The Ashab-e-Kahf For Today’s Youth

Ashab e Kahf

Transcribed for hiba by Asma Imran

I would like to highlight some lessons from the story of the Ashab-e-Kahf (People of the Cave) which I feel are significantly missing in Muslim discourse especially those related to our youth.

Withdrawal from Mainstream Culture

The first thing I want to talk about is the cultural onslaught. The People of the Cave drew themselves away from the dominant culture when they observed that it was overwhelmingly evil. Actually, a verdict was passed against them according to which they were to be executed as a result of their faith; so they pulled themselves out.

One of the most important lessons to draw from this is that until our lives are in danger, we have to engage with the society. As Muslims, we cannot have the attitude that we are not going to mingle in the society because everything outside is a Fitnah from which we have to protect and shelter ourselves, and the only way we are going to preserve our faith is by totally shutting ourselves out from the outside world. This means that we’ve already accepted defeat. It says that everybody else is attacking us, and we’ve got to save ourselves by pulling back and staying strong within our fort.

However, the entire idea of Islam and the imagery that Allah (swt) presents of Islam is that of truth being hurled against falsehood. Allah (swt) gives the image of truth being like a weapon and falsehood being the victim and running away. Thus, the truth is attacking falsehood, and falsehood is on the run. So who’s on the offense and who’s on the defence? Who’s actually questioning the wrong happening in our society and engaging with it and saying: “We are here to change things?” That’s the truth. And who’s actually supposed to go into hiding? That’s supposed to be falsehood.

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Discover Yourself: Break the Shackles of Inferiority

fish2Often in shopping malls, restaurants, educational institutions and in family functions, there is this girl who is trying to hide herself from everyone around. With eyes defining both fear and sadness, she wishes to be as beautiful as the girl sitting next to her. She wants to become as fairer, taller and confident as this girl in order to avoid the fear of being compared and the sadness that consequently follows it. But, her wish list goes on as the number of people she comes across in life is countless. These wishes increase each day when she meets someone better than her; her heart aches and she finds herself devastated. This scenario, with a few subjective variations, is something that goes on in many peoples’ lives. Not only girls, but boys too fall prey to inferiority complex. They are letting this plague take over their lives to such an extent that they are willingly stepping into the dungeon of depression. It would be well suited to use the word ‘willingly’ because no child is born with an inferiority complex. It is later in life when he/she learns to make such choices on the basis of various stereotypes the society is following.

Each one of us is blessed abundantly, and for sure none of us is deprived of Allah’s (swt) blessings.

Stereotype is Hype

A stereotype is a widely accepted view that is applied to a particular social category and every individual in it- without deeply knowing what that particular individual is like. Beliefs like all dark complexioned people are aesthetically inferior, men are insensitive, people who wear glasses are nerds, all riches are successful and lead a happy life, no Hijabi manages to get good marriage proposals or Hijab wearing women are oppressed are some examples of stereotypes that our societies follow. In short, these are man-made criterion that the human race has set to judge one another. Anybody who fails to satisfy these criteria is considered as “The Unlikable”.

Ever since most of us are put to watch TV as kids, we start feeding it in our minds that beautiful girls are as fair as snow, have impossibly tiny waists, are up to date with the latest fashion, and that they have sweet melodious voices to mesmerize everyone around. Such personas are often made to appear kind hearted, caring, well mannered, successful, smart and above all they are the protagonists. The antagonists are likewise made to appear the opposite.

In case of programs that young boys are subjected to, all the successful stereotypical characters own noticeable cars and latest gadgets, play video games, are clean shaven, possess a super muscular body, at times are rich too and above all manage to attract the opposite gender. In short, such stereotypes define gender roles and criteria for physical attractiveness in most of the existing societies. Unfortunately, racial and physical attractiveness stereotyping does not end in cartoons, but lingers on in most of the dramas, movies, literature, and art and even in commercial advertisements- ultimately forming the society’s mentality. Such stereotypes do change with the passage of time e.g. the ideal women in the early 1600s were voluptuous as compared to today’s ideals. People that don’t possess the admirable physical traits highlighted by some sources tended to alter and are still altering with what Allah (swt) gifted them. But, the part of the society that cannot afford to have alternatives catering their demands, fall prey to depression when subjected to never ending criticism.

Piety is something that any human being can acquire regardless of any physical, racial, gender or class discrimination.

Block Criticism – It’s not for You

Criticism occurs as most of us are in a habit of associating positive personality traits with people who seem physically attractive to us without even knowing them completely. In one of the psychological studies on physical attractiveness, male and female subjects were presented with photographs of some men and women from a college yearbook and were asked to rate the pictured individuals on a number of traits. The photographs had been previously rated as very attractive, average, or unattractive. Compared to the unattractive individuals, the attractive individuals were rated as being more sensitive, kind, interesting, strong, poised, sociable, outgoing, exciting, and sexually warm and responsive. They were also rated as having higher status and as being more likely to get married, to have a successful marriage, and to be happy. The only exception to this rosy portrait was that the more attractive individuals were rated as being slightly, but not significantly, less likely to be good parents than neutral or unattractive individuals (Dion, Berscheid, and Walster, 1972).

Imagine the frustration when one has a lock, but the key is nowhere to be found. But to end this frustration it is obvious that one will look for ways to find the key- the solution to the problem. This would be the rational perspective as throwing the lock away would add more to the list of incomplete tasks which when piled up becomes a burden for the whole life time. And this exactly would end up in regrets, and only regrets. In the same way, there are solutions adhering to which one can get rid of inferiority complexes, and some of them are as follows:

  1. The Real Criterion for Superiority

Unlike the changing criteria of society, Allah (swt) the Almighty has put before mankind only one criterion of superiority in Islam that is piety. Allah (swt) says in Surat Al-Hujurat,

“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa (i.e. one of the Muttaqun.) Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

Piety is something that any human being can acquire regardless of any physical, racial, gender or class discrimination. It liberates an individual to such a level where he embraces Allah’s (swt) will. He learns to bow down only before Allah (swt) the Almighty which saves him from bowing down before other peoples’ will. To be more precise, he discovers his true self that connects him with Allah (swt) Almighty, and discards other selves that he had been keeping to please the people. Such ‘selves’ are like masks that are well suited for different desirability criteria set by different people. But, when there remains no need to please the people, since no human was born to do so, one can get rid of these masks and breathe freely in open air. One may become popular by becoming desirable amongst people, but it is only in the remembrance of Allah (swt) that hearts find rest.

  1. Help Yourself by Helping Others

If you had been subjected to criticism because you couldn’t fit in the society’s criteria of beauty or desirability, and intend to bring a revolution in people’s mentality; bring a revolution from within yourself at first. Try not to do to others what you had to face. Sometimes in an attempt to face the harshness of the society we ourselves become harsh in order to fit in it. Along with that pray for the ones who are or were being harsh to you once. Return them with something good and simply follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sa) who never wished bad for the ones who wished bad for him. It is through forgiveness that you would be able to relieve yourself of the pain you had been carrying all along. Let it go and move ahead with firm belief in Allah (swt) the Almighty. Remember what Allah (swt) says in Surat Al-Fussilat,

“The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better (i.e. Allah ordered the faithful believers to be patient at the time of anger, and to excuse those who treat them badly), then verily! he, between whom and you there was enmity, (will become) as though he was a close friend.” (Fussilat 41:34)

  1. Acknowledge What You Have Been Blessed with

Most of us don’t know how much we’ve been blessed with ever since our birth; probably because we never took out the time to focus on this aspect of our lives. This happens because most of us are busy noticing what we don’t have, and what others have. For sure if we spend our time thanking Allah (swt) for what we have, we wouldn’t get any time whining for what we don’t have as Allah’s (swt) blessings upon us can never be numbered. Allah (swt) says in Surat Al-Ibrahim,

“And He gave you of all that you asked for, and if you count the Blessings of Allah, never will you be able to count them. Verily! Man is indeed an extreme wrong-doer, – a disbeliever).” (Ibrahim 14:34)

Each one of us is blessed abundantly, and for sure none of us is deprived of Allah’s (swt) blessings. But, along with that Allah (swt) tests His slaves due to His wisdom that He is aware of, and due to a benefit that He wants His slave to attain. Consider the example of a rich man who has every luxury that any man unlike him would wish for, but despite of the entire treasure, he cannot sleep well at night without taking tranquilizers. On the other hand a farmer with very little income has been blessed with a good night’s sleep. Both have been subjected to certain trials, but they are not deprived of Allah’s (swt) blessings at the same time.

  1. Beauty is Only Skin Deep

Do we appreciate doctors, writers, counselors, social workers, Daees, Ulema etc. due to the good looks that they possess? Or is it due to the work that they do? If we’ll manage finding out the answer to this question, we would certainly be introduced to the real meaning of beauty.

  1. Beauty is Culturally Defined

As mentioned earlier, the criteria for physical beauty is different for different cultures. With so many cultures all around, it is difficult to mould one’s self according to anyone. You might end up pleasing a fraction of people, and displeasing another. That is when Islam stands high by bringing in concepts that can be universally acted upon. This is because Allah (swt) the Almighty is aware of everyone’s needs and that is why He revealed to mankind a system that caters each one of us. So, simply bring back what you had lost earlier.


Concluding by focusing all my words to pinpoint one beautiful fact- I would like to say that if you are beautiful by thought, you’ll certainly meet people who are beautiful by heart. For that you don’t need to alter your physical self, but to change your thought. Such bonds that you’ll make will never end up even if you turn old or do not possess the beauty that you once had. To be precise, focus all your energy on doing something that really matters, because the world is becoming short of beauty that comes from the heart – the everlasting beauty. Remember the following Hadeeth for refreshing your Iman:

Abu Hurairah (ra) reported that Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “Verily, Allah (swt) does not look for your faces and your wealth; but He looks for your heart and for your deeds.” (Muslim)

Transformation to my true self

lotusMany women in my country are driven by cultural stereotypes and nationalism, peer pressure and irrational societal norms. Those who have ‘groomed’ themselves with education and negated cultural slavery, are somewhere trapped in the complicated maze of modernity and westernization. Over and above, those who tend to cover themselves, do it inappropriately by force or misuse the covering garment for illegal purposes.

Till twenty-two years of age, I was not taught the exact conditions, prerequisites, importance and the prescribed method of Hijab, as given in Surah An-Nur, Surah Al-Ahzab and the Sahih Ahadeeth of Messenger (sa). A very rigid socio-cultural way of covering had been taught to me by my elders and family, without the main rules regarding adornment and covering in front of Mahram and non-Mahram men. The very rationale given to me to cover myself did not match the course as outlined in the Quran. Social acceptance was at the core of the cultural teaching of covering and never did I realize that I had to cover because Allah (swt) loved His female servants in that attire and Jilbab, as He loved beauty and modesty!

All praise is for the Creator, the Cherisher, the Sustainer, the Loving and the Most Merciful! He guided me, and I was able to dive thoroughly into the origin, history, logic, benefits and the immense reward of covering myself. Haya, the central theme had never occurred to me like it did, as I leafed through the pages of various books and commentaries of Surah An-Nur and Surah Al-Ahzab.

If I look back to my teenage years, I have emotionally suffered solely because of the lack of knowledge of Deen I had. I was struggling to develop an identity for myself amidst false attachments to the Dunya and addiction to people. Having been obese and exceptionally tall, I received remarks and comments that made my soul shriek out. Indirectly, the evil of self (Nafs) and Satan’s planning were well-tuned; I turned to flaunting, showing off, weight loss, obsession with body talk, idealizing female celebrities and what not. What I had observed and learnt in that age hindered my learning about my Deen. My priorities and attitudes as a girl were exactly defying what my Rabb had taught in His Quran.

If I look back to my teenage years, I have emotionally suffered solely because of the lack of knowledge of Deen I had. I was struggling to develop an identity for myself amidst false attachments to the Dunya

After the transformation, I have found my soul and understood the Fitrah I was born with. I was programmed to naturally incline towards modesty and beauty, and Hijab means both. I can be myself with my outer garment and face veil (Jilbab and Niqab). I was concerned about social approval when thinking about how my dress should be before.

Now, I just feel awe-inspiring and extremely content when I think about how Allah (swt) loves me and will reward me in Jannah for covering myself. Hijab has set me free from cultural slavery, age old traditional myths, and the modern and westernized traps of Satan. It has healed me from the identity crisis I was suffering from. I am a twenty-four years old Muslim woman, and I wear the Hijab (Jilbab or Chador), just to please my Creator, Who sent the Quran as a manual/code of conduct.

When a baby is born, it needs support and guidance to live. Can a machine be operated without reading its manual? How can a human being, Allah’s (swt), the Creator’s best creation, thrive without reading, understanding and acting as per the manual revealed by the Creator Himself? How can a Muslim woman dress or carry herself without reading that manual? The Quran and Hadeeth are for us to learn, implement and share with others.

Allah (swt) empowered me with Hijab to wake me up from the slumber I was in; denying the reality of my Fitrah, Haya and the Akhirah. I understand life and Deen very clearly from under my Jilbab. Many of the infections I was suffering from on a spiritual level have been healed, Alhumdulillah!

I want to be the beloved of Allah (swt) and one of the hints Allah (swt) has given me in the Noble Quran to seek His pleasure is to cover myself. He is my Creator, my Owner! He loves to see me covered like a precious pearl; then why shouldn’t I remove the doubts and regrets in my heart about the rigid, irrational ways of society that go against the guidance He revealed through Prophet (sa).

I see many sisters stuck in the same mental state and frustration of preferring culture over religion. Allah (swt), the author of Noble Quran, wrote in the introductory chapter of the Quran,

“This is the Book (the Quran), whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqun (the pious and righteous persons who fear Allah much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love Allah much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained).” (Al-Baqarah 2:2)

This is the book, for you and me, in which there is absolutely no doubt. If we don’t understand this, we will never be able to defeat the doubts that are stored in our minds. I had a doubt in my mind that the Quran restricts the woman, but rather it sets me free. We need to crush these doubts and replace them with the illumination Quran gives us regarding the Hijab, even if we start step by step. One must do it by first understanding it herself and then the need to do it. We are the servants of Allah (swt) and we need to seek His pleasure in everything we do.

After the transformation, I have found my soul and understood the Fitrah I was born with. I was programmed to naturally incline towards modesty and beauty, and Hijab means both.

The laws and guidelines in the Quran and Hadeeth regarding Hijab have to be followed first and foremost due to total submission to our Rabb. Lastly, the way this Hijab acts as a reality check, it helps me monitor my actions outside and inside my home. It defines me from the core of my soul; it gives a title to my personality and it empowers me as a woman. It teaches me to grow, learn, write, implement and teach all for the love of Allah (swt). One of the automated reminders this transformation gives me is to repent and turn back to Allah (swt).

To my sisters in Islam, our lost souls belong to Him! Initiate and embrace Hijab. Begin by drawing near to Allah (swt) by a span of your hand! It was reported by Abu Hurairah (ra) that the Prophet (sa) said: “Allah (swt), the Exalted and Glorious, said: I am as My servant expects Me and I am with him as he remembers Me. By Allah, Allah is more pleased with the repentance of His servant than how one of you would be on finding the lost camel in the waterless desert. When he draws near Me by the span of his hand, I draw near him by the length of a cubit. And when he draws near Me by the length of a cubit, I draw near him by the length of a fathom. And when he draws near Me walking, I draw close to him quickly.” (Bukhari)

I am being myself and this is where I belong!

Preserving the Lustre

Preserving the Lustre

What I have noticed about young, mostly practicing married girls is that they are usually more concerned about pleasing the in-laws and keeping the home perfect, rather than preserving their lustre and focusing on their sensual side. Why does it happen? Is it culture? Or have we misunderstood the importance of Halal intimacy in Islam?

Jabir bin Abdullah (rtam) has narrated: While we were returning with the Prophet (sa) from a Ghazwah (Holy Battle), I started driving my camel fast, as it was a lazy camel. A rider came behind me and pricked my camel with a spear he had with him, and then my camel started running as fast as the best camel you may see. Behold! The rider was the Prophet (sa) himself. He asked: “What makes you in such a hurry?” I replied: “I am newly-married.” He said: “Did you marry a virgin or a matron?” I replied: “A matron.” He said: “Why didn’t you marry a young girl, so that you may play with her and she with you?” When we were about to enter (Madinah), the Prophet (sa) said: “Wait so that you may enter (Madinah) at night, so that the lady of unkempt hair may comb her hair, and the one, whose husband has been absent, may shave her pubic region.” (Bukhari)

It is obvious from this Hadeeth that enjoying a healthy relationship with one’s spouse and grooming oneself is part of Sunnah. Instead, married women today may have homes that run like perfectly oiled machines, but when it comes to intimacy, they don’t know where to begin.

As Muslims, it is our duty to support each other in all walks of life and for a marriage to run smoothly, moms and moms-in-law play a bigger role than they realize.

How can moms and moms-in-law help young married girls, overwhelmed with their roles and responsibilities, preserve their lustre? Naturally, elderly people do have more time on hand and they all want to see their kids settled happily in life. If their daughters or daughters-in-law are dishevelled, it will affect their marriage. Maybe they can give some of their time (depending on their own health, resources, stamina and patience) to offer relief to these girls. The sensual side is the first to go, when women are overworked, mismanaged or, at times, lazy and don’t want to make an additional effort to groom themselves, when they have house chores to manage, kids to raise and social commitments to fulfill.

They start lying: “My husband doesn’t mind that I look ten years older than him. Even if he does, too bad, I can’t do anything about it.” Or they complain that their spouse neglects them, talks about other women and even dreams about them. Who would want to live with a wrecked mess and for how long?

Here is a list of suggestions that moms and moms-in-law can begin with:

  1. Encourage grandchildren to sleep with their grandparents sometimes, especially in a joint family setup.
  2. Offer to keep an eye on the maids, so the girl can spend some time grooming herself.
  3. Offer to entertain the children once in a while, when the husband returns home.
  4. Babysit the children at times, so that the mother can get a few hours of undisturbed sleep or visit a spa for relaxation and makeover.
  5. Take care of children during the weekend, giving the couple a two hours’ time. They may take the grandchildren to a place of their choice, or just spend time at home watching an interesting animal documentary or cricket match, playing board games, reading books or teaching a skill.
  6. The responsibilities assigned to the daughter-in-law in a joint family setup can be limited to those, which can be accomplished during daytime, while the spouse is away. Anything that holds her back at night in the kitchen or requires her to be there early in the morning could be considered with sympathy.

The point is not to spend money, ending in skyrocketing expenses. It is simply to keep the magnetism alive between the spouses, which will make them happier and better care-givers and providers for the family. It will also keep petty disputes at bay and nourish the communication. Physical appeal is essential for every marriage. Nanis and Dadis should prepare unmarried girls for it and help the married ones carry on with it.

The son should also be more available for his parents during daytime hours. (Wives should not complain about that, too). This will strike a balance. He can hire some help (part-time driver or maid) to enable his parents to stay more independent, without relying upon him and his wife in all daily matters. Adl (justice) has to be done with everyone.

A husband has to honour his parents, and the wife should help him in that. The wife should not be the cause of discord between him and them. When the parents will be taken care of and cherished, they will not mind the couple spending more quality time together.

Since a large number of family setups are joint family based, grandmothers also need to step up – their cooperation is a great help. Likewise, the girls need to be trained for becoming independent – they have to learn to prioritize work, manage time and work wisely for everyone’s benefit.

Character versus Personality


In “The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking”, author Susan Cain writes: “We moved from what cultural historians call a culture of character to a culture of personality. During the culture of character, what was important was the good deeds that you performed when nobody was looking.” Prophet Muhammad (sa) symbolizes the culture of character, where he was only cognizant of the fact that he was answerable to Allah (swt) alone.

Today, our kids are personifications of the new ideal person. “…we suddenly had the rise of movies and movie stars. Movie stars, of course, were the embodiment of what it meant to be a charismatic figure. So, part of people’s [our kids’] fascination with these movie stars was for what they could learn from them…” (Susan Cain) They learn about being popular and getting ahead. Welcome to the culture of personality!

We wonder why our children are disobedient, do not listen, are rude towards others and give tart replies. The answer is obvious. It is the prevailing culture and model of success that has made them so. What can we do to counter it? After a survey of 8 to 15 year olds (boys and girls across 3 continents), we have compiled a practical guide.

  1. Be decisive: When you make a decision, stick to it. If something is off limits and not allowed, then under no amount of pleading or duress will it be permissible. Granted there are certain grey areas, but define those. For example, missing Salah is a straight ‘not to be done’. However, completing homework right now can be negotiable.
  2. Say it like you mean it: Kids of all ages have this uncanny sense of knowing, when you can be persuaded. They detect weakness in resolve and then move in with their innocent faces to plead till you relent. If something is non-negotiable, then mean it when you forbid it. Do not use “I’ll tell Abbu/Ammi” or “let your father/mother come and then we will see”, or any other such statements. You are the parent. You have the authority. Use it.
  3. The Rubric: A rubric is a tool used by teachers to assess a particular task given to students. Often, the students are given these criteria, so they know what areas they will be assessed in. Allah (swt) in His infinite mercy has given us such a tool; sadly, we rarely use it. Make a copy of the rubric below, personalize it and sit with your kids to decide, where each task falls and then hold them to it.





(permitted – neither good nor bad)

Makruh (disliked but not forbidden) Haram (forbidden)
Parent’s expectations non- negotiable discussion Negotiable discussion but probably not allowed or limited access not allowed – non- negotiable
Parent’s Reaction thrilled pleased concerned dislike angry
Tasks Salah (all the time and on time) studying and homework email friends Facebook/social media/TV going to clubs/movies that have Haram content
  reciting Quran everyday helping siblings/ taking out the garbage cell phone usage going out to the mall with friends reading books that have Haram content

Be as specific as you can be. Try not to generalize – that way there is no room for a: “I wasn’t sure what that meant” reply, which has become oh so popular.

  1. Islam as a Deen, not only rituals: Prioritize and schedule your activities and day according to Islam. If you make Deen a part of daily life, so will your kids. This is, of course, common sense, but we, as parents, do digress and as a result give our kids mixed messages. The most common example is lying on the phone about being busy, etc. Kids are confused: lying in any form is a sin, so why is what the parent just did acceptable, but when she/he lies it is not? Be the role model, do not let others (movie stars/singers/sports personalities) usurp that spot.
  1. Be fair: A rule that applies to one child, by default also applies to the rest. For example, if you do not let one child snack between meals then you cannot allow the others either. For most rules, age/gender does not play a factor. Treat them equally, so they know they are loved equally.
  1. Be a friend: “Most parents want a mutually respectful and loving relationship with their children, (…) this means giving in to their harmless pleasures, saying yes to the little things, so when you do say no to things that are absolutely unacceptable, they trust that you are not trying to control them but are ‘raising’ them. Parents need to know that kids are hitting puberty earlier, but we do not let them become adults until much later in life. Psychologists tell us that the reward centers of the adolescent brain are much more active than those of either children or adults.” ( So, let them have their absolute moment of joy, as long as it is permissible. Communicate with them, enjoy their exuberance. Do you remember how it felt to win?
  1. Responsibility and choices: Teach them that if they want choices, they will have to be responsible for the consequences. We do not teach them how to think critically. Let them make mistakes, nurture their hurt and teach them to become stronger after the fall. A mistake is not a failure – it is a learning situation.
  1. Be tech savvy: In the social media, super-connected world of today, parents really do themselves a disservice, when they do not educate themselves about gadgets and technology. Don’t give your child a smartphone, if you do not know how to use it yourself.” (
  1. Be informed: All kids are good; however, be vigilant. This is not a trust issue but a smart parenting move. Know who the friends/peer groups are. Check up on them unexpectedly. Have access to his/her phone, Facebook account, etc. Know what their daily routine is, ask them what they did that day. Communicate! Show them that you care enough to be there when needed.
  1. There is a connection between sensitivity and conscience. The more sensitive a person is, the more moral choices they will make. Guide your child to be sensitive to others’ needs and views, and not to criticize. The ‘cool’ of today is insensitivity. We need to cultivate kids, who think before they act/speak. To do this, programme yourself with this new line of action – your kids will follow.

Subhan’Allah, and may the odds be ever in your favour.