What makes a teenager stand up against the world? In her mid teens, Greta Thunburg chose to take action for a cause she believed in. She camped in front of the Swedish legislature, calling on the adults in power to take action against climate change. She’s gone head-to-head with politicians and naysayers, weathered insults and twitter storms.
The president of the United States took notice, and belittled her efforts. Balking at her calls for lawmakers around the world to change policies that impact the climate, he publicly said she has an “anger problem’. She’s been told to act like a ‘normal’ teenager and ‘chill’.
Inspiring Stories from the Quran
Islam provides many inspiring stories of young people standing strong. Prophet Ibrahim was young when he told his father:
O my father, why do you worship that which does not hear and does not see and will not benefit you at all? O my father, indeed there has come to me of knowledge that which has not come to you, so follow me; I will guide you to an even path… (Quran 19:41-45)
He even went up against his entire community. He displayed to them that it was futile to worship the sun, moon, or the stars, rather than the One Who created them. And he secretly destroyed all their idols except one, exposing that they held no power over anything, not even themselves.
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Ibrahim’s efforts were met with rage. His father expelled him and threatened to kill him. And his people sentenced him to death by fire for his crime of exposing their lies.
The ‘people of the cave’ were a group of youth who stood up for the worship of God alone and were forced to flee rather than be compelled to the religion of their people.
Maryam was young when she had to return to her people carrying her baby, knowing she would face accusations and embarrassment as an unmarried woman with a child.
Young Ali stood up and became one of the first believers and followers of the Prophet Muhammad. Even though he had gone from being a respected member of Makkan society, to being mocked, boycotted, called a madman and a liar.
Strength Met With Hostility
When you believe in something strongly, you will be mocked, ridiculed and pressured to give it up. You will be told to just ‘be normal’. Enduring societal pressure is hard. Humans are created weak, that’s why God has given us guidance and support against the pressure of others.
It is perhaps the criticism and hostility we fear most when it comes to standing up for our faith. Although these inspiring stories demonstrate that standing up for truth can be treacherous, more importantly, they highlight the resolve of the people, and the good results they attain because of it.
What Gave Them Strength?
It’s normal to want to be liked by the people around us. Today we are infatuated with the number of likes and views of our pics and videos get on social media, even though we may not even know the people liking and watching them. Insults and criticism hurt, and the thought of being ostracized is unbearable. Why do some people succumb to the pressure, while others remain firm?
What Matters Most?
What makes you uncomfortable? Is it praying in public? Wearing hijab or appearing visibly Muslim? Is it having to explain why you don’t drink, smoke or date? Does the thought of having to explain why you are washing your feet in the public bathroom make you cringe?
The feeling of discomfort, we feel in these instances, comes from our care about the opinions of others. We don’t want to be disliked or criticized. Are we placing the opinions of others, sometimes people we don’t even know and will never even see again, above Allah?
The Power Behind You
Guess what happens when we stop valuing the opinions of others so highly – and realize, deeply and sincerely, that Allah is all powerful. When we believe that when we stand firmly for Him, He will be our support. Not only might the Most Powerful protect us from being harmed by those who mock us, but our actions might end up being an example that helps other people see the truth.
Knowing Allah is behind us adds so much more strength to our cause of monotheism. People like Greta Thunburg stand strong for their cause because they believe in what they are doing. They know what they are doing is right and that someone has to do it. They are willing to sacrifice their own appearance because they put what they believe is important, first. Imagine having that resolve, plus trust in the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth.
Unlimited Possibilities – Lessons from Inspiring Stories
Mary became pregnant despite being a pious virgin, living in a time where this was unthinkable, disdainful and punishable. Imagine the thoughts that might have crossed her mind: how am I going to explain this to my family? Will anyone believe me? Will I be stoned to death? How can I show my face?
But Allah gave her comfort and guidance:
So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to anyone.’ ( Quran 19:26)
She trusted His guidance. She carried the baby to her people. Met with their astonishment and censure, she did nothing more than silently point towards Jesus. Allah caused him to speak, though he was only an infant, miraculously clearing the name of his mother without her saying a word.
Allah made the fire intended to be a torturous death for Ibrahim, coolness and comfort for him. When he left his people, Allah gave him a family of his own. His offspring became a lineage of prophethood.
Known as the father of the prophets, we use him and his family as an example of those blessed in every one of our prayers, thousands of years later. Millions follow in his footsteps during Hajj – so much so that Makkah has become a word in the English dictionary meaning ‘any place that many people visit or hope to visit’.
The Youth of the Cave
The youth who fled to the cave are commemorated and held up as an example, forever memorialized in the Quran. Allah caused them to sleep in a time of strife, fear and disbelief. He then caused them to wake up in a time of peace and faith.
Allah helped them even when everyone else was against them, even when it seemed there was no way out.
What kind of person would you really respect: A person that succumbs to the opinions of others, doing whatever they can to ‘please’ them? Or, a person who stands firmly for their beliefs, not wavering regardless of what other people think?
History proves that those who stand up for their beliefs are more respected. Initially they may be mocked and treated as threats, but often they are eventually honored and revered. Greta Thunburg has risen to fame, being named TIME’s Person of the Year, and granted many awards. World leaders have begun paying attention and have changed policies as a result of her efforts.
We should also choose to be respected by standing up for what we believe in and not letting the opinions of others deter us from doing what is right. And we should choose to please the All Powerful Creator, over His weak and fickle creation.