IZFNA Sports: Importance of Family Exercise

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aqeela Naqvi

Aqeela-NaqviImam-e-Zamana Foundation of North America (IZFNA) held their annual picnic and sports day this weekend in Freehold, NJ. There was face painting, nail and mehndi art, falooda and nacho/cheese stands, sports games, as well as sprints and sack races for boys and girls ages 3-14. Though the picnic provided all sorts of fun, the sports day aspect may be singled out as the most commendable part. It signals for the stressing of the importance of physical activity to the coming Muslim generation. Instead of allowing our children to fall completely into the ‘technology craze’, we must find time to invite them towards natural pleasures, such as running, biking, hiking, swimming, etc. These practices are important because since they are group activities, and not individual ones (such as video games and television shows tend to be), they can be done as a family.

When we teach our children to appreciate the beauty of nature, and turn “physical activity” into “family bonding time”, we are not only setting the stage for a growth in their imaginations (by teaching them to have fun creatively, instead of depending on a computer software); but we are also teaching them to see being healthy as fun, and not a chore. They will begin to associate innovative physical activity and ‘playing games as a family’ with fond and heartwarming memories. Not only will this serve to make our future generation healthier and more creative, but it will also serve to bring families together in a fun and simple manner—a bonding process that is greatly needed, especially in our fast-paced world.

If an appreciation for simplicity, and gratitude for the beautiful natural blessings Allah (swt) has given us, is instilled in our children at a young age, it can be hoped that lasting effects will be seen as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. Imam Jafar as-Sadiq (a.s.) has said: “Up to seven years of age, a child should play; for another seven years, he should be taught how to read and write; and for still another seven years, he should learn about lawful and unlawful things.” Thus, if we allow our children to play and grow and explore the world at a young age (such as by involving them in fun physical activities), then Insha’Allah as they grow older, they will use those imaginative and cherished family experiences as stepping stones towards: gaining an appreciation for family togetherness, trusting their parents as their guides and eventual companions, and displaying an eagerness to join their family unit on a group (rather than strictly individual) journey towards learning more about Islam.

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Unity in Diversity

July 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aqeela Naqvi

TMO Editor’s Note:  This is the first-place essay, by Aqeela Naqvi.

COLOR Aqeela NaqviThe date is December 5, 2000, my birthday. I walk through the hallways to my third grade classroom, trying not to notice the butterflies in my stomach. People turn to say “Hi” and do a double-take. I walk into my classroom; even my teacher gives me a funny look. “Aqeela?” I look up at her and try to control the nervousness in my voice as I say “Good morning.” Throughout the day, some of my classmates shoot indiscreet glances in my direction, while others stare shamelessly. Today is the first day I began wearing the Hijab, a head-covering that is required to be worn in my religion for all girls at the age of nine. Today, I walked into school with palms sweating, ears burning, and a heartbeat so loud it could be heard a mile away.

It has been nearly nine years since that day – nine years in which I have received stares for looking different, been called “towel-head” and “terrorist,” been judged based on first impressions, and was once, after September 11th, a ten-year old scared to walk out her front door simply because of a cloth on her head. Throughout my life, I had always assumed that prejudice against people of other backgrounds was something that existed in the past: something that had been buried long ago by the dreams of people such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who believed in a day where all people would be judged solely on the content of their character. It was not until I began to wear a hijab, however, and began to experience blatant discrimination, that I realized that the works of past human rights activists had not completely healed the defects in society–they had simply covered its wounds with bandages that were slowly beginning to peel away.

From the day I wrapped a scarf around my head, “diverse” became my middle name. The more I was told that I couldn’t participate in certain activities, the more involved in them I became. I strove to prove that no matter how different I looked, I was still the same as everyone else. I could still participate in athletic activities; I could still be involved in public speaking; I could still perform community service activities; I could still be me. I began to understand that Society was a machine that attempted to create perfect porcelain dolls: the chipped, the flawed, the ones that were the wrong shade or the wrong size, the ones that were different, were all regarded as useless and thrown aside. I understood that I was seen as one of those throwaway dolls, but I refused to let society’s definition of me as such rule my life.

When I first began wearing a hijab, that cold December day in third grade, I did not fully understand its symbolism. I took it simply as something I had to do for my religion. As the years passed, I slowly became involved in my local community, donating my time and energy to volunteer at places such as my local soup kitchen, and getting involved in interfaith dialogue and charitable opportunities, and I began to realize that the hijab I wore on my head was not just a cloth; it was a mark of my strength.

It forced the people I encountered to get to know and understand me on a mental level before they judged me on a physical level. To me, everything that the hijab entails, the long sleeves and pants, the piece of cloth I wrap around my head, the aura of modesty – is all a sign of inner beauty. I have come to believe that all of us, regardless of our race or religion, have our own “hijabs” that set us apart from the crowd. All of us come from different backgrounds and have different experiences that cause the canvas of our lives to hold colors unique from everyone else. We all have a hijab that allows each and every one of us, down to the most fragile and faded porcelain doll, to have something that makes us absolutely and irreplaceably beautiful.

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