Answered by Sidi Abdullah Anik Misra
Question: Can you give some advice on how to attract youth to practicing Islam?
Answer: Wa alaikum salam,
May Allah Most High reward you for the concern you have for Muslim youth. The youth of our societies are a treasure-trove of potential: they can be harnessed to benefit society and beautifully exemplify Islam, or they can be left to spiritually wither away when untapped, or even steered in the wrong direction by those who don’t guide them to a holistic approach to Islam.
Focus on the Love of Allah
If you want to attract youth to practicing Islam, inspire them towards the Greatest: Allah Most High. Call them to rediscover their primordial relationship with Him- to feel and understand that when they do come closer them, it is Allah who is lovingly bringing them back to Himself. There should be no other worldly or personal goal beyond this, nor any temporal issue nor slogan nor controversy to rally around.
Only when someone loves Allah Most High, can they truly obey Him. Otherwise, without this love, youth are following a set of rules, or wearing an identity on their sleeves, or engaging in blind protest, without a deeper context of what their true purpose should be, and hence, their practice seems hollow to outsiders, and their character seems sorely and obviously deficient, and they burn out after some time.
Shaykh Abu’l Hasan said, “Whoever calls you to the world has deceived you. Whoever calls you to actions has tired you. Whoever calls you to Allah has given sincere counsel.”
Build Their Love for the Messenger (peace be upon him) and His Example
Youth today, other than an increasingly-marginalized minority, are generally sick of polemics and debate, and of being defined only in opposition to an “other”, or of having to prove themselves to someone or group. The way of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was one of mercy, of uniting the hearts and attracting people through a beautiful example. Similarly, youth must be taught to love the Messenger (peace be upon him), so that they can fully embody his Message.
Give encouragement to everyone, especially those who are down or beginners. Overlook minor faults. Assume sincerity of people and think well of them. Gently correct misunderstandings. I can’t sum it up better than the Prophet (peace be upon him), when he advised his Companions who were going out to attract others towards Islam:
“Make things easy [for people], and don’t bear down hard [on them]. Give good news [about the religion], and don’t chase [people] away. Agree with each other, and don’t [constantly] differ with one another.” [al-Bukhari, Saheeh]
This narration alone speaks volumes and volumes. Combine this with relevant advice from qualified scholars and leaders, circles of teaching and learning appropriate to the youths’ level of understanding, wise counsel and encouragement in worldly affairs, and interesting and spirit-building activities and – Allah-willing – the youth of your community will be attracted towards practicing Islam in a wholesome and balanced way that will be a light for the entire society around them. And Allah knows best.
Abdullah Anik Misra
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani