Goodbye butterflies and princess dolls
As I rip out the butterfly wall paper I had so painstakingly installed 7 years ago and roll on the hot pink paint she picked for her bedroom wall, I want to hold on to her tight but she has started her journey to womanhood and all I can do is pray for her & guide her to the best of my ability. She has outgrown Gymboree but Justice is too ‘tween’ for her. My baby can barely make her bed, how will she handle adolescence? It is natural, I know but I want her to stay a child for a little bit longer. Puberty is a confusing and emotional time for young girls. Their bodies are changing; their emotions are raw and magnified. Having taught this workshop in our masjid for youth girls and for two years at my home, this is the first year my 9-year-old will participant. I think she is ready.
My cousin wonders why she needs to learn so early about puberty esp. since she may not get her period until 11-12. There are a myriad of reasons why this channel of communication need to be opened: because girls are maturing earlier every decade, because we live in a world of texting & You tube, because they will hear about it somewhere; at school, at your friend’s dinner party or from an older, ‘wiser’ neighborhood teenager. She may hear nonsense and take it for fact.
If you google muslim-puberty-girls, there is a dearth of any usable literature or practical advice. All that shows up are X rated websites with a few Islamic fatwas sites scattered in between. I did find one Yahoo group where young Muslimahs were desperately begging each other for info about how to clean themselves, wondering whether they should they pray or not. The poor women who answered their post had her facts wrong and kept hinting at ’secrets’ after they get married. That’s not what I want for my daughters. Instead of hearing snatches of conversation that confuses them even more, wouldn’t it be better to hear it from the woman whose womb bore them or an understanding teacher who can answer their what, when and whys.
Muslim girls need guidance and knowledge at this time. But this knowledge needs to stay in the confines of hayya-modesty. They need to understand these changes are from Allah (SWT) and with them come a great responsibility; they are now adults in front of God. In most American public schools, parents are given a choice of showing their girls a video about puberty. Many Muslim parents opt out of this program for good reason as the videos shown are ‘very graphic’ albeit in cartoon form and discuss how you get pregnant -you can read ‘Just around the corner’ movie reviews by moms and decide for yourself. Even if some Muslim parents discuss puberty, they do not explain the Islamic responsibilities that arrive after this stage in life.
I remember reading about ‘it’ in Judy Blume’s young adult novel ’Are you there, God? It’s me Margaret’ but never connected the dots that this will happen to me as well. When I finally reached puberty over summer vacation while visiting my Nani, I remember my aunts making kheer– rice pudding and congratulating me, grown women giggling away but no one ever told me what was going on. I felt guilty, like I had done something wrong, evil. In Muslim countries, many terrified girls look at soiled undergarments and wonder if they are dying because they are clueless. Often it is taboo to talk about what is happening to them. Between these two extremes lies Islam’s golden, middle way.
Advice for moms:
It’s awkward for mothers to talk about this subject as well, so I designed this info in a class format with handouts ( you can download the handouts by clicking the links in the box on the right) for the girls- so a mother can talk to her daughter or a teacher can address her class and explain puberty in terms that even a 5th grader can understand.
After talking to many young Muslimah and their moms, here are some practical suggestions I have for moms: Inculcate the habit of wearing a camisole around at 8 years, this will help her get used to wearing something under her clothes. When you do purchase her first bras, make a date and take just her to the store. Please buy her a small, separate trashcan as well (or reuse you diaper genie) so she can throw away the used pads appropriately. Show her a private place where she can stash her pantiliners and pads away from the inquiring eyes of younger siblings. At this point in life, young girls can be gifted their own Masallah (Janamaz), their own copy of the Quran & a tasbih, it makes them feel more responsible for their ibadah. She may want to sleep longer, so adjust her schedules. She may get moody; talk her through her feelings, as they are just a scared of their mood swings as you are.
You can give her this information in one formal class or a series of discussions, as you know your daughter’s learning style. Invite her friends, bake some brownies – make it mother-daughter time. Let them get their giggles out at the beginning- it soothes them and helps them when they see that all the girls are going through the same thing. I usually show the girls maxi pads, panty liners, and give them calendars to start their habit of marking their haidh-period. Another cute thing I hand out is a card that reads ‘Allah has chosen today to make me a young woman’. They can give this to their moms to let them know the day they get them-if they are too shy. I find it easier to show them an anatomical diagram of the uterus and use scientific terms of the body parts, without going into too much detail. Please feel free to use the information below, just remember to give credit and make dua for me.
Circle of Life: Start with a discussion on how it all begins and ends with Allah- our creator
- Allah created the first human being Adam (AS) from dust
- Allah creates every baby in their mother’s womb- It is related from Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Allah the Mighty and Majestic appoints an angel to every womb who says, ‘O Lord! A drop! O Lord A clot! O Lord! A lump of flesh! ‘Then if He desires to complete His creation, He does so and the angel asks, ‘Is it to be male or female? Wretched or happy? What is its provision? What is its life-span?’ This is all decreed in the mother’s womb.”
- The baby develops from one stage to the other until it reaches full term. In Chapter 40 verse 67 of the Quran, Allah tells : It is He who has created you from dust, then from a drop of seed, then from a clot; Then He brings you forth as a child, then ordains that you reach the age of full strength and afterward that you become old-though some among you die before- and that you reach an appointed term, in order that you may understand.
- By Allah’s will the baby is born and progresses through life from one stage to another
- Until her time on Earth is complete and she returns to her Creator
What is it? Adolescence- balughat a stage of development when your body goes thru changes at a fast rate under the effect of hormones produced in the body by the will of Allah Taa’la,
- Every baby girl is born with two ovaries
- and a uterus– a muscle the size of your fist where a baby can grow
- Allah produces hormones called estrogen and progesterone in your body
Changes in body will include:
- Hair grows underarms and in the private area- Muslims should clean these areas at least every 40 days- wax, cream or even shave.
- Sweat glands develop- Take regular showers as body odor tends to increase at this age
- The chest starts growing so it can produce milk when you get married and have a child
- The ovaries release an ovum(egg) every month
- The uterus prepares a thin layer of tissue to receive the ovum
- Upon puberty, the uterus shed this thin layer of tissue every month and it discharged from the body. This is your monthly period or menstruation.
Why do we get it?
Little girls are starting to become women- the process takes several years but you have to learn to carry yourself like a Muslim woman. Over time your body matures so that one day it will be ready to be a mother when you get married. A healthy, able body is a trust from Allah. Allah made it, so He knows best how to take care of it and he tells us how through the Quran and Sunnah- by doing halaal and staying away from haraam. ‘This is something that Allah has decreed for the daughters of Adam.” Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said. Unlike Judaism, Hinduism or Christianity, Islam does not view your period as a curse. Our faith does not teach any connection between mentruation and Eve or the first sin- Islam does not preach that women are the source of evil. We believe that Hazrat Adam and Bibi Hawwa made the choice to disobey Allah together.
When will I get it?
In Islam puberty can not begin before the age of nine. If you do not menstruate by the age of fifteen (Islāmic years), you will have reached the age of puberty. A girl’s first period usually begins between the ages of 9 and 16. The average age is 12.5 years. Your best friend and you will probably not get it the same day or even the same year. Relax!!! as long as you are eating healthy, sleeping enough hours you have nothing to worry about. It is a special time chosen by Allah and it will happen when your body is ready of it.
Some signs that your body is getting ready:
- Developing Breasts. First, you’ll get breast “buds”. (Your breasts then can take up to 3-4 years to fully develop.) Generally you will get your period 2-3 years after your breasts start developing. The average age for breast buds is 10.5 years
- Growing Pubic Hair. Right after your breasts start to form, you’ll start developing pubic hair. It will be soft and thin at first, and then gradually become coarser. Your period usually arrives around 1-2 years after the hair development.
- Discharge. This is the big sign. You’ll start to experience vaginal discharge that will be either white or yellowish. If you like, you may want to start using pantiliners to protect your underwear. This is from Sunnah, the women of Madinah used to wear a piece of cotton wool (karsoof). Your period could start around 6-18 months after the start of discharge. A girl’s first few periods are usually light. You will lose about two to five tablespoons of blood over a period of two to eight days
There’s one more way to figure out when you’ll start menstruating: Ask your mom. You’ll probably get your period within a year or so of when she got hers.
Now I have it what should I do?
- Use a pad to wear with your underwear. Change the pad as often as you need to stay dry and comfortable. Keep some underwear exclusively for use during these days.
- When you get it you may get cramps– which is because your uterus is contracting- use a hot water bottle, exercise, drink hot tea and cuddle with your mom. If it really hurts ask your doctor if it is OK to take pain medication.
- It is perfectly normal not to have a regular pattern or habit the first few months or even few years. Start keeping a calendar and keep track of your habit, lots of rules depend on this.
- Make sure you wrap your used pad and throw it in garbage. It is really bad manners to leave them in plain sight. Do not flush down the toilet. You are not a little kid anymore, start behaving like a proud, clean Muslimah!
- During period you are excused from salah. This is a gift from Allah as he knows how much a woman is suffering. Do not cut all connection with Allah. Do make wudu, sit and make zikr, duas, read duroood etc. so you don’t loose the habit of praying 5 times. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “… a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses” (Sahih Muslim). You don’t have to make up the Salah
However; the menstruating woman must make up the missed days after Ramadan. Aishah (RA) said: “When we would have our menses during the lifetime of the Prophet, we were ordered to make up the days of fasting that we had missed but were not ordered to make up the prayers that we had missed.”(Sahih Al-Bukhari)
- After you are sure the bleeding has stopped than make ghusl*(a handout on how to take this ritual bath is included). Women used to send ‘A’isha (RA) little boxes containing pieces of cotton cloth which still showed some yellowness. ‘A’isha would say, “Do not rush [to do ghusl] until you see white cotton,” meaning by that purity from menstruation.’After you are sure that all discharged has changed to white then you are ready to make ghusl and get back to praying five times a day. “When we purified ourselves by doing ghusl after menstruation, we were allowed a small amount of light perfume.”
- Every religion has a corner-stone the cornerstone of Is Islam is HAYAA– modesty. We should try to act on this principle in every action of our lives. Don’t discuss your period around boys, men and younger sisters.
- Most importantly, the pen has started flowing, every action is recorded now. You are responsible for your salah, your fasting in Ramadan is compulsory, hijab becomes fardh. Congratulations!