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Youth Outreach: Best Practices?


Masjid administration has approached you in hopes that you can single-handedly do something to revive youth participation in the Masjid. The youth in this particular masjid are almost as a group not practicing at all. Many are involved in the same vices as the rest of the youth in the West. Not praying, no regard for the deen, girls, drinking/drugs, etc. On average most are decent kids whose focus is on good grades, and they may come pray once in a while and go to Sunday school when forced but that is really about it.I know this describes a lot of youth in most communities, the only added thing here is there is opposition from parents to these kids becoming more practicing. They fear simply that it will distract them from the ultimate goal of getting good grades and thus a high paying job, or that once they start becoming religious they will automatically fall into being fanatic (like growing a beard, wearing hijab, etc).

So what I want from the readers out there, and this means you to not shy away from commenting here. I want this post to serve as the ultimate brain-storm session. Actually, that is selling it short. I don’t want brainstorming – we need your success stories.

What programs have you found to be beneficial in bringing youth back to Islam?
What kind of talks and programs garner their attention?
How do you involve the parents and allay their fears?

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What BEST PRACTICES have you found, that work for youth, whether in terms of activities, outreach, sunday school, or anything else?

Best Practice is a management idea which asserts that there is a technique, method, process, activity, incentive or reward that is more effective at delivering a particular outcome than any other technique, method, process, etc. The idea is that with proper processes, checks, and testing, a desired outcome can be delivered with fewer problems and unforeseen complications. Best practices can also be defined as the most efficient (least amount of effort) and effective (best results) way of accomplishing a task, based on repeatable procedures that have proven themselves over time for large numbers of people.

So let’s see what you’ve got. Maybe after this is done we can compile a best practices list for youth involvement that can become the ‘industry standard’ by which all organizations can refer to and not have to start from scratch every time. Give us your trial and error, not just what worked, but also what failed and why.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters and Qalam Institute. He teaches Islamic seminars across the US including Khateeb Workshop and Fiqh of Social Media. He has served in varying administrative capacities for multiple national and local Islamic organizations. You can follow his work at



  1. BintAbdilla

    August 13, 2007 at 10:18 AM

    Assalamu alykum Warahmatulahi wabarakatu

    AT my local Masjid a sisters committee was formed they took the intiative to set up a saturday program for girls between the ages of 8 all the way up to 20 Masha’Allah TabarakAllah.

    Each has a set of girls they are responsible for very Saturday..Thye have programs such as hadeeth studies,Qur’aan, studies, seerah,Discussion periods.

    Each month they sit and have a one on one with the girls and ask them certain question, like do they come to teh masjid, whats their realtionship with their parents like?? They have them write a list of goals for a one month period and at the end of each month they look back and see if they have met their goals.

    Masha’Allah if you meet these sisters they are mature and truly want to practise their deen, coming to the masjid each Saturday increases their Eeman and their love for one another.

    They attend everything from lectures around our area to Al-Maghrib.

    One of the things taht failed was trying to stop the formation of girls only hanging around with a certain group each week, they tried to get people to sit with one another but eventually the girls just kept coming back to their original groups. They stopped and relized they couldnt really stop people from sitting and talking with who they choose., As long as there was no drama and everyone had common respect for one another they were satisfied.

    The grils truly love disscussion period b/c they can discuss what issues they are going through and seek help from older sister who have gone through it.

    I find that this program has been very sucessful compared to the Brothers section of the masjid..Who really doesnt have a youth program but attracts Brothers a guess in a different way..Masha’Allah b/c a lot of Youth brothers come to the masjid too.

    I think to make a Youth program a success you need to be committed and have Youth that truly wnat to come to the program b/c they wnat too, not b/c they are forced.

    You need to teach them the deen but also allow them to choose and activity each moth outside of the masjid it doesnt have to be anything costly.

    Have a strong team behind you b/c you will surly get critized from someone for something you are doing with the Youth.

    Ok…I didnt mean for this to be lonng..

    Wa alakium asalam Warahmatulahi Wabrakatu

  2. Faraz

    August 13, 2007 at 12:20 PM

    The area I grew up in has one of the strongest Muslim Youth communities I’ve seen anywhere in the world (and I’ve travelled quite a bit). Two distinct efforts were made to get that community to where it is today:

    1) Da’wah efforts of dedicated Muslim elders. These elders, may Allah reward them, kept us in check while making Islam seem easy for us. It began with Tarawih prayers designed specifically for youth, rotating between the homes of local community members. The prayer would be considerably shortened (the imam only read from the 30th juz), and we would sit with the imam and other community leaders afterwards learning seerah and about the companions. These were the first stages in getting us interested in Islam, and before long, our high school became the first in the city to have Jumah accommodations. Eventually, that grew to Zuhr/Asr accommodations as well, and it spread out through the entire city quickly. Some areas even established khateeb rotations, bringing in people from outside the schools to speak at Jumah. This greatly expanded the scope of the initial da’wah efforts by the community elders.

    Our group of youth then went to establish a masjid to replace our home rotation, and a few of the brothers went on to become huffaz and ‘ulema. This group of youth still essentially runs the show in the masjid, but it took a lot of guidance from elders and “hand-holding” to get where we are now.

    2) Attaching halaqas and visits from ‘ulema to sporting and social events. Hockey has effectively revolutionized our Muslim community, not just in terms of keeping them together, but also in bringing non-Muslims into the fold of Islam. Typically, during or after every hockey event, we’d have a community leader speak and establish some real, short-term goals for the kids. Eventually, people started coming more for the community leaders than the hockey itself. The hockey tournaments eventually also became charity events, with proceeds going towards various causes including masjid fundraising, orphan sponsorship, and local environmental issues.

    You need the right people to be able to do this; one thing I wouldn’t recommend is letting the youth have free reign to figure things out on their own. Alhamdulillah, we had ‘ulema that could relate to the youth, which really helped – I know this is a big gap in almost every other city I lived in.

  3. ibnabeeomar

    August 13, 2007 at 12:23 PM

    faraz – it seems the youth already had some religiosity when those programs came into effect. what did you do before that to even get to that point and bring them in in the first place?

    btw – jazakumallahu khayr for all the responses alhamdulillah very good information so far!

  4. Faraz

    August 13, 2007 at 12:47 PM

    what did you do before that to even get to that point and bring them in in the first place?

    It should be noted that I wasn’t the one bringing them, I was the one being brought. I’m a product of that effort.

    To bring us in the first place, they came to our homes, kept reminding us about the importance of deen, and checked up on us by phone on a regular basis. They really worked extremely hard on a daily basis to affect the right people, the people who would be able to become leaders in their own right later on.

    I wouldn’t say we as the youth had much religiosity before all this, but perhaps it can be said that there was a rather strong adult community already. One of the defining moments was when 11 youth from our community made intention to go to England on jamaat – that changed everything. Those 11 became key people who established a lot of other people and efforts.

  5. restingtraveller

    August 13, 2007 at 2:16 PM

    I think my community is a mix between kids who practice somewhat and those who don’t practice at all. As a youth leader, I believe one should not nag or frequently lecture them…one thing they hate is when you shove Islam down their throats and don’t give them time to increase their emaan. For example in the islamic school, the children are “forced” to pray the sunnah prayers, this isn’t bad but subhanAllah if the teacher isn’t there will the child pray the sunnah? Will they pray because they love Allah ta’ala? I don’t think so.

    I think for young men they need a mentor who they can look up to and will listen to what he says. My brother’s have their Qur’an teacher, he takes them out for pizza while teaching them about the battles, and he’s taking them canoeing, camping, playing sports and after these activities he will sit them down and teach them about any topic, he even did hijab once. I believe this method works the best, wa Allahu ‘alam…when you have a program that centers around them having fun AND teaching them at the same time, inshaAllah that should help. The parents will trust you because you’re doing other activities with them. When you’ve gained their trust then you can slowly and gracefully begin advising them in the forbidden matters.

    Also, they need new role models…I told my brothers (who are 16 and seniors in public HS) about the sahaba and how they were in battles, they loved it alhamdulillah. I sat them down and we listened to yasir qadhi’s battle of uhud lecture and they got so pumped afterwards. Whatever you teach them you should compare it to things going on nowadays so they’ll understand.

    (I also think the parents need some type of program if they don’t want their children wearing hijaab or growing a beard… wa Allahul Mustaan)

  6. AnonyMouse

    August 13, 2007 at 2:31 PM

    Hmmmmmmmmm… I’m actually finding this a tough question to answer, despite my experience at my old Islamic centre and my dad’s Madrasah I’m helping at now – perhaps this is because at the Islamic centre, there were only 5 or 6 young girls and all the other females were either babies or adults (20s up), and we were all practicing already.

    At the Madrasah, the kids come from a mix of mostly practicing/ barely practicing families, but so far our efforts have been dedicated to teaching them the basics of Islam in a way that they can relate to and enjoy (read: lots of candy and foozball involved!).

    We have very few teens (around 10-15), but the way we work with them is also making Islam something that they don’t just memorize, but put into action with correct understanding – e.g. “connecting” with the concept of Tawheed, discussing how having taqwah should/ does affect us, learning how to pray Salaah correctly and knowing what we’re saying, basic tafseer of the shorter surahs of juz ‘Ammah, and a lot more.

    The education is supplemented by fun – my mom and another sister have so far organized an arts & crafts day, a walk in Downtown, ice skating, going to the IMAX, and an upcoming movie night for all the Muslim girls and women, which has helped people realize that being a Muslim doesn’t mean not ever being able to enjoy ourselves. Even at the ‘fun’ events, we generally set aside a time that we’ll gather everyone together and there’ll be a short halaqah.

    Al-Hamdulillaah, it seems to be going pretty well so far, even though we’re a work in progress still in its beginning stages.

    Hmmmm, I just realized I haven’t really given any good suggestions… but that’s basically what we’re doing in my tiny community here.

  7. AnonyMouse

    August 13, 2007 at 2:37 PM

    I just remembered something else – for the older teen class, my dad once got them to write a short report on the challenges they face being Muslim here, issues that they might have, things that they wish were available, suggestions on how to make us better able to teach them, etc. In addition we had an open discussion on the same subject.
    This way we found out exactly how THEY felt about Islam and on being Muslim, on what their needs were and how we could address them, which has helped a lot.

    As part of youth outreach here, my dad is planning on doing a series of workshops after Ramadan (insha’Allah), with the focus actually being on the parents, gauging their thoughts and opinions on their kids and helping them learn how to better understand them and make practicing Islam a “joint” project between both youth and the parents.

    Also, I recall my dad mentioning that at our old Islamic centre, there were quite a few youth (in their 20s, though, not their teens) who ended up attending regularly and changed drastically from the typical “lost” scenario (not praying, drinking alcohol, partying, all that stuff) to becoming really practicing Muslim men, masha’Allah – the more they hung out with the right company and attended halaqas and duroos, the more they actually made the effort to change and better themselves. The difference between what you’re asking about and what happened here is that they made the initial effort to learn and didn’t need someone to come to them in the first place… so I don’t know how that would work w/ the scenario you gave.

  8. Iman

    August 13, 2007 at 2:41 PM


    I have a question, what is the Imam situation in that Masjid?

    Sometimes that can be a major factor in the condition of the youth and their participation.

  9. ibnabeeomar

    August 13, 2007 at 4:48 PM

    iman i’d rather not address that as i want this to be a general session to generate a best practice guideline that can be used in all communities irregardless of the imam situation. obviously, when the imam can be that engaged with the youth, its not an issue. however, even with a good imam,
    a) the imam is usually tied up with other obligations
    b) the imam still cannot solve the problem of the initial outreach, the imam can help once the kids are there and listening, but that first step is still missing.

  10. MR

    August 13, 2007 at 5:10 PM

    It’s sad, but true, and majority of people know it. The solution to non-practicing young brothers is practicing young sisters.

  11. ahmed

    August 13, 2007 at 6:32 PM

    This is good information from everyone, jazakum Allahu khairan.

    My 2 cents:

    There are a few different types of programs that can make a big difference if done right: They could be heavy on sports, games and whatever halal things youth find interesting, and light on lectures and similar things.

    Some examples are summer camps, weekend sleepovers at the masjid, basketball tournaments, etc. In this way, the youth are around muslims but they’re having fun. They would begin to associate the masjid with enjoyable activities. Hopefully in the long term, they would benefit from the other programs at the masjid.

    In that case, I would suggest that the most religious activities would be the 5 salah and maybe a couple of short discussions where the youth themselves are doing most of the talking. ie no long lectures

    The youth would enjoy the activities and inshaAllah be away from negative influences (like the parents who don’t pray salah)

    This idea and other ideas still suffer from the main problem though: There have to already be religiously committed older people willing to do all of these programs.

    I’ve personally seen in most cases, when programs like this are arranged: an uncle just gives the teenage guys a basketball and tells them to basically run off and play. No one supervises them, and there is no akhlaq or improvement in anything other than basketball skills.

    Or, the uncles decide how the program is going to be, _then_ they start calling all the twentysomethings / thirtysomethings to run it for them. And then they get mad when they find all those people are busy because they’ve got young families to take care of.

    I think Shaikh Kamal El Makki said it best when he mentioned something like: There’s no shortage of ideas, but there’s an incredible shortage of people and money, for every dawah activity out there.

    I’ve mainly lived in one place for most of my life, so i can only speak about the few communities i know. People get excited about some new program and it’s real popular at first. Then, parents use it as a dumping ground, the few volunteers get burned out, and in a few months the program dies, never to be seen again.

    It might work better if the program was done by paid people who truly believe in it, but I’ve never ever seen that here.

    Please feel free to delete this post if it’s too depressing :-) , and sorry for the rambling. :)

    was salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,

  12. Dawud Israel

    August 13, 2007 at 10:23 PM

    Faraz: Was that a fully committed group of people who were retired or had freetime? Or were they taking time out of their day?

    We just started getting active with the youth in my one-masjid community. We haven’t had a too much success in transforming them yet, but we do keep them out of trouble. We got the b-ball, soccer and occasionally football going regularly every week. We used to have sleepover/qiyaams but that ended in too many prank phone calls and sleepy tired supervisors. So we do day-camps where we mixup and have periodic talks. We don’t have an Imam or any shaykhs to look up to, so we are more or less, experimenting.

    We have tried: films, wrestling (tis Sunnah! and if they got arguments, they can settle it in a match), an email list built up (however, people get tired of it so we got a phone list now and simply tell people to call others), getting bros to bring 2-5 dollars to pitch in for food (before you know it you have 60 bucks and you can get lots of food so they are full and sit and listen to the talks) so food is taken care of.

    Insha Allah, I will be trying to get Feed the Streets (Project downtown) going and getting bros to work at the local soup kitchens. We got a whackload of ideas, waiting to become success stories, Insha Allah.

    Personally, I still have to deal with the anti-religious parents and since I’m one of the organizers it can sabotage everything. One suggestion I know has worked is holding a father-son or mother-daughter event (3-legged race or dinner). I’m surprised no one has mentioned MSAs and their role in all this.

    And if you guys want to get a good collection of stories, it would be wise to not post a new article everyday as it may drown this one. :)

  13. Faiez

    August 14, 2007 at 1:15 AM

    For the youth, by the youth.

    My 2 cents.

  14. Poemwala

    August 14, 2007 at 1:21 AM

    One brother I know suggested having poetry in the Halaqa. He gave me an example of what might work for sisters:

    “Oh sistar…you hijab is so hard to vare
    but ew should know that i care
    and no vun can compare
    to the one who cavars her haaaaair
    you are like shining light
    and they make fun of you in the night
    but you dont care sistar
    because you are the good one”

  15. Ibrahim

    August 14, 2007 at 2:35 AM

    Assalaam alaykum. Youth issues are one of the core concerns of any community and society. And we muslims are no different. The situation is more grave because our youth are bombarded by images of Muslims seemingly engaged almost constantly in internal conflicts, or presenting the worse in behavior among humans, not to mention Muslims.

    To try to seek success stories may be commendable, but I would suggest that there be an “eye-opening” if you will that there is a problem. Then we can talk about seeking solutions. All crises in the world have incidental success stories, but they don’t necessarily indicate a solution to the crises.

    Why do Muslim youth so easily become distracted? What has been the historical precedent among the Muslim youth? How is a young Muslim supposed to transition into a responsible, Allah-fearing adult? How do other communities address this issue? For example, the Amish have a period where their youth actually go away at age 16; and the Mormons have the practice of two-year missionary work for their young men (remember seeing the two guys on bicycles in white shirts and dark trousers?).

    What do the Muslims have culturally, and being a Muslim American convert, what will we do to establish our own community and social tradition & culture in America that defines how we will function?

    Then we might be able to talk about successes.

    Allah guide us all to the best in practicing and living His deen.

  16. Faraz

    August 14, 2007 at 2:40 AM

    Dawud: Was that a fully committed group of people who were retired or had freetime? Or were they taking time out of their day?

    They were taking time out of their day, and one even took extended leaves of absence to spend more time with us. I know that such a person is a rare individual indeed, and I thank Allah that our community has been blessed with such individuals.

  17. MR

    August 14, 2007 at 8:23 AM

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think most of the Muslim bloggers and readers are considered “young” or were considered part of the youth at some point in their life growing up in here. I’m sure most of us had gone through the “high school or freshman college or just college, etc. jahilyah” phase.

    We should ask ourselves, what brought us back to Islam and closer to Allah?

  18. Abu Muhammad

    August 14, 2007 at 7:55 PM

    I have to say that I have had extensive experience giving dawah to young people. When I was younger and in the recent past.

    The most effective method seems to be: mentors.

    Each brother who is reasonably knowledgeable gets to know about two or three youth in his area. Then gives dawah on a one to one basis, explaining various issues and answering any questions that they might have. You keep them interested by taking them to talks and seminars. Going to salah or qiyam in a group. Go out and eat with them. Generally help them out, get to know them, become friends and lead them in the right direction.

    Other methods I’ve tried:

    Standing in the city centre on a box and giving dawah to Tawheed, debating with Christians or Atheists who turned up. (Debating is not really a good way). A lot of the youth were affected by the dawah even though it was aimed at non-muslims. They would turn up and listen every week and some of them started attending the duroos after that. (We did get a slow but steady stream of reverts this way over the years). They have placed a huge plasma screen where we used to talk so people watch dancing girls and football there now!

    Doing talks in schools and colleges. This is great as a lot of people tend to flock to the Islamic society events.

    I can sum it up in three words:

    1. Organised
    2. Constant
    3. Friendly

  19. MM

    August 16, 2007 at 5:38 PM

    Some feedback from Crescent Youth folks, one of the most active youth organizations in Houston:


    What programs have you found to be beneficial in bringing youth back to Islam?
    I don’t but does texas dawah count? Personaly speaking after I volunteered at texas dawah I really started reflecting on myself. Its was just being around alot of Muslim sisters who understood what you’re going thru and where your coming from that hit me home. I remeber this one time all the sisters were expecting this pizza party on the last night we stayed there, we ended up not getting any pizza but just sitting and talknig and helping one another in their problems. It was really emotional, people cried and everything. And many of us took what everyone had to say about there problem and tried implementing there advise. So i guess what im trying to say is that, what ever program or organization you start, have something where like everyone can discuss there problems, problems which they cant discuss with there parents or maybe even friends. Because we usually always attend lectures and all of a sudden get a eman rush but later it wears off. But if we get that one on one thing going with an older sister or brother not neccesarily a sheikh , I beleive that will help more. Ok I dont know if that made sense or not and if this is what you were asking for.


    ^ Yes, that was an amazing last day. Alhumdulillah.
    One of the things to remember with youth programs is that you need a way to bring kids in, particularly those who are not regular masjid goers.
    Always have a sport activity, video games, or free food – or something that *catches* their eye when reading a flier somewhere. Then, once you’ve reeled them in, pop in a lil lecture or talk that may inspire them (and even if it doesn’t, at least they’re hanging with a Muslim crowd).


    a LAN video game network!
    Lazer tag (even though its girly now.. it used to be tite when we were little)
    Water balloon fight (same thing ^^.. man we were fruits)
    Bullriding (dangerous but quite a thrill)
    VR Zones


    And controversial. I always go to the controversial lectures no matter what the topic is, just because it’s so much more interesting than an informative lecture

  20. ibnabeeomar

    November 21, 2007 at 6:17 PM

    i wanted to give this a quick revival and see if anyone else had more youth outreach ideas?

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