Jumuah lecture on Friday 17 June 2022 (16 Dhul Qa’ada 1443)
Moulana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid
Ottery, Cape Town
Almighty Allah (SWT) explains the different phases of human life in His Holy Book and Final Message, specifically verse 54 of Surah Room (chapter 30 of the Holy Quran):
اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ ضَعْفٍ ثُمَّ جَعَلَ مِنْ بَعْدِ ضَعْفٍ قُوَّةً ثُمَّ جَعَلَ مِنْ بَعْدِ قُوَّةٍ ضَعْفًا وَشَيْبَةً ۚ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيمُ الْقَدِيرُ
It is Allah Who created you in a state of (helpless) weakness, then gave (you) strength after weakness, then, after strength, gave (you weakness and a hoary head: He creates as He wills, and it is He Who has all knowledge and power.
The three phases of life noted here starts with weakness, then reaching to strength, after which we fall back to weakness. These are the three very important phases of life, and the Holy Quran regards the middle phase as the one of strength and capacity. This middle phase is our youthful years!
ضَعْفٍ ثُمَّ جَعَلَ مِنْ بَعْدِ ضَعْفٍ قُوَّةً
then gave (you) strength after weakness
Similarly, verse 67 of Surah Ghaafir (chapter 40 of the Holy Quran) refers to the same reality, where Almighty Allah (SWT) describes different phases of human development.
هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ مِنْ تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ مِنْ نُطْفَةٍ ثُمَّ مِنْ عَلَقَةٍ ثُمَّ يُخْرِجُكُمْ طِفْلًا ثُمَّ لِتَبْلُغُوا أَشُدَّكُمْ ثُمَّ لِتَكُونُوا شُيُوخًا
It is He Who has created you from dust then from a sperm-drop, then from a leech-like clot; then does he get you out (into the light) as a child: then lets you (grow and) reach your age of full strength; then lets you become old.
HOLY QURAN HAS A SPECIAL BIAS TOWARDS YOUTH
Amazing it is that this phase of life, your teenage years, is regarded as the time of power, strength and capacity. Even when Almighty Allah (SWT) introduces His divine Prophets (a.s), He introduces them as young people! This is even how Sheikh-ul-Anbiya, Nabi Ibrahim (a.s) is described in verse 60 of Surah Anbiyaa (chapter 21 of the Holy Quran):
قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا فَتًى يَذْكُرُهُمْ يُقَالُ لَهُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ
They said: “We heard a youth talk of them (the idols): He is called Abraham.”
Then also in Surah Kahf, for which we were very honoured and privileged to complete the Tafsir (commentary) of this chapter of the Holy Quran, during the blessed month of Ramadan. This chapter is all about young people, how they were living in a very luxurious, comfortable environment and then became conscious of faith in Tauheed, and for this reason they migrated, leaving this life of ease and comfort behind.
We read about this in verse 10 of Surah Kahf (chapter 18 of the Holy Quran):
إِذْ أَوَى الْفِتْيَةُ إِلَى الْكَهْفِ فَقَالُوا رَبَّنَا آتِنَا مِنْ لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً وَهَيِّئْ لَنَا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا رَشَدًا
When the youths sought refuge in the cave, they said: Our Lord! grant us mercy from Thee, and provide for us a right course in our affair.
And then we read in verse 13 of Surah Kahf how these youth are defined as believers:
نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ نَبَأَهُمْ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ إِنَّهُمْ فِتْيَةٌ آمَنُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ وَزِدْنَاهُمْ هُدًى
We relate to you their story with the truth; surely they were youths who believed in their Lord and We increased them in guidance.
Every word from these verses describing the youth as heroes is indeed most inspiring. In other words, according to the teachings of Islam, through the Holy Quran and Hadith from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), your years of youth are the best part of your life, without any doubt.
YOUTHFUL YEARS SHAPE OUR PERSONALITY AS OUR HEARTS ARE MALLEABLE
The time period we are referring to here is from the start of teenage until your mid-30s. This period of life is described in the Holy Quran as the most powerful phase for growth and development, once again highlighting it as the most important period in one’s life.
This is the stage of life where one’s personality is formed and is flexible to be moulded. It is recorded in a Hadith from Rasulullah (SAWA), where he reminds us about the youth age, stating that this is the phase of life where their hearts are most ready to absorb.
Similarly, our 6th Imam of Ahlul Bait (a.s), Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s), said that the heart of a young person is much more ready to be moulded than the heart of an elderly person. This is the period of life when one’s personality formulates and determines the direction one would like to take their life towards.
This is why the youthful years of one’s life is so heavily emphasized in the Holy Quran and Hadith recording the noble teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his holy Ahlul Bait (a.s).
IMAM ALI’S (A.S) DEEPLY PROFOUND WILL TO HIS SON
Amir al-Mu’mineen, Imam Ali ibn abi Talib (a.s) has a will to his son, Imam Hassan al-Mujtaba (a.s), recorded in Nahjul Balagha. In this will, he very beautifully says “my young son, I tried to advise you earlier, and tried to define for you the attributes and characteristics you are supposed to follow, and I tried to do it before your youthful years are challenged by desires, emotions and lust taking over.”
Imam Ali (a.s) then followed this with a truly historic statement, saying “the heart of a young person is like an empty, fertile land and whatever is deposited on this land will be accepted.” This means that if a good seed is planted, then it will grow into a good tree, and vice versa.
In another phrase, Imam Ali (a.s) very beautifully explains to Imam Hassan (a.s), saying “I tried to teach you manners and etiquettes (adab) before your heart is hardened and your mind becomes preoccupied with other things.
SUCCESS OF ANY REFORM IN SOCIETY DEPENDS ON THE FOCUSED ENERGY OF YOUTH
The psychology of a young person and the challenges they face in their youth requires extraordinary care and attention. The emphasis of the Holy Quran, the Prophet of Islam (SAWA) and his holy Ahlul Bait (a.s) is focused on this aspect.
Then, if one studies the history of humanity, one finds that in any reformatory mission or revolution, the most important role is played by youth. We see this as a consistent theme in the history of the divine Prophet (a.s) and the history of Islam as well. The people who were attracted and ready to sacrifice, standing firmly to defend Islam, were the young people, more than any other age demographic.
In fact, we find that young people were amongst the followers of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) in the very early days of Islam. Youth are the flagbearers! Of course, Ali (a.s) is a young man at that time, together with people like Bilal and others.
If one reflects and analyses the history of any revolution, we will come to the conclusion that it is not possible without young people. The importance of this generation in society has to be given extraordinary importance, as the future survival and success of a society depends on the quality of youth we produce.
How we shape them, how we mould them, how we guide and direct them, how much importance we give them ultimately determines the quality of adults they become.
SPIRITUALITY OF A YOUNG PERSON RANKS SUPREME
When it comes to Ibadah (acts of worship) to Almighty Allah (SWT), there is a huge different in the value of Ibadah in old age versus youth! The reward and value of a young person’s Ibadah is significantly greater than an old person!
I would like to conclude this first khutbah (sermon) with a Hadith from Rasulullah (SAWA), where he says that the best person amongst the creation of Almighty Allah (SWT) is a young person, who occupies his/her time in the obedience of Almighty Allah (SWT)! This is a worshipper whom Almighty Allah (SWT) is proud of!
Similarly, it is recorded from Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s) that when a young person recites the Holy Quran, it mixes with their blood and flesh! I don’t think there needs to be any more convincing on why the youthful years of one’s life is the prime, as the potential presented in this generation shapes the destiny of society to be one of great hope if nurtured properly, or despair if neglected.
SECOND KHUTBAH – WHICH DIRECTION IS OUR YOUTH TAKING TODAY?
The points I made in the first khutbah highlighted the importance of the youth in our society and this crucial phase of life, according to the Holy Quran and the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) and his holy Ahlul Bait (a.s).
Against this background I sketched in the first khutbah, the responsibility of a society towards youth is very clear. A great deal of priority ought to be placed on investing our attention towards this group in society, as the success of a society depends on youth and the direction they are going. It is a most opportune moment for us to reflect on this, as we celebrated Youth Day in South Africa on 16 June.
KEY CHALLENGE FACING OUR YOUTH: ABSENCE OF HEROES
There are challenges facing our youth, which need to be addressed. One of the matters which the Ahlul Bait (a.s) address is that in this particular age, young people are looking for an example to follow. The serious challenge in this regard is, who becomes the ideal role model for this young man or young woman?!
As I mentioned earlier, this is the phase of shaping the personality, and the personality of a young person is very much shaped depending on who one takes as the ideal role model. In Islam, we have the beautiful Hadith from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), where he says that Hassan (a.s) and Hussain (a.s) are the leaders of the youth of Paradise!
This is the great introduction to our youth. Since they are looking for ideal role models to follow, they need not look any further than Imam Hassan (a.s) and Imam Hussain (a.s), because they are the leaders of the youth!
KEY CHALLENGE FACING OUR YOUTH: PERVERTED INFLUENCE OF CELEBRITY CULTURE
Now, to bring this lesson home, one of the most important things is to introduce ideal personalities to our youth. Today, we have a very serious challenge of this celebrity culture – a blind following of celebrities! The great potential is very much there in our youth, as it is divinely bestowed upon them by Almighty Allah (SWT).
It is part of the nature of our youth to have an ideal role model to follow, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, the problem is when these role models are celebrities – people with no God-consciousness (Taqwa), no piety, and no principles in their life which resemble Islamic values. What can we then expect as the result, other than the destruction of this whole generation of youth?! What will then be the future of society??
These days, celebrating the historic significance of Youth Day on 16th June is emphasized on sports, cultural practices, dances and music concerts. In principle, I am not opposing fun, particularly sport which has a health benefit to the mind and body.
KEY CHALLENGE FACING OUR YOUTH: FUN WITHOUT CONNECTING TO OUR PROUD HISTORY
The question we need to all ask ourselves is, what are we doing to take forward the legacy of those young people who stood against the racist Apartheid regime on 16th June? What about those young people who were ready to sacrifice their lives for principles and values? So the big question is, do we introduce these personalities as ideals and examples to our youth?
How many of our youth even know these remarkable individuals who played such a crucial role in the uprising of 16th June 1976 and throughout this country’s struggle for liberation, sacrificing their lives for this noble cause?
So, the dichotomy we are faced with is that the great legacy of these individuals and their noble sacrifices is being superseded by celebrities who have nothing meaningful to offer this world. This is the grave challenge facing our youth.
In our society, one of the reasons for youth being attracted to gangsterism is because they are seeking to follow someone bigger as their ideal. So then, they are duped into believing that overpowering, robbing and killing people is a show of power and strength, which results in them wanting to emulate such gang leaders. They then join gangs to fill this void in their lives.
This is the result when we do not offer them positive, powerful examples as ideals to follow.
KEY CHALLENGE FACING OUR YOUTH: MEDIA ERODING SPIRITUALITY IN EDUCATION
When our primary focus with our youth is to channel their energies to pursue education and seek knowledge is confined to material goals and no attention is directed towards the spiritual aspect of knowledge, then moral bankruptcy is inevitable. This is the fundamental challenge for our country, where places of worship across all religions are suffering from lack of interest by the younger generation.
Let me conclude with a dangerous question: What is the responsibility of media in the moral regeneration or degeneration of our youth, and especially social media, which is such a powerful tool, but uncontrolled in how it is shaping the future of our youth.
If there are so many social media platforms to misdirect and destroy them, then the question we are all answerable for is, where are positive, focused, balanced, Islam-based social media platforms?
This is the responsibilities for us all today, when we are at a critical juncture which could lead us to prosperity if we address these challenges or land us in a big hole if left unattended.