Many of us are familiar with the story of the young companions who retreated to a cave so as to seek refuge from their pagan community who believed in deities besides Allah:
Mention when the youths retreated to the cave and said, ‘Our Lord, grant us from Yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance’ (Noble Quran 18: 10)
The fact that they were “young” is what makes this story compelling; young people are usually wild and more vulnerable to commit follies or sins that they regret later in their lives.
So being young yet pious and firm in their beliefs regardless of the social pressure surrounding them is the moral behind the cave companions’ story.
Youth is also problematic because its rapture easily deceives us into thinking that we still have time to repent and gain Allah’s forgiveness when we grow older. But there are several incidents when young people lose their lives and find that they have to face death even if they are not prepared for it.
By the time I graduated from college, more than six students at my school had died. The oldest among them was barely twenty five. First there was the element of surprise, but there was also the unprepared ending; they did not die well.
Our society is not making things easier for us either. On average, a pornography website draws 80 million visitors a day. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have gained a wide audience of young users worldwide. Young adults are most often glued to their phones, as the precious hours of their lives pass them by as they are oblivious to Allah and His blessings.
Generally, the media has condoned eroticism for several decades in all spheres, such as TV, cinema and even animation.
So how can you fight the urge to get carried away by the tides of social pressure and the illusion that you are still young and have many years ahead of you to mend your ways? How can you be Allah-watching and fearing in such a complicated era?
Keep a Journal
Write your spiritual goals every day… For example, you could design a spreadsheet with fajr prayer, dhikr, fasting, helping someone… etc. Tick off the ones you could accomplish, and write comments or remarks about the ones you couldn’t achieve. Why are they hard to achieve? Try to find strategies that can help you stay committed.
But don’t be harsh on yourself. Treat yourself to something you like doing every week you earn a good score for being religiously active. Don’t underestimate anything you do. Sticking to a simple religious practice for a long time is better than doing more without consistency.
Back to the young companions in the cave story. They made it through because they huddled up together. Choose your friends wisely; stick around with those who will keep you on your toes and make you feel ambitious to do more to please Allah.
In the Noble Quran, Allah the Almighty says:
And the Day the wrongdoer will bite on his hands [in regret] he will say, “Oh, I wish I had taken with the Messenger a way. (27) Oh, woe to me! I wish I had not taken that one as a friend. (28) He led me away from the remembrance after it had come to me (25: 27-28).
A bad friend can have a bad influence on you, and on Doomsday, they’ll turn their backs on you, and you’ll regret having them as friends.
Learn from Negative Examples
It may also be useful for you to sneak a peek at stories of people who drifted off the path to Allah. Netflix, social media posts and TV news are full of such sad stories. They were young people who gave in to Satan and indulged in sinful pleasures. Many of them lost their lives either to drugs or suicide.
What a loss that cannot be repaired. Picture yourself and reflect on being blessed that you already have a faith and a God to worship. Seek His protection from Satan.
Stay Engaged and Busy
Engage in sports, extracurricular activities at school, and serve your Islamic community. Help your family with daily chores. If you can, take up a part-time job. Read as much as you can.
Most important, keep a log that can track how much screen time you spend every day. Plan to meet your friends instead of chatting with them on social media. Motivate yourself to cut down the number of hours. It is much easier to be lured by Satan and slip when you’re idle than when you are busy and socially engaged.
Reflect on the Transience of Life
Death is a reminder that this world is not our real destination. This is never the end; it is just a phase through which our faith is tested. The reward you will receive in the hereafter by avoiding temptation is worth it. Not just that, but you will also feel content and peaceful in your life.
Reading Quran is a good way to stay vigilant about resurrection, and mindful of Allah so we can renounce desire. Use the Quran as your guidebook:
And keep yourself patient [by being] with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance. And let not your eyes pass beyond them, desiring adornments of the worldly life, and do not obey one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his desire and whose affair is ever [in] neglect. ( Noble Qur’an 18: 28)
Remember Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) very first companions when he started his Dawah for Islam. They were not many and they were not popular, but difficult roads that are less traveled by lead to beautiful destinations in the end. So be patient.
We ask Allah to redeem us all from Hell and sin and mercifully grant us the Paradise He promised us.