the 18th Annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) Convention was held in Toronto from 20 to 22 December. Indeed, RIS is a brilliant chance to see Muslims of all ethnicities, of all backgrounds and of all ages come together under one roof for a weekend.
But what really stands out is the number of young Muslims attending and this should fill our hearts with hope, especially in an ever-increasing world of hate.
So how do we get through this hateful society we are living in? Should we get our own back on those who are filled with so much hate? Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad advised
“in this era of trauma how do we respond with mildness? It’s not so easy but it is necessary. This is an age when there is already enough reproach. We should be the ones to break that cycle.”
And how true is that? But it is happening and the youth are at the forefront of breaking that cycle. The youth are breaking away from the “traditional thought” of the elders. They want to be more involved with the society and world around them.
One of the most inspiring speeches of the conference came from Imam Khalid Latif, who works with students at New York university.
In a session titled “The Change Generation: Our Youth, Our Hope”, which took place on Sunday 22nd December, Latif highlighted that the youth work hard on changing this society that we are now living in.
“Change can be hard for many, especially when we are relating it to younger people, we might not want to admit that the way that they might suggest is a little bit better than the way we want to do it.”
According to Latif , generation Z actively takes steps to change the environment they are living in. They want to break down these barriers like previous generations could never do. He gave an excellent example of how when they want to achieve something, they go out and achieve that goal.
“2 years ago the community that I am blessed to serve, in ten months, went out and raised $1 million for relief efforts for our Rohingya brothers and sisters.”
They went further and helped those women in their NY community of different backgrounds, who suffered from domestic and sexual violence by planning and building a shelter. They wanted to make sure that no woman or child in their area has to go through this trauma. In just 10 days they raised $1 million, in order to build this shelter.
Imam Khalid Latif explained that when you foster that belief and upliftment that people can make changes, they will sit down, strategise and tap into their talents in order to make things happen in their societies!
Our youth are able to build relationships on shared ethics and shared values. They are able to use social media as a positive tool not a negative one.
“Some of you were not able to deal with the fact that women can teach you things, some of you cannot deal with the fact that black people teach you things,” Imam Khalid told us. “but you were able to absorb and take in an example from the generation that is young and that is the most recent and going global. They are trying to heal the world,” he added.
Imam Khalid stressed that we need to let the young people go out there and make those changes. Let them go out and do what they have to do. We shouldn’t be afraid that young people aren’t praying in masjids. We shouldn’t be afraid that they aren’t into their deen. They clearly are and they are actively trying to make changes.
We can’t tell them that, when it comes to marriage, they can only marry someone from the same village. That’s not Islam. We can’t tell them that they should only be going into the safest professions. We have to let them “live their light and that they have something to offer.” At the end the people who will benefit is us.
Often we are quick to dismiss our youth, we are quick to put them down. We don’t tell them we love them enough. We don’t hug them enough. We don’t show them we care enough. But if we do, that will stay with them and encourage them to make a great impact in the world that is needed.
Our youth are the future for the ummah. It is conferences like RIS that highlight just how engaging our youth are. We should empower them just like Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) empowered the youth of his days.
Imam Khalid Latif said :
“Find yourself in that space. Your ability to impact. To let somebody feel as if they can be a part of the process of real healing, real growth. That’s what these young people are doing right now.”