We have heard that youth is our future so it is important that individually or collectively we ensure that our youth are well prepared and well equipped to face the challenges of today and the unknown future of tomorrow. The value of the Qur’anic method is that it attempts to articulate life issues and 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. When we study the personality of prophet Abraham (A.S) from his early rearing, we find a personality of human responsiveness to God. When we wish to study the noble Qur’an rhetorically, we find that Abraham (A.S) 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. Prophet Abrahim (A.S) in the course of his reaction, he debated their doctrine and ideology, and showed these to be baseless. Naturally, we may note that Abraham (A.S) 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. He worked towards transmitting Islam to all of humankind. Jacob (A.S), the grandson of Abraham (A.S), lived this prophetic life under the aegis of Islam, and spoke to his children in exactly the same manner as Abraham (A.S) had done to his. Contrasting with the story of Abraham (A.S) and Ismael (A.S) is the Qur’an’s story of Noah (A.S) 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 are all human, like the rest of homo sapiens, molded as much by positive influences as by negative. One thing that deserves mention is that a corrupt community may take away a prophet’s family from him without any resistance. Today’s world of techno-wizardry and technological advances have ushered in a brave new world which the youth have embraced with relish while the older people have regarded with trepidation. The world is changing very fast. Today’s era is unlike any other in the history of mankind. There have been major advances in various fields while on the other hand there have been major devastations and wars. While some parts of the world are swimming in opulent luxury , the majority of the world ‘s population are sinking in the depths of poverty, misery, warfare , illiteracy , malnutrition, starvation and death. The focus is on material gain and technological advances – yet this is happening at the expense of morality , ethics , spirituality and humanity. What example are we setting for our youth ? What legacy are we leaving behind for them ? What values are we instilling in them – are these values based on man-made concept of success or are these values based on the Quran & the Sunnah ? Are today’s societies and communities based on ethics , morality and respect for law & order or are societies evolving into lawlessness , immorality & degradation. If so , what is the solution to turn the tide towards righteousness. In this article, we examine the role of the Quran and Sunnah in guiding our youth to the Straight Path. It was on the 27th night of Ramadaan , in the year 611 C.E., that the stillness of the night in the coolness of the Cave of Hira , was pierced with the command “Iqra!” (Surah Iqra , also known as Surah Alaq). This revelation ushered in the beginning of a series of revelations that lasted 23 years , during which time the whole of Arabia and its people were totally transformed . The most significant transformation was the end of the Period of Jahiliya-ignorance. The whole of Arabia , nay the entire humanity , was in a period of darkness & ignorance that were breeding grounds for superstition , idol-worship , oppression , discrimination , immorality & abuse. The Prophet (SAW) brought the light of knowledge through the Quran and through his glorious example. These two sources have remained beacons of light & guidance for humanity for the past 1400 years and will continue to inspire , motivate and transform people for all ages until the Last Day. During his entire life , the Prophet (SAW) laid great emphasis on the importance of acquiring various forms of knowledge as is shown in the following few examples. (Surah Iqra ,also known as Surah Alaq = clot of congealed blood)Proclaim (or Read) ! In the name of thy Lord & Cherisher, Who Created – Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood : Read ! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,-He Who taught (the use of) the Pen,- Taught man that which he knew not. The word “Iqra” has a double meaning . It means “read” and it also means “proclaim.” Furthermore, the very fact that the very first word of the very first revelation is “Iqra” is very significant. It ensures that it remains in the memory of muslims –ie it is easy for people to remember the first verse ; but to remember the 5th or 10th verse is not so easy. The significance for muslims (and all humanity) is that knowledge is light ; during any period of Jahiliya & ignorance , it is only knowledge that can bring people out of darkness. Furthermore , before one can ‘proclaim’ or spread the message , it logically follows that the proclaimer of the message must first ‘read” – i.e. it is our duty to first acquire the knowledge (ie read) and then spread the knowledge (ie proclaim). The Prophet (SAW) also warned about a period when ignorance will prevail: Sahih Bukhari Hadith Narrated by Anas (RA) Allah’s Apostle (SAW) said :” From amoung the portents of the Hour are the following : (1) religious knowledge will be taken away (by the death of religious men) (2) ignorance will prevail. To avert the above and to show the importance of seeking knowledge and spreading knowledge , the Prophet (SAW) urged his followers to spread knowledge as much as possible : Sahih Bukhari Hadith Narrated by Abdullah bin Amr (RA) The Prophet (SAW) said : “ Convey my teachings to the people even if it were a single sentence”. The Prophet (SAW) also enjoined his followers to ‘seek knowledge even if you have to travel to China” and “knowledge is the lost property of the believer”. The Quran challenges the reader to ponder: (Surah Zumar) :….”Say “are those equal , those who know and those who do not know?” And furthermore , we are encouraged to ask Allah’s (SWT) help in seeking knowledge : (Surah Ta-Ha) :”O Allah ! Increase me in knowledge”. Hence, the importance of acquiring knowledge and spreading knowledge is indisputable.
Muslims throughout the ages have been motivated & inspired by the numerous verses in the Quran and by the advice of the Prophet (SAW). The early Muslims thus heralded the Golden Age of Islam. The Quran & Sunnah inspired thousands of scholars to branch out in various fields and in far corners of the world in search of knowledge as well as in spreading the knowledge , in keeping with the concept of “Iqra.” They did this with enthusiasm and became world class experts in various fields such as Medicine , Science , Astronomy , Mathematics & sea-voyages. As a result of this , the Muslims became the Superpower of the world for more than 800 years. They were world leaders in military & technology and science. Yet they neither abused the power that they acquired , nor did they hold on to this knowledge selfishly . Instead , they used this knowledge for the upliftment of humanity and also shared this knowledge with others. Arabic became the international language of the world in the same way that English , today, is the international language . Modern Universities and institutes of learning together with huge libraries , were established in Cordova, Spain & in Iraq (Baghdad). These institutions gave birth to thousands of students and scholars in various fields of endeavours . Non-Muslim students from the West , specifically learnt Arabic so that they could attend these Muslim Universities , which had the status of the “Harvard’s” , “Cambridge’s” & “Oxfords” of today. Many of these Western students went back to their homelands and plagiarized the Muslim discoveries and cloaked them as personal discoveries. Hence , we find that Sir William Harvey had been credited with the discovery of the blood circulation in 1615, while in fact , the Muslims knew about this 300 years previously. Another example is the discovery of America. History books inform us that Columbus discovered America while in fact , America was discovered by the Spanish & West African (Morroco) Muslims 500 years prior to Columbus’s voyage. Interestingly, Columbus documented in his journal that as he approached the shores of America , he noticed several minarets of Mosques. Two of the Captains of his fleet of ships were in fact Muslim navigators who already had detailed cartographic information on the route to traverse across the great Atlantic Ocean to reach the far distant land of America. There are however , some Non-Muslim writers who acknowledge the important role played by the Muslims : Bertrand Russel : “The brilliant civilization of Islam flourished from India to Spain while the rest of Western Europe was still in the dark ages”Napoleon Bonaparte : “ I hope the time is not far off when I shall be able to unite all the wise & educated men of all the countries & establish a uniform regime based on the principles of the Quran which alone are true & which alone can lead men to happiness” Sir George Bernard Shaw : “If any religion had the chance of ruling over England & Europe , it would be Islam” The above achievements of the Early Muslims during the Golden Age of Islam , clearly indicate that the Muslims are the intellectual forbearers of the West. Western civilization owes a debt of gratitude to the Muslims , far greater than it can ever imagine. Just as the world benefited from the Islamic Intellectual revolution, so too is the world hungry today for a spiritual revolution and a return to ethics, morality & good conduct. There are 3 major sources of distractions that prevent our youth from acquiring knowledge. These 3 sources are prevalent on a local level as well as on a global level: (a) entertainment (b) War (c) Poverty. Today’s youth are influenced by many more entertaining distractions that were not available 1-2 decades ago. The youth of today has to divide his/her time between television , video’s, cinema’s, shopping malls, cars, fashion trends, cell phones, dating , Video-Games , Internet and interactive TV. There is ‘so much to do, so little time.” Life becomes a treadmill and there simply isn’t the time to study or read or acquire knowledge. Hence, the youth of today is very ‘techno-savvy” –very knowledgeable regarding modern technology, but is actually illiterate when it comes to knowledge about the Deen or about morality, ethics, character & spirituality. This is the modern version of the age of Jahiliya – a new age of ignorance – ignorance about the Deen. War in communities usually occurs between leaders or prominent personalities in the community over difference in interpretation of Fiqh or Shariah or on optional matters. These differences split the community and the youth (& new reverts) become confused by all the fuss because the ‘leaders’ themselves are not good role models. In short, education is the best gift that a parent can give to his/her child. Our youth is our future. Each and every one of us has the responsibility to ensure that the community that we live in, looks after its youth and inculcates in them the love for knowledge, development of sound character & sound values , enjoining the good & forbidding the wrong , looking after the widow and the orphan and be sterling examples of the strength & vigour of youth. Distractions are many. Fashions are forever changing. But the one steady, consistent, rock solid , timeless Message , is the Message of the Quran & the Sunnah. By holding firm to the Message , mankind will always find the Straight Path. The greatest disservice we do to the Qur’an is to keep it in velvet chambers on our shelves and regard it as an ‘ancient text.” The Holy Qur’an is timeless – it is prevalent for all time : it is in fact the Book of the Future , the most modern text with a universal message for all humanity for all time to come. The Golden Age of Islam can be rejuvenated again. Islam can once again be the moral force that leads mankind out of degradation and despair into hope and contentment by its transformational Eternal Message. There is only one pre-condition for this : Verily, never will Allah (SWT) change a condition of a people unless they change it themselves , with their souls. May Allah (SWT) Guide us and our youth to the Straight Path. Ameen!
( The authors write regularly on “Islamic topics” exclusively for “ Kashmir Horizon”. Views are their own)