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Islamic Society ( 11 Jun 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muslim Youth Growing Up in a Godless Society


By Salma Cook

07 June 2012

Have you heard this before?

“Mum! I really do deserve a new computer!

You don’t know how fortunate you are to have a son like me! I don’t do drugs, drink alcohol, have girl friends or self-harm!

I have no tattoos, no body piercing! I don’t even wear men’s jewellery! I’m doing well at school and keeping out of trouble. I pray five times a day! Really, I’m a gem!”

Did he get the computer?

I’ll keep you guessing. But one thing is for sure, the meaning of ‘normal teenage behaviour’ has certainly changed. Back in the day, young people got an education (if they were fortunate enough), played outside (yes, they actually climbed trees), made friends (the good and the bad), kept out of trouble because Dad would come home from work and hear about it, and they grew up, looked back and thanked their parents and then got married and so the whole cycle continued. Maybe life was somewhat simpler then, who knows? Nowadays, it’s a very different story.

A Time to Sit and Think, or Just Sit

Having a computer is becoming a necessity in many Muslim households as parents try to keep their children indoors; away from gangs, drugs, immoral behaviour and all things un-Islamic. So, armed with play stations, Wifi, laptops, iphones, iPods, iPads and any other gadget designed to wile away time and prevent the human mind from actually thinking, parents leave their teenagers in front of the ‘screen’, heave a sigh of relief and get on with their lives which usually entails making more money. Their job is done?

Today’s world is hell-bent on entertaining people, especially young people; preoccupying them with films, sit-coms, and advertisements. People, most notably the young, are being used as consumers; they have been reduced to a ‘market’; an important part of the money-making machinery of modern civilization. At the same time, their senses are being lulled as they become more and more passive observers of life; of themselves. This, at a time, when people have to ponder, reflect and analyze what is going on around them as the world dips, slips and slides its way into its shaky future. Young people are being ‘taught’ to be passive, when there is a dire need to think and feel. Instead, they sit in front of a computer, paralyzed; sitting in a digital world.

Facing the Dilemma

Even though some may try to hide behind a screen, young people bear the brunt of what is going on in the world, because, after all, they are the ones who will inherit the mess we have left behind. It is not a pretty picture. Global warming, worldwide economic recession, wars, manmade disasters (oil spills, cutting down rain forests), genetically engineered food, precious animals going extinct and a myriad of problems and dilemmas that the most well-experienced, well-educated people can hardly comprehend, let alone fix.

How equipped are young people to, not only, cope with what is going on, but to actually try to redress the damage done by generations already passed? What will spending hours every day sitting in front of various forms of screens do to help them on their way?

But, as Muslims, we know that coping and problem-solving is not just a matter of ‘scientific knowledge’. After all, the modern world is filled to the brim with scientific knowledge but having this, has only helped people invent more ways of killing, exploiting and monopolizing. No, knowledge without morals and ethics can indeed be deadly. Spirituality, closeness to God Almighty and commitment to living a moral, ethical lifestyle is the key to directing knowledge and human beings in a healthy, positive direction.

So, here stands our modern day young Muslims. Bombarded by temptations to try out substances and behaviour that threaten their worldly life and their Hereafter, young people eventually face the world. Should they retain their Islamic identity and hurl themselves into the fray they are often ridiculed, ostracized, criticized or ignored. If they are not well grounded in their faith, they will quickly fall prey to diverse beliefs and stances and end up confused, lost and far from the straight path.

Those who manage to maintain, and even develop, their identity as Muslims then go to the next level of life’s tests. They have to live in the world; use their Islamic understanding and ethics and make positive change. Not an easy undertaking when the same young person is working hard to make a living, deal with family, and maintain friendships, while trying to be a good example and continue reading and learning. I wonder at which point in this scenario the computer actually get switched off. Or, did the way it is used change?

Change Your Life

One young Muslim man, aged 24 years, noted: “I sometimes have difficulty in my life keeping on the Straight Path. I often feel isolated but there is one thing I look forward to and that is the Friday Prayer at the local mosque. Because I work night shift it is especially difficult sometimes to wake up and get there on time, but I am determined. One particular Friday I had to walk to the mosque because my car had broken down but I counted the steps, eager for the reward of God and seeking to be spiritually uplifted. I was hoping for some uplifting tafsir, some stories of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him). However, I was saddened when the Imam spent the whole Khutbah talking about how the Muslims should park their cars when visiting the mosque! I know that parking can be a problem, but, really, I wanted and needed to be spiritually energized!”

He walked home afterwards with plenty to think about. And perhaps because he was walking and not driving, he came to an important realization: “I really do have to take responsibility for my own spirituality!”

He started to understand that his parents will not always be there to motivate him, that teachers and friends come and go and that the mosque, instead of being a place of peace and spiritual rejuvenation, can actually sometimes be a trial. Once he took charge of motivating himself and doing so on his own prayer mat, he started to feel stronger, more confident and much closer to God Almighty.

What is the key to living in a world where violence is the norm, where life is cheap, where the human body is used for cheap pleasures or capital gains, and where the ‘haves’ of the world indulge their greed while the ‘have nots’ suffer in silence with few voices advocating for them? Young people are juggling their family obligations, religious duties, and educational goals, while trying to make sense of a world that is developing technologically faster than people are able to keep up and where isolation and depression are rampant.

The Key

Your prayer mat is your starting point, and pit stop. The Quran is your constant companion. Prophet Muhammad is your role model and everything you have is on loan to you from God. God Almighty Says (what means):

{To Him belongs whosoever is in the heavens and on earth. And those who are near Him (i.e. the angels) are not too proud to worship Him, nor are they weary (of His worship).} (Al-Ambiya’ 21: 19)

Don’t wait for others to inspire you, motivate you or come to your rescue. We are living in an over-populated world that is bent on destroying the very environment that is created to help us thrive.

We are living in huge cities that spill out over what remains of greenery, nature, and where people struggle and bicker for their rights, hardly pausing long enough to take in the bigger picture; where are we all headed? Your ability to survive and thrive in this world is based on your closeness to God.

Take the initiative and draw up a plan of action for yourself. Maintain your five daily prayers, seek knowledge, and surround yourself with positive people who share your goals, use your voice to speak out against injustice; be the giver, not the taker, and trust in God every step of the way. At the end of the day, we are born alone, will die alone and will be raised alone and alone, we will stand before our Maker and face the consequences of our life’s efforts. And we certainly will not be asked about how many movies we watched or what level of the game we got to!

In closing, let’s reflect on the words of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):

Abide by what benefits you, seek aid with Allah, and be not disabled. (Muslim)