Mistaken identity – the need for Spiritual Development
We find that the youth of today are in search of some “freedom” with the desire to live their “own lives.” The majority of youth are goalless, yet for Muslims our goals are all divinely inspired.
Allāh says, “The goal of you all is to Allāh: it is He that will show you the truth of all that you do.”
Sadly, the crippling burden of peer pressure has led many down a murky path of immoral and sacrilegious behaviour. They find themselves trapped in illegitimate relations that lead to backstreet-abortions and they are often engaged in binge-drinking, drug abuse, and territorial gang and knife violence. It is a tragic irony that those who desire “independence” are living a life other than their own.
The Muslim spirit of sincerity, altruism, and simplicity is slowly being chipped away in this narcissistic age of self-adoration and character-vilification. The youth of today are simply lovers separated from their beloved, the Qur’ān. They no longer know themselves nor recognise one another as believers. For this very reason, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) complained to his Lord:
“O my Lord, indeed my people have taken this Qur’ān as [a thing] abandoned.”
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) was given the role as a reformer and an educator and he (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) began with the Qur’ān; reciting it and purifying the once goalless Companions, before teaching them Prophetic wisdom.
“It is He who has sent among them an [unlettered] Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them, and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they were before in clear error.”
Today’s youth are the beacons of light and the leaders of tomorrow. Therefore, as responsible carers and educators, we need to invest more of our time in nurturing young people to become more attuned with their Islamic identity, helping them to become both intelligent and pious. At Aspiring Minds, we believe the answer to forming a good society lies in education. When education follows an individual, the Ummah at large will be able to achieve stability, safety and happiness in the face of controversy and opposition.
Allāh says, “Are those who know equal to those who know not?”
Our team of qualified teachers, young professionals and community activists has combined their knowledge and expertise to bring together a holistic programme covering: contemporary education tutoring for the core subjects (English, Mathematics, and Science) up to GCSE level; spiritual development and practical skills workshops to build the ideal Muslim personality.
In recognising the various trials affecting our youth and the desire for young people to feel accepted and understood by adults in their communities, Aspiring Minds wants to connect our 14-16 year old boys and girls with inspirational role models who have triumphed over such temptations and have pushed through society’s glass ceilings to achieve great things both academically and in their religion.
Aspiring Minds, a non-profit development centre based in the London Muslim Centre, is determined to invest all its resources and expertise towards building ambitious young men and women who are loyal to Islām and driven towards becoming assets to their communities. It takes deep knowledge, high-quality teaching and excellent role models to achieve this, and we are striving to expose our students to all of these provisions to make them into better worshippers of Allāh.
Our Tarbiyyah programme has been specifically designed to ingrain a Quranic psychology within our students. We strive to create believers who are emotionally intelligent, uphold an optimistic worldview, and have a burning desire to become the forerunners of good in this world and the Next. We aim to achieve this by connecting our 14-16 year olds to the practical teachings of the Qur’ān and the Sunnah, inviting them to drink from these fountains of knowledge to expel doubts, discipline their illegitimate desires, and awaken their purposes. The students will be covering topics including the Hereafter, the rituals of Salāh, the diseases and the cures of the heart, and Muslim biographies.
Youth Problems and Solutions
Contrary to common belief that British Muslims are academically disadvantaged, it was found that students in Tower Hamlets, which is 34% Muslim (60% of which are made up of children under 15), are more academically determined than ever before. Tower Hamlets was ranked fourth in the Government’s Social Mobility Index (2015), making it one of the most socially mobile boroughs in the country. The index reveals that more than twice the number of children in Tower Hamlets receive more than 5 A*-Cs at GCSE compared to other boroughs in Muslim areas. Aspiring Minds is situated here, in one of the most socio-economically deprived areas in London.
Though excellent GCSEs may be indicative of a student’s lofty aspirations, these grades are unreflective of the global number of Muslim representatives in higher managerial, administrative and professional roles; only 5.5% according to MCB. This shows that educational attainment is only part of the solution to unlocking social mobility. Aside from the language barriers and social deprivation which may contribute to this low Muslim-representative, the prevalence of religious prejudice and Islamophobia; the lack of Muslim role models in and outside of schools; the low expectations that some teachers have of Muslim students; and the lack of recognition of students’ Muslim identity are all factors in barring Muslim students from excelling in the professional spheres.
Moreover, students leave school without being fully equipped with “soft skills” that are desirable in the workplace. The confidence required in articulating oneself both socially and intellectually are amongst some of the ‘soft skills’ missing in our bright teenage boys and girls post-secondary. Secondary school is a significant stage where students should be given the opportunity to explore different career avenues before they commit to a path, but most schools do not have the time or the resources to provide them. Aspiring Minds thus provides unique ‘Careers & Life Advice’ sessions, which seek to broaden the exposure to accredited skills such as basic first aid, public speaking and management. The sessions are delivered by students and graduates from top London universities as well as Muslim professionals from a spectrum of disciplines who impart their expertise to motivate our student’s acquisition and application of both religious and worldly knowledge.
A great example of one such session was an emotional well-being workshop delivered by author and parenting consultant, Dr. Mahera Ruby, on Sunday 14th February 2016. Dr. Ruby emphasised the importance of addressing symptoms of emotional instability and how our 14-16 year old students can tackle low self-esteem and dips in their īmān during exam periods.
She also strongly advised students to develop and maintain an open and intimate relationship with their parents:
“The lifestyle that you choose has to include your family in it as the guidance of the Qur’ān is that we must save ourselves and our families from the Fire. From this we learn that your emotional well-being outside – the choices you make and how you deal with people – is dependent upon how you feel at home.”
Roles of Parents and Educators
Allāh says, “And whoever does good, it is for his own soul. And whoever does evil, it is against himself.”
Islām has laid a huge responsibility on parents and educators for the correct Tarbiyyah of their young. Our children and wealth are only a diversion for us, but if they are dispensed in the best possible manner i.e. by using our wealth to benefit the Ummah, and inculcating the goals of the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and his Companions in our dependants, then with Allāh lays a great reward. However, the ramifications of parents’ relying on secular education and society (media, celebrities, television) to instil this mind-set are seen in their children’s absence of basic Islamic morals and values beyond the home.
The rise of dual income families (absent mothers and fathers) has consequently wilted our youth’s maturation process. As a secondary school teacher, nothing brings me greater joy than meeting parents who are willing to collaborate with the school to provide a facilitating home environment for their teenage son or daughter. It is disheartening to find parents, who are uncooperative and complacent in regards to their child’s emotional and academic needs at home and yet place unrealistic expectations on their child at school – expectations which eventually cripple the child.
There should be no contradiction between education of the home and the school. The Muslim home should cooperate with the local masājid and the school to allow the child to have an integrated personality – spiritually, physically and mentally. Cooperation should aim to establish integration and balance in building up the Muslim personality. Parents and educators should sense their responsibility towards the young in eliminating the psychology of hopelessness, regarding their children’s ability to become both pious and academically successful contributors to society. Being located in the London Muslim Centre, the students at Aspiring Minds will be exposed to a comfortable and safe environment which will give them the opportunity to network with mature, righteous company who will invite them to establish the prayer at their appointed times.
From the many lessons parents and educators can extrapolate from in order to better parent/child relationships is the bond between the Prophets Ya’qūb and Yūsuf. From this, we can learn about the need for guardians to make time for their dependants. Parents should devote a portion of their day to listen to and value the dreams of their child, just as Ya’qūb empowered Yūsuf with his. The dreams of our youth should never be trivialised. At Aspiring Minds, we are determined to ensure every student reaches their maximum potential by giving them opportunities to interact with professional and practicing young people, who will act as their mentors to guide them through possible career pathways, while encouraging them to transcend social barriers and work towards excelling in their academic and spiritual endeavors.
Aspiring young Women
Aspiring Minds has not excluded women from its visions either. Islām has attached great importance in cultivating the education of females, and we believe our young women are also entitled to equal opportunities in education. Historically speaking, women achieved brilliant heights in the early days of Islām with some excelling in writing, poetry and medicine. The accounts of those women who transmitted ahadīth were never rejected due to their pristine memory and trustworthiness. Today, 46% of Muslim students are female (MCB, 2011), and we find them to be outperforming boys in many disciplines. Aspiring Minds want to tap into this potential and believes that the education of women, especially in relation to her religion, is paramount as they are the mothers of tomorrow who will raise the next generation of righteous leaders inshāAllāh.
Raising tomorrow’s Leaders
We should constantly remind our youth of the heroic events of the past to empower them to follow suit. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) spent a great deal of time with his young Companions, empowering them to reach their full potential. When the Muslims marched out to Uḥud, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) sent back some of the Companions due to their young age. Among them were Rāfi’ b. Khudayj and Samūrah b. Jundub. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) accepted Rāfi’ when it was said that he was a good archer. Later on, Samūrah complained to his father-in-law, informing him that his strength was greater than Rāfi’’s. The Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) heard of this and invited them both to wrestle each other. When Samūrah defeated Rāfi’, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) accepted him. We also see the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) empowering the young female Companions during the treacherous migration to Medīnah, where the Prophet (sall Allāhu ʿalayhi wa sallam) and Abu Bakr (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) found themselves taking shelter in Cave Thawr for three days. It was young ʿĀ’isha and Asmā (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhumā) who were entrusted with the pivotal role of carrying provisions for them. Meanwhile, another young companion, ‘Abdullāh b. Abu Bakr (raḍiy Allāhu ʿanhu) risked his life to inform the Prophet that the Quraysh were plotting to attack the Muslims. Such valiant examples teach us that everyone has a role to play, even the youth.
True activists understand that a community is made up of parts of a complex puzzle and no piece should be devalued. To discount the good in our youth is to discount the favour of Allāh we all hope to see. We must believe that the prosperity of this Ummah lies in nurturing the good within our youth, and work together in al-Birr (righteousness) to support institutions that have the youth at their hearts. It is time to think beyond our lifespan and leave a legacy for generations to come.
“Our Lord, grant from among our spouses and offspring the comfort to our eyes and make us an example for the righteous.”
Written by Umm Ihsaan & Enam Ahmod
Ali, S. (2015). British Muslims in Numbers: A Demographic, Socio-economic and Health profile of Muslims in Britain drawing on the 2011 Census. The Muslim Council of Britain. London.
Milburn, A. (2015). The Social Mobility Index. Social Mobility & Child Poverty Commission.
 Al-Qur’ān, 5:105
 Al-Qur’ān, 25:30
 Al-Qur’ān, 62:2
 Al-Qur’ān, 39:9
 Al-Qur’ān, 45:15
 Al-Qur’ān, 25:74