A Family of Authors
By Nazli Currim

Dilara Hafiz and her talented children

Dilara Hafiz and her children, Yasmine, 16, and Imran, 15, who reside in Paradise Valley, Arizona, have a revolutionary, first of its kind book for the genre of Muslim teens. The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook is an engaging book packed with information on Islam as well as quizzes, pictures, colorful art, and humor. The teenager will find it difficult to gravitate away from it, and the handbook may very well find its way on the night stand, accessible for quick references in a language that the teens can identify with, and an approach which can help them develop confidence and take pride in their Muslim heritage.
The authors have used Abdullah Ali’s 1984 translation and Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s 2001 edition translation of the Holy Qur’an. The Handbook has included results of questionnaires sent to American Muslin teens across the nation living in the era of post 9/11. A medley of their quotes, thoughts, opinions and views intermingle with the dictates of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, makes it interestingly informative, thought provoking and introspective.
As Asma Gul Hasan, author of American Muslims: The New Generation, Why I am a Muslim: An American Odyssey says in the book’s foreword, “The Handbook cannot make decisions for you, but it can give you the tools and judgment every young Muslim - actually every person - needs to make a decision for themselves.”
Here are some excerpts from the interview of the author family.
What inspired you to write this book? What was your main objective, your vision?
Yasmine: We were at Barnes & Nobles and I was looking in the teen’s section. There were so many books directed to teenagers coming from Christianity and Judaism and we thought about it and decided that we can write a book for the Muslim teens. We started by sending out a survey.
Dilara: There was a need for a book and based on the results of the survey/questionnaire, a need for discussion, to help so many teenagers to become interested in Islam
Imran: We wanted Islam to be fun, to take pride in our faith. A lot of modern Muslim teens leave their religion at the doorstep of their mosque or home, they don’t advertise they are Muslims and they are not proud of who they are really, and we want to tell people that it is okay to be Muslim in America.
Yasmine: And also to demonstrate the compatibility of being a Muslim and being an American at the same time, these two things do not have to be in conflict with one another.
How did you divide the workload, the research, and how long did it take to put it together?
Dilara: It took us two years. Partnering was important. The kids gave a lot of input, what they are facing as teenagers. They said, “ Well, we need to discuss these topics” and it just evolved. We started with the five pillars of Islam; and said we should have a chapter on the Qur’an and a chapter on Prophet Muhammad and the difficult topics facing the Muslim teens. The reality of life for teenagers, whether they are Muslim, Christian, or Jewish.
Imran: Wherever you go you are going to find these things; in High Schools, you will get an opportunity to find alcohol, to have sex, to have drugs.
Dilara: We wanted that nothing should be a taboo topic in a family so we have really tried to have kids discuss these issues with their families, read the Qu’ran and see the Guidance that’s laid down and the ways of the life of the Prophet. We are not saying that we are advocating any of these things.
Yasmine: This book is a guidebook and first and foremost it is guiding you along with an Islamic point of view, it is not saying what you have to do and what you can’t do at all. You have to read the Qur’an and see for yourself. It depends on your family, different families have different rules.
Imran: A lot of families don’t talk about these things and hope they never happen and the kids don’t know what to do.
Dilara: And we also try to be non – judgmental. It is not for us to pass judgments. Allah is the ultimate Judge.
Imran: We want to show teens that Islam is not just a real strict or harsh religion. Islam is freedom. The way a lot of kids are brought up they are told you have to do this, this, and this or you cant do this, this, and this; and that is Islam. Some of it is cultural. The thing about Islam is that we don’t really have a pope who says what we have to do. It is really an open religion and it is up to the individual to interpret it according to the guidelines of the Qur’an.
What were some of the challenges you faced? Which one stands out as the most difficult?
Dilara: Trying to get Muslims to respond to the questionnaire who were not involved in Islamic schools. We posted the questionnaire on the web but they had no way of answering on line and they would have to send it via e-mail. I wish we could have had a way to find out about Muslim kids who are not involved in the Mosque Community to think about these matters. Our goal is to have the book available to as wide an audience as possible, also in the non-Muslim bookstores. We want it to be available in the Teen section as well as the Religion section.

What kind of endorsements do you expect from the Muslim community?
Imran: I think it will be mixed responses, but I think overall our target audience is going to like it.
Yasmine: It is not about whether the critics like it or not but what the teens will benefit from this book.
Dilara: We want to start a dialogue; we want to encourage discussions of these issues, that is our goal. Our main goal is to educate teenagers, non – Muslims too. We hope they, (the Muslims) will learn and it will give them confidence, improve their relationships with their immediate families, friends, with the Ummah and make them feel they belong. Also give hope to Muslim teens not living a Muslim life as they could be, whether due to their parent’s or through their choice, and empower some Muslim teens to become better Muslims.
Yasmine: We don’t want the teens to feel ostracized from Islam, we want them to feel, well, this is my life, this is a Muslim life, I can be a Muslim.

Have you made any personal and spiritual changes whilst and since writing this book?
Imran: I have started to read the Qur’an more. Maybe it is just not to read the Book but also going to Catholic school, people don’t know much about Islam so I have to be a spokesman for my religion and know more about my religion.
Dilara: It has given all of us confidence to speak about Islam and that we shouldn’t be ashamed to be Muslims. We are as free to talk about our religion as Jews or the Hindus, or the Buddhists or the Christians do, so we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about our religion.
Imran: Before 9/11 there would be a Christmas party and I would say “I don’t celebrate Christmas.” “Why Not?” “ Because I am a Muslim” and they would say “What’s that”?
After 9/11, the query is: “You’re a MUSLIM? You believe in KILLING people?” Gaining knowledge due to the book I will be able to handle it better.
Dilara: We hope it will combat the negative stereotype and empower Muslims to live as good Muslims and good Americans and learn that the conflict shouldn’t be as great as people perceive it to be.
When will the book be available in the market? Where can the book be purchased?
Dilara: Hopefully June 1st. It can be purchased through our website, www.theamth.com, at www.Amazon.com and at the local bookstores. We will be doing a public appearance and book signing at Changing Hands Bookstore.
There is always a lament from the teachers and parents of young children that the non-Muslim bookstores and the libraries are pathetic and very poorly equipped when it comes to books for children that portray Muslims in a positive light, Muslim holidays, Muslim families, Muslim art and culture and the Muslim religion.
The Hafiz family have taken a giant step and done something about it by having this book published. Asma Gul Hasan in the book’s foreword, sums it up very precisely, “In navigating through the wilds of American culture, balancing it with one’s Islamic faith and ethnic heritage, one surely needs a handbook just much as Boy Scouts do, maybe even more so!”


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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