Prepare yourselves, people, for a revelation sure to shock you and possibly turn your life upside down. Particularly if you're a teenager.
There is no such thing as a teenager in Islam.
NO. SUCH. THING.
All right, so let's first define what exactly a teenager is. According to the dictionary, a teenager is: a juvenile between the onset of puberty and maturity.
In this Western culture, a teenager is anyone between the ages of 13 and 19. It's also a period of time where we're pretty much expected to be irresponsible, immature, and do really stupid things. We can do the most idiotic things on the face of the earth, and we have a ready excuse: “Aw, man, I'm just a teenager!”
But guess what? That doesn't cut it. Not in Islam, anyway. In Islam, there are exactly two stages in life for us: child, and adult. No in-between phase where you're given a free license to be as much of an idiot as you like.
Let's look at what the Islamic definition of 'child' and 'adult' is, before I launch into a full rant against the stupidity and incorrectness of the concept of teenager-hood.
The Islamic definition of a child is someone who has not yet reached maturity (physical puberty). According to Shari'ah, the faraa'idh of Islam (obligatory acts, e.g. Ṣalāh, zakaah, sawm, etc.) are not incumbent upon the child.
In a hadith related by Ali Bin Abi Talib (raa), the Messenger of Allāh (saas) said: “The Pen that records the deeds has been lifted from three people; the insane person, until he recovers; the sleeping person, until he wakes up; and the minor, until he dreams (i.e., has wet dreams.)” (Ahmad)
However, even here we need to stop and realize something – just because your child hasn't reached puberty yet, it doesn't mean that they're totally free.
'Amr ibn Shu'aib related from his father on the authority of his grandfather that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Order your children to pray when they reach the age of seven. Beat them (lightly) if they do not do so when they reach the age of ten. And have them sleep separately.”
(The hadith is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, and al-Hakim.)
So you see, even kids aren't let off the hook – it just goes to show how important it is for parents to be raising their children to be familiar with those acts of Islam that will become obligatory upon them when they grow older, so that when they do reach puberty, it won't come to them as a shock, having to suddenly pray and fast and wear hijaab and whatnot.
Not let's look at what the Islamic definition of an adult is. That is, someone who has reached physical maturity – for girls, when they get their menses; and for guys, any of these three things: experiencing wet dreams, the appearance of pubic hair on the body, and finally (if neither of these two things occur) turning 15. From this point on, both girls and boys are considered to be fully adult in the eyes of Allāh (subhaanahu wa ta'aala), and they are held accountable for their deeds. The compulsory acts of Islam are obligatory for them to fulfill – from the five daily prayers, to fasting in Ramadan, to giving zakaah, to wearing the hijaab, and everything else that is expected of us.
There is absolutely NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER for anyone who has reached this point and who is not obeying Allāh (subhaanahu wa ta'aala) in what is expected of each and every (sane) adult Muslim on the face of the earth.
Right, so now we've got that covered. Let's move on.
So: the concept of adolescence/teenagerhood. It is, in my opinion, one of the most ridiculous and retarded things ever.
In Western culture and society, which we are unfortunate enough to be stuck with right now, the period of adolescence is one in which kids are expected to “transition” from child to adult. However, this transition is rarely ever smooth, and in fact teens often end up acting more childishly than they ever did before. Irresponsibility and immaturity are practically a given when it comes to teens – which is stupid.
How the heck are we expected to become adults if everyone is so willing to give excuses for our idiocy?! Furthermore, this whole attitude of, “Ah, they're just teens!” is really quite an oxymoron – what's the point of giving teens responsibilities if they're not held accountable for their irresponsibility, of expecting them to be mature when they're always excused for their immaturity?
As a teenager myself, I have to say that it's also frustrating for us: It's like we're being given mixed messages. On one hand, we have some people expecting us to be responsible, mature, grown-up; on the other hand the mass media and the culture around us tells us that at this point, we're free to do whatever, to go out and have fun and that's it.
Another point of frustration and bewilderment for us is that we have now reached an age when we're definitely not children any more and are ready to take on more – in Islam this is recognized and we're given things to do, commandments to carry out – but in this society it's really weird because we're given the freedom to do a lot of things, but we're not given the trust of our elders, that they believe we're capable of handling serious responsibilities.
News flash for all the parents out there: This is what is the source of so much teen angst.
“My parents treat me like a child! They don't trust me! I'm bored!” Yadda yadda yadda… you know how it is.
In the words of a wise friend of mine:
You'll only find “teenagers” in economically developed societies. Here the adults refuse to recognize that these young people are quite capable of contributing to the community, whereas in poor and developing communities, much like the times of old, every sentient individual is expected to pitch in.
This is especially true where the age of life expectancy is low. Where people have to work hard to survive, you won't find rebellious teens – or at least it won't be the norm. You'll only find children, young adults, middle-aged adults and old adults.
I think she really hit the nail on the head. Honestly, these days the only thing that seems to be expected of teens is that we do well in school – but WHY is this the only thing expected of us? Why is that parents seem to place a good education – something of this dunya – over a good Islamic education, which is far more important for both our dunya and aakhirah?
On the Day of Judgement, Allāh will not be asking us if we completed high school on the honour roll. He will be asking us about whether we prayed our ṣalāh, five times a day, every day, at their appointed times. He will be asking us whether we obeyed His Commands, as set down in the Qur'an and Sunnah. He will be asking us what we did to secure our place in Jannah, not at Harvard. He will be asking us whether we ever bothered to use our brains to stop and think about whether He would be pleased with our actions. We will have to account to Allāh for EVERY SINGLE DEED we have ever committed since we became baaligh (mature) in His Sight and according to His Law.
Parents, I beg of you: Don't fall into the trap of Western thinking when it comes to your kids. Don't think that they should be given free reign to have fun. Raise us from our childhood to be aware of Allāh's expectations and rights over us, for we are Muslims, the ones whose every word and action should be in submission to Him. Raise us to become responsible, mature, capable young adults who can fulfill our personal duties to Allāh and who can take our place within the community, under your guidance, to strengthen the Muslim Ummah as a whole. Don't let us be overgrown children; raise us to be adults.
Fellow teens, I beg of you: Stop and realize that we're NOT kids anymore. Those excuses we use for ourselves and that other people give us when we do stupid things – we've got to stop using them, because they're not valid. We are Muslims, and we have a goal in life that goes beyond becoming a doctor or an engineer, that goes beyond school hours and goofing off on our free time: it's a goal for the next life, the eternal life.
Sure, it may seem far off – but none of us will live forever. Heck, none of us knows if we're going to be alive 'till tomorrow! And we have got to remember that while other people might not hold us accountable for some things we do, know that we have an angel sitting on each of our shoulders recording every single word we say and every single action we do… and these records are going to be waved in front of our faces on the Day of Judgement and we're going to have to admit to our sins in front of every single human being who has ever existed. Assuming you'd gotten expelled or suffered some equally mortifying incident, would you want everyone knowing about it and laughing at you because of it? Obviously not.
On the Day of Judgement, it'll be a kazillion times worse… forget about every single human being who ever existed; think about standing in front of Allāh, our God, Lord and Creator of everything – think about standing in front of HIM and having to admit for all the horrible stupid wrong things we've ever done!!
So please, please, let's try to make it easier for ourselves in the Hereafter… it'll be twice as hard working towards that than it'd be studying hard enough to get to Harvard or wherever, but it'll also be twice as worth it – more than twice.
We are not children. We are not teenagers. We are ADULTS, and beyond that, we are MUSLIMS. So let's get off our butts, out of this stupid mindset, and straighten ourselves out.
May Allāh increase us in emaan, strengthen us in our Islaam, and help us in this long and difficult journey called life. Āmīn!