Bismillah Hir Rahman Ir Raheem
Peace and blessings be upon you all
*This article is written as part of a series: Expanding Horizons: Critical Discussions to Uplift the Muslim Ummah, written by my fellow Muslimah bloggers about the critical societal issues that make individual and societal lives of Muslims all over the world difficult. This series is aimed to spread awareness about these issues, carry out constructive conversations and ultimately be the change we wish to see in ourselves and in the Muslim Ummah.
For an introduction to this series and to read articles written by the other bloggers, check out this post.*
The Toxicity and Negativity in the Muslim Community and how it affects the youth
Youth is a crucial stage in one’s life. At that age, one has the time, energy and motivation to do what they desire. It is tremendous as adults do not have the time and the elderly do not have the energy to pursue what they please. Young people are anxious to experience and learn, and what they experience and learn will help define who they are. They look up to people as role models for inspiration and guidance, and have the ability to create something beautiful or to destroy it.
However, these innocent, energy-driven souls are victims of toxicity and negativity. It is enough that they are already shown bad images of themselves as Muslims by the mainstream media that brings down their faith and self-esteem, if not taken care of. What’s worse is when a Muslim youth’s own community ostracizes him for his age.
Here’s a few words from Syeda Atika Yahya, author of Life Tips And Notes of a Muslimah:
Here’s what Azra Rahman, author of Words from Azra, has to say about this:
Youth is an age which requires nourishing as much as childhood. Essentially, young people are those who are on the threshold of adulthood, still trying to figure out the best way to navigate through life. A lot of our community’s hypocrisy comes to limelight when dealing with these young adults. People automatically assume that they would be perfect young people, courteous and religious. What they fail to take into notice is that every individual has their own journey. So while some of the youth would be where you’d like them to be, others might take a bit of a time. Ever heard the saying:
‘Every saint has a past and every sinner a future?’Azra Rahman
In Muslim society, the youth are often looked down upon by their elders. They are considered irresponsible, disrespectful, non-serious, lacking discipline and perhaps ‘un-Islamic’, within a single glance. When they are seen doing obvious good deeds they were already doing, such as offering Salat (obligatory prayer), helping their parents, being courteous to guests, volunteering for NGOs, etc. elders are in awe of them. Yet beyond that, they are not guided as to how they can learn and grow to become better Muslims.
When Islamic discussions are taking place, it is usually the elders who argue about Islam, what it says is right or wrong, religious sectarian divisions, etc. and are getting carried away but when young people take part in the conversation, providing logical arguments, they are shunned away because “They do not know what we are talking about.” The terrible mistake in our community is that religion is a topic no one can have a decent debate about.
When the Muslim youth are constantly being fed the narrative since 9/11 that Muslims are terrorists and their Book promotes extremism (Na Aaozubillah), their elders are busy either cursing the West or hiding from proudly proclaiming their faith. What’s left is their children becoming confused, which can lead them to developing identity crises, despising their faith and their elders, and living their lives with their souls yearning for nourishment.
Here’s what Yasmin Abdelsalam, author of Master Peace blog, has to add to this reality:
In addition, here’s what Amna Ahmed, author of Ask Amna, has to add as to how fellow Muslims easily label the other as infidels:
If you spend a little time in online Muslim spaces such as “Muslim Twitter” (or MT as it is sometimes called!) you quickly begin to see how toxic people can be. It is shocking to see so much infighting, name calling and utter disrespect to fellow Muslims. Muslims are often judged and attacked by others for their personal choices or beliefs. Some are even quick to declare another Muslim an infidel just because of their beliefs. If someone doubts their faith a little bit or falls out of line, they are met with aggression and anger. The older generation teach Islam from a very harsh and strict perspective. Instead of emphasising the mercy of Allah and the generosity and kindness of the Prophet, there is a lot of focus on punishment and fear. This can really affect how young people view Islam, especially in our times where people are losing connection with religion every day.Amna Ahmed
It’s not just the elder generation; young Muslims also have the tendency to judge each other and bring each other down whenever they can, such as saying something or even gazing in a judgemental manner when they hear a fellow Muslim doesn’t pray, or coming up with an array of names to label a Muslim who stepped out of a gathering where gossip, backbiting, slander, etc. was taking place.
Why is there such ostracization?
The youth are considered separate as they belong to a different generation than that of their parents and forefathers. Their forefathers had a strong, firm faith in Islam but it was very strict and rigid, mostly revolving around doing good deeds due to fear of Allah and fear of the punishment of the Hell-fire. They had to be good because they were told by their parents to do so and that’s that. Any query or argument heard against Islam was retaliated upon.
On the other hand, there is a saying of Hazrat Ali (R.A):
This new generation is more inquisitive, curious and practical. They are open to learning about their Deen but they will not be motivated to without knowing why. Who is Allah? For what purpose did He make us and send us to this world? Why is drinking alcohol Haram? They are always bursting with questions, which are all relevant to enhancing their faith and not criticisms against Islam. It is true that they can question too much about the itty-bitty things and lose grasp of the main concept of being a Muslim; not everything in Islam has to be proven scientifically in order for them to follow it. Whether they understand it themselves or their parents made them, it’s important to know that Allah’s laws are Universal and eternal and each of us has to spend their time on this earth understanding and following these laws in order to have a successful Dunya and Aakhirah.
Syeda Atika seconds me on this topic:
We need to acknowledge that these youth live in a very different and difficult time and the elders can’t impose the same old fear Allah psychology to them. Yes, there is no denying we need to instill the fear of Allah in them, but more than the emphasis on your going to Hell, we need to focus on ‘How you can go to the Jannah’ type of approach. Emphasizing on how Merciful Allah is, How forgiving He is than on How severe His Punishment is, creating a love for the Creator in their hearts so that they would never wish to do something that would be against His divine will.
Islam isn’t a religion of just haram and halals. Its a religion where praying five times a day washes of every sin.Syeda Atika
The Potential of Our Youth:
Surah Kahf tells about the people of the cave who were from the youth who left everything to defend their faith:
The initial passages of this Surah tell us about how they opposed their current state of affairs that promoted Shirk and yet they stood up to it and proclaimed their faith proudly. Considering how much the youth is looked down upon as teenagers partying all the time, causing trouble, damaging their father’s car, etc. This is an evident reminder that those examples are a harsh stereotype and there are so many young people in Islam that actively and proudly practice and strengthen their faith, and are willing to sacrifice their lives for it. When all that time, energy and motivation is directed to a great cause, we can say that the youth have great potential.
Furthermore, it is important for elders to know is that not every young person will be wholeheartedly inclined to Islam by forcing it on him. Although it is important that elders must guide their children and give him a strong basis of Islam and what it means to be Muslim at an early age so they grow up knowing the basics of Islam, but each person has his separate spiritual journey, a rite of passage you can say, of knowing who he is, who Allah is and why he is in need of Him always. This journey can take a day, months or even years but it is what makes one voluntarily and passionately return to Sirat-ul-Mustaqeem (The Straight Path). Personally speaking, I was taught the basics of Islam but I learnt to pray regularly on my own, invested my time in regularly reading the Holy Quran on my own, and only after undergoing a tough, personal journey when I was 16 did I become fully invested in Islam.
Here’s more of what Amna Ahmed has to say about this topic:
Islam’s teaches kindness and respect first and foremost. To be a good Muslim, you must be a good person. Praying 5 times a day and following the five pillars are not going to mean much if you cannot treat your fellow human being with decency. If we want to argue with someone, we must use respectful language. Toxic behaviour will only turn people away from Islam and creates a lot of resentment for other Muslims.
“Invite (all) to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for your Lord knows best, who have strayed from His path, and who receive guidance.” (16:125)Amna Ahmed
Furthermore, here’s what Azra Rahman has to add to this:
So when those older than them proclaim their self-righteousness on the youth, they are not helping them. They are instead pushing the peak of the mountain higher into the sky to a status that the youth cannot reach. This makes them feel worthless, un-important and focus on Dunya (this life) more as,
“What’s the point?”
So they engage in activities to fulfill their lust for acceptance and accomplishment, which can be hanging out with friends all day and night to drug addiction. Personally speaking, I was on one hand considered not Muslim enough, and a ‘Maulvan’ (Muslim scholar, but used in this context as a wrong word for extremist) on the other. It did hurt a lot hence support from the Muslim community is vital.
Let us stop pressuring our youth and putting high expectations on them and accept them as perfect, flawed humans finding their way to Allah, to contentment, to peace, the same way we all are.
_ _ _ _ _
I’m Yasmin, an Egyptian-American Muslim born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I am currently taking a gap year but plan to attend college in the fall of 2021. I recently started my blog Master Peace. Through my blog, I want to help people master both inner peace and world peace by tackling different mental health and social justice issues. I also share different lifestyle pieces centered around travel, decor and fashion.
I’m a 30 year old Middle Eastern woman ready to help you with your problems! I like to answer people’s questions about life, love and everything in between using my diverse experience to bring a new perspective to those problems. I’m on a mission to advocate for and raise mental health awareness, especially within the Muslim community. I’ve faced the stigma and have heard it all before so I want to change things one question at a time! Find out more and connect with me on my website (askamna.com) or Instagram and Twitter.
I am a 30-year-old blogger and aspiring writer. I immigrated from India in February of 2013 and have been here since. I have been writing for most of my life, and started to take it seriously since the past couple of years. Since then, I have written, and written some more, started a blog, collaborated on various projects, freelanced and sent a lot of literary submissions.
My blogs are a way for me to connect to people and enhance my writings. I keep two blogs. One, Musings of a spectacled mind, is a literary blog. It showcases short stories, poems, articles, mini comic strips, from me and other guest bloggers.
The other blog rose out of frustration of not getting in the literary field as fast as I wanted to. It’s called Home,hijab and humor and portrays snippets of our life with heaping tablespoons of humor. A technique I have been learning since childhood.
Syeda Atika Yahya:
I am a 30 year old South Asian Muslim woman and a mother of 4 beautiful souls. A huge nerd who loves books equally like her morning tea. A multi-tasker who just juggles her home, family and new passion of writing. Growing up in the subcontinent, I wouldn’t appreciate many of the societies so called norms but with my exploring of religion, I came to a conclusion that Islam is much more than the two Eids and Jummah. Islam provides far more rights and liberties to a woman than being projected by the media. In a quest to crush those various perceptions around women in the subcontinent with the Quran and Sunnah as guides so that my girls don’t face what I had to. As they say, if you want to see a change in the world, begin with yourself.