Building Strong Families with Sr. Marzia Hassan
“You presume you are a small entity, but within you is enfolded the entire Universe. Your sickness is from you, but you do not perceive it. Your remedy is within you, but you do not sense it.”
With these deep thoughts from Imam Ali (a.s.), Sr. Marzia Hassan began a whirlwind weekend in New York. After arriving in the early evening hours on Friday, October 27, 2017, Sr. Marzia came straight from the airport to Mehfil-e-Panjatan in Elmont, NY, where she was surrounded by about 50 women, ages 16-60, eager to hear her thoughts on, “Overcoming Negative Thinking and Practicing Mental Wellbeing”.
An interactive and thought-provoking discussion ensued, with many lively examples, both from the audience and from Sr. Marzia. Sr. Marzia explained that we have approximately 60,000 thoughts per day – participants were shocked to hear that more than 90% of these thoughts are negative!
Key learnings from the session included the following:
- Notice Your Thinking – This is the first step. Once you notice your negative thoughts, they lose some of their power.
- Dream Big – What do you have to lose? More importantly, what do you stand to gain?
- Take Opportunities – We often overthink life. Instead, just go for it!
Overall, it was a very fruitful session, with participants feeling empowered to make real changes in their own lives. What a great start to the weekend!
Saturday found us at the Hyatt Place in Garden City, NY, for a parenting session entitled “Too Much of a Good Thing: Raising Responsible Adults in an Age of Affluence and Indulgence”.
The session began with the proclamation that “Parenting is hard, not complicated.” Participants discussed how we have made parenting more complicated today because we have lost sight of our ultimate goal, which is to lay the foundation for our children to reach the doors of Jannat, Insha’allah. We should use this goal to guide us as we encounter difficult situations in our parenting journeys.
The group had a robust discussion on the many issues that our children face today, as well as understanding why material success has not resulted in happier children with stronger values.
After discussing all the issues, the session concluded by covering the steps that parents can take to help raise responsible adults.
- Recognize that though our children may be influenced by media and peers in superficial areas such as fashion and lexicon, parents hold the most influence for them in the areas that matter, such as values and religion.
- Help our children to focus on the process, instead of the outcome. If our children learn the value of hard work, success will take care of itself.
- Teach our children life skills, and raise them to be critical thinkers.
- Ensure our children understand (and are content with the fact) that if they are true to themselves, they will never be part of the majority.
After concluding the parenting workshop, we welcomed an excited group of youth, who packed the room to capacity. They were eager to participate in an evening session entitled “A Fine Balance: Being Muslim in America”, co-facilitated by Sr. Marzia and her daughter, Sr. Sara Hassan.
The session began with a quick ice-breaker, and then participants jumped straight into table discussions on the similarities and differences between Western values and Islamic values. We heard that in areas where these values conflict, our youth really struggle. They often feel that they are stuck with an “all or nothing” choice, and even more problematic is that they find it extremely difficult to find role models within our community who they can look up to as functioning well in the mainstream, while still holding fast to their values.
Another area of concern for them was what to do when faced with questions about their faith or beliefs. Sr. Marzia took the time to lead them through a confidence-building exercise and also reassured them that they should not feel the burden of constantly defending their beliefs or the actions of every Muslim. Alhamdulillah, based on the event surveys, this was the most valuable portion of the program for the majority of participants. One participant said that as a result of the session they will now “blame the religionless, and stand strong and confident in myself and my values.”
Needless to say, the program continued well past the end time, with participants feeling empowered to face the issues that they struggle with their school, work and social lives. “I really appreciated the open, interactive discussion, without judgment. The chosen topics were very important and relevant to life for the youth in America,” said one participant. Another shared that the most important part of the program for them was, “having a platform for the youth to express their thoughts/feelings about topics that are not usually discussed.”
On Sunday, we gathered at Al-Husseini Madressa Center in Woodside, NY, for our fourth and final program of the weekend. Geared towards madressa parents, the session was titled, “How to be an Askable Adult: Having Difficult Conversations about Sensitive Topics”. We covered a lot of ground during the session, including a review of specific scenarios, and a detailed discussion of Sr. Marzia’s youth survey results. The overall message was that there is no one “talk”, just an ongoing conversation with our children. If we don’t have regular discussions with our children, ours is the only voice missing from the conversation. In addition, speaking about sensitive subjects at home is actually a protective factor when determining the likelihood of our children engaging in undesirable activities. Overall, parents walked away with the understanding that it matters less what you say, and more than you are willing to have the conversation.
The jam-packed weekend with Sr. Marzia was educational and inspiring. Workshop participants left with practical tools that can be easily implemented to make lasting change. Many thanks to Sr. Marzia for all of her efforts. New York cannot wait to have you back again!