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In my opinion, the biggest challenge facing Islam especially the Muslim youth in this era is the confusion, chaos and divisions in deen. What could be more confusing than when our elders have nothing to offer to us than streams and streams of tag-and-war beliefs whereby everyone believes they are more pious than the other; whereby everyone is a sheikh better than the other; whereby everyone is giving fatwas on very important and complex issues of deen, taking it so simply? We have reached to that shameful state whereby we declare fellow Muslims as Kufarrs (disbelievers), and declare that we would never go to such and such a mosque or would never listen to such and such a sheikh. It is a disgrace. So how can we ever even face our enemies when all this is happening within us? How can we ever get the power we want when our weaknesses are so open to everyone that we lost all the respect we ever had? What do we tell these new converts to Islam? After they have believed that they have finally found truth how do we go about telling them that ‘you know, there will be a time whereby you will have to choose what kind of Muslim you want to be; what sheikh you will listen to, which not to, what mosque to go to and which not, what moon-sighting for Ramadhan and Eid you should follow and which not?’ It gets to a point whereby one doesn’t anticipate the moon-sighting anymore because instead of it being a joyous moment, it was made a moon-fighting moment. And so now all we have is young men who are totally ignorant of religion, indulging in debates and insulting sheikhs and saying on what they believe is true. But what is true really? How can we know what is true when our own elders are so engrossed in these divisions that we just found ourselves in? So I hear nowadays the divisions got divided too. It is even amusing yet so sad to hear that we have ahlu sunnah, Khurafi, shiate etc etc…plus the ahlul sunnah are sub divided as well; the salafists and the salafists have also had their differences and sub divided to old salafi, modern salafi and I hear of the super salafi as well! It is really irritating especially when you hear how these sub-divisions talk about each other and insult. How can we even associate ourselves with the prophet p.b.u.h when we can’t do the simplest thing he did, which is to respect the differences we all have? So long as we had nothing like Abubakarism or Omarism then who are we to associate ourselves with groups that were never founded or approved by the prophet or even his close friends who will be with him in jannah? Why can’t we simply declare ourselves as Muslims without associating ourselves with anyone else except follow the prophet’s way p.b.u.h? It is true, nothing can be done to stop these groups and sub divisions from being formed because the prophet p.b.u.h said it himself that during the day of judgment, there will be 73 sub-groups of Islam and only one will enter jannah. In one of his narrations, the prophet p.b.u.h said (sourced from Sunan Abu Dawud): ‘There will be dissension and division in my nation and a people will come with beautiful words but evil deeds. They recite the Qur’an but it will not pass beyond their throats. They will leave the religion as an arrow leaves its target and they will not return until the arrows returns to its notch. They are the worst of the creation.’ This means that it was already pre-fated that we will have this kind of fitnah and differences and that we can’t really join back as one. But what is the simplest that can be done? The prophet p.b.u.h during the battle of Badr, he asked the captives that whoever had knowledge could gain his freedom by teaching ten Muslims from the knowledge they had. So why not do the same? Why can’t we join hands in what we agree on and respect the few issues we differ on? Why can’t we follow this sheikh because he is more learned in this field of Qur’an and follow the other because he is better in fiqh? Why can’t our elders and leaders who are supposed to be role models, sit and discuss these conflicting issues keenly and come with an agreed upon solution? Because that is the only solution available; working together in what we both agree on and avoid all the fuss and chaos of fighting and debating about our differences in beliefs.
And it is just by this fuss, chaos and confusion that young men become extremists and are radicalized with the idea of jihad obsessed in their heads. But do we as young people know what jihad is really all about? How do we want to go jihad when we barely pray all the five prayers in time, when we barely understand the deen, when we don’t even know how to respect our parents? Many of the youth are fanatics of jihad not because they really care about Islam and its power but they just view jihad as a heroic activity; yet the painful truth is that, the youth are venturing into issues beyond their understanding and power. Ali bin Abu Talib reported (as sourced from Sahih Bukhari): the messenger of Allah peace and blessings be upon him said: ‘In the last days, there will be young people with foolish dreams. They will say the best of words in creation but they will pass through Islam just as an arrow passes through its game. Their faith will not go beyond their throats.’ But who is to be blamed in all this? Where were our leaders and parents while their children convinced themselves that jihad is more important than the daily prayers that they skip and the humbleness they never showed to their parents?
The scary part of us as Muslim youth is that we are growing up with signs as of the Khawarij which are mentioned in so many ahadith. The Khawarijite ideology is based upon the following tenets: Declaring Muslims to be unbelievers, rejecting lawful obedience to the rulers and justifying violence against Muslims and innocent people. Ibn Taymiyyah wrote: The Kharijite sect was the first to declare Muslims to be unbelievers because of their sins. They charged as unbelievers whoever disagreed with their innovations and they made lawful the spilling of blood and the taking of wealth. This is the condition of the people of innovation that they invent some religious innovation and then they excommunicate whoever disagrees with them concerning it. Rather, the people of sunnah and the community follow the book and the sunnah and they obey Allah and His messenger and follow the truth. They have mercy upon the creation. (Majmu’ Al-Fatawa 1/278)
Abu Hureira reported: The prophet p.b.u.h said (sourced from Sahih Muslim): Whoever rejects obedience to the leader and divides the community and dies, will have died upon ignorance. Whoever fights under the banner of one who is blind, raging for the sake of tribalism, and is killed will have died upon ignorance. Whoever rebels against my nation, striking the righteous and wicked alike and sparing not even the believers and does not fulfill the pledge of security, then he has nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with him.’ And we are seeing all the mentioned in our current era; we are seeing believers and innocent people die in the hands of their fellow Muslims. And this is the challenge to us all as Muslims. We are losing control of our youth and this reality can’t be refuted.
As such, in our times we are witnessing conflicts between oppressive governments and rebels. Muslims are stuck between the gunshot of the ruler and the gunshot of the rebel. And if we are not careful, we might fall into the sins of either side of the conflict by legitimizing the misdeeds of an oppressive government or justifying acts of terrorism in response. We should not rush to support one or another side in such conflicts as they are tribulations (fitnah) in which the truth is unclear. Hassan Al Basri, may Allah have mercy on him said: If the people had patience when they are being tested by their unjust ruler, it will not be long before Allah will give them a way out. However, they always rush to their swords, so they are left with their swords. By Allah, not even for a single day did they bring about any good.’ (Tabaqat Al-Kubra 8789). Satan intends to use the alluring call of the Kharijites as a means to drag us into hellfire. We have to resist this by upholding the true teachings of Islam: mercy upon creation, patience with hardships, and justice with our enemies. It is only by understanding Islam in both its inward and outward teachings can we protect ourselves, our children and our communities from dangerous ideologies all over the world. It is true Muslims are being oppressed, it is true we are being humiliated, it is true we are living in misery and maybe we can’t really blame the youth for the anguish and anger that is in them but we as Muslims must maintain patience and work to reform and improve our communities through education, preaching and charity. We must have strategies in gaining back our power without losing our respect in exchange. We have to be brave, intelligent and tactical because in this current era; strength with no brains is meaningless to the society.