Youth in Islam — culture, faith and generation gap

Updated 20 May 2014

Youth in Islam — culture, faith and generation gap

Youth is a period of high energy and great enthusiasm, coupled with an air of invincibility and perpetuity. Like the driver of a fast car, one may also develop a disdain for the slower cars on the highway of life. It is difficult to imagine that the car will run out of fuel and that one day the engine will wear out.
For the moment though the car is fast and it can go places!
For this reason there are special warnings for the youth and glad tidings for the person who uses this energy wisely. A famous Hadith tells us that on the Day of Judgment no man will be able to move from his place until he answers five questions. “How did he spend his life? How did he utilize his youth? How did he earn his wealth? How did he spend it? And, how did he practice what he learnt?” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi) While the first question asks generally about one’s life pattern, the second especially focuses on the period of youth.
On the other hand, the person who devoted his youth to the worship of Allah will be among the selected seven kinds of people: “There are seven people for whom Allah Ta’aala will provide His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His shade: 1. A just ruler. 2. A youth who grew up in the worship of Allah. 3. A man whose heart is attached to the mosque. 4. Two men who love each other for Allah’s sake; they meet for the sake of Allah and part company for His sake. 5. A man who is invited by a woman of beauty and position , but he refuses saying: ‘I fear Allah.’ 6. A man who gives in charity secretly such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives. 7. A man whose eyes shed tears as he remembers Allah in private.” (Bukhari, Muslim).
Hence the profound advice in another famous hadith to value five things: “Youth before old age, health before sickness, wealth before poverty, free time before preoccupation, and life before death.”(Narrated by Ibn Abbas and reported by Al Hakim)
A fast car is dangerous if it does not have strong controls. And that is where Shaitan targets the vulnerable — by loosening the controls. It has been his time-tested trick to work through temptations and make desires look irresistible. The path of deviation looks good. It is cool. It is fun. It is endlessly entertaining. The only problem is, it leads to assured disaster. This is the path of MTV and pop culture; of music and hip-hop; of rebellion and generation gap.
‘Generation gap’ is a clever term that aims at giving scientific respectability to rudeness and rebellion. The idea is to create a wedge between generations and make it look acceptable for a young person to be indifferent to any wise counsel from one’s close and well-wishing elders. Which reminds us of the special challenge faced by the youth today. While temptations have always been strong in young age, today the problem is magnified by mega efforts targeting the youth, especially the Muslim youth in the Western world, at all levels including intellectual and philosophical.
A favorite theme of these campaigns is to separate Islam from its culture. When in France, follow the French culture not the Muslim Algerian one, so the argument goes. This argument needs to be carefully deconstructed. Like all clever arguments this one also begins with a bit of truth. It is true that Islam is a universal religion and not restricted to a particular region. It is also true that many Muslim lands, during their period of decline, developed or adopted some cultural practices that were not based in Islam and need to be pruned. Certainly, not everything that has become accepted social practice in every Muslim country is Islamic. But it is a very long jump from there to conclude that everything being done in the Muslim world is un-Islamic and must be jettisoned. And it is even more bizarre to suggest that the replacement of all that with the pop-culture is just fine.
When Islam reached the lands that today form the Muslim world, it influenced the life style and cultural practices there without forcing a monoculture. For example the wedding practices vary as you move from region to region in the Muslim world. (The picture is complicated by the introduction of many non-Islamic practices there as well.) Yet they also retain common features traceable to Islamic teachings. These include: 1. Marriage is a sacred act and an important religious obligation and not just a means of fulfilling physical needs. 2. While the ultimate decision to marry each other remains with the bride and groom, parental help, guidance, and support in arranging it is a blessing for them.
The propaganda machine presents this common core of Islamic culture as a great burden, but one only needs to look at the unfortunate millions who are left on their own in the name of freedom, to ascertain the truth. Is it not true that if one were to draw a family-and-home-life-disaster map of the world, it will coincide with a map of the Western world? The distinctly safe area will be the Muslim world, with a gray area within it coinciding with the areas of Westernization. The safeguards and the disaster are built into the underlying cultural values and one cannot do a wholesale exchange of cultural practices without buying into the underlying values and facing the consequences.
Does it mean that all Muslims can aim at is to make mini Pakistans in England or mini Algerias in France? Not at all. Islam allows for growth and adaptation and early Muslims have left great examples of it. Theirs was an example of a natural adjustment that was fully informed by Islamic teachings; it did not damage the underlying values. And it tremendously enriched the new societies. The same healthy adaptation can happen today, with benefits for everyone.
The great task of Muslim youth will be to bring the life-giving message of Islam to wherever they live. With love, dedication, wisdom, and insight. But if you give up all you have, how can you give anything to anyone?

• Courtesy: albalagh.net


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016

The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.