It definitely goes without saying that the Muslim youth of today will be the leaders of the Ummah tomorrow. This is a role for which they have to be formally groomed, by their families, educational institutes, and the society at large. Today, the sad reality is that the youth are “lost” – they lack direction and they definitely are in dire need of role models to emulate and leaders to follow. So, what can be done to improve the situation and channel the youth towards a positive future?
Hiba interviewed a few prominent personalities, who have worked with the youth in different fields. These individuals included:
- Salman Asif Siddiqui: Director, Educational Resource Development Centre (ERDC), Educationist and Parent Counsellor.
- Amina Murad: Administrator, Star Links School and author of award-winning Flowers of Islam publications.
- Shujja-uddin Shaikh: Academic Director, Quran Academy.
- Saulat Pervez: teacher at Generations’ School, content researcher, and writer.
- Sumaira Dada: ex-teacher and writer.
The aforementioned individuals gave their valued input on three aspects:
Top three success strategies for working with the youth in order to motivate them to be the leaders of tomorrow
Salman Asif Siddiqui
- Respect the youth and nourish their confidence, self esteem and trust.
- Educate them about the culturally-rich history of Muslim leaders who were pioneers of the Islamic history/society. Tell them their success stories in the different fields of life.
- Thirdly, there should broaden their vision and keep the global perspective of humanity in mind, while being loyal to their regional identities. We want to produce world leaders.
Act upon what you say
The youth need good contemporary role models to emulate. Be one of them: a sound practicing Muslim and follower of the Prophet (sa). Be a leader at home and in the community.
Telling is not communication. Be visionary and give them a vision. Be their friend and show them ways of achieving their goal, despite the setbacks. Provide positive feedback to motivate them instead of continuous criticism. Help them focus by removing time wasters that sap their energy. Youth should be taught to find their special talent, develop it, and channelize their energy in that direction.
Involve them and channelize their energy
Muslim youth have fewer opportunities to channelize their energies. Authentic work experience and involvement in schools, colleges and family and community services will channelize their energies. Positive involvement will help them unleash their potential and help them gain confidence to work towards their vision. Their blurred vision of a glamorous world will be shattered and the harsh realities will excite them to share their resources with others. Leadership will thus follow.
First of all, we should clearly define success. It is crystal clear from the Quran and Sunnah that the ultimate success is that of the hereafter. As such, I propose the following strategies:
- Try to inculcate real faith (through company of pious people and teachings of Quran and Sunnah), as faith is the fundamental motivating force for good deeds.
- Get authentic knowledge of what is Halal and what is Haram (through the teachings of Quran and Sunnah); we cannot move forward towards success unless we know the right path ourselves.
- Keep in view the life of the Prophet (sa) – according to the Quran, his role model is the best, followed by the Companions of the Prophet (sa).
- Keep the communication lines open — instead of micromanaging the youth, have a trust relationship where they can come to you to discuss any problem.
- Educate them not only in the traditional intellectual subjects, but also in emotional, mental, and social areas so that not only are their SAT scores or O Level results high, they can also learn to empathize, to exercise self-control, and be civic-minded.
- Raise them to not only be good Muslims – but to be good humans and understand that the only way you can be a good Muslim, is to be a good human first and foremost.
- Trust them: Our youth is constantly kept under check via a strategy of do’s and don’ts till they rebel. We need to realize that after giving them a guideline on the do’s and don’ts that Allah (swt) has laid down for us; we need to trust them to follow that guideline.
- Convey the message that the Muslim heroes of yesterday are as relevant for us today as they were then: The Umar and Uthman (rta) of the golden Islamic age are not just paragraphs in books on Islamic history; rather they have been real people who led a balanced life in this world. We need to make our youth realise this so that they stop looking for heroes in un-Islamic cultures.
- Channelize their talent in a way that Allah (swt) approves of. We need to guide them to the right kind of friends who will support them in their endeavour.
What are the top three issues facing the youth of today and how do you suggest they deal with them?
Salman Asif Siddiqui
In Pakistan, specifically, the identity crisis is the main issue which has developed in our youth. They have lost confidence in being recognized as Pakistanis and as Muslims. The only option is ‘escape’ from their country and religion. To change this mentality, we need to develop institutions confidence is restored in one’s identity.
Another issue is lack of emotional confidence; the youth has no personal opinion. It’s so easy for them to be moulded by others and react. To deal with it, the thought process needs a radical shift from extremism to a balanced state of mentality. Finally, the youth of the Ummah need to develop native language skills.
We need to educate the youth about the communication revolution and have one-to-one conversation as parents and teachers. Without any guidance, technology has become a giant monster; information is equated with knowledge and knowledge with wisdom. Communication revolution can revolutionize the fate of the Ummah if our adults and youth are educated to use it for acquisition of knowledge and dawah purposes.
Freedom from religion
In today’s secular environment, freedom of expression is an attempt to have freedom from religion. The youth are confused. Constant hammering of slogans of freedom to choose their lifestyle is redefining their conceptual framework. The youth need to develop love and relationship with Allah (swt) and Muhammad (sa) as role models with a sound knowledge base.
All issues are linked with bad companionship; be it media or society. One’s relationship with the Qur’an and its lessons should be stronger than the relation with Facebook and its communities. Without guidance, the blitz of technology leads to self-love and narcissism: the personality trait of egotism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness. Sponsoring events that allow the youth to meet like-minded friends, interact with multi-generational society and provide Halal fun and entertainment and remember Allah (swt) is a practical way to deviate them from Haram fun all around.
Lack of direction and supervision
For this, pious people (practicing Muslims) should be contacted who are sincere and willing to help.
Domination of western thoughts and isms
For this, our past history, where we were the leaders, should be revisited through books as well as a study of Muslim thinkers and philosophers, who contributed to human thoughts and civilization.
Limited concept of Deen
For this, they should go back to the original sources of Islamic knowledge (the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet (swt)). Furthermore, it should be noted that unless we have a comprehensive concept of Deen, the non-issues would remain the issues and sectarianism will prevail in the society.
Frustration with family and other authoritative figures in their lives
Be patient and understand that no person is truly one-dimensional. If you feel someone is always finding fault in you, stay cool and don’t label him/her. Try to talk to them logically and explain to them your side of the story; be ready to listen to their side, too. Reach a solution together.
Over-reliance on friends
Your friends are important, but do understand that just because they are ready to embrace you just the way you are, with no demands whatsoever, doesn’t mean that it’s always a good thing. Having someone older, wiser and more experienced as a guide post, who can distill all those “brilliant” ideas and plans, is truly essential in this age. Ideally, this person should be a parent.
I know it’s cool to log into your Facebook account on your Iphones and have wires sticking out of your ears all the time, but too often, we are exchanging real, purposeful experiences for virtual, meaningless encounters. Find a healthy balance between staying connected with those who really matter, listening to content which is truly inspiring and having social experiences which really challenge you to learn to live with people despite the differences.
- Lack of heroes to look up to
- A strong influence of largely un-Islamic culture.
- Lack of opportunities to release energy and utilize talents.
What behavioural characteristics do the youth need to instill during the primary stages?
Salman Asif Siddiqui
The youth needs to realize the purpose of their life which has been defined by the Quran and Sunnah. They should have positive goals in their lives. Our youth is mainly inspired by Western ideals and beliefs. The west promotes ‘emotional intelligence’ which is being clever, however, the Islamic paradigm is ‘Tazkiya-e-Nafs’. The West works on cost-benefit analysis, whereas Islam teaches us ‘emotional well-being’. To teach these differences, parents must be trained to act as mentors on the divine principle of ‘falah’.
Nurture their real nature
An Islamic personality should be our Fitrah. In the polluted environment, our Fitrah is suppressed and little priority is given to the remembrance of Allah (swt). The most beautiful ninety-nine names of Allah (swt) should be made the benchmark for all the characteristics taught.
Value of time means valuing life and self. Parents and teachers should help young children limit every activity and realize that it’s Satan who makes us lose track of our goals and waste our life. Set a routine and discipline from a very early age. From Salah to sports, from giving time to parents to people around them, all activities should nurture individuality which makes each human being a very independent and special entity in this world.
With unlimited opportunities, creative thinking is a skill that needs to be developed to help our kids reach the level of excellence in all pursuits. We should remember our kids are and will be living in a very different world than ours. Unless we help them come up with challenging ideas, they will be unable to challenge the world of Kufr around them and become part of it. Leadership demands Muslims to be creative to solve the problems of humanity.
Sense of responsibility
We should remember the purpose of life and the real life ahead.
Live for others
People live for themselves but we, being the Ummati of the Prophet (sa) have to serve others.
Trust in Allah
No matter how many difficulties we face, we should have faith that nothing is impossible for Allah the Almighty.
Foremost, we need to teach our children to think. At school and at home, we must give them practice in developing their thinking skills, so that they grow to be reflective individuals, just as the Qur’an encourages.
Secondly, we need to instill an awareness of their relationship with Allah (swt) from an early age. They need to understand that Allah (swt) loves us and He is Merciful, but He has also made us responsible for our own deeds and we will be held accountable for them.
This brings me to the third point: they need to be cognizant of the fact that “worship” is not only pure Ibadah such as Salah, Sawm, Hajj, Sadaqah, etc. Along with my prayer and my fasting, I must be honest in my dealings with people (even if they are parents and teachers). Too often, we pray, yet we cheat; we recite the Qur’an, yet we backbite; we give charity, yet we spread rumours without verification. Unfortunately, kids learn this dichotomy from adults.
All three reinforce each other towards a common goal: awareness that our life has a purpose and before it ends, we had better make ample preparation for the life which is eternal.
- Positive thinking
It is heartening to note that every individual, who is currently working with the youth, is very clear about their problems and solutions. One can only hope that these problems are addressed and these solutions are implemented, in order to ensure that the youth turn out to be the bright future of our Ummah.