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What a Girl Needs – Helping Teens Establish a Healthy Body Image

Part I:  Establishing an Acceptable Body Image

According to Research:

  1. 80% of high school girls reported that they were above the weight of which they would be happiest (Fisher et al., 1991)
  2. Early adolescent girls are already aware of the concept of dieting
  3. 78% of teenage women (13-19 years old) are dissatisfied with their weight (Eisele et al, 1986)
  4. A negative body image is positively correlated with low self-esteem and depression

The following tips can be used to help teens develop an acceptable body image. Or, if you’re a teen, consider the following discussion points to gain a better understanding of whether you have a healthy body image.

Recognize the Influence of the Media: If you landed on Earth after having lived your entire life on another planet and your only means of learning about women was achieved through watching TV/looking through magazines, what characteristics would you attribute to women?  Are women merely objects of desire?  How are men supposed to treat women?  What messages are conveyed through the media about women?  Point out to your teen that magazine advertisements are designed to sell products and often they can be harmful to one’s self-image.

Awareness to Unrealistic Measurements: You know you’ve seen those wafer thin bodies plastered on billboards and in magazine ads.  Do these women look healthy?  Could they withstand physical exercise without breaking? Do they look happy?  Next time you see a super skinny model, ask your teen if she thinks the model is happy and remind her of everything the model has sacrificed (i.e. her happiness, health, food, relationship with family, etc.) to look the way she does.  It just isn’t worth it!

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).