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6 Things That Have Helped Me Raise My Young Muslim Girls in the West

by in Identity on 24th October, 2019

As a mum of three passionate and fiery girls, it didnt take long for me to start questioning, how I would raise them to be strong and confident in their Islamic identity. An white revert to Islam, I have frequently grappled with my sense of self. Shredding off the old, embracing the new, basking in the spiritual highs, whilst simultaneously looming in the shadows, as I searched for that identity to call my own. 

I have been fortunate enough to find myself surrounded by amazing Muslim women, women who gently guided and inspired me, who allowed me to flourish whilst reminding me constantly of Allah. Through regular meetings with them and other sweet souls that I have met along the way, I have navigated the parts of myself that I didnt understand, Ive formed a quiet confidence in who I am and what my purpose is. But even then, I still find myself in certain spaces feeling somewhat out of place, void of the freedom to truly discover what it means to be a white British Muslim mother. Outside of the comfort that the city walls give, I feel the glances, the curiosity, the fear and it is then, that I wish Id had the opportunities to embrace who I am on another level. On a more creative level because that’s who I am at heart.

I value the unpicking of who I am and shaping that meaning through words, art, drama, song, movement. As someone with a background in performative arts, I know how transformative it can be to emerge and explore yourself in an amplified space, to find that inner voice and then offer it to the world. 

I value the times in my life when I have been able to experiment with my inner my voice on stage, in workshops, as a director or an arts facilitator and now as a writer, in these roles I’ve been able to create and be recreated. These moments throughout my life have shaped the mother that I have become and they heavily influence how I hope to raise my daughters. 

I often wondered how I could help to light this creative flame within my daughters, helping them to grow with a strong identity so they could be free to show up as themselves in all their wholeness. I began consciously crafting our days, our experiences, our learning, together, as a family. I thought about how precious their time is, how quickly it will slip through our fingers and how important it is not to simply fill it for the sake of filling it. So I invest in seeking out richness in the diversity and creativity that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by in London.

For some time now I’ve shared parts of my journey with the online community that I have met and here are a few reflections on the things we do along with our why. Our life may not be for everyone but our life is for us.

Being mindful and selective about the people we spend our time with 

The company that we keep is so important andvthis applies to myself and the children, even more so. I am conscious of who I allow into their lives and I always ask myself, do these people bring out the best in us, do they invite us to show up as our better selves, are their values in line with ours? Does spending time with them open the doors for us to contribute beautifully to their lives and nourish our own? It doesnt mean that every person you spend time with has to be your families perfect fit because exposing them to a range of different children and adults in the long term is beneficial for their understanding of the world  and I fully believe we can gain many gifts from all people BUT the company we keep helps us form and shape our identity. Being with others also helps us understand our place in the world and so I want to offer them the best in the company we keep. 

Your best friend is the one who: seeing him reminds you of Allah, speaking to him increases your knowledge, and his actions remind you it the hereafter. (Al-Muhasibi)

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Building and nurturing community 

Building community surrounds you with like minded souls that you can connect with, that you dont need to feel otherwith, that you can share with, inspire and be free to explore. I also feel it’s important to teach our children that they are one person within an intricate web, we need to be looking at how we can contribute on a wider level, how we can give from a good place. Our religion is one that shows us there is much benefit and indeed blessing from joining hands with others. That being said, this does not mean I only want my children mixing with Muslims, quite the opposite. I want them to see the manifestation of we are nations and tribes that should know one another.So I want them to see that community is about commonality and shared experiences, which dont always need to include faith but it does need to be a safe space for them to own who they are without fear or judgment. 

Homeschooling 

We chose to take the road less travelled and home educate our children. This means that we can curate a curriculum and learning environment that nourishes who they are very specifically. It means that we can prioritise Islamic values and studies and focus on special events in our calendar (like Ramadan). The girls are free to explore their own learning and be as creative as they like.

Taking them to Halaqah’s and events that might not ordinarily seem ‘child friendly’ 

My spiritual growth is important and its vital that they see that this is something I am willing to invest my time in whether that be at home or through external means like halqahs. So if it’s appropriate, I take my children with me whether they will understand the content or not. They will gain so much from the environment and you would be surprised what nuggets of wisdom they collect along the way, just by being present. 

Live art, exhibitions and theatre 

To be creative you need to see that there is a creative world out there, one that allows for multiple forms of expression, one that can make bold statements, spark the beginnings of change or simply to be enjoyed as beauty. We often go to theatre performance, art installations, street shows or quirky exhibitions. 

I have always loved seeking out creative work that is outside of the mainstream whethet that be in the form of a back street gallery or a fringe piece of theatre as opposed to the bright lights and stereotypes that can be found on the west end. I like the underrated performances that are a whisper rather than a roar, the creative places that I stumble across rather than seek out. As with most things in my life, my girls are with me every step of the way, which means if I am touched by something, in awe of something or challenged by something, they see that and it forms a discussion that we can unpick together. 

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We are curious, courageous, determined, we seek knowledge through any means made possible. We know that the world is vast, that amongst us are many and from all we can gain so much. We know a few numbers, some basic sums, the days, months and seasons that form the cycle of our day to day. We know that 'A' is for Apple but it can also be for 'Antagonist' or 'Acrobat' or 'Antartica' (which is a continent by the way, and we know that too!) We are free, we are players, we are entertainers, sisters and very good friends. We care about people, about charity about justice. We might not always get it right but we aren't afraid to get it wrong. We are dancers and singers and storytellers. We know a little Arabic, we know a little French and we like to bake banana bread on rainy days at home. We are different and dynamic and we go with the flow (unless it's bedtime) then we really can show that we are strong willed and sure of what we want and what we don't. We are mighty and we're passionate and we never want to stop. We are proud of what we're becoming but 'Invisible' we are not. #homeeducated #homeschooled #homeschool #invisiblechildren #dontthinkso #dispatches #skippingschool #yesplease #lifelearning #justyouwatch

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Poetry inspired ballet for Muslim girls 

About a year ago we were blessed to find Grace & Poise Academy who offer Muslim Ballet for young girls. It felt like a dream come true that such a space has been created where they could combine two incredible art forms within the bounds of our islamic identity. They have had the opportunity to explore rich and inspiring texts as they develop their ballet technique which is practiced to spoken word poetry and not music, catering to and respecting the vast Muslim audience. This nurtured space has been a gem for us, somewhere that they can explore the connection of mind, body and soul, whilst their privacy and modesty has not needed to be compromised. And what little girl doesnt want to flourish into a beautiful ballerina?

All of these things I try to implement because ultimately I want my daughters to live a rich and fulfilling life that centres around our purpose, to worship Allah SWT, to please him and through that worship, bring some good to the world in which we live. We can and should strive for excellence in all that we do and encourage our children to do the same, they are an Amanah to us and despite how much we expose them to, or how consciously or creatively we raise them, the true essence of their identity is in the hands of Allah. 

Raising strong and confident girls in this current climate truly starts with raising ourselves. Are we, as mothers, where we want to be? Do we know ourselves or are we willing to afford the vulnerability to try? One thing is for sure, we have little eyes watching us, its so important that we lift the veil and show them that there is something of worth to see. It’s so important that we nourish our own selves and go on the journey with them. 

May Allah bless all mothers as they navigate this journey of motherhood and may He allow us the ability to see the strength and beauty that lies in our islamic identity. May He give us the tools and the vision to be open and to support us in raising a generation of Muslims who know and love who they are. Ameen. 

Sarah Yataghane

Sarah Yataghane

A home educating mama of 3 girls inviting you on a journey through motherhood & beyond. Passionate about writing, community & nurturing creativity. Instagram: @a_bitofpink