After being homeschooled his whole life, Hina Khan-Mukhtar’s youngest son began public high school for the first time ever. Here is some of the advice she gave him.
As he stepped out of my car and began his first walk to California High School, I recited the Ayat-ul-Kursi (Verse of the Throne) over him, said “Bismillah” (in the Name of God) aloud, told him to call on Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) at all times, to remember everything we’ve taught him, and to try to gain the most benefit in his time spent here. He smiled, nodded his head, swung his backpack onto his shoulder, and turned away from me to walk into a world where I could no longer follow.
Sr. Hina’s Advice for Coping With High School
I hope you make friends in school, but know that for the most part, the kids you meet will be your classmates and your acquaintances, not your “friends”. Your friends are people with whom you share similar values, and you have already been blessed with plenty of good ones, alhamdulillah. If you don’t make more friends in high school, that’s perfectly okay…making friends is not your primary goal nor is it your major need.
Know that in every moment of your life, you are either influencing others or others are influencing you. That’s it. It’s either one or the other; there’s no third option. The questions to always ask yourself are — Am I benefiting the world around me? Do I like who I’m becoming right now? Would the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) be proud to call me one of his own?
Be kind and friendly with everyone — but not with bullies. Bullies don’t respond to kindness; they only respond to boundaries. Don’t hesitate to speak aggressively to anyone who is trying to intimidate you. You’ll be surprised how quickly they’ll back down and (unfortunately) move onto someone else.
4. Dealing with Haraam
Remember that the eyes and the ears and the mouth are all gateways to the heart…and we want to try our best to get out of this world with pure hearts that reflect only Allah. When you see the haraam (prohibited) — and you will! — look away, lower the gaze. When you hear filth and profanity and vulgar discussions about the opposite gender, act bored. Most people just want an audience; when they see that you’re not interested, they’ll stop trying to impress you. And after hearing cussing and swearing from pretty much everyone around you, you too will one day be tempted to drop an F-bomb. Don’t. Dare to be different instead.
5. Dealing With Parents
You will hear some kids constantly denigrating their parents. It’s generally considered “uncool” at this age to show love or respect for your parents. You’ll hear moms referred to as “stupid” and dads referred to as “a-holes”. If someone seems genuinely upset about something that they perceive to be an injustice, you can sympathize with them, but don’t ever let yourself be tempted to throw your own parents under the bus in an attempt to show others camaraderie and “understanding”. And don’t ever inadvertently encourage anyone else to be disrespectful of the very people who gave birth to them.
6. How to Study Well
Sit at the front of the class where you can focus on the board and hear the teacher clearly. The “cool kids” tend to want to sit in the back where it’s easier to get away with not paying attention. The ones who want A’s prefer to be where they can listen and focus. Set yourself up for success. And always remember the Hadith of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer, so wherever he finds it, he has a right to it.” Claim that beneficial knowledge, and don’t let anyone dare to steal it from you!
7. Respecting Teachers
Always greet and acknowledge your teachers. If you enjoyed a particular lesson or class, be sure to let them know. They’re working hard, and nothing makes them happier than knowing their students appreciate them and feel they are benefiting. When you go to the front office to pray, don’t just silently pass by the ladies at the front desk on your way to the conference room. Smile and say hello and ask them how their day is going. The same goes for taking the time to recognise the custodial staff, crossing guards, and parent volunteers. Adab (good manners) will earn you the respect of everyone, and it will get you far in life.
8. No Phone?
If anyone ever teases you for having a “lame” flip phone instead of a smartphone like “everyone else has”, let them know that you have been promised the same thing that your older brothers were promised — the latest iPhone on the day you graduate from high school and not a moment sooner. If anyone makes fun of you, just shrug and say, “Yeah, well, those are my parents’ rules — what can I do?” You don’t need to explain or defend or justify anything. At the end of the day, even your peers understand authority, and they will respect the fact that you have no choice but to acquiesce to it.
9. Feel Comfortable Sharing
If you ever feel like you can’t talk to me about something that’s bothering you, know that your father and brothers are there for you as well. We may not always be able to solve your problems (and you may not even want us to), but sometimes it just helps to get it out of your system by sharing your thoughts and anxieties with others. We can offer advice based on our own life experiences, or we can just listen. But remember that we’re on Team Raahim! We’re always here for you, insha’Allah, and you’re always in our duas.
10. Final Advice
Remember the advice that Shaykh So-and-So gave you about high school — befriend “the academically-oriented kids”, study hard, get good grades, work out at least three times a week, avoid processed foods, and call on Allah for His Help at every turn.
With gratitude to Hina Khan-Mukhtar.