Whenever Allah takes something away from the Ummah, He replaces it with something better, and where the sun of Islam seems to set in one place, it is made to rise in another. Such is the status of the Ummah in Allah’s Eyes, and such should the optimism of Muslims be, even within their darkest hours.
To elaborate, nothing decimated the Muslims on a global scale like the Mongols did. Their threat was truly existential. Then, in the year 1258, their armies made their way to Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphate, where not a single city stood in defence of Baghdad. Unable to fend off the enemy, the Mongols sacked the city of Baghdad, burning it to ashes, where one million men, women, and children — even down to babes in arms — were put to the sword or clubbed to death.  However, in the very same year, 1258, another event took place: ‘Uthman, son of Ertuğrul, after whom the Ottoman dynasty is named, was born.
Fast forwarding to recent times, the 2010s were a trying decade for Muslims; an intensifying Prevent strategy, the Trojan Horse scandal, harmful comments made by the former Foreign Secretary (and future Prime Minister) Boris Johnson — comparing niqabis to letterboxes — and national institutionalised Islamophobia.
For many, it felt like the sun of Islam was setting in the UK. Within the same decade, however, the religion and ethnicity findings of the 2021 Census confirmed a 43 per cent rise in the Muslim population of England and Wales, and that for the first time in a census of England and Wales, less than half of the population (46.2 per cent or 27.5 million people) described themselves as “Christian”. At the same time, those following Islam jumped from 2.7 million to 3.9 million. 
Concessions do not work
Central to the playbook of the Islamophobes is the scapegoating of minorities, juxtaposing the rise of Islam alongside the decline of Christianity, and so amplifying the narrative of a Britain under siege, even though Muslims have nothing to do with the dwindling numbers of people identifying as Christian.
Rather, factors intrinsic to the faith are to be assessed when addressing the free-fall of Christianity; disillusionment with the sex abuse scandals of the clergy and the increasing accommodation of the major churches with secular liberalism making many of their beliefs indistinguishable.
Clearly, therefore, concessions have not helped the Church in gaining followers, but have in fact caused the opposite.
Opportunity for Muslims
In any case, Muslims have, therefore, been presented with a huge opportunity to exhibit Islam as an alternative to the spiritual vacuum in the UK — an alternative that stands defiantly strong in its identity before the storms of modernity, in contrast to all other institutions that have toppled under pressure. In all honesty, however, we don’t always do a great job at this.
When, for example, the same questions are asked about the permissibility of combining all the prayers in the evening, due to the shame of being spotted praying in public, attending a compromising work-related party, or even celebrating Valentine’s Day, Halloween, or birthdays, a matter far deeper than the mere fiqhi answer is at play: the identity of the questioner, as well as a docile image of Islam that is being presented to the world.
Contrast this with the answer given by a Jewish Rabbi, Tzvi Freeman — director of the Ask the Rabbi service — who was asked by a Jewish lady about the religious ruling on celebrating Halloween.
Instead of offering a technical answer, he tackled it from a core identity perspective, saying:
“We have lived amongst other peoples while being very different from them. And we dramatically changed the world by being that way. That’s a proud and nurturing role for any child: to be a leader and not a follower, to be a model of what should be, rather than of what is.
“Make your kids feel that they are the vanguard. They belong to a people who have been entrusted with the mission to be a light to the nations — not an ominous light inside a pumpkin, but a light that stands out and above and shows everyone where to go. Forget about Halloween and wait for Purim [one of the Jewish people’s holidays].” 
Triumphalism may cause complacency
While Muslims should welcome the increase in their numbers, I would caution against any triumphalism, mainly because it carries the danger of complacency in addressing some of the structural problems we continue to face.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 61 per cent of Muslims in England and Wales live in the lowest 40 per cent of areas in these countries ranked by deprivation score. Furthermore, Muslims are the most targeted group in England and Wales. 
More importantly, however, to be triumphalist overlooks the growing problem in our own community of Muslims leaving Islam under the pressures of Islamophobia and secularism.
State of Muslims in the US
A staggering 23 per cent of Muslims born in the US no longer consider themselves Muslim, roughly on par with Americans who were raised Christian and no longer identify with Christianity. 
But, unlike some other faiths, Islam gains about as many converts as it loses.
In this cultural context, where Christianity is the majority religion and the philosophies of secularism, liberalism, feminism, capitalism, and atheism are pervasive and influential, Muslims who desire to transmit Islam to their children need to understand how to socialise their children to develop a healthy Islamic identity.
There is overwhelming empirical evidence that suggests the most important source of religious socialisation is the family.
Professor Christian Smith from the University of Notre Dame is one of the world’s most experienced and respected sociologists of religion, he studies how faith is passed down to our children. In his book, Handing Down the Faith: How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation, Smith and his team of researchers state that,
“…the single, most powerful causal influence on the religious lives of American teenagers and youth adults is the religious lives of their parents. Not their peers, not the media, not their youth group leaders or clergy, not their religious school teachers.” 
Naturally, this is old news to us, as the Prophet (ﷺ) had already told us that a child’s ultimate introduction to the world is by way of his or her parents.
He (ﷺ) said,
كل مولود يولد على الفطرة، فأبواه يهودانه وينصرانه ويمجسانه
“Every newborn child is born upon the disposition of Islam, but it is his parents that make him into a Jew, Christian, or Magian.” 
Family structure has also been linked to the religious identity of children. Youth raised by married biological parents who share the same faith are more likely to be religious and share the faith of their parents, than children of single parents, divorced parents, interfaith marriages, and other non-traditional family structures. 
Not all is lost, however, for parents who, for whatever reason, don’t have this ideal. I share two indispensable identity-preserving parenting techniques:
1 | Spiritual modelling
Children learn through show, not tell.
It is imperative upon those who have become parents to up their game and to push themselves outside of their comfort zones, if not for themselves then for the little eyes that now observe them; to read books, attend courses, enhance worship, and to display a religious commitment that they may not have otherwise displayed.
2 | Quality religious conversation
In one study, both parents and children rated religious conversations as the most meaningful religious activity, when the child is involved as an active participant. 
Also, research has found that the strength of the parent-child relationship only matters if parents and youth actually discuss religion together. 
As the African proverb states,
“Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”
It means that until the oppressed tell their story and resist the false narratives of their persecutors, the oppressors will always be seen as the hero.
As Muslims, we have our own narrative to share with the world.
If any nation could claim that algebra, hospitals, surgical instruments, maps, clocks, cameras, hygiene practices, flying machines, universities, and coffee wouldn’t have been possible without their inventors — not to mention the significant contributions in geometry, chemistry, physics, astronomy, etc. — they would not fail in putting this all on full display via every medium.
The above is our claim, so where is its dissemination?
If any civilisation could claim that they were not responsible for the two World Wars, the invention of the atom bomb and its dropping on any city, a holocaust, Communist pogroms, a transatlantic slave trade, or could claim that they were one of the least politically and religiously violent of all major world religions , they would not fail in sharing this with the world at every event.
Yet, these are our claims, so where are our efforts in sharing this?
As argued by the late Indian Islamic scholar, Shaykh Syed Abu al-Hasan al-Nadwi, in his book, What the world lost with the fall of the Muslims, Islam is an eternal reality and a programme of life that is always dynamic and can never grow obsolete.
Innovative initiatives using our media outlets, exhibitions, and museums with similar titles are the duty of the hour to not only harness the īmān and confidence of Muslims, but to also enlighten the world of the lifeline that Islam has to offer.
Rethinking Islamic education
Whether we wish to accept it or not, Muslim youth will measure what is right and wrong, be they Islamic matters or otherwise, against secular and liberal principles, and will do so at times without them even realising.
From primary school through to secondary school, college, and university, kids hear the expressions of ‘individual liberty’, ‘freedom of choice’, and ‘equality’ repeated over and over again, expressions that are not inherently evil. This — with time — shapes their moral world view.
Later on in life, they may encounter Islamic matters that seemingly go against these principles. So, for example, the modern world calls for feminism or equality between men and women, which they then contrast against Islam’s call that women are to receive half the inheritance of a man. This is, to the youth, an unequal distribution, where, at the core of this analysis is measuring Islam against a different objective morality that he was fed for a decade, namely the Western conceptualisation of equality. Since he has not been sufficiently equipped with the Islamic world view, he will conclude that Islam must be in error.
Another example would be the modern world’s call for individualism, which is a philosophical position that our youth, like all others, would have been spoon-fed all throughout their lives.
It is then recited to them,
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ قَدْ جَآءَكُم بُرْهَـٰنٌۭ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ
“O humanity! There has come to you conclusive evidence from your Lord.” 
They struggle to accept this because the philosophy of individualism has formed their minds to accept that everyone’s choice is valid, whereas the Qur’ān makes a claim to truth.
Yet, the society that they’ve grown up in does not care about truth, as truth is whatever you want the truth to be. As a result, when Islam claims to be the ultimate truth, the seeds of doubt are already sown within them.
Whether we realise it or not, these are the day-to-day battles of young Muslims today. Who shoulders most of the blame for all this? I would argue that the lion’s share of it falls on those who failed to prepare them for the exposure of college and university life.
So what is a proper Islamic education?
When our children spend two hours a day for around ten years of their early lives learning how to recite the Qur’ān, you know that there is a fundamental lack of vision in those nurturing the youth. Never mind understanding the language, why should it take a decade to learn how to merely read a language, when — if started at the correct age — it should not take more than six months to go from the Arabic alphabet to an acceptable standard of Qur’ānic recitation?
As a result, from around the age of five-years-old to fifteen, these youth were taught no concepts. By that time, the pressures of GCSE would have started, which means that they drop out of Qur’ān classes. From that point onwards, less than one per cent of Muslim students continue any form of Islamic education. This means that they arrive at the doorsteps of college and university utterly defenceless from the dogmatic onslaught that awaits them, because they have spent the finest part of their youth, a decade, banging their heads with Alif Ba Ta. This does not make any sense and is a betrayal of the trust upon parents, Imams, and community leaders alike.
A Kent-based boy’s journey to atheism started with an RE lesson in school, where the teacher posed the question, “Does God exist?”, and subsequently divided the class into a “believe in God” and a “don’t believe in God” camp. The boy found himself in the latter, exposed to arguments against God for the first time without any training on how to deal with them. The seeds of doubt were placed within him that he was never able to overcome. This is the day-to-day challenge of our youth, where the average RE session will require students to understand a view along with its rival view, otherwise students will be downgraded for being uncritical.
So the solution to the dilemmas of individualism, Western conceptualisation and misinterpretation of values, and believing that truth may be whatever our children wish it to be is a proper Islamic education.
And it is only by Allah’s grace that many of our Muslim youth are saved later on by way of practising friends at college, university ISOCs, or by simply shielding their ears.
And it must be noted that although to shield their ears is a blessing because they remain afloat, it is not the virtuous position of a proactive Muslim, who had learnt and continues to learn his religion, who worships Allah upon bayyinah (evidence) and yaqīn (conviction), and who actively demonstrates the superiority of the religion to his/ her peers.
The ones with conviction and understanding of the evidence are the ones who will choose to pick up the Qur’ān, never letting go of it for the rest of their lives, as opposed to those who, after ten years of Qur’ān classes, drop it, never picking it up again for the rest of their lives!
Questions that many of our children struggle with
- Who is Allah?
- What are the proofs of His existence?
- Why does He require us to worship Him?
- What are the proofs of the Qur’ān’s Divine nature?
- What are the proofs of prophethood?
- How do we debunk myths surrounding our Lord and the biography of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)?
Whilst courses that address these matters are present, they are not effectively filtering down to those who need them most.
It would be great for madrasas to, in consultation with educators, map out a timeline of the educational journey of our children, from ages 5 to 16, highlight all that they will be exposed to that may pose a challenge to their faith, and then to incorporate an age-appropriate reactive and proactive counter-narrative within the curricula of the Islamic schools or conversations at home. It is either this, or we leave the faith of our children to chance.
The search for an identity
One of the defining changes in the British cultural landscape in the past century has been an increasing amount of secularisation and waning spirituality. With this drift from organised religion, a massive spiritual void has been created, leaving scores of people yearning for a higher calling, a higher sense of purpose, a sense of belonging that can fill the vacuum within.
A UK government inquiry is underway to investigate why, between 2009 and 2018, there was in excess of a 4,000 per cent increase in children seeking to “transition” to the opposite sex.  Is it a coincidence that the contemporary decline in religious identity in the UK correlates with this increase in gender dysphoria, where identity is sought in a different gender?
Again, is it a coincidence that Brighton & Hove — the so-called LGBT capital of the UK — happens to have over 55.2 per cent of its locals stating that they do not follow any religion?  Is it a search for identity in the absence of the religious one?
Prayers replaced with players!
The same could even be asked about football.
For many of us, football is simply about releasing a bit of dopamine and providing some short relief from the grind of life. For others, however, it is undoubtedly far more than that.
Britain appears to have turned its back on God and found compensation in sport, as all people yearn for the sentiments of love, loyalty, and solidarity (that are often associated with religion).
In a quest to fill that necessary need to express awe and glorification towards something, stadia have replaced places of worship; prominent club figures are immortalised through statues outside the grounds; and prayers have been replaced with players.
Within these stadia, players perform their miracles before thousands of their believing disciples, which increases their conviction to remain committed to their team through hardship and ease, besotted by the athletes whose performances transcend the capability of ordinary human beings.
Their disciples’ chanting and singing of club anthems, face-painting and flag-waving, are masks to cover the disturbing reality of discontented souls seeking comfort in illusory relationships. Islam has filled that human need for identity. But in its absence, man will simply shift from the worship of Allah to the worship of people.
Every Muslim’s life mission
Shortly before the Persian Empire fell at the hands of the Muslims, Rustum — the general of the Persian armies — requested to speak to a Muslim delegate. Rib’ī ibn ‘Amir was nominated.
Upon entering the court of Rustum, Rib’ī was asked,
“What brings you to this land?” 
Rib’ī ibn ‘Amir replied,
لقد ابتعثنا اللهُ لنخرج العباد من عبادة العباد إلى عبادة رب العباد، ومن جور الأديان إلى عدل الإسلام، ومن ضيق الدنيا إلى سعة الدنيا والآخرة
“Allah has sent us to remove people from the worship of people to the worship of the Lord of people, and from the injustices of religions to the justice of Islam, and from the tightness of this life to the expanse of this life and the next.” 
Whilst Rustum did not embrace Islam, he was left hugely fascinated by Rib’ī, and further asked him,
“Are you the master of the Muslims?” 
Likewise, whilst a proud Muslim identity may not necessarily pacify hostility towards Muslims at large, it will certainly render the world impressed.
- The Siege of Baghdad
- What the world needs from a Muslim revival
- Muslims make up 33% of England & Wales population increase
 Tārīkh al-Khulafā
 Dollahite and Thatcher, “Talking About Religion: How Highly Religious Youth and Parents Discuss Their Faith”. p.611–641.
 War and Peace in Islam: The Uses and Abuses of Jihad
 al-Qur’ān, 4:174
 al-Bidāya wa-l-Nihāya
Note from the author: parts of this article were adapted from: