Islam places utmost importance on the correct guidance of youth and on channeling their energy into socially, physically and spiritually productive goals. It holds people who have knowledge in high esteem. Unfortunately the characteristics by which Muslim youth are being identified are increasingly negative, and most of the younger Muslim generation is stagnant academically, leading their lives in an average or mediocre manner. It is time they be reminded of the importance of education, which will directly influence their success. A popular fallacy is that young people can either become successful academically and pursue an ambitious career, or they can be knowledgeable about Islam, sacrificing their time and career for religion. However, Islam teaches its followers to place equal importance on worldly and spiritual success, to live our lives fully, pursuing success in all its forms.
Islam has clearly demarcated the age at which a child becomes a youth, and can be deemed responsible for his or her actions. When a boy or girl turns 10, they are considered to be a youth; from 10 to the age of 32-33 a person is considered a youth after which their peak physical and mental health is seen to decline with time. This is significant, because most young people are of the opinion that they are too young to take life seriously or to undertake any work which requires dedication or commitment, leaving such endeavors to a later time which may or may not happen. Such procrastination is the basis of failure, akin to an aimless journey without destination. Islam’s view of such an attitude is that once a child has reached the age of 10, he or she be given the responsibility of taking education seriously and to exercise effort in finding the purpose of their lives.
The Quran distinguishes between the knowledgeable and the ignorant:
Say, “Are those who know equal to those who do not know?” (The Quran, Chapter 39 Verse 9).
It also teaches us to ask Allah for help in expanding our knowledge and understanding:
My Lord, increase me in knowledge (The Quran, Chapter 20 Verse 114).
Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him) advised all Muslims, men and women, to pursue knowledge, regarding it as their duty. At the same time, we need to guard ourselves from knowledge which is of no use and which wastes our time. This is significant as many youth spend countless hours a day in the pursuit of knowledge which is not going to benefit them in any way. It is important to be very selective in what we put our minds to, especially when we realize prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) urged us to do “5 before 5”, which means:
- Benefit from health before illness overtakes you (youth is the peak of health, so utilize youth in gaining success in this world and the hereafter while you have youth, health and energy)
- Use wealth before poverty strikes (use wealth wisely, keeping some for your needs, and then using it for things which will benefit you eternally, such as charity, zakah, planting trees, digging wells, building schools, mosques, orphanages, libraries or public facilities, etc.)
- Benefit from free time before you get busy (use the relatively stress-free time of youth to develop your potential and gain skills before the responsibilities of adult life leave no time to do this)
- Use youth before old age
- Use life before death
These five issues relate directly to the questions Allah will ask of all people on the day of judgment, which are:
- How did you spend your life?
- How did you spend your youth?
- How much knowledge did you gain and how did you apply it?
- How did you earn your living and how did you spend it?
Only when today’s students and youth understand the importance of time, will it become possible for them to realize their full potential and to make use of their time, health and wealth in the best way possible- the way shown by the Sunnah of prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him).