Raising Muslim Teens with Hena Zuberi
Channel: Sarah Sultan
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his mental health counselor who works with children, teens and entire families, she teaches at Mischka university on the intersection between Islam psychology and counseling. Following her will be sister Hannah Zuberi, she teaches a parenting workshop across the country called Growing up with God. She's the writer and chief of Muslim matters, a reporter, a youth director, and she's here from Southern California. They're both going to be discussing and enlightening us on how to raise Muslim youth. And this tough time, please welcome Sister Saltos hold on to the stage.
For now, sale Alikum. Can everybody hear me well?
Bismillah salatu salam ala Rasulillah alihi wa sahbihi wa Manuela, and my bad Santa Monica Mara has to lie about it. Guess what everybody?
Does that gonna love it, I'm really for the opportunity to speak here at TDC. And hang out. This is actually the first conference in a very long time where I've actually been able to sit in on lectures, because my kids are officially old enough to be in babysitting. So alhamdulillah it's been wonderful for me. Another thing that's really exciting, it's not just speaking at TDC. I'm not just speaking about a topic that I'm really, really passionate about, which is about teens, but also that my own parents who survived my teen years, and all the shenanigans that I they had to deal with, are sitting in the front row. So alhamdulillah for that.
They do they do deserve applause for dealing with all that.
So I have loved working with teens in therapy and handle lab. Whenever I used to people used to ask me, what do you do me? You know, what, what do you what work do you do? And I would tell them, I do therapy with teens, the reaction would often be you know, wide eyed and you work with teams. And you know, that must be hard. I could never do that. How do you deal with all the attitude. And that is in and of itself like that that automatic reaction in terms of how we really see our teams that's in and of itself a big issue, right? We view our teams as rebellious, we view them as uncaring, we view them as self centered, right. But when we think of our teens in this way, they start to fit that
mold. And so when we look for the bad, we're going to see the bad. So it's really time to start changing the narrative. So we can start seeing the good in the teens that are sitting in front of us, we need to start seeing them as wonderful people as they are right now. Not as they are in terms of their potential in when they become adults, the children and their future and things like that. But they're the who they are right now as wonderful human beings.
And so when I was preparing for this talk, I thought that the most valuable thing that I could share would be some of the things that the teams that I've worked with, in therapy and outside of therapy have shared with me about things that they wish their parents knew they were thinking. And the first one is that almost every single team that has walked into my therapy office, who has a difficult relationship with their parents, almost every single one has said something like, I really just don't feel like my parents like me.
And when a team doesn't feel loved when any of us don't feel loved, when they don't get that sense of belonging, which is a natural human need. That can be really detrimental. Our teams, especially Muslim teams, you just heard about the Trump Effect, talk, right? They're facing so much when they walk out of the house. And not just in terms of the political baggage, right. But in terms of bullying, in terms of everything that's happening on social media in terms of being exposed to things that they're not ready to be exposed to things like pornography, things like hypersexuality, right, all of this is facing them as they walk out of our front doors. And so when they come home,
let's try to alleviate some of that burden, rather than adding on to it. And the way that we can do that is to give them some solace in our relationships with them.
Research has shown that one in five American children
is that better?
Sorry, I really don't like these microphones. I'm not good with them.
In the middle.
Is that better? Okay. Good. Thank you.
Research has shown that one in five American children have signs or symptoms of a mental disorder. What that means is that 20% When you walk out on the street and you pass 10 Kids, at least two out of those 10 kids that you pass by. Have
Some signs or symptoms of a mental disorder, things like depression, things like anxiety. And that is a really big number. And that's something that's really concerning. And there's so many factors that play a role in that. A lot of things that are beyond our control things like genetics, things like the political situation, right, all of these contribute, but there is something that is at least almost completely within our control, after the will, of course of Allah Subhana Allah. And that is the relationships that we choose to develop with our teams. And so little salsa Lemma bedwin came to him and a lot of you have heard this, he said, Should I tie my camel or should I just trust
in Allah. And then of course, as Adam said, you tie your camel and you trust him Allah. So tie your camel, by working as much as you can on your relationship with your team. And trust in Allah subhana data for the rest of it.
A therapist that I really respect once told me that people's relationships with Allah are very similar to their relationships with people. And what that means is that if we as parents are merciful and kind and forgiving, and loving and accepting
of our children, then they can expect those same wonderful qualities from Allah subhanaw taala. And even more, because he's Allah, right? And if our children instead get from us criticism, judgment, cruelty,
then they're going to expect the same from Allah, because they're going to think, if my parents can't even love me, then why would Allah love me, right? And so we have the opportunity, we all want our children to have a strong relationship with Allah subhana data. And so the way we do that is through our relationship with Him.
The other thing that teens often talk to me about is, you know, my parents think I'm disrespectful. But really, I'm not, I'm really not doing it on purpose. And so as parents, we kind of have to realize it's not always about us, teens go through everything is changing their bodies, their brains, their identities, everything is changing. And so their emotions are very intense, the part of the brain that develops first is the back of the brain. And part of that is survival, breathing, and things like that. But also emotions that are important for survival, things like fear, things like anger, things that tell us whether we need to fight or we need to run away, the prefrontal
cortex, which is in the front of your head, that develops later, and that regulates our emotions, that tells us whether a situation is worth fighting for, or if we should let it slide. That part is still developing in teens. And so when you come home, and you tell your team, hey, you know, look at this mess, you know, can you please help clean up, and your teen all of a sudden flips out and says, you're trying to control my life, you're suffocating me. And I just can't deal with this anymore. I'm being a team soon and just watch, right? And then they go into a room and they slammed the door. And you think what just hit me right? Like that, I just didn't see that one coming. Well, that was
the back of their brain and the front of their brain didn't catch up in time. And so when you know that you can choose either to go with the back of your brain, right? And just go into their room and say How dare you disrespect me, I'm your parent, use use that tone of voice with me. And you're gonna see what's gonna happen next. Right, you can do that. Or you can choose to use the front of your brain. And you could choose to use your heart. And you can choose to build the relationship instead of breaking it down. And the way that you do that, is you go to them, you say, You know what? That's not like you. You usually don't react that way. You're not disrespectful toward me,
usually, you know, what's going on what happened at school today? What happened, right? And what you tell them in that situation is, look, I know you, you're a good person,
your emotions are okay. And this is really important for all of us to know, all feelings are okay? All actions are not little subtle signs, send them he said that ALLAH SubhanA, Allah will forgive my OMA of whatever crosses their mind, as long as they don't act on it, or speak of it. And so that tells us that emotionally, whatever we go through is just fine. But what we choose to do with that emotion, and that situation, that's up to us, and that's a responsibility.
And so, the other thing, that is the most important point, and that teens have really shared with me, and it's a cliche that a lot of you will roll your eyes, but it is so important. And that is that every single team who has come and spoken to me has said in one way or another, I just wish my parents could accept me for who I am. I just wish that my parents could accept me for who I am.
Teams gravitate towards people who accept them. And acceptance doesn't mean that you agree with everything that your team does, that you agree with every decision that they make, that you even like every decision that they make. It doesn't mean that it's just like with your spouse. You don't like that they leave their toenails on the floor, right? But it doesn't mean that you don't love them. And it's the same with your team. You can still love them and still
Let them know that you love them, even if you don't like everything that they choose to do. And that's what acceptance is, it's feeling like your parents care for you and love you that when you come home, your parents are excited to see you. They're not counting down the minutes. So you go to bed, right. And so it's it's that feeling of feeling like an important part of the family and feeling welcome in the family.
Part of acceptance is nurturing your children's talents. And these are not talents, just like a mole. My son is great at science competitions and or basketball. But it's little things right? Like my mom always used to compliment how I used to clean the stove better than everybody else. And now I know why she nurtured that talent, right.
But it but in the end, it made the chore that much easier for me to do because it felt made me feel appreciated for what I was doing, right. And so you emphasize the small things, a little talents that other people won't see. And then you tell your friends about it, right, your child isn't within hearing distance, your team is within hearing distance. And you say, you know, my kid just drew the most amazing painting. And we decided to hang it up in this room, you see that painting. That's what my my parents used to do. My sister was awesome at puzzles. And they framed them. And they used to tell everybody who walked in, my daughter did this huge jigsaw puzzle and we framed it Look at how
beautiful it is, right? That's nurturing a child's talents. And that's wonderful. And it makes them feel important. And when you show interest in what your child is interested in, and you sit down next to them, you say, Hey, what are you doing? That looks really interesting, tell me about it. That makes them feel so important. And then what happens with that is when they walk out of the house, and they go to school, and your daughter's wearing hijab, and people look at her weird, she knows that what she is doing with conviction is important to those who are important to her. And she can stand there and be confident in the decision that she's made because she's been accepted by the
people who matter. And she knows that she's been accepted by the one who matters, ALLAH SubhanA data because you're telling her that right? Our children will seek acceptance. And if we don't give it to them, somebody else will. And it's often from the wrong place. And so we need to be aware of that. And we need to be the ones to accept our kids. But also Salem, I love this hadith. Well, it's the this narration where nsfx nomadic talked about how their suicide salaam used to mingle with some kids. And one of those kids was NSN. The other one was his little Another one was his little brother, and his little brother had a bird, a sparrow. And there was also sort of every time he'd
see his little brother, he'd say, what did your bird do? What did your Sparrow do? Now? Do you really think that that also Sasana was interested in what this bird was doing? Probably not. Right? But it made this child feel so important that rasool Allah is asking about my pet, right. And so he nurtured the sense of importance. And so when our team's share ideas with us share their thoughts, and give them the time that they deserve. But another part of that, in terms of acceptance is really important, which is being able to allow our teams to earn our trust. And this is really scary for a lot of parents, one of my clients told me that her parents were first generation to America. And
they were very fearful about what she could be exposed to. And they kept her very it really in a bubble. And they made every decision for her who you're going to hang out with what you're going to wear what you're going to do. And everything was dictated, she didn't have choices. She didn't. She wasn't involved in that decision making process in her own life in her own life. And when she came to me, she was telling me, I have no idea who I am. She's a mother now. And she said, I have no idea who I am. I don't I can't make decisions. I'm paralyzed and making decisions because I've never had to make decisions in my life. We're not going to be near our children every moment of every day of
their lives, we need to raise responsible adults. And even with you know, with my three year old, I say, Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt, right. And you start with small choices for small children so that when they're big, they can make the big choices. When someone offers them weed, they can make a choice because they've practiced, you develop neural pathways in your mind, the more you practice certain things. And so the more choices and opportunities we give to our children to make decisions and to take responsibility, the more responsible they're going to be as adults.
I have a couple of minutes left. And I just want to
mention two other points. One is we need to shift our focus with our children, with our teams especially.
There's a focus in terms of our teams like this needs to change, fix this person, right? Focusing on all the wrong things that are going on.
And that needs to shift over to focusing on the good when you look at the example of Allah's past data and he's the highest example right? When you sin, one cent does he erase all of your good deeds? No.
counted as one sin unless you repent them, he raises it right? Counselors at one sin. And a good deed is counted how many times 10, at least, right? A good deed is counted 10 times at least,
we should try and emulate that same example with our kids, when they do something good, maximize it, emphasize it, multiply it, right, so that they feel like that they're being appreciated for what they're doing well, and they're going to keep doing those good things because they feel appreciated. And they're also when that one bad thing comes up, they're also going to be a lot more receptive to you talking about it with them, because you've developed that relationship with them, where they know that you know that they're doing well.
I want to leave you with one thought.
Our parents voices become the internal dialogue for us. And that's for us as adults as well. But for our children, especially the inner dialogue, the self talk, that our children are thinking inside their own heads when they leave the house. Those are our voices as their parents. And so when your child goes to school, what are some things that you want that inner dialogue to sound like? What's that voice gonna say to them, you want that voice to say something like, You're strong.
You are worthy, you are wonderful, you are loved, you're loved by Allah subhanaw taala you're loved by me, your parents. You are somebody who deserves respect. You are somebody who deserves to stand up for your beliefs, without fear, because you know, you're doing the right thing. If you want that to be the voice that your child hears inside their head, ask yourself, if that's the voice, they hear from you.
When they hear those wonderful things from their parents, they're capable of facing anything that they see outside, because they're carrying that voice inside themselves all the time. And so, take a step back and look at your teenager. And think this person who's standing in front of me, who are they? What is beautiful, what is wonderful about this person standing in front of me because even in the worst relationship, you can find something to appreciate.
The more good you look for the more good you'll find. So I asked Allah Subhana Allah to bless our children to bless our youth to strengthen our relationships with our youth, and to reward all of you for being here for every letter that you hear just second Loctite on for listening to chronicle Welcome to the second day.
Working Yeah, well sorry to introduce Hanna.
Sorry, I forgot to introduce my fellow speaker because I got a little bit nervous. But that's a henna Zuberi, and she's somebody who's, who actually has teenagers who are amongst the most beautiful and respectful girls that I've ever met. Mashallah, and so she's very, very well suited to be speaking with you next is that good luck?
Semi gonna lie, whoever Catto
rubbish roughly. So three ways. Certainly I'm bringing what I looked at. I'm Melissa Annie of Kahoka Ali. I'm so grateful and honored to be here.
And this topic is very close to my heart. As a mom of two teens. I was shaking my head last week, when I heard about a young woman in New York City, who lied about being harassed on the train by anti Muslim bigots. Many, many people were very angry with her and some wanted her imprisoned. She's only two years older than my daughter. She was late, had broken curfew, as well as other rules. It made me think what trauma makes a young woman make that decision. One that affects a whole community.
One that dismisses other sisters who
affected by hate crimes and ruined her own life. My first thought was, what if that was my daughter, I am concerned for our youth. I'm frustrated by parents, and for parents. There's so many issues at play. We live in a racist, materialistic society, we are much more narcissist as at a global level than we were 20 years ago. We worship we worship money, egos, and celebrities. Many even in the Muslim community are valued by how many likes followers subscriptions we have on social media. Yet many Muslim parents ignore all of this. And some of us keep parenting, like we live back home, or in the pre internet world, or how we wanted our parents to parent us. Too often, we're busy providing
the good life for our children by working in some cases, two or three jobs, the nice house, the cars, the expensive clothes at the expense of their spiritual life. We fail to spend time with our children. And we fail to provide them with those basic Islamic values that will form their belief system and identity for the rest of their lives. Most kids stopped coming to Sunday schools around the age of 12, because they're too busy with other school.
youth groups try to foster the social needs of our teens, which is definitely needed. But we're left with young adults trying to make it in life with a fifth grade Islamic education.
Parenting is a full time job and has to be taken very seriously. We're not only raising our children, we're raising someone's future husband, wife, someone's employee, someone's boss, roommate, neighbor, both mom and dad need to actively parent like we live in the United States in 2016. We need to learn about the society we live in and where our children fit in.
I'd like to share some sobering statistics with you. These infographics were based on research of the Family and Youth Institute.
A Muslim led research institution, please do support their work.
And every risky behavior that college students indulgent our kids are indulging in as well.
But when we look at, let's look at some of the reasons like look at and we think sometimes Oh, that's college, they're going away to college, and they're being affected by things that are happening in college 75 70% before they enter college, this is about alcohol use. I really want you to just look and pay attention to the motivation, especially the two in the middle peer pressure and decreasing stress.
The key to nurse raising healthy, spiritually healthy children is a nurturing home and community. But these environments are becoming extinct and we need to do something about it. And I'm not talking about individual parents will failure but a broad social phenomena. We live in a society that completely destroys the parenting environment. Parents come home stressed from work, we spend very little time with our children and are isolated from the village that was supposed to help us raise them. Let's put all of this in context. under the Trump administration, what we just learned about the Trump effect by brother Issa, and brother Mujahid.
The Southern Poverty Law Center did a research study right after the election and 67% of educators stated that kids underneath in their classrooms were superbly stressed because they didn't know what would happen to their families. And most of these young people are immigrants, children of immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and other students of color.
They are stressed and they need reassurance and support.
Muslim children are harassed and worried. They're struggling with the belief that everybody hates them.
This is a painting by my daughter right after the election.
They're in a world where Muslim bodies are killed, tortured, mutilated, older youth are wondering who is allowed to be human. Parents in our communities are asking us how do you raise a Muslim child in America, we have to quickly learn how to infuse them with the confidence they need to live in this world, proud of who they are. We need to raise resilient children with the ability to cope and deal with adversity.
I rely I lean, I lean heavily on my black Muslim friends and thought leaders Imams for to learn how to raise resilient children, their families have been through this and much, much worse. I look up to them because it takes a special kind of generational wisdom to deal with the daily microaggressions, the daily Doom and dehumanization of your people and your religion, yet they hold on more unapologetically Muslim than ever before.
And so when we look at this, and we think, Oh my God, this sounds like a whole bunch of bad news. But I have some really good news to parenting teens in this environment is a great challenge. But it doesn't have to be if we maintain open lines of communication. Allah put is us here at this time at this place, because he knew we could handle it.
Many of you are struggling. And believe me, it's a struggle. When we can't achieve the results we want. We plead with our children, we bribe them, we reward them. We punish them. We yell in tones that sound harsh to our own years. We grow cold in moments of crisis, precisely when we need to know show them unconditional love. We blame ourselves. We blame the schools, we blame our children. And then when we feel so impotent. We lean back on authoritarian techniques that drive our children further away.
I really think Asara was saying the kid teens get a really bad rap. I love the teen years.
Teens I know are vibrant. They're deep thinkers. And they're incredibly funny.
This was a series by Team Muslim teens up it was hilarious.
and I say this after working as a youth director for 10 years as a weekend school school principal. And after conducting many, many workshops with America, within the American Muslim community,
our our, our youth are so dynamic there, they fill up the massager during Ramadan. They Subhanallah like I have interviewed scholars who come from overseas and when they look at American Muslim young adults, they are amazed. Because they are so surprised that in this culture, the the children are still filling up our masajid SubhanAllah. We need to keep that in mind and not let everything around us. Make us think that we're failing. We're doing something right as a community.
Psychologist tell us as Tara was saying that teen brains are still developing and the reward centers for adolescent kids are much more active than younger children and adults. I'm sure you guys remember when you're when you had your first crush, or you won the School Championship. Do you remember those emotions, they were so much stronger than our very sedated adult emotions. Young people need adults who will listen to them, understand them and appreciate their perspective. And then coach and motivate them talking to some of your teens at this convention. I went around and I talked to some of the teens here. They wanted me to let you know that they want you to admit it when
you mess up. They want you to admit it when when you're wrong. They want us not to be hypocrites and to live by what the Quran teaches. They want some flexibility in their careers and marriage choices. They want the freedom to express themselves on social media without fear.
Our religion they believe a religion is a religious of Justice for All and not just a religion of peace. Black lives matter to them. These are teens who are here who want to hold on to their faith and are proud of their Muslim identity
Oh, sister, Hannah, you just told us about all this risky haram behavior. And now you're telling us our teens are fabulous, like what's going on with that? Well, that's the good news. Many of us want to prevent these risky behaviors from occurring in our children. And the first step to prevention is to understand the problem. I have a book that I go back to over and over aside from the Quran and the Sunnah, which is like my parenting Bible. It is called hold on to your kids. It's written by an international authority on child development, Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gabor Ma Tei. And they tackle one of the most disturbing trends in our time, when children are increasingly looking to
their friends and their peers for leadership. This peer orientation undermines family it interferes with healthy development and fosters a hostile youth culture, very sexualized youth culture. And our children tend and tend to end up very conformist. They are desensitized, and they're alienated.
And this is why you'll see behaviors such as sexting and alcohol abuse, even in conservative Muslim communities.
Teenagers with low self esteem are more likely to fall for peer pressure. And this moral compass their moral compass switches, from, you know, when you're they're younger, the parents are telling them their values, all of that. And suddenly, as they hit their adolescent years, the moral compass switches and peers, and what they say matter more than what you say, and what what you're trying to teach them. We may not be able to reverse all the social, cultural and economic forces driving peer orientation. But there's much that we can do in our homes, in our classrooms and our massages that keep our cells from being prematurely replaced. You are important, you matter. Parents,
grandparents, uncles, aunts matter more than ever before. And I want you guys to feel empowered, and take that and reconnect with the teens in your life. I highly recommend this book because it's given gives you practical techniques that help reconnect with your children, such as looking them in the eye, after a disconnect after they go come back from school, sitting down and looking them in the eye and reconnecting at the soul level. I really, you know, with my own children, it really helps me when I'm really angry or upset at them to realize when I realized that they are going to be the same age as me and Jana.
Their souls are just as old as my soul is that they're not my possessions that they are entrusted upon me. There are young men and women who their young souls who have been given in my care, Allah Subhan they're owned by not the I don't own them. They're not they're my babies. But yes, teens, we still think of you as our babies. But they are the they're Allah's trust on us. And so when when I, when I started looking at parenting through that lens, it really decreased my stress. I started, stop when I started stopped wanting, I started thinking that I don't need to control every decision they're making. It really, really helped. And that's the struggle, that's the struggle.
One, my other teacher has been the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa salam. And that's in making the effort. You know, Allah subhanaw taala says, When
the best news is that Allah only grades us on effort, and the results are in the creator's hand, even present, parents who are preparing mindfully, sometimes have parents that don't turn out to have kids that don't turn out as good as they wanted them. And but Allah subhanaw taala says, I will deny no man or no woman amongst you the reward of their labors, you are the offsprings of one another. Allah also says that each person shall reap the fruits of his or her own deeds. No soul shall bear another's burden.
But making the effort is the hard part you say, and there is no greater teacher than the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. When we look at the prophetic example we see him interacting with young men and women in his life with in the most awesome way.
If you want to know how to raise young,
raise teenagers look at the life of Anastasia Talon who he lived in the house of the prophet from the age of 10 to 20 He broke things made mistakes, but the Prophet salallahu alayhi salam never focused on whatever Allah had already destined. He never shamed on a son, honestly Tala and hope for his mistakes he owned
We focused on Gentle Teaching and reminders. Once the prophets on salatu salam sent on us Rhodiola Anhu on an errand and on the way he saw, you know, he started playing with some friends. Our kids do this. A while later he felt someone gently pulling out his clothes. And as he turned around, he saw the Prophet smiling face. He told him in a very loving way. Oh, nice little honors. Go where I sent you. There was no screaming no shouting, and when so when we want to yell. Let's remember our prophets words, his sweet tugging at the young woman's clothes, his direct and short commands. criticizing our children is not from the Sunnah of the Prophet salAllahu alayhi wasallam don't nag
nagging your children about everything is good is a good way to guarantee that they don't listen to you about anything. Nagging never works.
The Prophet also taught us how to talk about taboo topics with our children.
We read the story of OMA Yebin case for the Salah and her. She was a young girl who joined the Muslim army on its way to Hiber she was sitting on the prophets camel just behind his luggage. They stopped in the desert and Rasul Allah salAllahu Alaihe Salam descended and his camel descended, and he had the camel kneel down so she could get off. To her horror, she noticed that there were some bloodstains on the luggage that she was sitting on. This was her first period. Embarrassed she sat back on the back bag and try to hide the book. bloodstain Rasul allah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam noticed both her actions and the bloodstain and said gently, perhaps this is menstrual blood on my
ear nodded in confirmation and Rasul allah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam suggested kindly attend to yourself, then take some water, put some salt in it, and wash the bag and then return, she followed his instructions and sat back on the camel. Later, he gifted her a necklace. He wasn't disgusted by her. He didn't even notice her actions. He didn't retreat from talking about a natural yet taboo topic. He gently spoke to her about the issue and gave her clear instructions. matter of factly
we read about how he gave Osama bin Zaid, the responsibility of commanding an army at the age of 17. The Prophet recognize not only talent, but knew how to nurture talent and older youth by giving them positions of responsibility. This is a great lesson for our community and parents. And there's a lot more I wanted to share but I'm gonna wrap it up now. In the end, I will leave you with three suggestions. Dua is your greatest tool. It is only through the will of Allah that can we can make this journey successfully.
Don't commit to raising good Muslim kids commit to all the things that will help you reach that goal. Commit to talking every day, looking into each other's eyes and helping them adjust their moral compass. The success of the bigger goal depends on the success of the much smaller consistent goals with Allah's help if our children or the community's children because raising good grazing Muslim teenagers is a community's responsibility. We need our village. We need if the children do teens do fall and fail because they will they will mess up and Allah subhanaw taala tells them he tells them as clearly in the Quran. What to do if they do fail.
Allah says to forgive them Allah is the most forgiving, Most Merciful. Show them how to make that U turn and come right back into the community right back into your home right back into your arms. We need to pick them up, help them mend the broken pieces of their souls and keep hobbling on that straight path. We are all in this together to Jana in sha Allah Sam Aiko.