By Talha Bozkurt
Muslims who were born into the age of social media.
The world is rapidly changing and developing, and so must our modes of engagement when it comes to Muslim Millennials. According to a Pew Research study conducted in the year 2015, the average median age for Muslims globally was 24 years, the youngest cohort relative to all other religions. Thus, Muslim organisations ought to focus more on how to effectively engage and utilise the vigour of this young audience for the brighter future of our Ummah. But how?
Allah in the Holy Quran provides us with an eternal method for inviting people to His path.
اُدۡعُ اِلٰى سَبِيۡلِ رَبِّكَ بِالۡحِكۡمَةِ وَالۡمَوۡعِظَةِ الۡحَسَنَةِ
“Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good counsel…” [Surah An-Nahl; 125]
This article endeavors to put into practice divine advice entailing i) wisdom and ii) good counsel through 7 key points and real life examples that aim to bridge the gap even closer between Muslim Millennials and Islam.
- Stay Up-to-date with Social media
I am not referring to simply having a presence on social media outlets (Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat) and promoting an organization’s Islamic events. Stay Up-to-date with “why” and “how” it is that young Muslims utilize these platforms; enter their sphere to better comprehend “what” it is they find appealing. Social media outlets are the means with which we can establish a connection virtually, before venturing across to the bridge of reality.
Going through some snapchat stories, more recently a common infatuation amongst my young brothers is a game called “fortnite.” Knowledge of this game’s popularity might be the means through which such youth can potentially enter into Muslim youth organizations. I know of a good friend that began his journey to becoming an integral volunteer after participating in a games tournament organised by the youngsters at the local Mosque.
For Muslim women, “hijab tutorials” is a theme that seems to be trending on Instagram. The ‘modest’ fashion industry is exponentially growing and becoming more popular. Female organisations can organize ‘Hijab Festivals’ or Hijab tutorial workshops to draw in young Muslim women. Such events will not only be an opportunity to display the real definition of hijab, but also be the catalyst to further young women’s journey to learn more about their deen.
These are only two pertinent examples amongst many where staying up-to-date with young Muslim’s interests can be the spark with which to use to further their connection with Islam and their Muslim Identity.
- Physically reaching out
If the younger generation are at mosques and events today, it is mainly because their parents strongly encourage (pronounced “force”) them to be there. Ideally we would like to see these very youngsters having their own reasons for coming to the mosque. Yet as our discussion continues, we will be waiting for a very long time before this actually happens. It is for this reason that it is upon us to make the physical effort of seeking out these youngsters and meeting them at their places of interest.
A brother knew a group of young Muslims who had a passion for bike riding, but little connection with the mosque. With the intention of developing a stronger relationship with these young Muslims, he purchased a bike and participated in their rides together. Long story short, after a few rides, through the brother’s effort those same youth are now dedicated volunteers at their local masjid. This isn’t his method; It is the method of the beloved Prophet Muhammad . He first wrestled with Rukana and then invited him to Islam; which he accepted. [Tirmidhi (vol. 4, p.247)]
- Start Young(er)
When we hear the word ‘youth’, we generally think of teenagers. A lot of our events are generally directed at Muslims teenagers and above. It is the case that some Muslim parents aren’t able to provide their children with the correct Islamic education (tarbiya). The moment they step foot into society, they become extremely vulnerable. We should lower the age for our events and activities so that we can fill any gaps of curiosity and doubt before they reach their teenage years.
It is also paramount to acknowledge that this generation was born into a technological era unaware of what it was like for the internet to be too slow to connect. There is a famous Turkish proverb that says “a tree bends while it is young,” which depicts in essence our approach to getting our Muslim youth to take ownership of their identity early on in life.
- Address issues that are relevant and relatable.
The average attention span of humans, according to a study by Microsoft Corp, has now descended to an astounding eight seconds (apparently goldfish have an attention span of nine seconds). What does this mean for us? Your introduction is very important. The style of the message you’re conveying is very important. It must be appealing and relatable.
At the start of a talk given to a group of youth, the speaker informed the audience that his topic was an explanation of ‘Surah Al-Instagram’. When he mentioned this, all the youth in the room developed excitement and curiosity. Obviously the students knew there wasn’t a surah titled ‘al-Instagram’, but it was sufficient to draw in their attention. In that talk, the speaker elaborated to the youth some of the effects Instagram has on an individual. But to address such issues, we first have stay up-to-date with social media (see 1st point).
What not to do:
I once attended an Islamic lecture given to a group of Muslim youth (millenials) where the speaker mentioned that our pious predecessors would do “thousands of adhkar (rememberance) on a daily basis”. The moment young Muslims are presented with examples that are difficult for them to relate with, they can lose interest and deem themselves inferior. Wisdom entails saying the right thing at the right place at the right time.
- Food & Games are an ideal way of Da’wah
Some Muslims limit da’wah to every sentence starting with “Qala Allah , Qala Rasulullah ” (Allah said, the Prophet said). Da’wah however, can be in the form of any invitation that leads us to the goal; that is Allah . From reminding someone of a verse from the Holy Quran, to smiling at the face of your brother/sister, da’wah has a much broader scope than we think.
I once asked for advice from a local scholar with regards to dealing with youth, and he mentioned the following pearls of wisdom: “There are some youth you lead with your mind, and there are others you lead with your stomach.” The simplicity of this statement had a profound effect on me as it was both practical and effective. My local mosque for example continues to provide pizzas for the youth after their weekly lectures as an incentive, and it works.
- Sports and Sport stars
The influence of sports players has dramatically increased. Young people LOVE sports! And they respect successful sports players more than we think. We may not have many Muhammad Ali’s at this time, but we do have the Sonny Bill Williams, Mohammah Salahs, and the Khabib Nurmagomedovs that don’t shy away from their religious identity. One might simply say the sports these players perform is futile or haraam, and as a result dismiss its’ impact. Yet a lot of young Muslims will still watch and still follow them regardless of one’s religious stance.
On the other hand, you can utilize and engage with such sports stars to draw in the younger crowd for a greater objective. A seeming reality is that an Islamic reminder uttered by a successful sports star has greater impact on young Muslims than Muslim leaders themselves. So look out into your local communities to see if there are any prominent Muslim sport stars your organisation can engage with.
A friend of mine is a young, successful, and practicing Muslim BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) coach. Through his achievement in the sport on a global level, and his identity as a practicing Muslim, he is able to influence his Muslim students simply through his actions. He once mentioned to me that “during training one day, I told students I will be pausing for prayer and went to pray. After I gave salaam, I realized there was about 30-40 students praying behind me”.
(Note: World Cup 2018 is coming up in June, so make sure to utilise this massive event as a source of attraction for youth in your organisations.)
And finally, the most important point…
- Approach Muslim Millennials with the eye of mercy and compassion.
We have already established simple methods in how we can bridge the gaps between the years. Yet let us not forget we too were young with a lack of experience and it was only through the mercy of Allah that we found our feet before the exponential boom of distractions. We must be very sensitive and cautious in our approach towards our fellow brothers and sisters. We must understand the gravity of the challenges they are facing in today’s hypersexualized society before we begin to address them. We should not criticize them nor be overly judgemental. We should not complain about how “entitled” or how “corrupted” some of them may have become.
The golden rule in dealing with Muslim Millennials is that we approach them with the eye of mercy and compassion, and with sincere belief that we are not superior to them. This way, our relationships will be stronger and more effective, and as a result the Ummah’s future will be in trustworthy hands inshaAllah.
– This advice caters to the majority of ‘Muslim Millenials’ according to the established behavioral mindset of the times.
– Everything mentioned above can be implemented by any type of Muslim organization: youth organizations, schools, madrasas, mentoring institutes and the like. In short, anything or anyone that/who is related to engaging with Muslim Millennials.
Melbourne born and raised, Talha Bozkurt has qualifications in Islamic Studies from the University of Marmara, Turkey and is also a graduate of the Cambridge Muslim College, UK. He has also studied the Arabic language and Islamic Sciences under prominent scholars in Egypt, Jordan and Yemen. He was a previous youth president for an Islamic organisation and has extensive experience working amongst Muslim youth both as a community member and as an Islamic Studies teacher. He is currently pursuing postgrad studies in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne.
How Grandparents Can Be Of Invaluable Help In A Volatile ‘Me First’ Age
I grew up in a small rural village of a developing country during the 1950s and 1960s within a wider ‘extended’ family environment amidst many village aunties and uncles. I had a wonderfully happy childhood with enormous freedom but traditional boundaries. Fast forward 30 years, my wife and I raised our four children on our own in cosmopolitan London in the 1980s and 1990s. Although not always easy, we had a wonderful experience to see them grow as adults. Many years and life experiences later, as grandparents, we see how parenting has changed in the current age of confusion and technology domination.
While raising children is ever joyous for parents, external factors such as rapidly changing lifestyles, a breath-taking breakdown of values in modern life, decline of parental authority and the impacts of social media have huge impacts on modern parenting.
Recently, my wife and I decided to undertake the arduous task of looking after our three young grandchildren – a 5½-year old girl and her 2-year old sibling brother from our daughter, plus a 1½-year old girl from our eldest son – while their parents enjoyed a thoroughly deserved week-long holiday abroad. My wife, who works in a nursery, was expertly leading this trial. I made myself fully available to support her. Rather than going through our daily experiences with them for a week, I highlight here a few areas vis a vis raising children in this day and age and the role of grandparents. The weeklong experience of being full time carers brought home with new impetus some universal needs in parenting. I must mention that handling three young grandchildren for a week is not a big deal; it was indeed a sheer joy to be with these boisterous, occasionally mischievous, little kids so dear to us!
- Establish a daily routine and be consistent: Both parents are busy now-a-days earning a livelihood and maintaining their family life, especially in this time of austerity. As children grow, and they grow fast, they naturally get used to the daily parental routine, if it is consistent. This is vital for parents’ health as they need respite in their daily grind. For various practical reasons the routine may sometimes be broken, but this should be an exception rather than a norm. After a long working day parents both need their own time and rest before going to sleep. Post-natal depression amongst mums is very common in situations where there is no one to help them or if the relationship between the spouses is facing difficulty and family condition uninspiring.
In our trial case, we had some struggles in putting the kids to sleep in the first couple of nights. We also faced difficulties in the first few mornings when our grandson would wake up at 5.00am and would not go back to sleep, expecting one of us to play with him! His noise was waking up his younger cousin in another room. We divided our tasks and somehow managed this until we got used to a routine towards the end of the week.
- Keep children away from screens: Grandparents are generally known for their urge to spoil their grandchildren; they are more relaxed about discipline, preferring to leave that job to the parents. We tried to follow the parents’ existing rules and disciplinary measures as much as possible and build on them. Their parents only allow the children to use screens such as iPads or smartphones as and when deemed necessary. We decided not to allow the kids any exposure to these addictive gadgets at all in the whole week. So, it fell on us to find various ways to keep them busy and engaged – playing, reading, spending time in the garden, going to parks or playgrounds. The basic rule is if parents want their kids to keep away from certain habits they themselves should set an example by not doing them, especially in front of the kids.
- Building a loving and trusting relationship: From even before they are born, children need nurture, love, care and a safe environment for their survival and healthy growth. Parenting becomes enjoying and fulfilling when both parents are available and they complement each other’s duties in raising the kids. Mums’ relationship with their children during the traditional weaning period is vital, both for mums and babies. During our trial week we were keenly observing how each of the kids behaved with us. We also observed the evolution of interesting dynamics amongst the three; but that is a different matter. In spite of occasional hiccups with the kids, we felt our relationship was further blossoming with each of them. We made a habit of discussing and evaluating our whole day’s work at night, in order to learn things and plan for a better next day.
A grandparent, however experienced she or he may be, can be there only to lend an extra, and probably the best, pair of hands to the parents in raising good human beings and better citizens of a country. With proper understanding between parents and grandparents and their roles defined, the latter can be real assets in a family – whether they live under the same roof or nearby. Children need attention, appreciation and validation through engagement; grandparents need company and many do crave to be with their own grandchildren. Young grandchildren, with their innate innocence, do even spiritually uplift grandparents in their old age.
Through this mutual need grandparents can transfer life skills and human values by reading with them, or telling them stories or just spending time with the younger ones. On the other hand, in our age of real loneliness amidst illusory social media friends, they get love, respect and even tender support from their grandchildren. No wonder the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren is often so strong!
In modern society, swamped by individualism and other social ills, raising children in an urban setting is indeed overwhelming. We can no longer recreate ‘community parenting’ in the traditional village environment with the maxim “It needs a village to raise a child’, but we can easily create a productive and innovative role for grandparents to bring about similar benefits.
Loving Muslim Marriage Episode #2: Do Women Desire Sex?
In this episode, we ask an obvious question with what seems like an obvious answer – do women need sex? Obviously, yes.
If that’s the case though, then why is expressing a sexual need, or seeking help for sexual issues such a taboo in Muslim cultures?
Loving Muslim Marriage | Is it Haraam to Talk About Sex?
Female sexual nature and female sexual desires are often misunderstood, especially among Muslims. There are some classes and seminars by Muslim speakers that offer advice to Muslim couples about intimacy but unfortunately, the advice is not exactly aligned with correct female sexual nature.
So we decided to come together to clarify these misunderstandings and explain the sexual nature of women and their desires, so we can help build healthy intimacy within Muslim marriages leading to happier Muslim marriages.
This is going to be a series of videos that we will release every week, inshaAllah.
What should be expected out of these videos?
Each video will address a specific myth or misconception about either female sexuality, or Muslim marriage to help men better understand women. We will also explore male sexuality and other subjects.
– to help better quality marriage
– to help couples- both men and women- get a more satisfying intimate life
– to help women navigate intimate life in a manner where they are fulfilled, paving the way for involvement and desiring of intimacy; breaking the cycle of unsatisfying intimate lives for both husband and wife
Please keep in mind that these videos are for people with normal sexual desires — they are not meant to address asexuality.
The content of these videos is a mean to provide marital advice based on mainstream orthodoxy as well as best practices and relationships.
Some experts joined us in these videos to offer their expertise from an Islamic and professional perspective:
Shaikh AbdulNasir Jangda: He was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and at the age of 10 began the road to knowledge by moving to Karachi, Pakistan, and memorizing the entire Qur’an in less than one year. After graduating from high school, he continued his studies abroad at the renowned Jamia Binoria and graduated from its demanding seven-year program in 2002 at the top of his class with numerous licenses to teach in various Islamic Sciences. Along with the Alim Course he concurrently completed a B.A. and M.A. in Arabic from Karachi University. He also obtained a Masters in Islamic Studies from the University of Sindh. He taught Arabic at the University of Texas at Arlington from 2005 to 2007. He served as the Imam at the Colleyville Masjid in the Dallas area for three years. He is a founding member and chairman of Mansfield Islamic Center.
He is the founder of Qalam Institute and he has served as an instructor and curriculum advisor to various Islamic schools. His latest projects include Quran Intensive (a summer program focusing on Arabic grammar and Tafsir), Quranic analysis lectures, Khateeb Training, chronicling of the Prophetic Biography, and personally mentoring and teaching his students at the Qalam Seminary.
In these videos, Sh. Jangda helped present the Islamic rulings and corrections of various misconceptions regarding intimacy and female sexuality.
Dr. Basheer Ahmed: He is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with 18 years of teaching experience at various medical schools. He started off his career by teaching at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York as a Psychiatrist in 1971. Then he started his own private practice in 1984 till the present time. Meanwhile, he continued to teach at various universities around the U.S.
He is also the Chairman of MCC Human Services in North Texas.
In these videos, Dr. Basheer explained several psychological conditions that women may suffer through when they are sexually dissatisfied in a marriage.
Zeba Khan: She is the Director of Development for MuslimMatters.org, as well as a writer, speaker, and disability awareness advocate.
She helped address the uncomfortable myths and misconceptions throughout these videos and helped provide the correct perspective of female and marital intimacy for Muslim couples to enjoy a better marriage.
Usman Mughni: He is a Marriage & Family Therapist and holds a Master’s of Science degree
Northern Illinois University and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, along with a degree in diagnostic medical imaging. He worked as a therapist at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in the Center for Addiction Medicine. Usman has experience providing counseling to individuals, couples, and families at Northern Illinois University’s Family Therapy Clinic along with experience working with individuals, couples, and families struggling with chemical dependency and mental health diagnoses and running psychoeducational group therapy at Centegra Specialty Hospital’s partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs.
Since Usman enjoys working with couples to help bring tranquility back into the marriage and providing premarital counseling to couples who hope to have a successful marriage at a time when divorce seems to be on the rise, he especially joined us in this series to offer his expertise. He highlighted the most common intimacy issues in Muslim marriages that he has observed throughout the years of his experience as a therapist. His insights and knowledge has helped us clarify many misconceptions not only regarding female sexual nature but also about men and marital intimacy.
Ustadha Saba Syed: She has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language and Literature at Qatar University and at the Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi.
She’s been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam. She is a pastoral counselor for marriage, family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas. SHe also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.
She took the initiative of putting together these videos because through her pastoral counseling experience she realized that there are many marital intimacy problems in Muslim marriages, mainly due to the misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding female sexuality and female sexual nature.
Hence, with the speakers above, and with these videos we hope to clarify and explain as many myths and misconceptions that we believe have become a hindrance to happiness and success in Muslim marriages. We welcome your comments and suggestions in order to make this series more successful.