We live in a world that is rapidly evolving, changing, and mutating into something that is becoming more and intangible and worrisome. At times, one can feel overwhelmed, scared, and confused as to where they stand. It's easy to lose your footing. Add a wavering and ever-fluctuating faith into the mix and you get a cloud of emotional, mental, and spiritual disillusion. When it comes to seeking professional help in these matters, we Muslims tend to turn a cold shoulder and brush our demons under the rug. In a world that celebrates pseudo-happiness that is showcased to the world online through social media, it's rare to find someone that addresses and acknowledges the dark parts we hide. Dear Chereen is the light that we all so desperately need in times when we are too ashamed and scared to talk about what is troubling our hearts. Dear Chereen is the outlet Muslims need to accept the idea that seeking help is healthy and Islamically encouraged. Dear Chereen is changing the way we look at emotional and psychological distress in our communities by openly speaking about these issues and by openly offering a helping hand to those who need it most but are too afraid to ask.
Who is Chereen?
What began as a Tumblr blog around 2010-2011, has evolved into a fully blown website of its own. Dear Chereen was founded by Chereen, an American Muslim woman who began inspiring people all over the world with her personal musings, writings, observations, and short reminders.
With her stunning capacity and drive to help others, Chereen's heartfelt, sincere, kind, and empathetic words resonated with thousands of people through her Tumblr blog. In those days, many people would come to her, asking her deeply personal and troubling questions about the state of their affairs. Chereen, in her usual gracious and amiable tone, would offer a helping hand to anyone that asked. Her blog was flooded with messages from young girls all over the world who were stuck in destructive relationships and marriages. Messages from men who were struggling with personal traumas. Messages from Muslim youth who were trying to navigate through life in the West without losing their morals and beliefs. Every message was answered with the same unwavering kindness and compassion. Chereen was known to all as someone you could go to for help and support. She listened and answered without any judgement, without wanting anything in return. Simply to help those who needed to find solace in their faith once more.
From 2012 onwards, the Dear Chereen blog grew exponentially. What was resounding about the whole things was that Chereen remained a face-less blogger the whole time. With no concern for fame or status and a great deal of respect for modesty, decency, and dignity, Chereen, to this day, has never posted a picture where her face is showing. Instead, elegantly taken shots of her turned to the side or from behind are chosen. The focal point always being her words and messages rather than her appearance or outward presentation to the world. Something many have respected Chereen for, especially in the hyper-social world we live in today that encourages women especially, to shower the pixelated realm with selfies. A world that reiterates to women that their worth is attached to their looks. Chereen however, graciously reminds us that our worth as women is far greater and goes beyond the constraints that Western media has placed on us. In the words of the renowned teacher and speaker,Yasmin Mogahed, someone that Chereen all too often resembles in both speech and etiquette:
"I’m not here to be on display. And my body is not for public consumption. I will not be reduced to an object, or a pair of legs to sell shoes. I’m a soul, a mind, a servant of God. My worth is defined by the beauty of my soul, my heart, my moral character. So, I won’t worship your beauty standards, and I don’t submit to your fashion sense. My submission is to something higher."
DearChereen.com is born
Fast forward a few years later, and Chereen decides to bring the same qualities to her Instagram journey which takes off immediately. From hosting Q&A sessions and live sessions that explore different aspects of faith and its relationship with our emotional struggles, to answering anonymous questions as she did before, Chereen has created a safe space for Muslims all over the world to be comfortable enough to look inwardly at their struggles instead of pretending that they don't exist.
Within a year, DearChereen.com
is born with the vision and hope to bring this kind of safe haven to everyone all over the world.
Described as, "Your haven for healing, inspiration, and support through words," the website has become home to a plethora of inspiring articles that deal with topics such as divorce, emotional abuse, grief and sadness, self care, and domestic violence. Not only that, but the site offers the famous advice column Chereen was such an advocate for on her personal blog since the very beginning.
With an active Instagram that is wrought with beautiful daily reminders and affirmations, Q&A pieces, and faith boosting short excerpts, Chereen has curated what Muslims are in dire need of; an outlet that encourages them to acknowledge the hardships in their lives without feeling shame.
Why Muslims need more therapists
The truth of the matter remains that Muslims are highly lacking when it comes to trained professionals in the mental health sector. By being so honest, kind, sincere, and empathetic towards the difficulties and strifes young Muslims are experiencing today, Chereen has allowed us to be more honest with ourselves. We have been given a nudge in the right direction. By encouraging each of us to not be afraid to ask for a helping hand when it comes to our mental health, she has started to normalize something that is still taboo in our cultures. It is people like Chereen that are slowly changing the world for the better. We just have to be willing to follow her lead.