Islam's confidence in the youth

Developing Just Leadership

Muhammad H. al-'Asi

Sha'ban 06, 1432 2011-07-08

Bismillah Ar-Rahmaan Ar-Raheem. Alhumdulillah. Peace and blessings on Muhammad (sallalahu alaihi wa alihi wa sallam), his Noble Companions and Family. Dear Committed brothers, dear committed sisters,

There is a type of gap in the Muslim mind as it recalls the founding history that we have- the initial chapters of our history. We read about certain characters or we may even be reading the Qur’an about the Prophets themselves and there’s an area that not many people pay attention to and they should and that is the component of youth (i.e.) when individuals (or) people are in their younger years. This turns out to be an extremely important subject and we’ll try to understand it by the Prophet’s procedures, plans, orders and also from the ayaat in Allah’s guiding book. When the power faction, (it’s called tribe in history books; our functional understanding of it should be the power centre or faction; just like Quraysh). Please brothers and sisters, let us grow up a little and liberate ourselves from Orientalist languages and meanings. These were power centres. The foremost in the time of Allah’s Prophet was Quraysh; that was immediately followed by Thaqif. Thaqif being located in At Ta’if. So when this Ta’if was liberated by Allah’s Prophet, Allah’s Prophet appointed a Commander over At Ta’if by the name of Uthman ibn Abi Al Aas (radi Allahu anhu). This individual was a young person, (probably much in the bracket of most of you here), and this went against the grain of society at that time; but nevertheless, the Prophet of Allah broke through convention, tradition (and the) conceptualisation of the peoples around him in doing this. It didn’t sit well with the elderly of society at that time. That’s number one.

Number two- the Prophet of Allah appointed Usamah ibn Zayd (radi Allahu anhu). This is the son of Zayd ibn Haritha (radi Allahu anhu), one of the three commanders who were responsible for the military effort of Mu’ta. The name of the son of Zayd ibn Haritha was Usamah ibn Zayd. The Prophet of Allah designated him as a Commander to lead the Muslim forces Northward to liberate Northern Arabia and geographical Syria from the Byzantines. OK- how old was Usamah ibn Zayd when he was given that responsibility? Remember, there were senior people around. This person was nineteen years old. You give an individual who’s nineteen years old that responsibility of leading an Islamic force against the superpower of that time. When the Prophet of Allah did that the Munafiqin, (one of the areas that Islamic history has been lacking in is to tell us by name who these Munafiqin were), the only thing we come across is “some of these Munafiqin objected to the Prophet doing this.” They said how can he do this (or) select a nineteen year old person, give him the position of the Supreme Commander of the Islamic forces who is going against the most serious enemy that the Muslims have? How can the Prophet of Allah appoint as a Commander over us and among us are the seniors- the cream of the crop of the Muhajirin and Ansar? The Prophet of Allah did this in his final days when he was experiencing the moments of leaving this world to the eternal world- the world that awaits. He heard this. He went to the Masjid in the condition of physically dying and in the strongest words he said by Allah. Wa Aymullahi is a form of authenticating and emphasising what you are saying. He says if you are doing this concerning Usamah, you did the same thing concerning his father and I vouch for him to be qualified for this assignment, this responsibility (and) this mission and I also advise you to be, (more-or-less), forthcoming towards him because he is one of the most dearest persons to me. This was a nineteen year old. Don’t lose sight of this.

The Prophet of Allah gave the Imarah or Governorship of the military mission that the Muslims had to Mu’ta to Ja’far ibn Abi Talib (radi Allahu anhu) when he was thirty-three years old.

The Prophet of Allah sent Muadh ibn Jabal to Al Yemen and he was only in his twenties. What we’re trying to do here is break this image in the Muslim mind that the Muslims have that “somehow the responsibilities of the Muslim social life, military missions and positions of making decisions was done by very mature and elderly individuals.” What is becoming clear is no- that’s not the case. The Prophet of Allah placed a very good proportion of the responsibilities of that time in the hands of young Muslims. So Muadh ibn Jabal who was known to be one of the most versed on what is called the Islamic issues and, (if people read some of these books about our history), he was known to be a person who would sit and listen to what the Prophet was saying. He wasn’t a person who would pose some type of challenging questions or become very verbal in the sessions that the Prophet had. He would just sit and listen and absorb what the Prophet said and that did not go un-noticed by Allah’s Prophet. He was also given the responsibility of governing one of the regions of Ash Shaam when he was around thirty-three years old. Not an old person, still; by all measures and any definition, a youth, a young person, a vital individual bursting with potential, energy and the hope of doing something.

The Prophet of Allah also appointed a person by the name of Amr ibn Hazn (radi Allahu anhu) to be something like a supervisor over the area of Najran. This is the area that currently is a contention area between Yemen and that Kingdom that calls itself Saudi Arabia. When the Prophet appointed ibn Hazn to be, (in today’s words something like), the Governor of that area he was only seventeen years old. Once again, this shatters the image that many Muslims have. As if young people don’t deserve to carry responsibility or they are not mature enough to be burdened with these responsibilities.

After the liberation of Makkah, (and we know what Makkah is, Makkah is no simple place). Makkah is Makkah- the Ka’bah, the Haram, the sanctuary, Maqamu Ibrahim, the place of the sha’aa’ir, the place of the Hajj and Umrah- that’s Makkah- before that time, during that time, up until this day and until the end of time. After it was liberated, who do you think the Prophet of Allah gave the responsibility of the Administration of Makkah to? One of the senior Sahaba (radi Allahu anhu)? No. He gave it to a person we doubt many people would even recognise the name if they heard it. Ataad ibn Aseed (radi Allahu anhu)- almost a name that is not mentioned in many places. With the importance, significance (and) centrality of Makkah, the Prophet of Allah gave the responsibility to that person to be in-charge of it and he was only twenty-years old.

When the Prophet sent Ali (radi Allahu anhu) to become his Deputy or the Ruler over Yemen the Imam was around thirty years old- still not a figure who is advanced in age, old, elderly (or) senior. Thirty years! Some of us were thirty years; some of us are approaching thirty years, some of us are a little more-or-less of thirty years and you give the position of Governor to a thirty year old. Yemen at that time was also an area that had in its making the elements of history, culture, commerce (and) civilisation. It wasn’t one of these obscure areas in the Arabian Peninsula.

After the Prophet of Allah passed away, Abdullah ibn Abbas (radi Allahu anhu), (all of us heard, as elementary as we may be in Islam, the name Abdullah ibn Abbas. The Prophet of Allah called him Habr haadhihi Al Ummah or the pontiff of this Ummah. After the Prophet passed away there was an effort to collect the pages, registered and written words of the Qur’an. The person who was involved in this major effort was Abdullah ibn Abbas. Before we tell you his age just review in your mind how old you think this person was. This is very significant. This is not an issue of a political decision here-and-there. This is an issue of putting together the Qur’an that we read today. The major or bulk of that effort went to Abdullah ibn Abbas (radi Allahu anhu) who was at the time thirteen years old. Now, you tell us were the Muslims who were in-charge or making decisions or allocating responsibilities have confidence in their own younger people to do things like this? Obviously they did; or else, if they didn’t have confidence in the youth or younger people or teenagers they wouldn’t be doing this. Now, compare this to today’s world? We’re not done yet, there are further examples. The successors to Allah’s Prophet used to consult, or at least ask, for the opinion of Abdullah ibn Abbas when he was in his teens or twenties. The second successor to Allah’s Prophet, Umar (radi Allahu anhu), called him fataah al kuhul which means something like the seniors young man or the elderly people’s teenager or youth.

When the Prophet of Allah passes away, Umm Al Mu’minin Aa’isha (radi Allahu anhu) who has narrated so many of the hadiths that are prevalent in the books of hadith was in her late teens, about twenty years old. All of the confidence that we have relating and quoting the hadiths that she herself related to the Prophet came from a person who is in that frame or early age in life.

With the exception to the third successor to Allah’s Prophet, Uthman ibn Affan (radi Allahu anhu), all the rest of the Khulafa’ died or were killed when they were not more than sixty years old. It’s not one of those ages where you get the impression that the person had very grey hair on his head or beard and the features of this traditional impression of wisdom.

When Al Imam Al Hassan (radi Allahu anhu) died (or) was killed, he was only forty-six years old.

Abdullah ibn Az Zubair (radi Allahu anhu) who played a liberation role in North Africa was only in his mid-twenties.

Abdullah ibn Aamir who was the Governor of Al Basrah who also played a political and military role concerning the friction of the superpower to the East was also in his mid-twenties at that time.

So here, for those of you who hearken back to the precedents of Allah’s Prophet and what he did, (take a) look at what he did. Allah’s Prophet and those who were close to Allah’s Prophet having the younger generation involved in the decisions, responsibilities (and) sacrifices. They were there in the front row.

Now we come very briefly to the Ambiya’, the Prophets of Allah. There’s also this inaccurate impression that these were folks who became Prophets later on in life. No! They became Prophets when they were still in their prime. As regards Musa (alayhi as salaam),the ayah says in Surah Al Qasas, this in English words is translated as

وَلَمَّا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَاسْتَوَىٰ

When he reached the prime of his life… (Surah Al Qasas verse 14)

When do you feel that you have all of the vitality- the motivation, the kindled hope, all the confidence, force and energy that goes with that- in your life? When you’re eighty years old? Seventy years old? Sixty years old? No! You’re in your twenties, teens, thirties. That is

وَلَمَّا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَاسْتَوَىٰ آتَيْنَاهُ حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ

When he reached the prime of his life we imparted on to him the affairs of decision making and inbued him with knowledge and it is in that manner that We compensate those who seek perfection. (Surah Al Qasas verse 14)

When do you seek perfection? When you are unable to perfect what you do or when you have the energy, wherewithal, motivation, the confidence that you can do what has to be done? This comes in people who are still in the prime of their life. When we speak about Musa, we’re speaking about a person who is in his twenties. It was only ten years after that that Musa went and literally had this verbal communication with Allah. So definitely he was not forty years old, or older; he was younger than that.

When Yusuf (alayhi as salaam) was courted by the wife of the populous Ruler of Egypt, Aziz Misr, how old was Yusuf? Here, contrary to the conventions and traditions that we have, some Muslims know that Yusuf at this age was still young. When he as a result of what happened in this incident in which, (let’s say), the popular Prime Minister’s wife, (to make it understandable in today’s language), trapped Yusuf as a result of that he had to pay for that by doing time in prison. So he’s still young. He was still in his teens or early twenties and it was in prison that he divulged his ability to act as a Prophet from Allah. He said to two of the inmates who were with him

لَا يَأْتِيكُمَا طَعَامٌ تُرْزَقَانِهِ إِلَّا نَبَّأْتُكُمَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ قَبْلَ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمَا ۚ ذَٰلِكُمَا مِمَّا عَلَّمَنِي رَبِّي َ

… you will not have sustenance or food come to you except that I have the ability to give you it’s essential meaning (or) before the practical meaning is diverged to you in your lives; for both of you to know that is part of what my Sustainer has taught me… (Surah Yusuf verse 37)

Yusuf is speaking at a tender age. He’s not this old man. So Yusuf at an early age was tasked with the responsibilities of Prophethood.

Then we go to Prophet Yahya (alayhi as salaam) and the ayah in Surah Maryam says

يَا يَحْيَىٰ خُذِ الْكِتَابَ بِقُوَّةٍ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ الْحُكْمَ صَبِيًّا

Ya Yahya: take the matters of this script or scripture seriously and forcefully and We have revealed to him al hukm when he was still a teenager. (Surah Maryam verse 12)

Some would say the word sabi even means the beginning years of being a teenager.

The Prophet of Allah Isa (alayhi as salaam)

وَيُكَلِّمُ النَّاسَ فِي الْمَهْدِ وَكَهْلًا وَمِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

And he speaks to the people in the cradle and in later life and he (is) of the virtuous. (Surah Aal Imran verse 46)

Maybe he showed the symptoms of being a Prophet (or) exceptional person.

Maryam, Sayidatu An Nisa’ fi Al Aalamin, (alayha as salaam) herself when she gave birth to Isa was still young. Some narratives say that she was in her mid-teens. She wasn’t, once again, some elderly person.

Then, the ayah in Surah Yunus

فَمَا آمَنَ لِمُوسَىٰ إِلَّا ذُرِّيَّةٌ مِّن قَوْمِهِ

And those who committed themselves to Musa were only a dhurriyah of his own people… (Surah Yunus verse 83)

Dhurriyah here means the younger generations of his people, meaning his ethnic stock.

Many of us know and read especially on this day Surah Al Kahf and the narrative of the individuals of the Kahf.

إِنَّهُمْ فِتْيَةٌ آمَنُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ وَزِدْنَاهُمْ هُدًى

… they are fityah, youngsters who committed themselves to their Sustainer and We amplified, increased, reinforced their huda. (Surah Al Kahf verse 13)

These are fityah, very young people.

This is not to say that everyone who is young is on the right course and everyone who is old you have to give up on! We have to identify the Sunan of Allah, Allah’s Laws with your observation. Just read the Qur’an in real time and extend it’s meanings to the real issues and factors of life around you. You will find that not in all cases but in many cases there is hope in those who are young; and not in all cases but in many cases there is not hope in those who are old. The elderly people just succumb and settle into the status quo. They don’t want to change. They are approximate to the ayah

إِنَّا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا عَلَىٰ أُمَّةٍ وَإِنَّا عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِم مُّقْتَدُونَ

… we find ourselves in (or) on established or consolidated effort i.e. all the tradition and all the forces and everything that goes into the status quo and this is how we are going to be guided and how we’re going to improve our lives. (Surah Az Zukhruf verse 23)

There’s a few ayaat in Surah Al Ahqaaf that speak about the progression of life from pregnancy to infancy to childhood to adulthood to manhood etc. In this sequence of ayaat there’s an ayah that says about generic man- no Prophet, no Sahaba- just a human being.

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَبَلَغَ أَرْبَعِينَ سَنَةً

… until the time when man- human life in a male or female- reaches its peak or prime and reaches forty years … (Surah Al Ahqaaf verse 15)

Meaning, all of the years that went into the solidification of the human will and effort peaks at forty years.

قَالَ رَبِّ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ

… he says : O Allah disperse me in the efforts of life so that I may be able to be thankful for your bounty … (Surah Al Ahqaaf verse 15)

This is one of the sunan (or) social laws of life that goes un-noticed by many Muslims in life and it’s there- looking us in the mind, in the eye, in our attention are to our hearts- speaking to us through the ayaat of the Qur’an (and) through the behaviour of the Prophet; but it is a social law that applies to all human beings, not only to Muslims, to every one else. You (can) take this person in history called Alexander the great. Muslims and non- Muslims may be familiar with that name. Well when this person became great, he was only twenty-two years old and then when he died he was only thirty-six years old. And you look at, (we don’t have time here, but just for your attention and for some food for thought), the leaderships in today’s world, whether it is the leaderships in China, or in Russia, or in the United States, or in Cuba, or in Latin America, or in other countries of the world, (take a) look at the interchangeable political, military, economic, social behaviour between the older generation and the younger generation and then compare that with what we have in those areas called Muslim countries. There was a time in the old Soviet Union when two or three octogenarians died within a span of two or three years and not only was their nation-state failing but they were also failing to understand the reciprocity of generations; the younger generation absorbing the experiences and wisdom of the older generation and then the older generation consolidating itself with the vitality and force of the younger generation. In the Islamic context there is a lot of Islamic work that is being done to try to build and Islamic life and there’s emphasis on the individual or there’s emphasis on the family or there’s emphasis on society, (but) never except in very rare cases do we have a pronounced emphasis on assuming the affairs of governance with this healthy understanding and with all of this experience that we today can put into practice. Who are the leaders? You look at your own context, how ever way your Islamic direction takes you, who are these leaders who have confidence- not theoretical confidence, practical confidence- to give serious responsibilities to individuals who are in their teens or in their twenties or even in their thirties? You tell us who’s the head of a Islamic Movement or Islamic Party that’s in their teens or twenties or thirties? Forget about being the head, who has major military, political, social (and) social responsibilities who is in their teens, twenties and thirties?

وَلَمَّا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ وَاسْتَوَىٰ آتَيْنَاهُ حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ

When he reached the prime of his life we imparted on to him the affairs of decision making and inbued him with knowledge and it is in that manner that We compensate those who seek perfection. (Surah Al Qasas verse 14)

Where is this segment of the ayah at work in the contingencies of the Islamic programs that we have? Ask yourself? Like we said, there are exceptions to the rule. The only bright illuminating segments of this worldwide Islamic effort we see in two or three places. We see it in Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen. These are places where there are young people who are in-charge. Do we have to fill in the names or do you know who we’re talking about? The others are almost senile, (we mean), with all of the good intentions, (and) with all of the knowledge they have, they’re almost senile to this fact. Let us not be as haughty or as high minded or as up Purdy not to understand this. Let us not have this element of kibr in us. The Prophet of Allah says whoever has an atoms weight of pride in his heart will not enter Jannah.

Brothers and sisters, committed Muslims…

Just as a quick refresher on some or a few of the individuals that many of you may be familiar with. In our time, one of the major, (if not the major), Islamic Movement in the world is Ikhwan Al Muslimun. (if) you look at the leadership component, (and remember what was just said), and add to that the fact that the person who founded Al Ikhwan Al Muslimin, Al Imam Hassan Al Banna when he founded it he was only twenty-two years old.

When Al Imam Ash Shafi’ee- who is considered to be the first person who wrote about Usul Ad Deen and all of this- died he was only fifty-one years old. So all of his, (what we call), scholarly or academic contribution to Islamic fiqh, (and these are only samples, you can take these samples and apply them to many others), were done when he was in his twenties and thirties.

When Abdul Qadir Al Jaza’iri- the well known Algerian freedom fighter who stood up to French Colonialism- was in his prime fighting at the frontlines of contact between Islam and Kufr he was only twenty-five years old.

Now, we are expressing this is a world that is beaming and teaming with events. You have this awakening of people especially when it comes to Egypt and they say “there are youth there.” Yes- there are youth and Alhamdu li Allah that we do have these youth and Alhamdu li Allah that they are involved and Alhamdu li Allah that they are exposing their bare chest to the military weapons and the military machine that fires against them. What does that mean? Is that something that we should be ashamed of or something we should be hiding or something we should apologise for? What does this mean? In light of the Qur’an and in light of the Sunnah that we have we should be proud of this accomplishment. One of the features of our Islam, (just take this with you and sleep on it and think about it), when it comes to assuming social, political (and) social responsibilities etc. as an Islamic Organisation, Party or Movement we should be serious and motivated and charged to go for it, but as individuals we should have a healthy degree of zuhd and disinterest in it; (but) only as individuals, not as social movements. The priority of a social movement is to take on or take over or take from the Tawagheet these affairs. But we are not selfish, self-centred (and) egotistic to want this for our individual selfs.

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