Being a young person isn’t easy; being a young Muslim is even harder at times, especially in the West. Muslim youth have to deal with challenges and temptations that many other young people don’t have to face.
As any young person reading this would know that a lot of faith and personal strength is required in order to get past these challenges and temptations in an honorable way.
Many adolescents and young adults in the West find that there is not just a generation gap between themselves and their parents, but also a cultural one. This doubles the difficulties in some ways; now, not only are there challenges outside of the home, but there are also unique challenges within the home as well.
Young people and their parents may have trouble understanding each other; they may have trouble connecting with one another due to vastly different backgrounds and mentalities. Also, these Muslim youth may not get the kind of support that they need from their parents, because their parents may not understand their struggles.
There is also the matter of navigating cultural expectations within the larger community, and differentiating one’s culture from Islam. Many of the youth grow up with a certain understanding of Islam based on what they were taught, only to discover as they grow up that much of what they were taught was simply culture, not religion.
This can be frustrating and confusing to figure out. These young people often have to reevaluate much of what they were taught growing up, sometimes with little guidance on what is accurate and what’s not.
Temptations & Muslim Youth
There are some issues that are timeless and trans-generational. Although adolescents may struggle to imagine it, many of their elders also faced the temptations of drugs, alcohol, fornication, stealing, etc. These things have been haram (forbidden) for the entirety of Islam, because they have been occurring practically forever.
Now, though, there are new temptations on top of all the old ones. This is especially due to the Internet, which no generation grew up with before the millennials. This opens the door to pornography, online gambling, haram relationships or boastfulness via social media, and many more sinful activities.
On top of the cultural challenges and temptations, the Muslim youth of the West also have to deal with identity issues. Being openly Muslim may lead to bullying or harassment, or simply having trouble fitting in, which is a normal desire at a young age.
Not identifying as Muslim youth may lead to an identity crisis within oneself and possibly being distanced from Islam due to not having many Muslim friends. It is a truly tricky situation with no easy fix.
Holding onto and being proud of one’s identity as a Muslim requires a lot of bravery and strength; so it can be tough to muster up in these vulnerable years.
To add another layer of difficulty, there is pressure from the larger Muslim community that every Muslim in the West must act as a perfect ambassador of Islam. With all the negative stereotyping and prejudice towards Muslims, everyone wants to make sure that our community is represented in a positive light.
However, this is an immense responsibility for an adolescent or young adult to add to their plate—after all, they are already struggling to fight off temptations, and nobody is perfect. Add to that the pressure of knowing that every mistake a person makes can make “all Muslims” look bad. This is discouraging for some people to even think about.
Even though this list of challenges may seem daunting to overcome, there is hope! Young people are rewarded immensely for being steadfast, to the point that they are one of the few groups who will be shaded on the Day of Judgment if they manage to do so.
This shows that although it’s difficult, no doubt, it is definitely possible to be steadfast throughout one’s youth. So stay strong, seek likeminded and righteous company, and keep your eyes on the prize: Jannah (paradise), insha’Allah.