Ustaz Mateen is passionate in looking into ideas and understanding the community. He teaches Islamic knowledge in local institutions while also writing for religious content. Upon graduating from Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, he pursued his studies at Al-Azhar University completing his degree in Islamic Theology, specialising in Creed and Philosophy.
Youth has always been a focal point of discussion in the question of society’s future. As stated by the National Youth Council, the official age for youth in Singapore are those from the age of 15 to 34 years old. As the world’s population grows younger, inevitably youth are expected to play a more significant part in society. youth are often tasked to creatively find solutions and manage problems faced by youth, themselves.
It is important to question the relationship between youth and the older generation. How can these two age groups complement one another, and why should we consider social integration for the young and old? How can they strive better in social advocacy for the betterment of society? These are some questions for reflection. Youth is, after all, not just for the future but are also part of the present.
1. Building Social Integration
The Prophet Muhammad s.a.w mentioned in a hadith:
“He is not one of us who shows no mercy to the younger ones and does not acknowledge the honour due to the elders”
In this concisely beautiful hadith, the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. showed us an ideal integration between the two age groups, young and old. The Prophet s.a.w indicated that a complete believer would have these two characteristics for in their absence, one is still a believer but of lesser rank in the eyes of Allah s.w.t.
The believer is the one who shows mercy to the younger ones, by giving them love, attention, trust and forgiveness. In other words, these are qualities of mentorship that is an important element on empowering youth. Love and attention will create the drive and connection for the mentorship to maintain its purpose.
Placing trust in the capable youth is one of the most effective ways of empowering. The Prophet s.a.w would put his trust to the younger companions into taking up significant roles. Such is the case for the young Mus’ab bin Umair, whom the Prophet s.a.w sent him to guide the small Muslim community in Yathrib during the early periods of Islam. His successful guidance eventually attracted many others into Islam, so much as to the point that it paved the way for Yathrib to become what we know today as Madinah.
In the process of empowering, there will be mistakes along the way. A simple remark of forgiveness telling the youth that “it is alright”, will nurture hope and progress. Such are merciful conducts to the younger generation that will help in empowering and cultivating a culture of respect for their elders. It is a two-way commitment for the young and old. Referring to the above hadith, youth must also cultivate in themselves a sense of respect for the elders. This will help them age gracefully with humility.
Statistics have shown how youth has thrived under mentorship programmes. However, it does not have to be an officially appointed mentor to make this happen. Mentors can serve as parents, teachers, role models, coaches or even as good friends to guide their daily life exchange.
2. The Energy of the Youth & Wisdom of the Elders
Undeniably, Youth is the age where one’s energy and passion thrive to actively participate in various endeavours. While it seems favourable to see much dedication, it is also a period of struggle and in search of a purpose.
In the age of increasing interconnection between diverse communities and usage of technology, youth are looking for multiple and often quick fixes to answer the question of identity, culture and religion. These are also ways to fill in their internal void and to channel their blooming passion.
Unfortunately, some would fall into websites or resources that are affiliated with radical information. Case studies have shown that these radical groups intentionally target age groups from the early youth with messages that reach out to their sympathetic sentiments and call out for immediate action.
A former Indonesian student and sympathiser for radical movements mentioned that both his father and mentor played a vital role in stopping him from joining ISIS. He shared in a United Nation (UN) regional dialogue that he was an active student seeking ways to see changes in the world. It was later when he was about to cross the border into the war-torn parts of Syria that he met his mentor by chance. His mentor asked him reflective and critical questions. The questions calmed him from continuing such a disastrous path.
Much is wasted if the youthful vigour is brought astrayed. For that reason, such energy should be accompanied by wisdom that includes values such as moderation, discipline and critical-thinking. A call to justice may not necessarily be justice at all if it is only meant to address dissatisfactory or a cause for mere retaliation. Justice is to put things to its proper place, and to know how to put things to its proper place is called wisdom. Hence, knowledge is important for the youth to spend their energy and time with, especially from elders that have both knowledge and experience to display the acts of wisdom.
3. The Value of Time
Count your blessings, and you will find yourself overwhelmed by Allah’s mercy. Blessings such as energy, passion and time are all part of His gifts. Undoubtedly, the grateful do not throw away gifts that are dearly given. As grateful servants, we are then entailed to show our gratitude through praises and making full use of these gifts with obedience.
In this hadith, the prophet encouraged us to make full use of these gifts for acts of obedience:
“Take advantage of five before five: your Youth before your old age, your Health before your illness, your Riches before your poverty, your Free time before your work, and your Life before your death.”
Youth should avoid wasting away their golden age and instead make full use of it with seeking knowledge, active involvement in the community and embracing the struggle to achieve betterment, holistically. Time is, after all, a resource that can never be replaced.
4. Seeking Knowledge
The age of youth is the best age to seek knowledge. With a lot of energy to spare and lesser responsibilities to commit, younger people in general are arguably also faster in processing information if compared to people of older age groups.
Abdullah Ibn Umar r.a is a good example. The young companion of the Prophet was able to reach in the front lines with other older companions by putting his dedication on seeking knowledge. Eventually, his knowledge and views were sought after as he continued to carry the legacy of the divine message in his old age.
The Prophet s.a.w mentioned in a hadith that encourages the believers to walk on the path of knowledge. One does not have to be an accomplished scholar, the Prophet s.a.w rather was directing to those who seek knowledge in the proper manner.
“Whoever threads the path in seeking knowledge, Allah will make the way to paradise easy for him”
Knowledge that comprises the basic Islamic beliefs, legal law and academic achievements will help fortify a sound foundation that will then be beautifully expressed into actions that bring benefit for oneself and others.
“Verily there is a piece of flesh in the body, if it is good (virtuous) the whole body becomes good, and if it is corrupt, the whole body becomes corrupt, and that is the Heart”
The above hadith has shown how the inner-self is closely linked with our outward actions. Seeking the right knowledge of the inner-self will help us clear the bad traits and make room for us to instil the good ones. It is important for the youth to channel their passion in changing themselves as much as they want to change the world for the better.
Active engagement or contributions are some of the best ways for youth to make full use of their energy and creativity with. Their youthful passion will surely drive the community to further grow and prosper.
This part comes after fortifying the self with a strong foundation on sound knowledge as mentioned above. Active involvement in tackling issues is part of an effort to improve the condition of the world that we live in. The believers are a great blessing for the community at large.
You are the best of communities brought forth for humankind
The verse encapsulates the understanding of bringing forth benefit to humankind and advance their best interest. As Muslims, our involvement in our country should leave a lasting and positive impact, especially when we are youth whose lives are changed and guided by the principles of useful knowledge.