SOMEONE ONCE ASKED a Muslim scholar, “What is the future of Islam in America?” The wise man pondered for a moment and countered, “What is the state of the Muslim youth in America?” The scholar’s wisdom spared him a long lecture on the subject.
For those who live (and die) for the moment, the future is irrelevant. This is especially true when things are going well. Why worry when good times are rolling?
That, fortunately, is not the take on life for a Muslim who reflects. How could our present be divorced from the future and, for that matter, the past?
The future is an extension to our present; and the future can be as expansive as the effort of the moment. Some youth may live for the next cool video-game or the latest sports car, only to realize they have shortchanged themselves.
Those past the youthful years know what it means to be a youth: the explosion of hormone, the overpowering attraction for the opposite sex, and the sudden impulse to commit sin. This is truer in America, where we live in the middle of a materialistic culture that glorifies worldly pleasures.
The question is, If the puberty blues are part of being a youth, can we really guard against them? Can we really think of the future when the present is so captivating?
The answer is, Yes, with the Divine help, we can.
One of the most powerful examples of the youth in the Quran is that of the People of the Cave. Allah says,
They were young men who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance. [Sûrat Al-Kahf, 18:13]
The People of the Cave were some young believers who lived in a land of disbelief, where being a Muslim could be fatal. They decided to leave the society to protect their faith in God. They were afraid the non-believers would force them to renounce their dîn, so they prayed,
Our Lord! Bestow on us mercy from Yourself and facilitate for us our affairs in the right way! [Sûrat Al-Kahf, 18:10]
Allah not only answered their prayer, but also made their story an enduring inspiration by recording it in the Quran.
What earned the People of the Cave a place in the Quran was their belief that this life is a means to get to the everlasting future, Al-Âkhirah or the Hereafter, whose pleasures are unrivaled. They understood that the way to the bliss of the Hereafter was through the righteous deeds in this life.
Convinced that the Hell and its companions were terrifying, they sought the companionship of the pious in Paradise.
The Prophet ﷺ said that in the Hereafter,
One will be with the ones he loved (in this world). (Bukhâri and Muslim)
This means that the friends we choose in this World (ephemeral world) will be our companions in the Hereafter, where they are either a thing of joy or regret.
Friends, therefore, are a part of our future.
The People of the Cave believed in Allah and His promise for the future. They put their faith into action. That is the real image of a Muslim youth: strong in faith, dynamic, and active. He or she has courage, sincerity, and self-sacrifice. We find these qualities in prophets like Ibrahim, his son Ismâʿîl, his great grandson Yûsuf, and in Yaḥya. May the peace of Allah be upon them all.
Other examples of such youth we find in the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ, ʿAli, Fâṭimah, Asmâ’, ʿÂishah, ʿAbdullâh ibn ʿUmar, ʿAbdullâh ibn ʿAbbâs, Saʿd ibn Abi Waqqâṣ, >alḥah, Al-Zubayr, Usâmah ibn Zaid, and many others.
The youth in the time of ignorance were an under-utilized resource. They spent much of their time ‘chilling out.’ Under Islam, the youth became supercharged and their talents were maximized for the benefit of the community.
Through these Muslim youth, Allah gave glory to His religion and humiliated His enemies.
In our time, while many Muslim youth are struggling to survive in the cultural mayhem of America, a segment has its gaze set beyond the coolest video games and fastest cars. They are the futuristic youth. We draw inspiration from these young men and women who are serving on the boards of Islamic centers, running youth programs, organizing college and high school MSAs, and even going overseas to learn Arabic and Sharîʿah. They have their professional goals just like any other youth, but they want to brighten the future of Islam through the good actions of today.
The answer of the Muslim scholar rings so true.