miscarriageHer name was mentioned with respect and admiration all over the Arabian Peninsula. She had memorised over 2,000 hadith and was an expert in Islamic law, ibaadat (rituals), the Quran and the ways of the Prophet (saw). Her knowledge was sought by those years younger and decades older than her, thus she enriched a generation with her advice and guidance. Known for her eloquence, as well as her wisdom, she inspired thousands of men in battle through her poetry and pearls of wisdom. Her name was A’isha bint Abu Bakr (ra), the first female scholar of Islam at age 18.

He was appointed commander of the Muslim army by none other than the Messenger of Allah (saw). His position as Amir of an army of Jihad was above some of the most senior sahabah; the likes of Abu Bakr as-Saddique (ra) and Umar ibn Al-Khattab (ra). He earned this position by displaying strength of mind; in military tactics, body; in physical fighting and most importantly, unbreakable faith in his Creator. His name was Usamah ibn Zaid (ra) and this was his reality at a mere 17 years old.

His average day commences with him going to high school. Unfortunately his bad grades are due to lack of concentration because he is too busy ‘checking out’ the girl sitting next to him. After school he usually goes to town and ‘chills’ for a couple of hours with his mates. Of course he isn’t a total drop out and so spends half an hour on his homework in the evening. After that strenuous thirty minutes he relaxes himself by watching TV and if motivation for pushing the limits knocks on the door, he actually reads a book. He is teenage by-product of Western culture.

Western Societies view of the youth

Although many people do not realise it, there is a considerable degree of ageism in the society we live in today. This ageism affects the old and young – but many overlook the youth when talking about ageism. In the West youngsters, especially those under 16 are seen as not intellectually mature enough to be able to handle certain responsibilities, for example having the vote, getting married or running a business. Since the laws originate from man’s mind, they tend to change over time and vary from place to place. Some states in America allow people to vote at 16, whilst others require it to be 18. Similarly, in the UK the debate continues as to whether people at 16 are able to handle to responsibility of a vote. Obviously, there will always be disagreement when the laws are man-made as they have no founded basis to them, unlike the laws that Almighty Allah has laid down in his infinite wisdom.

Socially often when over 18’s are speaking they would not usually respect or take into consideration the opinion of those under 16. Imagine a group of 30 year olds discussing serious matters like world politics or a situation in the family and a 12 year old contributing to the discussion and being taken seriously. The assumption is that youngsters are unable to contribute productively to serious discussions and are just kids. Although in many cases in the West it may be true that many of the youth are spoilt brats who cannot handle serious issues, let alone responsibilities. However, this is due to the environment they are brought up in and is not necessarily linked with their age.

If we look at history and at different parts of the world, we can see that teenagers do indeed have to potential to make important decisions; be intellectually mature; responsible and to have area specific skills which outshine many adults thus contributing positively to society. In certain parts of Africa and Asia young boys and girls provide for their entire families by working and even look after their siblings and parents.

If we look at Western societies even people in their twenties sometimes act as spoilt school children who run away from responsibility. Some would rather be playing Counter-Strike on their computer, watching The Simpsons or listening to 50 Cent rather than facing up to the responsibilities of life.

The reason for this is simple – the attitude of society about the youth has given them the excuse to be teenagers and just ‘chill’ – the youth of today know this to mean - do as little as you can possibly can without dying from laziness. This may sound ludicrous and far fetched but this lazy-crazy culture is extremely popular amongst the youth today. In class rooms you can hear youths boast about how little they did on the weekend and how many hours they spent in town with their friends, not accomplishing anything except the delusion that they are doing something productive with their time.

Because society gives the youth this mentality that they are too young to comprehend this, or too young to handle the stress of that, they are giving youth the excuse not to think, not to fulfil their full potential. Unfortunately this is also the reality for many amongst the Muslim community.

What does Islam say?

What is Islam’s view of maturity and what the youth can accomplish? Islam views the people as adult once they have reached physical maturity i.e. puberty. There are no set ages for this as different people reach puberty at different ages - the average age for girls being 12 years old and for boys being 14 years. Of course Islam takes into consideration that young people have less experience than those who are aged and so Islamically one must respect their elders.

'Amr b. Shu'ayb (ra) narrated from his father whose grandfather narrated that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “He is not one of us who shows no mercy to our younger ones and does not acknowledge the honour due to our elders.” [Reported by Ahmad, at-Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud and al-Bukhari in al-Adab al-Mufrad.]

However this does not mean that youngsters who have reached the Islamic age of maturity should be treated as children. As soon as someone reaches physical maturity in Islam they become accountable to Allah (swt) for every single action that they perform.

‘Ali Ibnu Abi Talib narrated that the Prophet (saw) said, “Accountability is lifted off three persons: The dormant until he awakes, the boy (adolescent) until he reaches maturity and the deranged until he regains his mind.” [Abu Dawud]

In Islam someone who has reached the age of maturity is legally an adult and is therefore given all the rights of one such as they allowed to get married (of course in accordance with the shariah rules), can set up a business, can vote in the elections of the Khalifah and Majlis al Ummah (consultative council) under an Islamic state (which is not existent today).

Socially the opinions of young Muslims should be respected and given weight; not ignored as is the case often today. Young Muslims should be active da’wah carriers who even give to da’wah to those older than themselves. As in Islam the best amongst people are those who are better in their piety not their age, colour or sex. Allah (swt) says: {The most honoured in the sight of Allah are those who have the most Taqwa (piety).} [TMQ 49:13]

Youth in the past

In the past young Muslims were given important responsibilities and positions in the past under the Islamic state. Nowadays when you think about the head of a delegation sent to a ruler today the image that comes to mind is of a fifty-something with grey hair. However look at the example of Ja’far ibn Abi Talib (ra) who was only 20 years old when he headed the delegation of Muslims to the King of Abysinnia in order to present their views. Some Muslims had migrated to Abyssinia with the permission of the Prophet (saw) to avoid the oppression of Quraysh.  When the Quraysh saw that they could not stop the Muslims exodus to Abyssinia, they sent a delegation to the Negus to request their extradition back to Makkah.  Before agreeing to their extradition the Negus asked what the Muslims had to say for themselves.  It was Ja'far ibn abi Talib, who spoke on behalf of the Muslims. Just reflect upon a portion of what Ja'far said to the Negus, consider the maturity in his words and the profound understanding he displayed:

"O King!  We have been a people of ignorance worshipping idols, eating the flesh of dead animals, committing abominations, neglecting our relatives and doing evil to our neighbours.  The strong, among us would oppress the weak.  We were in this state when Allah sent us a Messenger from among us whose descent and sincerity, trustworthiness and honesty were known to us.  He summoned us to worship the One True God and to reject the stones and idols we and our fathers had been worshipping in addition to Allah.  He ordered us to be truthful of speech, to fulfill all the duties that were entrusted to us, to care for our relatives, to be kind to our neighbours, to refrain from unlawful food and consumption of blood. He forbade us to engage in lewdness and lying, the devouring of the money of the orphan and the defamation of married women.  He commanded us to worship the One God and to assign no partners unto Him, to pray, to pay the purifying tax and to fast. We deem him truthful and we believed him, and we accepted the message he brought from Allah".

Another example is the brother of Sa'd Abi-Waqqas (ra), Umayr. One day this young teen wept heartedly. Not because he didn’t have the latest Nintendo or mobile phone but because wanted to be allowed to accompany the Muslim army at Badr. He wept longing for the honour of upholding the banner of Islam. His wish was granted and he fought and died not on a computer game screen but in battle as a Martyr (Shaheed) at the age of only sixteen.

Even friendship and scholarship in Islam are not restricted to age, often young companions of the Messenger of Allah (saw) were close friends with elder companions like Abu Bakr and Hamza. Imam Shafi (rh) was a scholar at the age of 14 and used to give fatawa (legal verdicts) to young and old alike.

Applying this today

By Islam, the most noble of youth were brought from the trifling life of ignorance (Jahiliya) to the prosperous life of Islam; from the corrupt pride of tribalism to the dignity of Universal Islam. They commanded the armies, ruled the provinces and states, and became judges and scholars. But even more important than all of that, they became the obedient slaves of Allah, who satisfied Him and so they deserved His satisfaction.

The reason that we had such youth in Islamic history was due to the implementation of the Islamic ahkam (rules). Due to this they were treated as adults from the age of puberty; they had a sense of responsibility and accountability to Allah (swt) for all their actions. Such youth are not restricted to the past, today many of the da’wah carriers in the Muslim world such as in Uzbekistan are youngsters, some as young as 12 years old have been imprisoned due to their carrying the Islamic call. In occupied Islamic lands such as Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan we have also witnessed young Muslims defending their lands, property and honour with bravery and courage.

All Muslims, young and old have the obligation of carrying the call of Allah and for that they need to first acquire the knowledge and be responsible in their outlook in life. Living in non-Muslim lands, the youth will undoubtedly face prejudices such as “young, free and irresponsible” but as Muslims we need to look beyond this phrase because we know that we have responsibilities on our shoulders which aren’t necessarily age-bound. Sometimes this is a challenge that they have to face – a test to prove that they aren’t aimless in life but rather they can be the future leaders of our community. The youth need to stand up against the misguided stereotypes and bow down only to their Lord and wake up to their responsibilities to the Ummah.

How can we do this one may ask? In today’s reality how can we even begin to emulate the generation of sahabah and once again raise the banner of Islam to the lofty heights that it deserves to be at? The banner now lies dusty and enshrouded in the weary battlefields or just as much, in a heap at the bottom of our cupboards. Only a few hands protect this banner today, whilst the rest shy away from responsibility and retreat into the catacombs of our own pleasures and desires. To gain the strength to carry the amanah of dawah placed upon us, the stories of our predecessors should be remembered to give us courage and hope even when the banner of islam is buried over so much dust, we can barely make out the shahadah written on it. But inspiration alone isn’t sufficient to carry this trust as we must see how the sahabah were qualified to carry the dawah, how did they shield themselves? With knowledge. Knowledge of our religion allows us to become spokesmen, rather than mere shadows of the religion. If we lack this knowledge, ambition is hindered due to lack of sight and guidance. The sahabahs studied Islam comprehensively to be able to be a living example of its rules and etiquettes and to spread the Haqq by word and by deed.

Is this generation of youth the generation that will lift the Banner of Allah into the fluttering wind of the future of Islam? Will we learn from the mistakes of our recent past and look to the examples of the rightly guided? Time will be a testimony as to whether we are worthy enough to bring back Islam as a pillar of light because if we do not, it goes without saying that Allah will replace us with a better generation that will.