual length.

    I always say the best form of Da’wah is ones conduct. Verbal Da’wah comes in when the occasion allows.

    If you make your objective to study well known to your colleagues (Muslims and non-Muslims) and stick to it, I doubt anyone will insist on pulling you into unhealthy social activities. They will criticise you, but won’t compel you to join them.

    If you participate/ respond to the lecturer’s questions politely and promptly, I do not expect they will be so concerned about eye contact. Some will of course make an issue out of it. Whether they get you to gaze at them or for the woman, remove your niqab so they can gaze at you depends on you and your participation/ grades.

    The greatest benefit in university is rediscovering oneself and moving ones cognitive ability to an upper level.

    Umm Sulaim

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

#Life

7 Powerful Techniques For Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health.  Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks. Here are 7 powerful techniques to make sure you’re not one of them.

New Year's Resolutions
Who uses sticky notes on a cork board #stockimagefail
Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

It’s the end of the year, and I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking – after wondering if New Year’s is halal to celebrate, you probably want to lose some weight, make more money, talk to family more, or be a better Muslim in some way.  The New Year for many of us is a moment to turn a fresh page and re-imagine a better self. We make resolutions and hope despite the statistics we’ll be the outliers that don’t fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions.

Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health. Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks.

Given such a high failure rate, let’s talk about how you can be among the few who set and achieve your goals successfully.

1. Be Thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)

Allah Gives You More if You’re Thankful

You’ve been successful this past year in a number of areas. Think of your worship, career, relationships, personality, education, health (physical, mental, social, and spiritual), and finances. Take a moment to reflect on where you’ve succeeded, no matter how trivial, even if it’s just maintaining the status quo, and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for those successes.

When you’re thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), He increases you in blessings.  Allah says in the Qur’an:

“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you give thanks (by accepting faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My blessings); but if you are thankless (i.e. disbelievers), verily, My punishment is indeed severe’” [14:7] 

In recent years, there’s been more discussion on the benefits of practicing gratitude, though oftentimes it’s not clear to whom or what you’re to be grateful towards. We, of course, know that we’re not grateful simply to the great unconscious cosmos, but to our Creator.

Despite this difference, there exist interesting studies on how the practice of gratitude affect us. Some of the benefits include:

  • Better relationships with those thanked
  • Improved physical health
  • Improved psychological health
  • Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression
  • Better sleep
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved mental strength

Building on Your Successes

In addition to being thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), reflect on why you were successful in those areas.  What was it you did day in and day out to succeed? Analyze it carefully and think of how you can either build on top of those present successes, or how you can transport the lessons from those successes to new areas of your life to succeed there as well.

In the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath, they note that we have a tendency to try to solve big problems with big solutions, but a better technique that has actual real-world success in solving complex problems is to instead focus on bright spots and build on those bright spots instead. You have bright spots in how you’ve worked and operated, so reflect on your successes and try to build on top of them.

2. Pick One Powerful, Impactful Goal

Oftentimes when we want to change, we try to change too many areas.  This can lead to failure quickly because change in one area is not easy, and attempting to do it in multiple areas simultaneously will simply accelerate failure.

Instead, pick one goal – a goal that you are strongly motivated to fulfill, and one that you know if you were to make that goal, it would have a profoundly positive impact on your life as well as on others whom you are responsible to.

In making the case based on scientific studies, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes:

Research has shown that you are 2x to 3x more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”

Further down, he states:

“However (and this is crucial to understand) follow-up research has discovered implementation intentions only work when you focus on one thing at a time.”

When setting your goal, be sure to set a SMART goal, one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound.  “I want to lose weight” is not a SMART goal.  “I want to achieve 10% bodyfat at 200 lbs in 9 months” is specific (you know the metrics to achieve), measurable (you can check if you hit those metrics), achievable (according to health experts, it can be done, realistic (it’s something you can do), and time-bound (9 months).

3. Repeatedly Make Du’a with Specificity

Once you lock onto your goal, you should ask for success in your goal every day, multiple times a day.  Increasing in your du’a and asking Allah for success not only brings you the help of the Most High in getting to your goal, it also ensures it remains top of mind consistently.

A few of the best ways to increase the chances of a supplication being accepted:

  • Increase the frequency of raising your hands after salah and asking for your intended outcome.
  • Asking while you are in sujood during prayers.
  • Praying and supplicating in the last 3rd of the night during qiyam ul-layl.

When you make your du’a, be specific in what you ask for, and in turn, you will have a specific rather than a vague goal at the forefront of your mind which is important because one of the major causes of failure for resolutions themselves is lacking specificity.

4. Schedule Your Goal for Consistency

The most powerful impact on the accomplishment of any goal isn’t in having the optimal technique to achieve the goal – it is rather how consistent you are in trying to achieve it.  The time and frequency given to achievement regularly establishes habits that move from struggle to lifestyle. As mentioned in the previous section, day, time, and place were all important to getting the goal, habit, or task accomplished.

In order to be consistent, schedule it in your calendar of choice. When you schedule it, make sure you:

  • Pick the time you’re most energetic and likely to do it.
  • Work out with family, friends, and work that that time is blocked out and shouldn’t be interrupted.
  • Show up even if you’re tired and unmotivated – do something tiny, just to make sure you maintain the habit.

A Word on Automation

Much continues to be written about jobs lost to automation, but there are jobs we should love losing to automation, namely, work that we do that can be done freely or very cheaply by a program.  For example, I use Mint to capture all my accounts (bank, credit card, investments, etc) and rather than the old method of gathering receipts and tracking transactions, all of it is captured online and easily accessible from any device.

Let’s say you wanted to give to charity, and you wanted to give a recurring donation of $5 a month to keep MuslimMatters free – all you have to do is set up an automated recurring donation at the link and you’re done.

Likewise, if you’re saving money for a goal, you can easily do so by automating a specific amount of money coming out of your bank account into another account via the online banking tools your bank provides.  You can automate bill payments and other tasks to clear your schedule, achieve your goals, and keep you focused on working the most important items.

5. Focus on Behaviors, Not Outcomes

We’re often told we should set up SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.  However, one way to quickly fail a goal is by defining success according to outcomes, which aren’t necessarily in your hand.  For example, you might say as above:

“I want to be at 10% body fat in 9 months at 200 lbs.”

This is a SMART goal, and it’s what you should aim for, but when you assess success, you shouldn’t focus on the result as it’s somewhat outside the scope of your control. What you can do is focus on behaviors that help you achieve that goal, or get close to it, and then reset success around whether you’re completing your behaviors.  As an example:

“I want to complete the P90X workout and diet in 90 days.”

Here, you’re focused on generally accepted notions on behaviors that will get you close to your goal.  Why? Because you control your behaviors, but you can’t really control the outcomes. Reward yourself when you follow through on your behavior goals, and the day-to-day commitments you make.  If you find that compliance is good, and you’re getting closer to your goal, keep at it.

Read the following if you want to really understand the difference in depth.

6. Set Realistic Expectations – Plan to Fail, and Strategize Recovery

After too many failures, most people give up and fall off the wagon.  You will fail – we all do. Think of a time you’ve failed – what should you have done to get back on your goal and complete it?  Now reflect on the upcoming goal – reflect on the obstacles that will come your way and cause you to fail, and how when you do fail, you’ll get right back on it.

Once you fail, ask yourself, was it because of internal motivation, an external circumstance, a relationship where expectations weren’t made clear, poor estimation of effort – be honest, own what you can do better, and set about attempting to circumvent the obstacle and try again.

7. Assess Your Progress at Realistic Intervals

Once you’re tracking behaviors, simply mark down in an app or tracker that you completed the behavior.  Once you see you’re consistent in your behaviors over the long-term, you’ll have the ability to meaingfully review your plan and assess goal progress.

This is important because as you attempt to perform the work necessary to accomplish the goal, you’ll find that your initial assessments for completion could be wrong. Maybe you need more time, maybe you need a different time. Maybe you need a different process for accomplishing your goals. Assess your success at both weekly and monthly intervals, and ask yourself:

  • How often was I able to fulfill accomplish my required behaviors?  How often did I miss?
  • What was the reason for those misses?
  • Can I improve what I’m doing incrementally and change those failures to successes?  Or is the whole thing wrong and not working?

Don’t make changes when motivation dies after a few days.  Don’t make big changes on a weekly basis. Set an appointment on a weekly basis simply to review successes and challenges, making small tweaks while maintaining the overall plan. Set a monthly appointment with yourself to review and decide what you’ll change, if anything, in how you operate.

Be something of a Tiger mom about it – aim for 90% completion of behaviors, or an A grade, when assessing whether you’ve done well or not.  Anything below 90% is a failing grade.

(ok, so Tiger Moms want 100% or more, but let’s assume this is a somewhat forgiving Tiger Mom)

Putting it All Together

Set ‘Em Up

  • First, take a moment to reflect and be thankful to Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for what you’ve achieved, and reflect on what it is you’ve accomplished and what you’ve done in the way you worked and operated that helped you succeed.
  • Next, pick one goal and one goal alone to achieve, and use the SMART goal methodology to be clear about what it is.
  • Once this is done, make du’a with strong specificity on a regular basis during all times, and especially during the times when du’as are most likely to be accepted.

Knock ‘Em Down

  • Schedule your goal into a calendar, making sure you clear the time with any individuals who will be impacted by your changed routines and habits.
  • On a daily basis, focus on completing behaviors, not the outcomes you’re aiming for – the behaviors get you to the outcomes.
  • Plan on failing occasionally, especially a week after motivation disappears, and plan for how you’ll bounce back immediately and recover from it.
  • Finally, on a daily and weekly basis, assess yourself to see if you’re keeping on track with your behaviors and make adjustments to do better. On a monthly basis, assess how much closer you are to your goal, and if you’re making good progress, or if you’re not making good progress, and try to understand why and what adjustments you’ll make.

What goals do you plan to achieve in the coming year?

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Life

I Encountered A Predator On Instagram

A predator on Instagram posing as a hijab modeling consultant, going by the name of @samahnation, tried to prey on me- an underage, 16-year-old. We don’t know if the photos on Instagram page have been stolen from a victim. These predators operate under various names.

instagram predator
Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

It was a Wednesday night in April and as I was getting ready to go to bed, a direct message popped up in my Instagram inbox. A little background; my personal  account on Instagram is private and it is rare that I let anyone, whom I do not know, follow me. But seeing that this was a grown “woman” with a baby and I had at least seven mutual friends, I let her follow me. 

I will say, I was definitely in the wrong to respond to someone I didn’t personally know. Somehow I thought her 105K followers gave her credibility. 

I was gravely mistaken. 

I opened the direct message. 

She had sent me a message complimenting me. This wasn’t new to me because I often get messages with compliments about my appearance from friends — we are teenagers. However, the stark difference was that I didn’t know this person at all. (I came to learn that these types of messages can go under the category of grooming). After complimenting me, she asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company. 

Many young women are targeted by predators on Instagram. Here is my story. 'After complimenting me, 'she' asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.'Click To Tweet

I replied, saying that if I had more details I’d consult with my parents and give her an answer the next morning; to which she responded demanding she must have an answer the same night as she had other offers to make. 

I then went to ask my mother. Mama was sick with the flu, quite woozy, but despite her state she said,

“this sounds like a scam to me…”.



I decided to play along with it and test her. 

I told @samahnation to tell me more and how I could verify her and her company. She then sent me numerous copied and pasted answers —hecka long— about how I could trust her; how the company would pay me and how they will still make money in the meantime. 

hijab modeling scam

Thankfully, I was apprehensive during the entire ordeal, but as you can see, this type of manipulation is so real and possible for young women and girls to fall prey. This experience was honestly quite scary and jarring for me. I was so easily distracted by what she was portraying herself as on her profile. She had a GoFundMe for a masjid in her bio and posts of photos depicting her love for her baby.
predator

I began to do some research. I stumbled upon an article about a ‘Hijab House’ model scam. Using the title of ‘consultant director’ for a well-known hijab company, Hijab House, predators were allegedly preying on young girls in Australia. Hijab House has denied any link to this scam. 

Hijab House model scam

 

The predator went as far as to blackmail and pressure their victims into sending nude photos, or doing crazy things like smelling shoes! Eerily enough, @samahnation’s Instagram bio stated that she was based in Melbourne, Australia.


The more I engaged with this predator, the more ludicrous their responses and questions got. And this happened within the span of 24 hours. 

She went as far as to ask me if I would answer questions for a survey, saying all that mattered was honesty and that the purpose of the survey was to make me uncomfortable to see if I “won’t fall under pressure.”

Clearly, this last statement about being a speech analysis specialist was a complete fabrication. Again, may I reiterate that even older people can fall prey. You don’t have to be young and impressionable, these manipulative perpetrators will do anything to get what they want.



As shown below, the situation reached an obscene level of ridiculousness. You can see clear attempts to gaslight me and pressure me into answering or changing my stance on my replies.


This was the last thing I said to the predator before I blocked and reported them in an attempt to get them caught. Observe how as soon as I called this person out they immediately became defensive and tried to manipulate me into thinking that what they were doing and asking me was completely normal- that I was the crazy one for asking for proof. 

Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They had asked me questions I found too lewd to even answer or take screenshots of.

This bizarre encounter was honestly astonishing. I do not even know if I was talking to a man or a woman.

Alhamdullilah, I am so glad because even if I was a little bit gullible, I was aware enough about predatory behavior that I didn’t fall victim to this perpetrator. I am especially grateful for my mother, who has educated me about predators like this from a very young age; whom even in her drowsy state was able to tell me it was a preposterous scam.

I could have been blackmailed.

Talk to your parents or a trusted adult

I am grateful for having an open channel of communication, that my relationship with my mother is based on trust and I could go to her when this occurred. This is a reminder and a learning opportunity for all of us how these scary things can happen to anyone. We must learn how to take caution and protect ourselves and our (underage) loved ones against such situations.

Sis, please talk to your parents. They love you and will be your first line of defense.

Grooming

Grooming is a very common tactic online predators use to gain the trust of their victim. According to InternetSafety101, young people put themselves at great risk by communicating online with individuals they do not know on a personal level. “Internet predators intentionally access sites that children commonly visit and can even search for potential victims by location or interest.

If a predator is already communicating with a child, he or she can piece together clues from what the child mentions while online, including parents’ names, where the child goes to school, and how far away the child lives from a certain landmark, store, or other location.
Online grooming is a process which can take place in a short time or over an extended period of time. Initial conversations online can appear innocent, but often involve some level of deception. As the predator (usually an adult) attempts to establish a relationship to gain a child’s trust, he may initially lie about his age or may never reveal his real age to the child, even after forming an established online relationship. Often, the groomer will know popular music artists, clothing trends, sports team information, or another activity or hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate it to the child.”

These tactics lead children and teens to believe that no one else can understand them or their situation like the groomer. After the child’s trust develops, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex. Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior.

They also flatter and compliment the child excessively and manipulate a child’s trust by relating to emotions and insecurities and affirming the child’s feelings and choices.

Predators will:

* Prey on teen’s desire for romance, adventure, and sexual information.
* Develop trust and secrecy: manipulate child by listening to and sympathizing with child’s problems and insecurities.
* Affirm feelings and choices of child.
* Exploit natural sexual curiosities of child.
* Ease inhibitions by gradually introducing sex into conversations or exposing them to pornography.
* Flatter and compliment the child excessively, send gifts, and invest time, money, and energy to groom the child.
* Develop an online relationship that is romantic, controlling, and upon which the child becomes dependent.
* Drive a wedge between the child and his/her parents and friends.
* Make promises of an exciting, stress-free life, tailored to the youth’s desire.
* Make threats, and often will use child pornography featuring their victims to blackmail them into silence.”

Gaslighting 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? 

According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. “Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind,” writes Dr Stephanie Sarkis. 

Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting? Click To Tweet

Recognizing signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting:

Second guessing. Are you constantly second guessing yourself when talking to this person or questioning your own morals that you wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise? For example, when this person popped up in my inbox I wouldn’t have thought twice about blocking or just deleting the message if it was a man but, since it seemed to be a woman I was duped into thinking that it was more acceptable or I could trust them more.

Feeling as if you are being too sensitive. Again I cannot emphasize this enough that you must trust your instincts, if you are feeling uncomfortable and your internal alarm bells are ringing- listen to them! Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting or manipulation. 

Feeling constantly confused. Another sign that you may be falling victim to gas lighting is when you are constantly confused and second guessing your thoughts and opinions.

Three takeaways:

1. Trust your instincts (I’m going to reiterate this, always trust your gut feeling, if you feel like you are uncomfortable whether it’s a situation you are in or if you don’t have a good feeling while talking to a certain person I advise you exit the chat or don’t answer in the first place.)
2. Never answer to someone whom you don’t know. I will say this was my first and biggest mistake that I have made: allowing this person’s messages into my inbox, and replying to their ridiculous claims and questions. Now that I think about it I don’t even know if this was a woman or not.
3. Set your boundaries! This is probably the most important tip to take away from this article. Setting up your boundaries from the beginning is so important. Whether it is a friend, partner or colleague, if you do not set your boundaries from the beginning of your interaction or relationship with that person; people will not respect your limits and choices later on. Especially if your boundaries have to do with religion, moral compasses, or even specific pet peeves you have. I cannot emphasize how much boundaries matter when it comes to any daily interaction you may have in your daily life.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

#Life

Convert Story: To Ask Or Not to Ask, That is the Question

covery islam story
Support MuslimMatters for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

“How did you convert to Islam” is a question that is commonly asked to those who convert to Islam. While the short answer to this question is, “I said shahada”, the long (and more detailed) answer is one that is commonly expected.

It is important to acknowledge that the majority of “born Muslims” who ask this question do such out of good intentions. For this reason, I wrote this piece out of a place of love and not out of a place of judgment or hatred. While it is important for “born Muslims” to be mindful of how they ask this question, it is equally important for converts to not hold ill will towards born Muslims who ask this question. Due to the fact that Islamophobia is rampant in both the media and political discourse, many “born Muslims” are naturally shocked and emotional when they meet people who accept Islam. Some “born Muslims” have also had limited interactions with converts and therefore, to them, it is not only shocking for them to meet converts, but they are genuinely unaware of certain etiquettes when it comes to asking a convert for his or her story.

In this piece, I am going to write about a pet peeve that is shared among many Muslim converts. While I cannot speak for every single convert, I can say that based on innumerable conversations I have had with fellow converts, there is one thing most of us agree on and it is this; it is rude to ask a convert about his or her conversion story when you haven’t built a relationship with the convert. This piece will explain why many converts consider such a question to be intrusive. The purpose of this article is to better educate the “born Muslim” community on how they can do a better job in support of converts to Islam. In this piece, I will break down the reasons why this question can come off as intrusive if it isn’t asked in a proper manner. I will also include personal anecdotes to support my position.

I would like to conclude by saying that I do not discourage “born Muslims” from asking this question entirely, rather I am merely arguing that this question should be asked with the best of adab.

Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:  “Part of a person’s being a good Muslim is leaving alone that which does not concern him.” (Tirmidhi) For this reason, such a question should be asked for purpose and it should be done with the best of manners. This is supported by the fact that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said, “I have been sent to perfect good character.” (Al Muwatta)

Note: For the sake of avoiding confusion, the term “born Muslim” is defined as anyone who was brought up in a Muslim household.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask about the person’s personal relationship with God

Within the context of a friendship, it is generally understood that friends will share personal details with each other. However, it is also generally understood that it is rude to ask people you just met personal questions. To ask a new acquaintance a personal question in most cases comes off as intrusive. This is especially the case in which you ask a person about his or her relationship with God.

For example, there are women who do not wear hijab. Even if we do (for a moment) ignore the Islamic ruling concerning hijab, we should all agree that a woman’s reason for wearing (or not wearing) hijab is a personal matter that is between said woman and God. If one was to ask a woman who doesn’t wear hijab why she doesn’t wear it, that would be intrusive because such a question would involve interrogating said woman about her relationship with God.

Another example concerns a married couple. If one was to meet a married person for the first time, it can be considered rude to ask said person about his or her relationship with his or her spouse.

When one asks a convert about his or her choice to convert, one is literally asking said convert about his or her relationship with God.

I am not saying that it is wrong in all cases to ask such a question. However, one should be mindful of the fact that because this is a personal question, one should have at least have built some form of a friendship with said person before asking.

convert friendship hugs

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is another way of asking, “Why do you believe in Islam?”

Many people identify to a faith tradition because it was part of their upbringing. If you were to ask a person who was born Muslim, “why are you Muslim?” you might hear said Muslim respond with, “I am Muslim because I was raised Muslim” and you wouldn’t hear a detailed answer beyond this.

In most cases, a convert to Islam (or any other religion) did such after research and critical thinking. To convert to a new religion involves not only deep thinking but a willingness to step into the unknown.

I have on many occasions told my story to people. In most cases I will ask the person “why do you believe in Islam?” I am then disappointed when I find out that the only reason the person is Muslim is due to upbringing. While I am not saying that said person’s faith is invalid or less than mine, a person who only identifies with a religion due to upbringing is a person who didn’t engage in critical thinking.

Any relationship should be built upon equality and mutual benefit. If I as a convert am able to provide a well thought out answer as to why I believe in Islam, I expect a well thought out answer to the same question from the person who initially asked me.

Again, while I am not saying it is wrong in all cases to ask, a born Muslim should ask himself or herself “why do I believe in Islam?” In my opinion, there are many who are born into Muslim families who don’t truly believe until later in their lives. Those Muslims in my opinion (and mine alone) are similar to converts.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to perform labor.

In some cases, “born Muslims” expect converts to tell their stories. I can remember a few incidents in which I have been asked to tell my story and I politely declined. In response, the person became angry. This to me is a symptom of entitlement. Nobody is entitled to know anything about anyone else (aside from people with whom one has a natural relationship with).

In addition, one should be cognizant of the fact that converts typically get asked this question repeatedly. Thus after a significant amount of time, a convert is prone to get tired of repeating the same question over again repeatedly. Naturally, it can become exhausting eventually.

While I do not believe it is wrong to ask this question in all cases, one should not ask this question to a convert from a place of entitlement. I can think of cases where I have been asked this question by “born Muslims” and when I have refused to provide an answer, they have gotten angry at me. This is entitlement.

To ask a convert “Why did you convert?” is to ask the convert to explain his or her personal life.

Backbiting is one of the worst sins in Islam. Another major sin is to disrespect one’s parents. Thus we can conclude that backbiting about one’s parents is a huge sin.

This is evidenced by the fact that Allah has said (ﷻ) “We have enjoined on humankind kindness to parents.” (Quran 29:8)

A typical follow-up question to “Why did you convert?” is “How did your parents react?” This in many cases puts the convert in a position where one may feel pressured to mention some negative details about his or her parents. In Islam, parents are to be respected, even if they aren’t Muslim.

Before asking a convert this question, one should be mindful of not putting unnecessary pressure on the convert to commit this injustice.

convert friendship

Cases when it is appropriate to ask

However, I do maintain a firm belief that in any true friendship, things will be shared. I don’t think it is wrong in itself to ask a convert about his or her story provided that there already exists a relationship where personal information can be shared. It is highly suggested to hang out with the person first and then ask the convert for his or her story.

As a personal rule of mine, unless I have hung out with the person one on one at least once (or a few times in group gatherings) I don’t tell any born Muslims my conversion story. Naturally, I only share personal details with people I consider to be a friend. If I would hang out with the person, I consider that person to be a friend.

The reason I am also hesitant to share my story with just anyone who asks me is because I can think of countless cases of when I have shared my story to people I have never seen or heard from again. I choose to exert my agency to share personal details of my life to people who I consider to be part of my life. While many Muslims are happy when people convert, many Muslims also fail to provide any form of support for said convert after conversion. I have seen too many cases of when a person recites shahadah, people pull their phones out to record it, but very few will give the convert his or her number. I genuinely believe that many “born Muslims” fail to see the big picture in this regard.

Before asking a convert for his or her story, you should ask yourself if you are comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person. If you are not comfortable sharing personal details of your life to that person, there is nothing wrong with that. However, you shouldn’t expect the convert to share personal details if you aren’t comfortable sharing personal details. Even if you have built a close friendship with someone, you still aren’t expected to share every detail of your life to someone. Even if you consider a convert to be a close friend, you should still respect a convert’s wishes to not share his or her story.

Conclusion

While I have addressed concerns about the tendency of “born Muslims” to ask converts about their journeys, I want to acknowledge that most people have good intentions. In Islam, the natural state of any person is one of righteousness.

I firmly believe that a friendship that isn’t built on trust and the sharing of personal information isn’t a genuine friendship. Therefore the key term in this context is “friend”. If you wish to ask a convert his or her story, please make sure the following conditions are met:

  1. You are already friends with the convert to a point where asking a convert about his or her relationship with God isn’t an intrusive question. Ask yourself, “Are we close enough where we can share other personal details of our lives with each other?”
  2. You have a well thought out reason as to why you believe in Islam.
  3. You don’t feel entitled to know about the convert’s journey and that you will allow the convert to choose not to share such information if the convert doesn’t wish to.
  4. You don’t probe into the convert’s relationships with other people.
  5. You aren’t just asking the question to somehow feel validated about your belief in Islam.

Support Our Dawah for Just $2 a Month

MuslimMatters has been a free service to the community since 2007. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Continue Reading

Trending