School Proms – Putting Islam on hold for one night

Bangladeshi youth from Tower Hamlets with hired super cars for prom. (Credit: Reuters 2013)

As teenagers and final year students approach the end of exam period, Abu Ibrahim writes how the “school prom fever” results in Islam being compromised for one night.

As spring turns to summer, there is an excitement building up amongst final year students across the UK. What is the cause of this excitement? Perhaps some of them are looking forward to finishing exams and the long summer break. Others may be thrilled at the idea of the upcoming football World Cup to be held in Brazil. Many have booked holidays to travel abroad and enjoy some pleasant weather. The Muslim youth in particular will be looking forward to Ramadhan, as the blessed month offering an opportunity to draw closer to Allah (swt).

But there is one celebration that will be held by high schools up and down the country, which Muslim parents and indeed the Muslim youth must be aware of. This event is none other than the prom or the end of year party. The prom has its roots firmly in American culture but it is fast becoming one of the most important dates in the diary of our youth. As reported in the Daily Mail last year, Abdul Hasnath, a local youth worker in East London described how the celebration has evolved in the UK: “It was quite small at that time, but obviously now it’s probably the biggest date on their diaries, including Eid and everything else.”

The prom will involve weeks of preparation. The boys will come dressed in formal suits and often pay for expensive rental super cars some decide to look into something similar to a limousine service in long beach. The girls will be adorned in makeup, jewellery and dresses. The school will hire a sound system and play the loudest Hip Hop and R&B music. There will be dancing, laughing and partying until late at night. Furthermore, having paid for an expensive chauffer driven car, the youth will head off into the city centre after the party to hit sheesha cafes and other hot spots.

Meanwhile, unsuspecting Muslim parents sit at home, thinking their son or daughter has gone to a school graduation ceremony. There have been cases where mothers have dutifully ironed their sons shirt in preparation for this “prestigious” evening, not realising the same son will be wearing this shirt whilst gripping a girl around her shoulder and posing for the pictures to be posted on Facebook. Many Muslim girls will not wear the hijab on this night and instead will show their expensive hairstyle to everyone, whether they are mahram or not.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran in Surah Tahrim:

“O you who believe! Protect yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) angels, stern and severe, and who disobey not the commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.” (66:6)

Many will argue this article is an over-reaction. They see the prom as a harmless celebration and do not understand why Islam must be so serious and restrictive. What these people fail to realise is Islam is more than a faith. It provides an entire social system that encourages progression and harmony but not at the expense of modesty and honour. So the Shariah permits men and women to come together where there is a purpose such as trading, education, health care or dawah.

However, the prom does not fall into any of these categories. Instead it is a rampant celebration of extravagance and showing off. None of these characteristics are encouraged amongst Muslim youth.

It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri and Abu Hurayrah said: The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “Might is His garment and pride is His cloak; whoever seeks to compete with Me concerning them, I will punish him.”

Furthermore, the free-mixing is a dangerous environment. Boys and girls in the absence of a mahram and surrounded by the work of Shaytan are vulnerable to their desires.

Allah (swt) says in the Quran in Surah Isra:

And come not near to unlawful sex. Verily, it is fahishah (immoral sin) and an evil way.

Hence in this ayah, we are commanded as Muslims not to approach zina. That means not putting our youth in an environment where zina is promoted. The prom will provide this environment in high definition, with the dancing and intoxication of the last night of high school.

This article does not propose to lock our children up. Why not organise a halal alternative? Why not speak to like-minded parents and organise an evening of celebration in a segregated hall? We should appreciate that raising Islamic personalities in the West is a challenge that we cannot avoid. The future of this Ummah lies with the youth. We cannot leave them to a foreign culture and claim ignorance.

What will be our excuse as parents on the Day of Judgement when our limbs will speak and each one of us will stand alone, carrying a heavy burden?

I pray that Allah (swt) guides us all to the straight path and makes our children a source of comfort in our old age and not a trial for us. Ameen.

Abu Ibrahim is a high school teacher and father of four.

Add your comments below