World of Our Youth
World of Our Youth
In the Name of God The Compassionate, the Merciful
I counsel you to be good to youth, for they have the softest hearts.
This is a beautiful, prophetic piece of advice. But how many parents and nurturers have heard it? Had they acted upon it, they would have been successful in their interaction with this age group, which represents unquestionably the most fertile stage of life!
Here is how psychologists, educators, and Sociologists have presented their findings on youth:
Psychologists view the stage of youth as one of long personal crisis and personal struggle with various influences and reactions. They regard youths as adolescents; a stage which brings worry, confusion, depression, agitation, and every other difficult term found in psychology dictionaries.
Educators believe that the crisis (assuming that we first subscribe to the belief that there is a crisis) is one of structure and development, and that responsibility rests on the shoulders of the educational institutions-whose basic function is to lay the foundations of this structure and to develop the methods and forms of further learning.
Sociologists see youth as a crisis in conformity, change, and behaviour ...
Is Youth Really a Crisis?
We do not believe that it is.
If we agree that there is a problem or crisis, then it is not in the youth themselves, for they (the softest of heart) are very sensitive, good-hearted, well-intentioned. They are ready to understand and to compromise with the world around them. Youths are not a problem. Rather, the problem is to know how to get close to and to work with them.
The youth-boy or girl-is neither intrinsically disobedient, perturbed by nature, or harsh. Rather, it is the environment and the milieu, be it in the house, school, street, or institution. One may not properly interact with the youth's sharp sensibilities and instead treat him with hardness leading to harshness. One may err in dealing with someone who has just emerged from childhood into relative maturity. The youth may be looked upon as that same little child who remains a child. The words of the poet best speaks of this false assumption for many who work in that field:
Leila remains a child in my eye,
Since yesterday, she has not grown but a finger's width ...
If this is the analogy, then you should not expect from those who work with the youth anything but to put more pressure and to impose more prohibitions unsheathing the sword of prohibition on things in which God never gave them authority, that people may look at them as an example.
We call on you, parents, teachers, nurturers, those who would right the situation, to read the columns from newspapers and magazines which say "I want a solution," "Problems and Solutions," or "Guide me to the path." You will see for yourselves that the larger problem lies in misunderstanding and bad interaction.
In conditions such as these, what happens?
The youth-boy and girl-falls back on the people closest to him, his peers. And here he undergoes insufficient or deficient experience, drawing imaginary solutions from films or serials; or else solutions from newspapers dealing with youths from a perspective which may, at the very least, be said to be un-Islamic.
The youth may become withdrawn, confining himself behind the closed the doors of his room, because the stifling atmosphere has caused him to be misunderstood and mistreated. Inside his closed room, he indulges in every mental and sexual fantasy-sometimes daydreaming of time, when there will be better understanding and relations. Other times, his mood changes to one of resentment and anger, displaying withdrawal, hostility, or disgust by excessive reactions to things.
Why Do We Force Them Into a Negative Position?
Would it not be better for us to open our hearts to them, be warmer to them, to speak gently and be more openminded-to speak to them in a language which basically says:
We love you very much and we care about you, we do not want you to fall into great error or be taken unawares by error. Live your life in the spirit of your times. But he who wants to take a path, the contours of which he does not know, should take the time to ask: Where is the road?' If not, he will lose his way and stray far away from the road... We do not wish to dictate or impose on you ...reflect on our advice, our sincerest guidance ...we are closer to you than anything else around you ...your happiness is our happiness ...and what makes you unhappy makes us unhappy ...let us work together as friends.
This is the point through which mutual understanding is reached, the point where we can say "let us work together as friends." It is the coveted opportunity, and the main thing that guides us to the solution of the problem in a way that is human, reflecting wisdom and good exhortation instead of cutting off dialogue in a dictatorial manner.
Understanding and mutual comprehension are what we must seek to deal with youth; and we must ask ourselves if at homes we enjoy this state of affairs in terms of sincere and loving interaction. If we do, we shall live then happily, as will our children.
In our schools, assemblies, and institutions the prevailing methodology is one of positive attitude towards students according to the following equations:
If this is valid, then we must offer valuable and active trust.
We do not agree with the equations:
youth=risks everything offered (even if long outdated)
We are of the view that
youth=receptivity to the time in analysis and perception
youth=living, dynamic reality
which can pull out the roots of blind imitation, corruption, and licentiousness to create a better situation than the one in which a youth may find himself inheriting. He can realize his true position in terms of self-esteem, which is unimaginable without a better knowledge of our own Islam. Islam will gain for us what is good in this life and the hereafter. It is an Islam which solves our particular problems and difficulties.
From the Islamic perspective, we understand that the stage of youth, which represents the intermediate stage of life, rests on contemplation, realization, and guidance. If not, how can the sacred lawgiver make youth legally responsible according to the Shari ah. What would this mean in terms of intelligence, observance, proof, and punishment, if the youth were not capable of assuming responsibility? But what type of responsibility? That of viceregency and of Shari ah liabilities which put the youth in the ranks of the rest of those charged with responsibility on a completely equal footing. They will, on Judgment Day, all stand together to be judged, not on the criterion that this one is an old man and that one is a youth, but rather on the basis that they are equally responsible.
But what is noticeable with respect to rearing in our Islamic milieu is that sometimes we abandon the child for the first seven years, then we abandon him for another seven; and we add to this a third seven, without rearing him according to the stages taught by the Sunna namely, that we discipline him in the second seven-year period, that we be his companion in the third period.
We forget-and sometimes cause ourselves to forget-that the stage preceding puberty, or impinging on it, is the first stage. Training him for entry into the world of youth, an entry that is good and without any tumult or difficulty. There is a difference between entering this world with blind eyes, finding everything around him strange and difficult, and entering with the counsel of his two parents. In the second, he has already dealt with the world in some manner, and has been exposed to some of its general characteristics. This is the difference between one who is acclimatized and one who is awed by first impressions. It is the closest thing to the beginning stage, to kindergarten, which comes before school.
Indeed the Islamic Shari ah accepts the worship of the child who is able to distinguish and rewards him for this worship; not his responsibility and continued compliance, but because it was appreciated and because it is voluntary. This prepares him to accept heavy responsibility, as the time has not yet come for him to be so taxed.
From a second perspective, we must admit candidly that the problem of raising the young lady falls in one area and that of raising the young man falls in another. I describe this as a "problem" because this is exactly the situation of many religious families and households. A disparaging attitude is adopted towards the gentle, kind creation of God-the young lady-and this attitude is what dictates how she is treated. Meanwhile, the sons are preferred and made to stand out from the girls, treated differently even in error and failure. This attitude still exists as a fact of life in many households where modern material facilities have entered, but where the criteria for proper value determination and just treatment between sons and daughters have not.
Because of all this, and other factors to boot, we have gone to His Eminence Ayatullah al-Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Fadlullah, requesting a comprehensive treatise on the core issues and problems of youth. This was not done with the view that no great author in Islam has ever dealt with this dynamic issue, but rather in the belief that none-as far as our readings show-has with quite the same candor and forcefulness of his eminence, Ayatollah Fadlullah. We know that candor has taken its toll and forcefulness its consequences. But is the truth to remain inside its shell, afraid to stretch its head out in the light? And until when?
We feel that hiding reality, fabricating or toying with it, adding or subtracting from it is all sin. If some are afraid to tell it like it is, in a free atmosphere, then they deprive the younger generation of the opportunity to stand firm, on a solid footing or ideal, and to move towards the vast horizons where the tolerance and munificence of Islam have never been closed. The (negative) consequences, rather, have been felt by those who have, under different pretexts, blocked the path to these horizons. We see today scholars who realize the danger and are working very hard to bring their knowledge to the people ...
With the grace of God, we stand before the truth which, while long absent, offers the means for correcting the situation. Its reality carries the strength of resolution, freedom, and full objectivity.
By the grace of God, we have opened the file most completely-the youth dossier and the counsel of the Prophet Muhammad. We have applied the wise guidance on youth in every situation, on parenthood, on being dutiful children and the message, etc. The Noble Quran has dealt with these and stated them most beautifully for there is nothing purer or better-for the youths for all time and all generations
By the grace of God, too, we have touched on adolescence in its most minute details, issues, and particulars, to the point where some matters were broached with certain caution, to be whispered in private or in closed circles.
Since the responsibility for molding youth properly is an undertaking that requires effort and repeated experiment, we have discussed the main problems relating to youth instruction, beginning with the Islamic teacher and nurturer, by following the system of imitation, blessing and sin, cultural showing off, and finally on sex education and counseling.
We have not forgotten the practical aspect of youthful life, and we have focused in our long journey with his eminence, the scholar Fadlullah on various subjects relating to politics, associations, and students.
We have judged the general parameters of the discussion and its broad outlines useful, and that they required the completeness of fiqh, guided by the Shari ah, especially with respect to what concerns youths. Although we look for adequate answers to many contentious issues, we have never reached a final solution.
We have asked Ayatullah Fadlullah about singing and music, new fashions, musical instruments, predicting the future through horoscopes and teacup readings, and other matters from all the issues that challenge youth. And throughout, in discussions that stretched for two years, in matters that sometimes caused us to fumble, we asked: How does a youth live? How does he deal with his youth? How will he rear his own sons and daughters in their youth? We do not claim to have exhausted every point of discussion on matters that concern our youth, but we feel that what we have done is a great step, a great achievement which will have tremendous and far reaching benefits. No matter how much we try to overcome our shortcomings or complete things, there will always be some fault that affects our undertaking. Some things have been inculcated into us from the beginning of our journey. And so, at the end of every chapter, we present our readers with a summary of the most important topics discussed there. We have also put in a final chapter on some general fatwas on youth-if we may call them so which we have obtained from his eminence, Ayatullah Fadlullah.
We welcome from our youths-both young ladies and young men-any criticism or comments regarding this work.
We trust that God will accept this humble work, and that it will benefit us on a day when neither property nor progeny will avail anyone but those who come to God with pure hearts.
Ahmad Ahmad & Adil al-Qadi
January 1, 1995
The Word as a medium of Instruction
Question: In the light of the bequest of Luqman to his son as he was exhorting him, what is the value of direct education in terms of guidance, perspective, and advice? Abrahamic education Corrupt woman and society Studies on Noah's experience The Problem of Jealousy Friendship and Friends The Two Parents and their Guardianship over their Children Worship in its Broad Conception Quranic Youth
Our Youth in the Light of the Quran
The issue of education is subject to many influences arising from the various dimensions of human perception - regardless of whether the forum of education is intellectual, emotional, or pertains to the general environment of the person. Therefore, it is natural that the word - which is the medium that communicates the idea from one human being to another - should be significant and dynamic enough to convey thought, spirit, and work. Throughout the history of human communication, words have often been suggestive of things which are not immediately apparent from the language itself. This is because the word becomes associated with certain references which either widen the focus from or narrow it to the core meaning.
Hence, the word has been the divine medium of instruction, God having sent His prophets with sacred books, which He revealed to them. We see that the movement of human education is the long path of the word in human history, embracing every negative and positive effect in this history.
Exhortation by Words
In light of the above, let us continue in the same general framework with respect to words. The words of exhortation used in the Quran, wherein Luqman counsels his son, are designed to expand his horizons on matters of doctrine and life. We notice that the exhortation concerns ideas which carry aspects related to the senses and the perceptions. Ideas are not mere abstractions to be contemplated purely for their intellectual content, but contain aspects grasped by sensory experience.
Combining Intellect and Emotions
Exhortation carries along with its ideational aspect, certain elements of human sentiment and feeling, so that the issue becomes one of combining the intellect and the emotions. In this manner it penetrates into the heart and mind of the person. For mixing the intellect with the emotions causes a state which grips and transforms the person. The various dimensions involved make a given concept something that tugs at the innermost core of the person.
This is what we observe in every exhortation where the intellectual aspect is in concert with the sensory and emotional facet. When applied to exhortation or nurturing, this method is probably the most effective in transforming a person. This is because the error committed by many in planting an idea is to focus on the purely cerebral aspect of their concept, rendering it much like a lifeless engineering formula which addresses the human intellect without in any way harnessing the other dimensions of the human perception.
On the other hand, there are those who deal only with the emotional aspect which does not spur a person to intellectual contemplation. This leaves a gap between the concept and faith. And so we find that many have an idea, but do not really believe in it, since the aspect of faith requires that an idea change itself into something sensory, and then is transformed into action based on perception.
Quranic Method of Exhortation
The value of the Qur'anic method is that it attempts to articulate life issues. Therefore, we see that it pushes the idea closer to the mind, in respect of what a person sees, hears, and touches. It implants the concept in the deepest and sincerest parts of the person's being, by process of fear, hope, hate, etc.
When we contemplate this, we find that the most successful and effective exhortation is that which is well planned, which is delivered by those who use the forcefulness of the intellect and emotion, and which uses all that appeals to cerebral and emotional faculties.
Exhortation by Example
A point which needs to be elaborated upon is that speech may form the greater part of exhortation, but that the two may in fact be far apart. There is the saying that he who does not have an exhorter within himself, cannot benefit from an exhorter. This means that a person can exhort himself by himself, in terms of his experience. This is what Imam Ali spoke about in Nahj al-Balagha: "The best of what you experience is that which exhorts you." For your experience is what may teach you a lesson, concept, and contemplation of your current situation, with respect to what intellectual and sentimental aspects it possesses. On this basis, therefore, we find that one type of homily is when a person preaches by his actions before words.
In this fashion, we can put exhortation as an umbrella term, encompassing every means of intellectual or behavioural experience, or that which is related to the reactions of others. All this shows that there is a broad outline for the process of exhortation. Briefly, it is a functional method, different in its means of delivery, which puts the concept to the person and corrects what is corrupt in his life, straightens out what needs to be in his character, or opens up to horizons hitherto closed to him in his life.
Homiletic address is the purpose of the preacher, in that he presents his arguments to the best of his efforts in order to push the idea he intended to stress. As such, the person who accepts exhortation must have the ability, responsibility, and desire to do everything mentioned in this homily. This is because exhortation is a response by words, by action, by example, by any means that reaches the intellect. A person who does not react to exhortation is no different from a corpse which has lost all the sense faculties. Loss of the sensory faculties may be a natural state in a dead person; it may be that a living person has frozen all sensation in his being.
God speaks about this repeatedly in the Quran:
"They have hearts with which they think not, they have eyes that see not, as they have ears that hear not" (al-A'raf, 7:179). This means that the human being may paralyse his sensory faculties and perception, emotions or ambitions in his personality, thus becoming as a living dead: "It is the same whether you warn them or do not warn them: they do not believe" (al-Baqara, 2:6); God has placed a seal on their hearts and hearing, and in their sight a blindness (al-Baqara, 2: 7) - i.e., how can you incite a person to act on exhortation from within himself when he rejects good preaching?
O my father! Do as you are commanded!
These are the words uttered by Ismael as he was submitting to the divine will. Is it possible to emulate this submission and obedience?
When we study the personality of Abraham from his early rearing, we find a personality of human responsiveness to God. This typified his reaction to every truth in life. When we wish to study the noble Quran rhetorically, we find that Abraham was a man who challenged corrupt ideas, whether of non-belief or of polytheism. His challenges emerged directly from the disquiet he felt when he learned about the people around him. This is what we observe in him in his innermost thoughts, when reflecting upon the personality of those who worshipped the stars, moon, or sun. He expressed awe before the stars, the moon, and the sun in all their glory. Challenging the idea of worshipping them, however, he declared that they could not be gods, for God is present in every aspect of life.
In our view, this indicates how his function of guiding the community towards faith had caused a shock wave in the midst of the community. It is demonstrated by his act of breaking the idols and blaming the largest of these idols. His action was based on the principle of forcing them to admit that the idols could not speak: "Certainly you know that they do not speak" (al Anbiya, 21:65).
In the course of his reaction, he debated their doctrine and ideology, and showed these to be baseless. This indicated where he stood with respect to his father, whom he dared in words which sometimes evince empathy, sometimes reflect harsh reality.
His attitude is equally reflected in his opposition to the tyrant of his time, when the latter declared, "I give life and I cause to die."
My Lord is He who gives life and causes to die . . . Abraham said: God causes the sun to rise from the east, then make it rise from the west. And so the one who disbelieved was confounded.
The Man of God
We may note - from the foregoing - the condition which makes Abraham a man of God, someone intensely aware of his responsibility that he should live for God and far from every other attachment, every difficulty, in order to find himself a servant of God. So much so that he felt it incumbent upon him to dedicate his entire life to God. This is what we infer from God's words, "And God took Abraham as a friend" (al-Nisa', 4:125). God's friendship for Abraham was due to Abraham's friendship for God, being reciprocal in kind: "He loves them and they love Him" (al Ma'ida, 5:54). This relationship of worship is the highest connection that a mortal can have with his Lord. This expands and develops into friendship.
The friendship between Abraham and God, an inevitable result of active worship, led to the realization that Abraham's presence depended on God. Concomitant with this is the knowledge, too, that the entire universe is dependent on God. This made Abraham perceive one of the ways towards God when he asked Him to bring the dead back to life:
Show me how You give life to the dead. [God] said: Do you not believe? [Abraham] said: Most certainly! But only that my heart be at ease.
This shows that when Abraham spoke to his Lord, when he lived with Him, he perceived a life of spontaneity and inspiration, mixed with the observation of faith in worship, on the one hand, and love and obedience, on the other.
From this perspective, we find that Abraham lived Islam for God, and we are likely to understand from the Quran that he was the first to use the term al-Islam:
The milla of your father Abraham, who called you Muslims from before ...
When his Lord told him: Submit [aslim], he said: I submit to the Lord of all the Worlds. And Abraham left a legacy to his children, as did Jacob, saying thus: O my children! God has chosen for you the religion, and die only as Muslims!
It was Abraham who coined the word Islam ["submission to God"] after hearing it from God (Exalted). As a result of this, every Abrahamic prophethood - if this term can be used - took the name of Islam in its inclusive sense: "Verily the religion with God is al-Islam" (al-Imran, 3:19); "And whoever follows other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him" (al-Imran, 3:85). It is this comprehensive Islam which is carried in every prophethood; it is the line of tawhid.
Naturally, we may note that Abraham was a man who lived with God in his entire being and in all his actions. He worked to establish an instructional modus in his particular environment. This was so he could transmit to his descendants this realized, elevated Islam which he lived with God. He also worked towards transmitting this Islam to all of humankind. This is the message of the glorious verse: "And Abraham left as a legacy to his children, as did Jacob, saying thus: O my children! God has chosen for you the religion, and die only as Muslims!"(al-Baqarah, 2:132).
Islam as a Medium of Instruction
Islam then was a method of instruction which Abraham wanted his children to exemplify, religion being part of it. It would appear that this method of instruction insinuated itself as a practical application in the case of Ismael and as a policy in the case of Jacob.
When we read the words of God - "We gave him tidings of a forbearing son" (al-Saffat, 37:101)-we see that Abraham had hoped for a son after his trials, and God granted him a forbearing, mild-tempered son, who was responsive of heart, and did not reject or shirk any sign, however pressing or difficult the circumstances. The verse "And when he reached the age when he could go forth with his father" (al-Saffat, 37:102) tells us that Ismael lived in close attachment to his father in the time that they had spent together. For any man blessed with a handsome son after enduring suffering, this was only natural. Abraham gave his entire heart and faith to his Lord, and he taught his son his spiritual contemplation, which reflected every aspect of thought, spirit, worship, and deed. Ismael's state was, therefore, transformed into one of Islam - meaning that he became a Muslim in an absolute sense, as was his father.
The Challenge to Affection and the Self
From this comes the experience which God (Exalted) wishes the father and the son to live in order to give example of Islam in its highest essence. This was realized in such a way that the affection of the father was severely tested when Abraham was called to sacrifice his son. He did not stand by and let others sacrifice his son. He had to subdue his own sense of affection, mercy, love, and any loving attachment - sentiments which reside in every father towards an only and beloved child.
On the other hand, Ismael's love for another human being was also challenged. The faith of both was challenged. And this dared them to respond to the subjection of one's affections for one's own child, the killing of one's feelings. They both succeeded in this, and this is what we note in God's words, for Abraham said to his son: "O my son, I see in my sleep that I sacrifice you, so what do you think?" (al-Saffat, 37:102). According to the Quranic text, Ismael did not stop once to think or reflect about this matter: "He said: O my fatherl Do as you are commanded; You will find me, God willing, among the forbearing!" (ibid.).
Fatherhood and Prophethood
The foregoing analysis tells us that Abraham succeeded in rearing his son to this degree of spiritual Islam, where a human being can subjugate his own feelings in deference to God's commands. We can equally perceive that Abraham did not behave as would many fathers whom God has blessed with a son after trial, by spoiling and giving such a son a twisted and abused freedom; so much so, the errors of the child come to be seen as holy, his evil as good - in the light of the doting, blind affection which does not permit the father to endure the pain of such a child.
We understand that there was some readiness on the part of Ismael, and a sort of dedication from Abraham in his prophetic test. Abraham did not see his son through the lens of mortals' sentimentality; he saw him from a prophetic vantage point. A man like Abraham has to comport himself in life as a slave of God, absolutely dedicated to Him. It is not for me then to determine my fatherly or paternal feelings towards my child, or to make his filial relation to me a pretext for drowning myself in selfish feelings. Rather, I must know that the son is a slave of Allah, and I must emphasize the worship of God. I have to realize that he is a member of the human community, and that I am obligated to make him a man, strengthened by the human trials of faith and uprightness.
Blending Humanness and Prophethood
Abraham was able to blend his human with his prophetic dimension. He did so from the perspective of fatherhood in relation to prophethood, for he focused his human sentiments on making his son truly elevated before God. He created a proximity between the boy and God to achieve the overwhelming abundance of divine mercy and paradise. In respect of prophethood, he directed himself to being a prophet as much for his son as for all of humankind. Abraham did not do as would have many: making his message one for humankind at the expense of being distant and isolated from his own family and children, leaving them on their own.
Indeed, Abraham succeeded in rearing prophetic personalities after him. While building the House of God, he formed the personality of Ismael by letting him accompany him in that task: "And when Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House" (al Baqara, 2:127). He caused Ismael to live in the spiritual atmosphere surrounding the construction of the House, an undertaking at once spiritual and physical. Isaac and Jacob were able to perceive things in this same light:
Were you not witnesses when Jacob was about to die, as he asked his children: What will you worship after me? They said: We worship your God, the God of your fathers, Abraham and Ismael and Isaac, the One God, and to Him do we submit.
Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, lived this prophetic life under the aegis of Islam, and spoke to his children in exactly the same manner as Abraham had done to his.
We find in the Quran no details as to the method of instruction which Abraham followed with Ismael and Isaac, and which Isaac used with Jacob. In the spiritual environment which Abraham created for his children and by which the response of these children was to be influenced, if we consider legacy as one facet and the example another, and if we follow the same spiritual path they lived, then all this plainly led to the efficacious results in the Islam of Ismael, Isaac, and Jacob.
Children of Prophets are Like Any Other Humans
Contrasting with the story of Abraham and Ismael is the Quran's story of Noah and his son. In the former, there is an invitation to sacrifice, in the latter an invitation to salvation. On the one hand, there is obedience and submission; on the other, rejection and rebellion. What can we learn from all this?
The children of prophets, Imams, and the ulama ["religious scholars"] are all human, like the rest of homo sapiens, molded as much by positive influences as by negative ones. They probably live, too, within the arena of conflict, where positive forces confront negative ones, that each may learn and experience internal conflict by wrestling with powerful external conflict.
On this basis, it is not a foregone conclusion that the child of a prophet will be righteous, or that the child of an Imam or a 'alim or an activist will be like the parent. The father forms part of the environment, and he is simply one of several factors which condition the personality of the child. The father may live a sort of existence that is unstable or weak, in the course of which he cannot exert any strong influence on his family which might offset opposing forces or pressures impinging on his own activities.
All this may constitute a problem for those who call to Islam, whether they be prophets, guardians, or 'ulama. This is because the pressure of belief and challenge in inviting others to Islam (da'wa) can engage man's full attention at the expense of his household. He is open to the entire world and closed to his family. This is the course required by this lifestyle; he distances himself from personal matters, on the view that his family is one of those "personal matters".
Influences of a Corrupt Community
One thing that deserves mention is that a corrupt community may take away a prophet's family from him without any resistance. This is because resistance (by the prophet) is directed against the greater community, and it may very well be that the force of the opposition represents enough material strength and challenge to undermine the basic elements of prophethood, as the mundane circumstances work themselves out. The prophet - no matter which one - when delivering his message in the face of this great obstacle, does not possess every medium. Only some media apply: with respect to personal charisma and ability. The world of prophethood is not the world of the unseen, but the world of human abilities, which may be connected with the unseen in some instances or respects, but not in the full sense suggested by such knowledge.
In this setting, the community may be transformed into a powerful force even on the household of a prophet, guardian, or scholar. This is because such a community possesses the influences of a deviant society which can entice a household, enough to destroy a prophetic message. Some prophets, scholars, and saints have even been tested through their spouses who take an opposite stance to the prophetic message, opposing the actions of the prophet. This is what the Quran tells us about the wives of Noah and Lot:
God sets forth as an example to the disbelievers the wife of Noah and the wife of Lot. They were under two of our righteous servants, but they betrayed them so that they [the husbands] availed them naught against God. It was said to them: Enter the fire with those who go therein.
Betrayal of the Message
We understand from the above that the falseness was not one of sexual honour and fidelity; but rather of betrayal of the message-betrayal of the trust of such a message.
Naturally, such a situation had a negative effect on the children of prophets, Imams, and scholars.
The above verses also show that the influence of the mother is great, and can be negative if, in both thought and conduct, she follows the trends and corruption of infidelity. The reason is that she brings her ideas into the household, where a prophet may be beset by her, much the same way he is beset in the community. He is unable to protect his home, since his own wife is a part of that home, and she may have such an effect from which he cannot rescue himself.
The Quran does not provide any biography of Noah's son, but we note that his father encouraged him to board with them, not to be from among the losers: "Embark with us, and do not be with unbelievers" (Hud, 11:42).
It seems however, that the son was rebellious. He neither respected his father nor paid heed to his warnings. He did not believe in what his father was shown of the unseen, nor in his ability to face matters in a way no one else could. He said, "I will go to a mountain which will protect me from the water" (Hud, 11:43). Noah, at that moment losing all hope in his son, replied, "On this day, there is no saving from God's command" (ibid.). When Noah called upon his Lord, it was not in confrontation, but in supplication, for God (Exalted) promised to help his son: "He said, "My Lord! My son is from my household and your promise is true! " God replied, "O Noah! He is not from your household, for his deeds are unrighteous" (Hud, 11:45-46).
Influence of the Mother
Why was the son of Noah not among the believers? By asking ourselves this question, we can, according to the Quranic text, relate the son to the mother. We find that the son was more under his mother's than his father's influence, for his father was alone. On the other hand, the mother was very much a part of the community, whether they were relatives or not. It is natural then for a child to live in this community and to function according to its conditioning, without his father being capable of most of his responsibility or of living with a minority of believers who can influence his son.
We can understand the difference between the case of Ismael and that of the son of Noah; Ismael lived in an environment where Abraham was able to remove his son from pressure. Hence, the boy lived in an environment where the negative influences of society exerted no pressure. At that time, his mother was also a righteous believer. In the one case, the boy's learning process was protected, in the other (son of Noah) it was not.
This is what Islam focuses on in the case of marriage - namely, that the believer should marry someone who is religiously observant. So much so that a person, according to a hadith, had once said to the Prophet, "Who should I marry?" The Prophet replied, "You must marry one who is religiously observant." This is the issue that concerns the spouse. Indeed "if there comes to you someone whose character and religion please you, marry him, for if you do not calamity and great evil will prevail in the earth."
Islam then focuses on the correctness of the household, that the wife should be a religious woman, and that the husband should be a man of religion. An Islamic nursery is primarily for the child, whose senses and perceptions are molded to such a degree that, in the face of corruption, he will resort to this primary conditioning as the basis.
However, when there are different forces in the household, where the father wants the child to incline towards faith, and the mother wants the child to incline towards non-belief, corruption, or vice versa, then the issue will normally be one which does affect the harmony of the two parents. We do not wish to hold that the elements of mother and father are everything. It must be emphasized that their role is tremendous, in addition to the other factors in this area.
In the light of this, it is possible for us to learn from the case of Noah that the father should not be confident that because he is righteous, his son shall be righteous as well. In fact, it is a duty of the father to be cautious about the lack of righteousness in his wife, for that could adversely affect his child. It is the duty of the father in this respect, not to believe that there are corrupting influences too powerful for him to fight. People should also avoid using the corruption of a child as a mirror of the corruption of the parent, in the manner which some people claim, "Go and look after your son!" It is true that God charges a man with responsibility for his family and for himself, along with his relatives as well. But this does not mean that such responsibility is one hundred per cent. Rather, it is a responsibility proportional to the abilities that he possesses in this regard.
Truth Refutes Distortions
Is prophetic influence not negated, or its power undermined, whenever the house is torn from within?
This issue can leave adverse erects in the eyes of the public against those who call to God, even for a prophet, guardian, or believer. One may emphasize the negative aspect, namely, as follows:
This man cannot be truly serious about his call; his undertaking could be for ulterior motives - probably for recognition, position, or riches. We see this in what God has told us about the tribes of the prophets who told God that they wanted influence, as in the case of Pharoah and Moses. The people said that were he serious, truthful, and believing in his call, the sign of his belief would have been to invite his people, to make them believe in him. This is exactly what people say to someone who calls to certain views and does not abide by them, "Were he serious, he would have exhorted himself and disciplined himself, and truly devoted himself to his cause."
This may create a bad influence in the general atmosphere. But in my view, regardless of whether one is an alim, or a dai in any field, when he exudes confidence, allowing people to perceive the seriousness in his movements, noting that he does not abandon his children to corruption; nor does he assume any special air for them over others, or take a lax view in this regard then people realize the seriousness of his call. The uncle of the Prophet, Abu Lahab, who opposed the Prophet, was unable to influence him because all the elements of prophethood were in the being of the Prophet, who was serious in his undertaking. His preference for non relatives (if they were Muslim) over his own kin made people see that his lack of influence on his own family was resulted from no lack of commitment. Rather, is was because of deep-seated elements present in the personality of Abu Lahab and other relatives. As a result, Abu Lahab left no negative influence on him.
I believe that if those who call to God were to concentrate on this facet of confidence in their sentiments regarding their children, and to convince the people that they do not stumble in submission to their personal sentiments regarding their children when the latter go astray, then any negative effect that this would have on their movement would effectively be nullified.
Temptation Versus Strength of Character
In Sura Yusuf, we find a youth who is pressed by a lady of rank resisting that temptation. How can we get our youths to understand Yusuf's resistance?
When we study the position of Yusuf, in his difficult trial, we find that it was far more difficult than any our youths normally undergo. This is because the atmosphere of incitement in which youths of today live has many sources, but there is the option of choice. For the most part, these incitements are not present in the inner longings of youths, in the sense of losing all decision in the matter or all freedom of action. In the case of Yusuf, we find that he was a slave, bought by the husband of the woman with whom he resided night and day before that difficult element in the attractive personality of Yusuf was ever discussed. In the light of this, we find that Yusuf was not attracted to this woman in any normal sense, for it is nowhere mentioned that he was attracted by any aspect of her beauty, or any sexuality which, until then, had been suppressed in him. This means that Yusuf possessed the inner resistance against this temptation.
Someone may state that Yusuf was a slave, and as such was unable to know his lady-owner, since the barriers of class status would have made this improbable. We note, however, that while these barriers may sometimes exist, they were not always accepted, especially by the woman, who was prepared to break those barriers.
Faith as a Barrier to Temptation
It is probable that the trial of Yusuf faced when the wife of the Aziz tried to seduce him makes it clear that his refusal to succumb was not as a result of any psychological barrier, but rather of a barrier of faith. Consequently, we observe the words of God: "And she desired him, and he would have desired her, too, had he not seen the clear sign of his Lord" (Yusuf, 12:24). These words are usually said to signify Yusuf longed to lie with her. However, the explanation to which we incline is enticement without feeling. This is exactly as when a man is enticed by food and his body reacts when he is hungry. This attraction did not last long. It is a natural reaction, not one of calculated innate desire-had he not seen the clear sign of his Lord and was his faith not awakened? Infallibility does not mean lack of attraction to unlawful food, drink, or desires. Rather, it means not indulging in such unlawful things, for the instinctive, natural attraction in these cases are not transformed into action.
The chapter (sura) explains itself further when it puts Yusuf with the women who said, "This is not a mortal but a noble angel!" (Yusuf, 12:31). By then, Yusuf had perceived his strength beginning to weaken, impelling him in a way that he could not ignore, for he had used up all his power to resist the temptations of this woman. This is why he said: "If You do not turn away their snares from me, I should yearn unto them" (Yusuf, 12:33).
Fortitude of Character
From the foregoing, we know that what saved Yusuf from his predicament was the dimension of his strong faith. This we may see and understand when we examine his life with his father, a time during which God was reflected upon. Yusuf had lofty spiritual aspirations, and so we see that Jacob, in his affection and sentiments for him, was able to raise him and to mold him into a strong human being with fortitude in his character. Perhaps this is the reason why he loved his child so much, rather than any of the boy's physical beauty. For when we study the attitude of Jacob towards his children, we find his pride and joy in them to have been because they were Muslims.
From this we understand that Jacob found in Yusuf a boy who was unique in his faith in God and in harmony with prophetic conduct. This so affected his other sons that it produced jealousy, which caused them to conspire to rid themselves of Yusuf
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Our Youth ...the Essential Model
The World of Happiness and Suffering
"The happy one is happy from the womb of his mother, and the sufferer suffers from the womb of his mother." This hadith implies that certain inherited characteristics are transferred from the father and the mother. What is the rebuttal to one who claims that children, according to this concept, are programmed in what they do?
Firstly, the concept of the spirit of thought suggested by this hadith is not connected to the issue of the inheritance of positive or negative characteristics by the personality of a human being-who may be happy due to the positive attributes which his parents possess and pass on to their children, or he may suffer from the negative attributes. It is more probable that the idea is that God (Exalted) knows the future of human the happiness or sadness according to the influences on the person's life before he even begins his life activities. This means that God (Exalted) knows the happy one well before this person starts on the path of happiness, and He knows the sufferer well before that persons starts on the path of suffering.
There is No Predistination
If the issue of predestination is suggested by this hadith, then it is necessary to recognize that the knowledge of God regarding the happy person, while that person is still in his mother's womb-and likewise the sufferer-is as a result of the desires and choices of humankind.
Therefore a person is happy when he wants truth, goodness, and justice. He knows the sufferer who will choose suffering in the course of his deviant desire for evil and wrongdoing. The divine knowledge in this regard does not negate the (human) desire for happiness and suffering. God both knows things and knows how He wants them to function according to natural laws, which He has imposed on human beings. He has dictated the functions of life.
God, for example, knows when it will rain. This does not mean that the rain falls as a direct result of the desire of God; rather it refers to the knowledge of God of incidents prior to their occurrence. The incident occurs as a result of the effect of causality which God has decreed in the universe.
If we understand then that a person's happiness and suffering stem from his own choices, from the factors which are the elements in cause and result, the hadith does not negate desire and choice in the life of a human being.
Inherited Characteristics and the Desire of the Human Being
Secondly, were we to construe from the hadith a connection between inherited characteristics and the happiness or suffering of a person, this certainly does not erase his freedom in the face of the inherited elements, for they form the circumstances the person creates, where the responses are specific actions. But these do not obliterate his ability to work in the other direction and acceptance of the other ends. The inherited elements then in the character of a person creates a mental or judgmental climate, which transform into a specific action. From this, they can cause some pressure on the self, or thought, or function of the individual.
But God (Exalted) created the human intellect, where He placed desires. And He created for human beings an environment, whose horizons offer various positions from which to choose. This is exactly like health, for a person may be born with an unhealthy environment, but he can overcome this by vigorous antidotes which transform the situation into something positive. So too, when he comes from a positive healthy setting, it is very possible to transform it, by evil conduct, into a negative environment.
Hence, we do not believe that inherited characteristics can negate the wants of the person or destroy his capacity for choice. But it can cause him problems when taking another path. This is why problems which might afflict a person in his physical or emotional makeup resemble other external difficulties. A person may live in an evil environment, which offers every temptation to evil, but he is able to overcome these evil factors and to transform them into something good. The same thing may be said of a person who lives in a good environment. For then personal conflict may afflict him through the instincts, overwhelming his good qualities despite the environment in which he lives, and transforming them into evil.
The Ability of a Person to Change the Atmosphere
The inner workings of a person which stem from conditioning and inherited traits do not differ from the external climate in which the person may dwell. In both situations, the power to change both the internal and external rests with him. This is what we understand by the words of God: "Allah does not change a people's situation until they [first] change that which is in their hearts" (al-Ra'd, 13:11). This means that a person is able to change his situation, whether this is due to inherited characteristics imposed on him, physical elements which influence him, or external factors which surround him.
God has made changing the situation subject to the person's doing so himself in thought, feelings, traits, and the elements of inherited characteristics. This means that it is within the ability of a person not to stumble before any of the elements which may attach themselves to him, either as part of his makeup or as unforeseen developments. This is in addition to Islam's focus on the struggle of the inner self, which God called "The Greater Struggle (al-Jihad al-Akbar)", pointing to the great difficulties a person faces in this struggle. This means that it is within the power of a human being to overcome the negative factors in his inner being, in exactly the same manner that he can overcome the negative factors in life situations.
With respect to those who are born in a bad environment, devoid of goodness, where the social setting does not absolve the father or the mother for their evil conduct, what is the responsibility of the youth?
In the Islamic concept of responsibility, there is the term "oppressed", which may apply to thought, in association with creed, politics, or social affairs. It may also apply to external situations, which may negate the functional wants under the influence of other wants.
In the first case, we note that the person lives in a setting filled with the weapons and sentiments which contradict the outlook of truth and justice. This setting signifies a closed environment which does not permit the person living in it to perceive the possibility of other ideas or values. The person becomes overcome by it, not seeing anything else. He is exactly like the person who is confined to a room in which the doors and windows are sealed shut. He cannot do good except within this enclosed space, and never considers any other world than the one which surrounds him.
Certainly persons to whom all other outlooks are closed, who fail to open up through reflection or are incapable of an outlook which might yield positive educational results, are known in the terminology of the Islamic law as "oppressed ignorant". In other words, an ignorant person has personal concepts in his outlook, or his area of functional truth, but does not have the tools to understand because the doors of possibility are closed to him.
The Excused and the Non-Excused
The man who sallies forth in quest of knowledge has several ideas, unlike the one who has a single idea and no other concept in his normal ideational and mental outlook by which to operate. This person, whom we said belonged to the "oppressed ignorant" is to be excused, and the Quran indicates this: "Except those who are weak and oppressed from the men, women, and children, who have not in their power the means and are not shown a way (to escape)" (al-Nisa, 4:98). They have no way of learning, either because of personal or functional shortcomings.
In other circumstance, however, a person lives in a setting where he possesses the media by which he can think. A person who lives in a Christian or a Sunni society may hear about a Shi'a; someone who lives in a Marxist society may hear about democracy, capitalism, or Islam. In these cases, the thought knows variety and such a person is not considered as one to be excused when he stultifies at one idea, and does not search out for other ideologies.
This is because conviction in any issue comes from two things: a positive and a negative pole. The positive is that which creates for you an element of certitude in the concept to which you subscribe. The negative creates for you the elements of rejection of other concepts. In order to believe in any idea, it is obligatory that you fulfill this maxim to your satisfaction-this idea is true and the other idea is without foundation. You can convince yourself that this is the truth only when the other is perceived as baseless. And this cannot be done unless you embark upon a tireless quest in the path of human thought and its media to learn everything possible in order to arrive as a result at the reality.
When you expend your efforts to arrive at a specific conclusion, which may or may not be the truth, then you are excused. However, if you shirk the efforts to learn different ideologies, then you become an oppressed ignorant. The oppressed ignorant person is not excused in either intellect or Law, because when God (Exalted) created the media for learning the truth He wanted to take humankind far away, not to petrify themselves. The sole assumption is that the media had not reached them in a normal manner. In some hadiths, it is narrated that when a person is resurrected on the Day of Judgment, he will be asked: "Why did you not work?" He will say: "I did not know how." And it will be said to him: "Did you not learn?" And this is God's word: "And God has the convincing argument" (al-Anam, 6:149).
This point which deserves to be looked at is that the human being who possesses the media of learning, but not the ability to travel, emigrate, correspond, or learn, then this person is acknowledged by God for the doctrinal issues of which he is free in thought. This is like "the oneness of God." It is possible for a person to examine this in the normal course of his reflection, which sets off with its first steps. As for the things which are learnt only through education, then such a person is excused when he loses the media to assist him in learning such concepts.
Imitation in Doctrine
What can be said about blindly following a doctrine which requires investigation and research?
Based on the answer to the previous question, a person might be of the lackadaisical type who totally submits himself to the setting in which he lives, never expends any effort in research and investigation, and may reach a point where he does not consider for himself any chance-even one-percent-that other ideologies may be correct.
The Quran most emphatically rejected the prevailing doctrinal precepts to which the Arabs subscribed in the jahiliya milieu [shirk] when they used to declare: "We found our forefathers with a belief system, and we will certainly follow them in their footsteps" (al-Zukhruf, 43:23). God directed them to His words: "Even though I bring you better guidance than that which you found your forefathers following?" (al-Zukhruf, 43:24), and: "Even if their forefathers understood nothing and were not rightly guided?" (al-Baqarah, 2:170).
God did not set any condition to be blindly accepted or any doctrine to be blindly followed. He wants for the human being to structure doctrine according to his own analysis; He made the other concept an argument to be contended with. This means that when one accepts a concept in an intelligent, functional manner, he works towards it, despite mental reservations that may hinder him from doing so. We see, therefore, that many people live in a specific environment with a specific Weltanschauung, and then they leave for another environment, subscribing to another Weltanschauung, revolutionary in regards to the previous one. This shows us the reality of the idea which places the responsibility on the shoulders of someone who submits to his environment and does not rise against it.
The Islamic Perspective on Adolescence
The essential stage in biological life, and the stage at which Islamic legal liability is assumed, is adolescence. On this subject, the doctors of education, psychology, sociology, have averred that it is the most important stage in life. How should we regard the state of adolescence?
When Islam directs the human being, it directs the kinetics of his being, emphasizing the elements of "practical anxiety" in his inner self. When God speaks of Adam as an example to humankind, He says: "And we had taken the covenant of Adam, but he forgot and We found in him no firm resolve" (Ta Ha, 20:115). The discourse here is about Adam as an example, in his role as a person who does not possess the strong resolve of God's words: "The human being is created in haste, I will show you My signs, but ask Me not to hasten" (al-Anbiya, 21:37); "And the human was ever hasty" (al-Isra, 17:11); "Man was created weak" (al-Nisa, 4:28); "God is He who shaped you out of weakness" (al Rum, 30:54); and "Neither do I absolve myself of blame for the human self is prone to evil except that on which my Lord has bestowed His Mercy" (Yusuf, 12:53). We see, then, in more than one verse, that the emphasis is on the fact that, when created, the human being was not cast with monolithic strength, but that there are elements of weakness residing in his being.
When we study these elements of weakness, we see that they reside in the personality of the human being, just as we see the function of the positive instincts which he demonstrates during the course of his life in the inevitable situations to which his instincts propel him.
Moreover, there are the negative elements in the workings of the instincts impelling towards deviant things which mar human life when one loses balance and perspective. So, the human being in fact stands between these two poles: the negative and the positive instincts, for which God (Exalted) emphasizes the intellect as an element among the elements of internal motivation ensuring the balance of perspective against the assistance of desire.
Adolescence is a Normal State
On contemplating all of the above, we see adolescence as a normal state in the life of a person, being a condition to which one enters spontaneously. The process of physical growth begins with vague impulses, then places the person in an environment of rejection and revolution, propelling him from a stage of submissiveness and acquiescence to others, to one of realization of individuality and independence. This occurs without clear or proper guidelines for him to establish his individuality and independence.
The stage of adolescence is exactly like regulating the waves of the sea. In the same manner, a person enters the second wave in a new being which prepares him to be another person, setting the rule for a new stage. The role of (adolescent) education is to prevent the person from being lost, because the influence of the instincts entails the awakening of revolution in the person, the examination of new horizons not yet understood. All this can cause the person to lose his balance of perspective, since he has not acquired the necessary experience on which he can rely to establish a balance.
The Islamic Nurturing of the Adolescent
Islam encourages child rearing in the manner described in the following hadith: "Leave him free for seven years, discipline him for seven, and be his companion for seven." Instruction between 7-14 years of age determine how the person will move towards the right guiding principles by focusing on the inner person, the natural elements of his personality, until adolescence comes along in the fourteenth year, or thereabouts. When it does, there is subjection to established controls. From 14 to 20 years of age, supervision over the adolescent tendencies of the individual personality continues until the person behaves in a normal manner, with a view to the future.
I do not wish to downplay the dangers of the stage of adolescence in the personality of the youth, but I do not perceive the issue as being of the danger as claimed by some, except that it is compulsory that the nurturing at this stage be done in a manner whereby the child does not mature with restrictions which strangle him within himself, warping his mind and he becomes psychologically sick. Nor should he be given such total liberty that he takes absolute license, distancing himself from the balanced principles of human activities. Nur
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