Without a doubt, we’re living in a very different world today as compared to years gone by. With its trappings and temptations, young Muslims – including myself – are desperately struggling to balance what our religions commands us to and what our societies direct us towards.
Alcohol, drugs, sex, money and fame have always existed. But today, they’re thrust in our faces, whether online or social media, on the TV, or through a type of socialisation which views it as weird if you don’t participate in the modern, hedonistic culture.
It seems as if God has given us an unprecedented challenge to overcome.
But here’s the thing. Many of you have convinced yourselves that it’s now impossible to lead a good Muslim life in the modern world. That’s simply not true. If that were the case, life would serve no purpose, as God did not make reaching Him an unattainable task. Although it may seem like it, God is never absent from the world, or indeed, your life. Allah’s signs are all around us. Don’t block yourself to them.
Finding Allah, however, cannot be done without effort, and although it may seem like a mammoth uphill challenge, your struggles will be rewarded with gifts you will never have expected. It’s quite likely that our generation’s reward for doing good and leading a life dedicated to Allah will be rewarded in ways previous communities could have only wished for.
I’ve seen books and articles written by elderly men and women, attempting to help navigate young Muslims through our modern world. But I thought a perspective by a young Muslim was needed.
So here are 5 points which may benefit you:
- Find the balance in your life
We don’t live in 7th century Arabia, so you can’t expect to lead the same lifestyle. Don’t think you have to cut everything out to be a good Muslim, because most of us simply aren’t able to. If you try to completely shun the modern world, you’ll fail and, worse, you may end up relapsing into old, bad habits, especially if you’ve already tasted the pleasures of the dunya.
For example, if you love music, find halal alternatives (the spectrum of what and what isn’t halal is a larger topic, but do your own research and find out what makes sense to you and is the stronger opinion). Check out Khaled Siddique, for example. Aside from spiritual activities, keep yourself busy – idleness makes you prey to the devil – so occupy so yourself.
Establish a rigid schedule; set yourself targets and be strict with them. You must incorporate the Quran, dhikr [remembering God] and time for reflection into your daily routine, or you will struggle with the world around you.
- Don’t be afraid to be the outcast
We have to realise that we can reject modern ways of thinking. Things don’t have to be the way they are and you can do something about it. No, you don’t have to be close friends with the opposite sex. No, you don’t need social media, a smart phone, or a TV. No, you don’t have to assimilate into the modern culture, or pretend you’re happy with it. Flee from people if they’re no good for you and don’t be afraid to keep yourself to yourself.
The reality is, there are far too many corrupt people out there, and by being with them, you may find them rubbing off on you until you become corrupted too.
Be radically different. If you have children, and it’s genuinely a viable option, home school them. If you’re a parent today, you need a certain level of intelligence, sharpness and ability to foresee things that you may not have needed before. The world is changing very quickly and if you’re not on the ball, your children may pay the price.
There’s nothing wrong with thinking radically, in fact, the greatest human beings who’ve lived and made great changes to society were viewed as radicals in their day. But, here’s the important part: don’t fall into extremism in anything you do, extremism comes from the devil. Refer to my first point about balance.
- Be honest with yourself
If you’re unhappy, or your Iman [faith] is weak, do something about it, instead of languishing in it. It starts with one simple intention and your life can change forever.
If you say that you want Allah, prove it. You can’t reach Allah through writing Facebook statuses about how much you love your faith or tweeting Rumi quotes that you don’t really understand but make you feel good. You gain closeness to Allah through being sincere with yourself and your Lord, and being utterly committed to Him whether in the public sphere or when you’re all alone.
- Don’t despair if you’re not perfect
Sometimes it seems as if we are destined to be someone we don’t want to be. No matter how hard we try, our bad habits seem to resurface. It’s as if we can’t shake them off.
Sometimes we act impulsively. We just do something without much consideration of the long term outcome. And, even though at the time we know it’s wrong, the urge within us to do it overpowers us. The truth is, we’ve been created weak. We slip and we fall. But our job is to get up and stay on our feet for as long as possible, trying our best, being as cautious as possible, not to slip again.
Our faith places a huge emphasis on repentance. Why? Because God knows we will keep slipping and falling but all He requires is for us to stand back up.
The Prophet Muhammad (s) said that nobody would enter paradise with their good deeds alone. It’s God’s Mercy that, above all else, allows us to enter the Garden, our true Home.
Likewise, it’s not so much our deeds that takes us to Hell, to a place of divine alienation, a place of regret, but it is the direction we choose to face in this life.
The British Muslim writer, Gai Eaton, said: “We are not two-headed creatures, we cannot face two ways at once, and sooner or later we have to choose in which direction our basic attention is to be focused. In the end it is not in terms of relative good or relative evil that a man is judged but in terms of the direction in which he faces.”
God does not demand perfection from us. The great morals, values and ideals in our faith have deliberately been set high so that we can aspire to them and try our best to get closer and closer to becoming the perfected human being. They’re not there to make us despair if we sometimes fall short.
Allah may overlook your wrong choices – He knows things are difficult. But He may not forgive your choice to remain in a state of sin and heedlessness and choosing not to do anything about it.
- Remember: God is your only helper
Ultimately all help, guidance and strength comes from Allah. Have full trust that Allah wants what’s best for you and He will find a way out for you. Ask Him sincerely and regularly for help and you prayers will be answered, insha’Allah.
And Allah knows best.