The youth of the twenty-first century has been deeply affected by the social and political turmoil it has witnessed. Every day is a struggle, and in troubled times, passionate hearts and energized minds look for ideals onto which they can cast their mortal selves. So prevalent and severe are the conflicts that the moral compasses of the youth are shaken – in their fear and confusion, they have drifted away from the righteous path set out by all major religions of this day and age. Lessons of tolerance, compassion, sacrifice, brotherhood, and peace have all been shelved away, only to be replaced by the existing prejudices, violence, discrimination, and bigotry. Unless heroes of the past and stories from childhood are revived, our world would face an unprecedented existential threat.
Daring and hopeful about their future, the youth are in need of guidance, which only various institutions working together can provide. These institutions, provided they function relentlessly, can give rise to agents of change.
Home – Every child’s first school
The family provides the very first training. Only the child’s family is aware of his weaknesses and vulnerabilities. This knowledge allows the family to protect the child from the “big, bad world outside” and becomes a vital source of encouragement when the child opts to be good, displays acts of kindness, and fulfils religious duties. It is this household environment that moulds the reaction and interpretation of the youth, clarifying for him what is wrong and what is right, while stressing on the importance to choose what is right over what is easy. Parents provide their offspring with solid ground to stand on, and in giving them love, they indirectly guide their children towards what they consider to be right, that is, the values they themselves hold as important.
Impact of righteous mentors
Only when the earliest “how?”, “why?” and “why not?” of young and uncorrupted minds are answered, the child can make sense of the far graver and deeper issues of the world and decide on his own response to them. This pivotal training and wisdom is present in the form of educational institutions, which inculcate a sense of diversity and tolerance in their students. This stage perhaps is the most crucial, since alongside academic teachers stand the spiritual and political leaders. Apart from religious holidays, teachers arrange such events as charity drives, and trips to holy sites alongside tours of local museums and libraries. This stimulates the young mind’s quest for the truth and yearning to make sense of this world. In difficult times, these teachers become the much-needed counselors and friends.
Freedom to decide
It is important to allow the youth to step out of their comfort zones and have a taste of reality on their own. As independent and free souls, young people enjoy their right to choose the life they want to lead. When faced with difficult choices, youth should be trusted with all that they have absorbed and learnt over the years. It is the bumps in the road and the low points in their lives that force the youth to revisit their basics, ask questions, and come to the eventual realization that their religion is ultimately the only lasting and safe refuge.
The global village effect
Awareness about the global kinship of all youth is truly empowering. Apart from the presence of God, youth find comfort in the knowledge that there are countless other young people just like them in every corner of the world, who fight daily battles, holding the values they believe in as their shields. This knowledge pours in through the technology gateways, which narrow the world down to a global community, with the youth as its driving force. They communicate online with one another, regardless of ethnic or racial differences. The technology acts as a bridge, letting the youth on both sides see the world from a perspective starkly similar to their own and, hence, find a common ground. This sense of friendship and belonging cannot be guaranteed by any ratified resolution of the United Nations, as it stems from a holier place which is not marred by measurements of distance and time.
It is the joint responsibility of all of us to bring out the potential of today’s youth, empowering them to become the driving force for change. As young people stumble, fall, and rise again, their sole hope is that the light at the end of the tunnel is what they have deemed precious and held true all along. Let us all put forth our utmost effort and make Dua to Allah (swt) to channel the idealism of the youth in the right direction, which will build a strong Muslim Ummah.