Guiding the Youth of the New Generation

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Ayatollah Martyr Murtadha MutahhariWe live in an age that is thoroughly dominated by Western ideology, culture and practices. Our youth today are greatly impressed and highly influenced by pop culture which shapes their preferences about what to eat, what sport to play, how to dress, how to talk, and how to appear and behave in a way that is “cool”. All this has contributed to increasing the generation gap between parents and elders of our community and our youth. The book Guiding the Youth of the New Generation is where Ayatollah Murtadha Mutahhari focuses on the subject of this generation gap and the mindset of our youth.

The author begins by highlighting the significance of guiding our youth. Islamic responsibilities fall out into two main categories: responsibility of the form and shape of action and responsibility of outcome. The responsibility of guiding our society, in particular the youth, is the one that falls into the second category. This responsibility demands concern for bringing an effective outcome through our efforts and actions.

The word “youth” does not just imply young people, but rather any individual who is a part of the current civilization and perhaps involved in contributing to the so-called generation gap. The author both commends the youth as well as points out their weaknesses. He writes that our youth have a much more developed thought process and greater awareness today than their predecessors. They possess an inquisitive mind and spirit that, if directed in the right manner, can lead to outstanding results. The mass media has opened windows for them to be able to communicate with the fast-advancing and progressing world around them, which fascinates their curious minds. At the same time, when they glimpse into the Islamic world (Ummah), they are unable to find the same level of progress, open-mindedness, and freedom, hence letting them to think lowly of Islam in general and distance themselves from Islamic values.

As we find many of our youth absorbed into this situation as explained, it becomes our prime responsibility to develop innovative methods to bring our youth closer to our beloved religion. At this point, the author points towards a very important fact: the method of propagation (Tabligh) that we use to approach our youth must evolve according to the needs of the youth, and a method that had proven useful for the previous generations might actually act as a source of deviance today!

In this respect, the author chose to explain verse 125 of Surah Nahl, because this verse brings forward three significant modes of guidance: wisdom, good exhortation, and debate or argument in the best possible manner. Using wisdom in Tabligh implies the use of that knowledge which is based on pure certainty and which satisfies the universal principles of logic in every way. The employment of good exhortation is for reaching those who do not thoroughly comprehend intellectual arguments (which usually tend to confuse them).  For such people, one must search for ways to reach their heart and soul (rather than mind) so as to bring them closer to Allah. The last approach is to be able to effectively debate with another person who yearns to arrive towards Haqq (truth) and to be able to bring forth convincing arguments so that the person feels inclined to attain proximity to Allah. Apart from using all these methods, one must also wisely adhere to the principle of giving our youth ‘the benefit of doubt’ at every step, so as to guide them more effectively.

The ways to guide people are numerous, and the method we choose totally depends on the time and the type of people we live among; this in my view has been the author’s main thesis, and he has used the example of different prophets to explain this point convincingly. Allah has given the power of miracles to different prophets according to their time. This was done so that the purpose of miracle (which is to bring people closer to Allah and His Hujjah) would be satisfied according to the need of the time; the miracles of Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) differ from those of Prophet Isa (peace be upon him), and those of Prophet Isa differ from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny).  In addition to this, we can understand the way of propagation used by the Prophets from a single quote of the Holy Prophet: “We the assembly of Prophets have been commanded to speak to the people according to their level of intelligence.” Hence, as intelligence evolves, so does the method of propagation.

Another significant issue to be understood is the all-encompassing nature of our Deen, Islam. Unlike other schools of thought, Islam’s philosophy, rules, and obligations are very profound and will stay fresh and valid for every generation that walks on this planet till the Day of Judgment. As a matter of fact, each generation seems to get a better grasp of understanding our faith than its previous generation. The author in this respect urges everyone to gain knowledge and understanding of the Holy Qur’an, and indeed it is possible that the decline of the Ummah we see today is because of how we have alienated ourselves from this great book.

In conclusion, this book has been a very enlightening read. It makes one realize that if we fall short of ways to be able to satisfy our youth and satiate their intellectual and spiritual needs, then others might take advantage of their weaknesses and guide them to their own ways. May Allah help us to act according to His prescribed ways in the most just and appropriate manner possible!

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