Home / Society / Family and Community / The Youth Outreach Program of Muhammad (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam) Part 1

The Youth Outreach Program of Muhammad (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam) Part 1

The dilemma of dealing with the youth is not unique to any one community, or even to the West. It is something that affects the global Muslim ummah. While we have many programs geared towards the youth (or attempted to anyway), it seems many of them are unsuccessful. What is the correct approach to dealing with them? How did the Prophet (saw) do youth outreach? It is something obvious, yet ignored, that there is in fact a prophetic methodology to dealing with them.

In this article I hope to highlight some examples of two points,

  1. How the Prophet (saw) interacted with children, and
  2. The role models that children pick to follow.

To learn the Prophetic method of interacting with children, we must pay special attention to those ahadeeth in which his interaction with them is highlighted. These are narrations many of us are familiar with, and benefit from in terms of fiqh and ahkaam, but we never step back and put these narrations in the context of the experience of the actual narrator – who was oftentimes a youth.

When the Prophet (saw) was around children, he was loving, respectful, and paid them full attention.

Abu Qatadah reports that the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam was offering ṣalāh and Umamah bint Zainab was on his neck [shoulder]. When he performed ruku', he put her down, and when he got up from his sajdah, he would place her back on his neck. 'Amr inquired during which ṣalāh this happened. Ibn Juraij said that it is related from Zaid ibn Abu 'Atab from 'Amr ibn Salim that this happened in the morning prayer. This is related by Ahmad, anNasa'i, and others.

Al-Fakihani comments: “The purpose behind the action of the Prophet of carrying Umamah in the ṣalāh was to set an example before the Arabs who considered having daughters and carrying them around as something bad or shameful. The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wasallam acted differently from them, and carried a girl on his neck in the prayer, and making something clear by example is much more effective than a mere precept.”

Normally we gather from this the fiqh of holding children in ṣalāh, or use it to debate the merits of bringing children to the masjid. These issues have their time and place, however, in this instance let us step back and look at it from a different perspective: That of Umaamah bint Zaynab, and the other youth observing this event.

We learn the importance and respect that the Prophet (saw) gave to children. We see the way they he honored them. We see the way that the children were welcomed in the masājid with dignity. Compare this to our situation nowadays where children are yelled at, thrown out of the first row, and more or less treated as third-class members of the congregation.

Anas was a small child when he was given as a servant to the Prophet (s). About his time there, he narrated that, I served the Prophet for ten years, and he never said to me, “Uf” (a minor harsh word denoting impatience or displeasure) and never blamed me by saying, “Why did you do so or why didn't you do so?” (Bukhāri)

SubḥānAllāh. This is truly amazing from a number of angles. We normally see this hadith as a testament to the truly noble character of the Prophet (saw), however, there is another perspective here. That is the lasting effects of this on a 10 year old boy for his entire life. What kind of person will he become when he was raised upon this methodology? [Radi'Allahu 'anhu, we know what kind of great man he became] This is the lasting memory of a lifetime that this child will have. He will remember never being criticized, never scorned, and always being treated with kindness, compassion, and patience.

Anyone who has a child knows how difficult it would be to go even 10 hours (in some cases 10 minutes) much less 10 years without scolding their own child about something. What then, about someone else's child, one whom you have even less patience to deal with? We should compare our own parenting methods, our own ways of interacting with kids in light of this example.

In another hadith narrated by Abdullah in Abbas – and ibn Abbas is a famous scholar among the companions. He was with the Prophet (saw) only about 2 and half years. He was born 3 years before the hijrah. He was only 13 when the Prophet (saw) died. He is the scholar who learned the whole Qur'an. This also shows you who was in the constant company of the Prophet (saw).

He narrates: One day I was behind the Prophet (sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam) [riding on the same mount] and he said: O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be Mindful of Allāh and Allāh will protect you. Be Mindful of Allāh and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allāh [alone]; and if you seek help, then seek help from Allāh [alone]. And know that if the Nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allāh had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allāh had already prescribed against you. The Pens have been lifted and the Pages have dried. It was related by at-Tirmidhee, who said it was a Good and Sound Hadeeth.

Focus first on the beginning of this narration. They were riding together on the same mount. They were spending time together. The Prophet (saw) was quite literally hanging out with this young child. Think about that. The one who is in charge of the entire Muslim nation, responsible for his own family, his ummah, entrusted with the Revelation of Allāh, is hanging out with this lad!

How sad is our situation when Muslim fathers cannot even make time for their own children? What situation are we in when we feel too full of ourselves to spend time with the younger children, and engage them? Look at the manner in which the Prophet (saw) addressed him! If we did not know the biographical data of Ibn Abbaas (ra) we would have thought he was speaking to an adult.

The Prophet (saw) is treating this youth with a great deal of respect. He addresses him by saying 'young man,' a way of honoring him, and making him receptive, perking up to hear what is going to follow. Also pay attention to the actual advice he gave him. Think about young ibn Abbaas, the lucky youth spending time with the Prophet (saw). Put yourself in the situation. You are a youth, you are riding with the most important man on the face of the earth, the one chosen and sent by Allāh, the most beloved of His creation, and he tells you, 'Young man, let me give you some advice…' How would you react? How would you internalize this advice? Look at the actual advice in and of itself, it is comprehensive enough for an entire book to be written about. Is there any doubt that this young man will grow up implementing the lessons of this advice 110%?

How do we advise our own children? In what manner do we speak to them? Do we demean them, or speak to them like they are incapable of understanding anything of importance? The example of the Prophet (saw) is quite the opposite of this. In fact, his example is a personification of the Quranic injunction on how to advise your own child.

And (remember) when Luqmân said to his son when he was advising him: “O my son! Join not in worship others with Allâh. Verily! Joining others in worship with Allâh is a great Zûlm (wrong) indeed. …. “O my son! If it be (anything) equal to the weight of a grain of mustard seed, and though it be in a rock, or in the heavens or in the earth, Allâh will bring it forth. Verily, Allâh is Subtle (in bringing out that grain), Well ­Aware (of its place). O my son! Aqim­is­Salât (perform As­Salât), enjoin (people) for Al­Ma'rûf (Islâmic Monotheism and all that is good), and forbid (people) from Al­Munkar (i.e. disbelief in the Oneness of Allâh, polytheism of all kinds and all that is evil and bad), and bear with patience whatever befall you. Verily! These are some of the important commandments ordered by Allâh with no exemption. And turn not your face away from men with pride, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allâh likes not each arrogant boaster. And be moderate (or show no insolence) in your walking, and lower your voice. Verily, the harshest of all voices is the voice (braying) of the donkey.” [Surah Luqman]

With advising the youth also comes teaching. We find the Prophet (saw) in many narrations using positive reinforcements, rewards, and simply giving importance to the youth to teach them lessons.

A positive reinforcement is creating an association for the child with some action and a positive outcome from it.

Jaabir bin Samurah – a young child – narrated that he prayed Dhuhr with the Prophet (saw) in the masjid. He said that the Rasool (saw) went to his house and he went with him. As the Prophet (saw) was walking, he would wipe his hands on the cheeks of the kids passing by. Jaabir said that he never smelled a fragrance that was more beautiful than the fragrance of the hand of the Prophet (saw).

Look at this event from the point of view of Jaabir. His memory of Dhuhr at the masjid is one of walking with the Messenger of Allāh (saw). It is a memory of being close to him, of touching him, of smelling the fragrance of his blessed hand, and seeing the happiness he (saw) brought also to the other children around him.

Compare this to Dhuhr at our local masājid on a Sunday afternoon. The kids are run amuck, administration often forced to resort to yelling at them, while their own parents wait impatiently outside in their cars to pick them up from babysitting Sunday School.

Think about Jaabir for the rest of his life – whenever he goes to the masjid now, he will always have this fond memory, he can always remember this frangrance in his mind, and he has a positive reinforcement associated with going to the ṣalāh.

What positive reinforcements are we working on for our youth?

To be continued [the teaching methods, and role models are coming in future installments inshā'Allāh]..

allaah allah bukhari dhuhr insha'allah masaajid masjid salah subhanallah

About ibnabeeomar

Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters, Qalam Institute, Muslim Strategic Initiative, and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb and has served in different administrative capacities in various national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow him on Google+ or on Twitter @ibnabeeomar.

19 comments

  1. Masha’Allah, great post.

    Reminds me of Sheikh Hisham al-Awadi’s series on Children Around the Messenger (I highly recommend everyone to listen to it!). I look forward to the other parts in this series!

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  2. you let the cat out of the bag :)

    i’m going to touch on that series more in the last post insha’Allah but basically – if you havent heard that set, inshallah this series of posts will motivate you to, and if you have heard it, hopefully this will give you some quick refresh on it, along with some new content

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  3. salamalaykum warahmatullah wabarakaatuh,

    masha Allaah ! very very good and need post. i hope the next part comes up soon .. ! may Allaah reward you with Jannah and grant us all to act upon it …

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  4. The Holy Prophet-peace of Allah on him said once about children:I love children because they play in dust(remeber one day have to be buried in dust),always make friendship after fighting and always make their demands fulfilled by weeping etc(we also should beg and weep in court of Allah for fulfilling our demands)

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  5. Maybe the elders should starting giving “high fives” and “pounds” to the youngsters. It’s sort of like the Prophet (saas) walking around and touching the cheeks of the children.

    Imagine an elderly man with a long white beard comes up to a 15 year old boy and says “Salaam yo” and then sticks his hand out for a high five. hahahaha

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  6. Imagine an elderly man with a long white beard comes up to a 15 year old boy and says “Salaam yo” and then sticks his hand out for a high five.

    LOL!
    Mind you, sometimes it’s not always funny… it can often be plain old embarrassing… have you ever had a FOB with a heavy accent trying to sound “cool” but totally mangling the cool phrase, resulting in you feeling mortified on his/her behalf?

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  7. Yus from the Nati

    Masha’Allah…that’s beautiful. I think on an overall perspective…it opens up to me as how we read Ayahs/hadith…and don’t reflect on them completely. Looking at it from a real dry look…”he did this and that” and hadith is done. That’s the way I felt after taking that Al Maghrib class Love Notes. We’ve lost the time to contemplate.

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  8. yus.. thats a good point. we kind of lose perspective sometimes and need to refocus on the bigger picture. love notes is a great example of seeing the hadith as a part of our overall life in general, and not just the ‘dry’ parts of it. when we begin integrating the sunnah from the hadith – both the ‘dry’ and the ‘big picture’ type of things – i think inshallah it will help all of us progress

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  9. Ahadeeth in which there is Mention of the Youth*:

    “Your Lord is pleased with that teenager who is free of youthful passion.” (Narrated by Ahmad)

    Bara Bin ‘Aazib (RadiAllaahu anhu) said concerning the battle of Hunain, “No, by Allaah, Rasullaah sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not turn away, but even his young companions who were fatigued and ill equiped emerged to fight.” (Narrated by Bukhaaree)

    Ibn-e-Mas’ood (RadiAllaahu anhu) narrates, “We used to fight with Nabi sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam while we were young.” (Narrated by Ahmed)

    Anas Bin Malik (RadiAllaahu anhu) narrates: “There were seventy youth from among the Ansar, who were called Qurra (reciters), who used to remain in the masjid. When evening approached, they retreated to a corner in Medinah, where they learnt, taught each other and prayed. Their families were under the impression that they were in the Masjid and the people of the Masjid were under the impression that they were with their families, until the crack of dawn. They brought fresh water and gathered firewood which they presented at the room of Nabi sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.” (Narrated by Ahmad). With this they used to buy food for the Ashaabus Suffah (people of the platform). The people of the platform were those destitutes who migrated to Madinah. They did not have any family in Madinah so they sought refuge at a platform in the Masjid.

    Malik Bin Huwairith (RadiAllaahu anbu) narrates, “We came to Rasullah sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam while we were youngsters of similar age. We stayed by him for twenty days and nights. The Messenger of Allaah sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was merciful and gentle. When he guessed that we longed for our families into difficulty, he questioned us about what we had left behind, so we informed him. Then Nabi sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Return to your families, live with them, teach them, invoke them,” and he mentioned a few other things. “Pray the way you see me performing the prayer. When the time of prayer approaches, then one of you should call out the call for prayer (Adhaan) and the eldest amongst you should lead the prayer.” (Narrated by Bukhaaree)

    *From Shaykh Uthaymeen’s Treatise on the ‘Dilemma Facing the Youth’

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  10. Very inspirational ahadeeth. I hope everyone of us contemplates on these significant matters for the young kids who are often sadly ignored and shoved aside.

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  11. ma sha’ Allah, awesome post!

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  12. A very timely and extremely important post. I had just begun to start looking up the net for ways to dealing with our teenagers.

    Speaking of the Prophet’s (s) methodology, I recollect incidents from the seerah reflecting the immense confidence and trust the Prophet (s) had in the abilities of the young men around him. SubhanaAllah, so many examples. Just one of them where Usamah ibn Zaid (radhiAllahuanhu) who was barely 18-20 yrd old at the time, was given the charge of being the Commander of the Muslim army which included heavyweights like Abu Bakr and Umar ibn Khattab (radhiAllahu anhum) !!! And this is only one of the many such battles led by young sahabah. SubhanAllah I think there’s a huge lesson to learn here for most of us with our youth having issues taking responsibility for themselves let alone others.

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  13. Mashaallah..Excellent post.So much to learn from our beloved prophet peace be upon him.It`s very hard to have sabr.May Allah swt give us towfeeq to walk in the straight path.

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  14. Assalaam Alaikum wrwb,
    This article was an eye opener…Subhan Allah!!I hope we can bring up our children in a way that is pleasing to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala,InshaAllah…and be rewarded for it InshaAllah.

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