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Pomp and the Circumstance of Our Youth

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islamic online high school

By Ahmed Khalifa

A few months ago I attended my high school graduation ceremony, and as I was sitting there staring into the bright lights on the stage, reflecting on the magnitude of such a rite of passage in one’s life, the principal was calling the names of my peers one by one to receive their diplomas. I couldn’t help but have my mind overflow with memories of what had transpired. As the principal continued calling the names of the graduates, the extended social circle of that graduate would begin to cheer ecstatically. So I began to question; why do these people clap ever so joyously? Was it because the graduate had solidified his or her identity? Or was it because they had succeeded at assimilation and conformity? And then I posed those questions to myself.

In that very setting I was inspired to put pen to paper and write about the trials and obstacles that I endured, which I believe are common to most Muslim youth who live in a minority Muslim society. Firstly, to point out immediate action our community leaders may implement, and secondly, to provide tips for the youth on how to overcome such trials.

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The two most influential factors affecting our Muslim youth are shamelessness in western society and their immediate peer group.

Shamelessness is Rampant

As our beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said:

There are two types of people who will be punished in Hell and whom I have not seen: men having whips like the tails of cows and they will be beating people with them, and, women who will be dressed but appear to be naked, inviting to evil; and they themselves will be inclined to it. Their heads will appear like the humps of the Bactrian camel inclined to one side. They will not enter Jannah and they will not smell its fragrance which is perceptible from such and such a distance.” [Muslim; 2128]

The meaning of, “women who will be dressed yet appear to be naked” as explained by Imam Al-Nawawi and others is that they will be semi-nude; part of their body will be covered whilst the other will remain exposed. Some scholars also mentioned that the meaning is: women will wear see-through and transparent clothing in a way that the color of their body will be visible. (Sharh of Nawawi on Sahih Muslim, P. 1603)

Some of the early scholars of hadith encountered some trouble and confusion on what approach they would take to interpret such a hadith, as they had never witnessed such a description. Meanwhile, if you ask a layman of our times, such a description would resonate and be very familiar. The context makes it very clear that the earlier generations did not face as high a degree of fitnah as we are facing, which makes it imperative, now more than ever, to focus on this issue.

In a society obsessed with self-image, some may resort to such measures in order to fit in, or even stand out. One can only imagine, without explanation, to what limits these practices are pushed in a system becoming more and more lenient with regards to dress code, due to the societal push of “freedom of choice”. This may give you a glimpse of what kinds of pressures are faced by Muslim teens in a hyper-sexualized high school environment.

In a study conducted on American teens in May 2013 results presented that 61% of Americans have had sexual intercourse by the age of 19; on average young people have sex for the first time at about 17 years of age, but don’t marry until their mid-20s (Note: these statistics only represent sexual intercourse, not any other type of relations.)1

Based on personal experience, out of the entirety of high school peers that I’ve met throughout my duration of time enrolled in secondary studies, the amount of people that I can confidently say were not involved in any sort of sexual activity I can count on my own two hands, as most people are quite open about their shamelessness.

Friends are Everything

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) stated in the sound hadith:

A man follows the religion of his friend; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend.” [Sunan Abi Dawud 4833]

Humans are naturally impacted by the people around them, in front of their parents or teachers their behavior differs from when they are in front of their friends or peers. It is essential that we surround ourselves with people that will impact us in a way that is always pleasing to Allah, and which will help maximize our potential.

Under the umbrella of friends, a mentor is also included. To have someone there who you can relate to, that you can come to at anytime and ask for advice, explain situations, and seek religious guidance from is essential, because if you were to ever drift off into darkness, that certain person can hold up the torch and light up the path for you. If not you may be stuck in the dangerous wilderness and possibly pull others who are looking for you, in with you.

Action Items for Community Leaders

1. Revive Youth Marriage

The nature of the environment we live in would make it quite unrealistic for most to be financially able to establish and support a family while still in the process of completing secondary and post-secondary studies.

This phenomenon exists because certain cultural practices of Muslims have led them to set very high expectations for a potential spouse for their child, believing that this will provide their child with a more secure and comfortable future. These parents are unwilling to negotiate any kind of an agreement until those expectations are met. We need to work as a global community to rid our beloved Muslims of this cultural stigma, as it does not comply with the Quran and the Sunnah.

As stated by our beloved Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in the sound hadith:

There are three, all of whom have a promise of help from Allah: ‘The Mujahid who strives in the cause of Allah, the Mighty and Sublime; the man who gets married, seeking to keep himself chaste; and the slave who has a contract of manumission and wants to buy his freedom.'” [Sunan An-Nasa’i 3120]

And also as stated in the sound hadith:

If there comes to you one with whose character and religious commitment you are pleased, then marry (your daughter or female relative under your care) to him, for if you do not do that there will be Fitnah in the land and widespread corruption.” [Sunan Ibn-Majah: 1967]

Muslim communities worldwide need to brainstorm and start creative initiatives in support of those youth who have the intention of marriage. That initiative may be as significant as a trust fund for more resourceful communities, or as minor as a place for a Mahr (dowry) donation box at our Masajid in less populated Muslim communities. This is definitely a need, which requires much due attention.

2. Build a Healthy Environment

Our communities need to progressively work towards achieving a healthy, innovative, welcoming environment, where Muslim youth may meet each other and grow together. Such a place should be equipped with qualified professionals to provide support to our youth regardless of their past, ethnicity, or socio-economic class. The facility should be cutting edge. The local Muslim Youth Center should impress enough to be deemed as “the place to be” for all teens.

We need to begin making Da’wah to those youth distant from the Muslim community, and we need to establish sequential programs aimed for the progression of the consistent comers. We need to be sure to listen to their suggestions and ideas, and provide them with deserved positions on our boards. We should never underestimate their capabilities due to their age. Elect those from the youth to work for the youth, as they know themselves best.

Tips for the Youth

As discussed earlier, marriage is one of the obvious steps that may be taken as a protection, but in some cases marriage is, unfortunately, an unrealistic ambition. For that specific demographic, below are listed precautionary tips which will help you stay steadfast in the face of Fitnah:

1. Fasting

The best advice that can be given is the advice of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) in which he mentioned in the latter part of a hadith:

And whoever cannot (get married) then he should fast, for it will be a restraint (wija’) for him.'” [Sunan An-Nasa’I 3209]

Fasting is a great habit to develop as an act of worship because when one fasts they prohibit themselves from the essential desires of the body (ie, food), so it suppresses the cardinal desires.

2. Set Schedule

Set a schedule for yourself that revolves around the remembrance and ‘Ibaadah of Allah ‘Aza wa Jal, (ie, school, homework, daily prayers, daily Qur’an memorization /recitation, volunteer at local Masjid/Islamic Center). Constantly renew your intention for all of your affairs – that the sole purpose is to ultimately attain the pleasure of Allah Jalla wa ‘Ala. A mind busy with the remembrance of Allah will not have time for the devil’s temptation.

3. Social Media

Filter out your connections on social media. All it takes is one post or picture to serve as the devil’s arrow. If you find it too difficult to do so and believe that people will be offended, de-activate your account.

4. Social Circles

You are a product of the company you keep, so keep track of your immediate circle of influence.

Conclusion

If we were to look at the history of Muslims in the west in a metaphorical sense, we would come to the realization that the Muslim body is well into its youth stages as we have begun to witness an influx in population in multitudes of minor and major cities alike, much like one grows physically in their youth. One must know that the adolescent stage is ever so critical because often times in that very stage the direction is chosen of what kind of life will be led, both on a personal, and metaphorical level.

In order to ensure that the direction we take as a Muslim body is positive, we must ensure that the decisions our youth are making are positive. They are the torch-bearers of our future and they will dictate our success or failure. The years of complacency towards this very important demographic of our community must come to an end if we ever hope to rejoice in their successes.

Ultimately, the responsibility is on the youth’s shoulders. No matter how much effort is put in to persuade you one way or the other, or how many hours of nourishment, the lifestyle you decide to lead is your choice, and that decision is one for which you will definitely be accountable.

Ahmed Khalifa is a native of Palestine and was born in Windsor, Ontario in 1996. Since he was a child, Ahmed has had a passion for writing. His bi-cultural background and focus on community and religion have led him to a number of volunteer opportunities and community leadership roles. Ahmed is currently enrolled in the Digital Journalism and Political Science double-major program at the University of Windsor while concurrently studying the Islamic Sciences under Imam Mohamed Mahmoud.

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Umm Hadi

    December 1, 2014 at 4:41 AM

    Asak, Yes,ultimately it’s the mindset of the individual that needs a change….Pumping in more Iman has become the need of the hour.
    May Allah swt bless and protect our youth who are the leaders of our future generation.
    Ameen.

  2. hussein jamal

    December 1, 2014 at 9:49 AM

    this young author is another hard-core wannabee and in a typically obsessive fashion focuses on women’s dressing and western culture. no mention of violence and terrorism going on in muslim countries or how muslim youth need to embrace education and technology to move the muslim countries out the slumber they are stuck in. no mention of career path etc. obviously the author has spent time at taliban-oriented madrassah. its a shame that muslim matters publishes this sort of rubbish.

    • Noora

      December 4, 2014 at 8:55 PM

      Hussien, If you want to read an article about violence and terrorism in the Mid East then go read that article. And if you want you want to read something on career path then go ahead and do that. This brother wanted to write about some of the issues that muslim youth are facing in the west and that is what he did. And just because he hasn’t spent the same amount of time at pot head school as you so “obviously” have doesn’t mean that he is as right wing as you might think…if you’ve done any thinking at all. So please take your own advice and go get some of that much needed education you speak of.

  3. Tasnia Deen

    December 1, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    Very well said. This topic cannot stressed enough in today’s society.

  4. Hyde

    December 1, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    Woe be me, if I would have paid heed to the atmosphere I indulged in…now it’s too late…

    • jinkaiy

      December 8, 2014 at 12:42 PM

      As long as you’re breathing, it’s not late. Just do your best in seeking better company and embrace change(s)…

  5. uzairzubairi

    December 2, 2014 at 1:29 AM

    awsome article akhi, even though i couldnt read the whole thing, and had to skim through quickly.
    I ask Allah to protect all of us from Zina and whatever leads to it. I ask Allah to grant us rightious wives and rightieous children who will serve the deen and spread the sunnah and fight the shirk and bidah in this world. Ameen ya rabb.

  6. Khawla

    December 2, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    Eye opener, mashala! Your advice is logical and realistic. May Allah reward you for your efforts to resolve the major issues in our communities and may it be implemented and put in use. I really enjoyed your article and can’t wait for more; as they say: no one knows the problems youth face like the youth themselves. Keep it up brother :)

  7. hussein jamal

    December 2, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    ahhh censorship at work here. my comment got conviently removed

    • Aly Balagamwala

      December 3, 2014 at 9:23 AM

      Dear Hussein

      My apologies. I was having some internet access issues and could not approve pending comments.

      Aly

  8. Mohammed

    December 5, 2014 at 8:27 AM

    Very well written with thought provoking insights for any community that has sensible morals in such times as these, not just the the Muslim communities

  9. Ameen

    December 5, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    This was very beneficial, good work habibi. MashaAllah, all these things you touched on are very essential. My only suggestion is that you focus on one of these points and suck as much life out of it as you can, it’d be more effective I think. JazakaAllah khair for the beneficial tips and may Allah make you a huge benefit to our ummah. Ameen.

  10. Saharish Arshad

    May 13, 2015 at 6:13 AM

    The challenges that Muslims living as minorities face are not very different from those living in Muslim countries. Even though the level of vulgarity that surround them might be far less, the trials are still similar. So I think someone should convey to the youth and their parents that, there is really nowhere to run and no where to hide, don’t look to the east. We live in tranquil monotony and the dangerous belief that our children will grow up as honourable muslims without any effort. Its all a slow incline downhill here.

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