Youth Before Old Age
Prophet Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) has said “value five things before five, youth before old age, health before sickness, wealth before poverty, leisure before preoccupation, and life before death.” (Tirmizi)
Youth, Health, Wealth, and Time, are temporary stages within the cycle of life. They seem so permanent, so full of promise, yet i…n reality are so fleeting and so deceitful. They breed a false sense of authority, and independence that leads to rebellion, and heedlessness.
The Holy Qur’an states: “Most certainly, men transgress all bounds because he deems himself to be independent. -Verily to your Rabb is the (final) return.” (AI-Alaq, Ayah 6-8)
When we do eventually return to Allah Ta’ala, everyone will inescapably have to give an account of the favours that he enjoyed. “Man will remain firmly rooted to his place on the Day of Judgment until he is asked about five (favours) : His life span -how he spent it, his youth – how he ruined it, his wealth -where he earned it and how he spent it, and how he acted on what he learnt.”
As youth we procrastinate, and hope to reform some time in the “future”, least realizing that we may never see the dawn of another day, that we are going to be questioned particularly about how we spent our youth. You are therefore never too young to be a devout and committed Muslim. During the golden era of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), society was divided into only two categories. An individual was either regarded as a child and granted all the privileges of childhood or as an adult who shouldered the responsibilities of adulthood.
There was no intermediate phase of adolescence. ‘Teenagers’ were regarded as adults who used their energy and stamina to infuse into society the drive and enthusiasm necessary for the growth and preservation of Islam. They integrated into the adult world and contributed to the dynamic growth of Islam. They served as beacons of knowledge, justice, and courage. They bravely opposed the intrigue of anti-Islamic forces. Even women married in their early teens and bore the responsibilities of nurturing and rearing their offspring with youthful agility. They fulfilled vital functions in the community and at the same time engaged in learning, nursing, and even defending the frontiers of the Deen.
Age is of course considered a biological process, but we often ignore the fact that it also has social implications. Not only does the age of marriage, education, and work, etc. determine the productive output of a society; it also shapes the resources, morality, and social values of the society. Our contemporary age has however, relegated adolescence to a third category, wherein they are regarded as neither children nor adults. A position where individuals are biologically mature, but have not yet entered the adult world as fully-fledged participants.
The extended period of acquiring education has deferred the point at which they assume responsibility and contribute to the development of society. Consequently young people tend to be cut off from the more inclusive adult world and are confined to a narrower world made up of contemporaries and peers. Youth development now typically takes place in the context of the school, college, or university environment. A carefree environment with very limited responsibilities and very puissant social temptations. This stage is indeed both difficult and hazardous. Allah Ta’ala has promised seven people His shade on the Day of Judgment, as a mark of distinction and honour. Youth who spend their years as devout and conscious Muslims in the face of overwhelming temptations and seductions are one of the seven people. The fact that Allah Ta’ala grants such a distinguished position to them shows how difficult these challenges may be. Youth development cannot be left to chance; it cannot take place haphazardly. It requires
careful planning, a supportive family environment, and an enlightened educational curriculum. Since youth development essentially takes place in the educational world, our youth must be encouraged to pursue teaching as a career. It is one of the most sublime professions, most rewarding, and most beneficial to society.
They further, must be encouraged to involve themselves with:
Social Work: Working with the aged, the sick, the poor, and the bereaved, will create an awareness of the plight of the less privileged; it will engender gratitude and produce a sense of fulfillment.
Propagation: Da’wah to both Muslims and non-Muslims will reaffirm our identity, and will create a spirit of sacrifice.
Knowledge: The process of acquiring Deeni knowledge must continue from the cradle to the grave. Knowledge is the shield that will save us from intellectual apostasy and will ultimately influence our purpose of life. The post 11 September attacks has created an unprecedented level of Islamic consciousness even among toddlers and has afforded us a unique opportunity to expose the moral bankruptcy and hypocritical standards of a ‘civilized’ world. Through the process of education we need to create our own distinct identity that will make our youth proud to be Muslim.
May Allah Ta’ala grant us the taufiq (ability) to fulfill our responsibilities and make our offspring the coolness of our eyes.