Futuwwa And The Raw Idealism of Youth – Saad Razi Shaikh

How do we bring about change in light of the prophetic guidance? How do we raise the next generation of changemakers in our communities? A centuries-old Islamic tradition may just hold the answer.

During the last Ramadan, a late evening meal with a newly acquainted brother took a rather unsavoury turn. The food was good, the weather pleasant and our heads light. But as things had to go, our conversation drifted to politics, a topic best served separate from the meal.

The brother hails from a country which is unlikely to top the global HDI charts anytime soon. But while accepting the present malaise raging in his country, he added a quick clarification. He said his country is not poor, throw a few seeds in the soil and you’ll see the barakah sprouting through it. But that is what precisely enraged him, despite the land being blessed with so much, so little reached its people, who for most of the part remained impoverished, to be seen as sad broken stories from a third world country, nothing more.

Much preoccupied as I was with my food, I couldn’t help paying my full attention to the young man’s talk. At the end, he added in a slow mournful tone, these words:

“Everyone just thinks for themselves; no one thinks of the country. I want to go back and do something. Even if I get jailed or something, I must try. If many of us do so, things will definitely change.”

His words brought a smile to my face. Aah, the heady promise of youthful dreams! None but the young can be so naïve yet so determined. Of course, for the cynical, it is easy to dismiss the raging of the young as another headstrong kneejerk reaction to something that is far deeper and complex. But youth are the ones inheriting broken systems, it is out of sheet survival instinct that they often fight against it. Others, like crabs at the bottom of the barrel, are perhaps only too happy to let the new lot sink low too. Think of dipping real incomes, shooting college tuition fees, shrinking welfare systems, pathological surveillance governments, the sheet indifference of previous generation against institutionalised injustice and you get why the youth must protest.

It is the knowledge that the world is imperfect and the conviction that it can be made better that fuels youth activism. However, pure intentions and unlimited energy are not enough. If the youth do not have access to the traditional rites-of-passages, outlets for meaningful expressions, welcoming places of interactions, networks or tariqas that inculcate tarbiyah, it is possible that their youthful idealism may just give way to a nihilistic rage.

It is important then, to have institutions and practices that not only allow expressions of youth potential but also encourage and celebrate it. One such institution traditionally associated with Islamic civilization has been the concept of futuwwa.

It is as the Oxford Dictionary helpfully describes the ‘ideal of youthful manhood and chivalry based on the example of Ali ibn Abi Talib’ (Allah be pleased with him). It is, as the IHU webpage describes, ‘the institution which aimed to raise young generations and gave direction to the youth…based on the articulated thoughts inspired from Quran and Hadiths by the assembly of scholars, Sufis and noble traders.’

As any seasoned reader of social history knows, it is not enough to light the fire of a revolution, one also needs the moral framework and practical alternatives ready once the dust settles down. In the face of setbacks, one needs both guidance and long-term perspectives. One needs to avoid falling prey to interpreting everything in the light of the fleeting present. Institutions like futuwwa allows us this, to help us see a world beyond ourselves, to have an understanding of justice that is both this-worldly and next-worldly, to think beyond the ruling dogmas of the day, to regroup and rethink when the chips are down, to not succumb to despair, to understand reality in light of the Prophetic guidance, and above all, to make our short ephemeral stay in the dunya a means to draw closer to our Lord.

It is the perfume of youthful dreams, the slow interplay of beliefs and practices, that defines the trajectories of societies, even nations. It is the raw, perhaps even maniacal, charms of youthful idealism that help us dream of a better world. Who else but the truly young and the truly naïve would think of throwing away the existing in place of something completely new and untested? It is this leap of faith that moves a society, in either direction. It is the hands of the young that make it possible. And we owe it as a society to make those hands steady and stable.


Seekers Youth Curriculum

Social Justice In The Islamic Tradition

Change Happens: The Qur’anic Principles for Justice and Social Change

Faith and Reliance on Allah: Ghazali’s Book of Divine Oneness and Trust Upon Allah Explained

Announcing the SeekersGuidance Youth Certificate

An Ode to Our Elders & Teachers – By Shaan Mukhtar

In this Pre Khutba talk, Sidi Shaan Muktar reminds us of the importance of respecting our elders and teachers. Sidi Shaan also emphasizes the critical need of showing mercy, compassion and respect to the young. In order for a community to thrive there has to be a mutual respect and harmony between the elders and the young.

* This video was originally posted by Muslim Community Center (MCC East Bay) on the 12th of April 2019.

To the Young Men: Keep Your Heads Held up High

By Hina Khan-Mukhtar
About a week or so ago, I was positioned in between my son and his friend as we walked to a mosque on a dark street when a passerby suddenly and aggressively yelled something out-loud at us. I didn’t catch what he said, but he was obviously mentally ill and was trying to provoke a reaction from us. Neither of the young men looked left or right; neither of them acknowledged him; instead, with shoulders back and spines straight, they just continued striding forward at a steady pace, and — although I was a little rattled — I decided to follow their lead.
My son later told me that he was walking with this same friend another day (they were both wearing thobes — the long Middle Eastern gowns worn by both men and women — and kufis/skullcaps) when a driver passed by them and they heard someone yell out the car window, “F*** ISIS!”
Remembering him as a little boy who wouldn’t have let anyone even look at him the wrong way, my heart skipped a beat, and I asked nervously, “What did you do?”
“Nothing. We both just looked at each other and started laughing.”
Keep your heads held up high, my sons. There’s a part of me that wants to beg you not to go out in religious or ethnic garb anymore, but then I realize that I don’t have that particular luxury for myself, and maybe — just maybe — you’re learning some empathy towards your Muslim sisters through this painful process of shedding the privilege of anonymity.
I hope I can learn from your calm and from your restraint and that you always maintain those two traits, insha’Allah (except for when “action” is truly called for of course). I hope you can always tell the difference between brashness and bravery, between cowardice and caution. I pray you are never tested beyond your limits. I pray you know how and when “to be a man”. I pray you — and those with you — are always safe. Aameen.

Honouring the Elders, Compassion for the Young by Shaykh Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes

Honouring the Elders, Compassion for the Young: building a “whole” community of mercy by Shaykh Muhammad Adeyinka Mendes

Capturing the Spirit of Ramadan
Mercy, Forgiveness and Salvation

Every night our Ramadan scholars will explore one of the three key spiritual goals of Ramadan. Each talk will conclude with a dynamic conversation as we explore mercy, forgiveness and salvation deeply and see how we can attain these divine gifts practically. These talks will enliven and inspire us as we begin our nightly‘isha and tarawih prayers.

Daily at 10:00 pm EST. Attend in person at SeekersHub Toronto or watch live. 

Let’s #GiveLight to Millions More

We envision a world in which no one is cut off from the beauty, mercy, and light of the Prophetic ﷺ example. A world where the dark ideology of a few is dwarfed by radiant example of the many who follow the way of the Prophet ﷺ. But we can’t do it alone. We need your support. This Ramadan, we need you to help us #GiveLight to millions more. Here’s how.

Cover Photo by United Nations Photo


Our Scholars Need to Be Real About The Issues We Face – Shaykh Idris Watts

Shaykh Idris Watts gives us a little taster into the extent to which our pious predecessors were in touch with the condition of their communities. What did they do for young Muslim families with children, for example, when nativity plays were being widely read and performed?
A real and relevant talk that focusses on recognising the issues many Muslims today struggle with and how the Prophet’s ﷺ teachings form the core of a rich and merciful tradition.

How Can I Repent From Crimes Committed During My Youth?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam

Question: As salam alaykum,

When I was younger, I committed some crimes for which I am indescribably ashamed. I don’t remember how much cash and merchandise I have stolen nor even where I can return it.

How do I repent without being able to return or make up for most of those crimes? Is there still forgiveness if the rights of others are not corrected?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray that this message finds you well, insha’Allah.

Yes, Allah Most High forgives His servants who have wronged themselves, and He grants them closeness to Him, if He wishes, out of His limitless Generosity, and not in accordance with the number or quality of their works.

Allah Most High says, “Say: My servants who have wronged yourselves, never despair of God’s mercy. God forgives all sins: He is truly the Most Forgiving, the Most Merciful.” [39.53]

The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) promised that, “The one who repents from sin is like one who never sinned.” [Ibn Majah]

As for the stolen money or goods, these need to be returned to their rightful owners, actually or effectively, in a manner which does not cause you greater harm:

(1) Actually, by returning the item or the money due, even anonymously–with a note, for instance– or by way of a “gift,” to the owner or management, or

(2) Effectively, by giving it away in charity on behalf of the owner when they cannot be located, if they no longer run the business, or if you cannot remember whom you stole from.

With this, you should make a reasonable judgement of the wealth stolen, erring on the side of caution, and then strive to return it, gradually and sustainably, until you are reasonably sure that you have lifted what is due from you.

Please also see: Returning Stolen Property and: Will Allah Forgive Me After Stealing Something That Can’t Be Returned? and: A Reader on Tawba (Repentance) and: How Do I Repent From the Theft I Committed Many Years Ago When I Was a Teenager?

And Allah alone knows best.


Tabraze Azam

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

How to Advise Young Muslims Who Are Living Unislamically

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I recently got acquainted with Muslim college freshman. My friend knows him well. In my conversations with my friend and with this college freshman, I gathered that he is quite removed from Islam. He and those around him commit many major sins. My friend said the last time he tried talking to him about these issues, they had a huge fight, so he is hesitant to bring it up now.
I knew of a good Islamic lecture that I thought would be good for him.  I offered to give him a ride, but when my friend and I reached his apartment to pick him up, he was drunk and smoking, with loud music playing, and he had a girl with him.  
How can one deal with such youth? I am really looking forward to some advice. I make du’a that he is guided to the straight path.
I am quite worried because this could perhaps be just one such case that I am aware of among countless high school and college going Muslims. Equally worrying is the fact that if I get married and have kids, I may be tested by Allah with something like this because of my inaction.
Please, give me some advice and pray for us.

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
The best thing that you can do for them is to pray for them.
Your worry and concern for them is enough of a proof in your favor. Yet the truth of such concern would be manifest in assisting them when you are reasonably able to do so.
Use tact, wisdom, and mercy to bring them closer to religion. Sounding preachy may put them off, particularly if they are seemingly “distant.” And let them be. People need time to change. In reality, it is Allah who will change their hearts, not you or I. Consult local reliable scholars of knowledge and wisdom about the specifics of what you can do to assist them. But with that, be careful not to project your personal religious positions or understanding and culture onto them. This religion is vast, despite what some may have us believe.
Knowledge is key, as is righteous company.
Allah Most High says, “And whoever places their trust in Allah, then Allah is their sufficiency.” [65.3]
Please see: A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah
And Allah alone gives success.
Tabraze Azam
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Video: Youth, Islam & Politics – Imam Zaid Shakir

Youth, Islam & Politics – Imam Zaid Shakir

Youth, Politics & Islam – Imam Zaid Shakir from Tariq Subhani on Vimeo.

Imam Zaid Shakir is amongst the most respected and influential Islamic scholars in the West. As an American Muslim who came of age during the civil rights struggles, he has brought both sensitivity about race and poverty issues and scholarly discipline to his faith-based work. He is a frequent speaker at local and national Muslim events and has emerged as one of the nation’s top Islamic scholars and a voice of conscience for American Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Imam Zaid has served as an advisor to many organizations, and influential leaders. Recently, Imam Zaid was ranked as “one of America’s most influential Scholars” in the West; by The 500 Most Influential Muslims, edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, (2009).

Biography from New Islamic Directions

Attracting the Youth to the Religion

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