PROVIDING ASSISTANCE TO THE YOUTH AND WOMEN
By Iqra Rahim-Babar
An Imam or a leader is the most obvious point of contact for anyone looking for guidance especially within a religious or spiritual context. However a good Imams duty is not confined within the walls of a Mosque or Madrassah rather an Imam must present themselves as a leader within their community, ensuring that their service is available to all within the community who wish to use it but especially to Women and the Youth.
With an increasing number of Muslim families Immigrating to the West in search of a safer life, the women and especially the youth become increasingly vulnerable and in need to guidance.
Make yourself approachable
With the majority of Imams being males (though this is currently changing), it is often difficult for women or the Youth to be comfortable with/to are able to gain access to an Imam. However it is of the utmost importance for Imams to make themselves approachable to both of these groups of people.
Be aware of the Social Issues affecting the youth and Women
A Lack of self-esteem, Negative Body Image, work or school stress, bullying, depression, cyber Addiction, Child Abuse, hostile home atmosphere, Smoking or drinking, Peer-pressure and competition and Eating disorders are amongst some of the most common issues faced by the youth today. A youth may approach an Imam looking for guidance on any of the aforementioned issues amongst others.
The application of the aforementioned social issues is not restricted to the youth as any/ all of these issues can apply to Women as well. Some of the other social issues that may impact women include relationship and marital advice, domestic abuse, social seclusion, difficulty of fitting into a new environment post marriage.
The lack of guidance on these social issues means that a member of the youth or a woman may seek out an Imam for guidance. The Imam as a community leader and guide is expected to provide the necessary guidance, but must bear in mind that it requires a lot of courage for most people to approach someone to discuss their concerns. Thus an Imam must present themselves as friendly and approachable confidantes.
You as an Imam may be approached by a variety of people concerning issues that vary from a high level of severity, requiring more assistance and involvement to individuals simply looking for someone to talk to concerning nominal matters.
In each case you must listen to their concerns or thoughts, if you feel as though you cannot provide them the necessary guidance at that time or about a certain issue you may perhaps do the following:
- Arrange a meeting with them when it is convenient for the both of you.
- Listen to their query and try to help when with and resolve the issue.
- If you are unable to help them resolve the issue at the time, ask them to allow you time to research the issue and get back to them.
- If you feel that you are unsuitable to help resolve the issue, then guide the youth or woman to someone better educated about the issue who will be able to help them.
In severe cases you may be made aware of a situation where someone is being threatened, in danger of being abused or has been previously abused, in this situation it is necessary to report such events to the rightful authorities so that the youth or woman can be helped and protected. Therefor when dealing with any individual, but with youth in particular you must respect confidentiality but never promise to keep secrets especially if they are at harm or at the risk of being harmed.
Physical contact, Touch, Intervention/Restraint and comforting a distressed Youth or Woman
As an Imam working with someone of the opposite gender or with a youth, you should avoid behaving in a manner, which would lead to your motives and intentions being questioned.
Responding in a sympathetic manner in a situation where someone is upset or emotional is appropriate. However in such situation physical contact should be avoided as much as possible.
However there may arise a situation when the use of physical intervention is appropriate in order to control or prevent a potentially dangerous or harmful situation. The scale of any such intervention must be proportionate to the behaviour and the nature of the harm they may cause. The minimum necessary force should be used.
In other instances where it is impossible to avoid physical contact and the dynamics of a situation necessitate it, the contact should be age and gender appropriate and of limited duration.
Where a youth seeks out or initiates physical contact with you, the situation should be handled with sensitivity and must never be exploited. Physical contact should never be secretive or for gratification.