The Muslim youth of today experience their own unique challenging times.
Do not impose your own traditions on your children, since they are living in a different era than yours.Ali ibn Abi Talib
Young people are in search of their personal identity, their identity within their families and communities. They yearn to feel a sense of belonging. It is a confusing time.
Often times they are caught in a tug of war between their parents’ beliefs and values, which don’t always mesh with the society the youth of today are growing up in, and their own beliefs and values. Added to that are the cultural differences for today’s youth who are born of immigrant parents, and the challenges grow.
The Muslim Challenge
For those who are also seeking their religious identity, there are two sides to that coin.
In the first instance, with technology, so much information is available at young Muslims’ fingertips.
At the click of a button, any info is on their screen. With this seemingly endless supply of knowledge, they can question, learn and be curious about many things their parents didn’t have the knowledge about or couldn’t answer for them.
They are reflective of a generation that can do so much more, achieve so much more, than their parents’ generation. That’s a truly exciting aspect of today’s generation. They can be problem solvers, thinkers, inventors and so much more.
However, with all that information, comes the problem of sifting through that in a critical manner. Without having a proper foundation of sound Islamic knowledge, they are at risk or accepting information from sources which are incredible.
This can dissuade them from their faith. There are many sites and publications, some of which are quite popular which purposely seek to misrepresent Islam.
This misrepresentation is pervasive in the media. Especially using terms which have no real bearing in Islam such as “fundamentalism,” “extremism,” “radicalism,” etc. All these fall under the broad term of Islamophobia, which many Muslims, both young and old experience regularly.
With this constant barrage of questions from their peers, others in their community, and media at large, they constantly have to contend with defending the religion. This is difficult to do if there isn’t a sound knowledge base they can refer to.
These are complex topics. Their answers require responses from different areas of knowledge. This is not something even studied people are equipped to deal with. Imagine how that is for a young person.
Constantly feeling like they have to defend the religion is no doubt exhausting. Coupled with a lack of comprehensive knowledge on these matters, leads young Muslims to question aspects of their faith.
For some, it draws them to wanting to know these answers. For others, it can grow to be overwhelming. Eventually they become distant from their faith, family and community. They walk away from their faith altogether.
Foundations, Foundations, Foundations
In order for the youth to be equipped to handle these modern challenges, parental support is key. It starts from childhood with an upbringing of good habits, discipline, morals and values.
Added to that would be teaching them about the rich Islamic history of thinkers, philosophers, inventors that many know little or nothing about, so that they are encouraged to seek out new and exciting paths for themselves.
It’s also important that today’s youth be reminded that they matter, and that this time in their lives is important.
We should be reminded that one of the things we’ll be asked about in the Day of Judgement is our youth and how it was spent.
There are two things which people do not recognize the greatness of until they lose them: their youth and good health.”Ali ibn Abi Talib
In addition to the societal and personal pressures, we musn’t forget that Shaytan is always working to mislead us, at every step of the way.
This is especially so for the youth; if there is already an uneasiness when it comes to faith, doubts will grow even more, which may affect their faith.
In this all round challenging time for many, it’s a perfect opportunity for all of us, including our youth, to take stock of our lives, and our relationships, not only with those around us but with our Creator. It’s a time for renewed connection, for learning, and growth.