Is deen for teens?

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No mixing with the opposite gender, no listening to the latest R’n’B tracks (or any music for that matter), no makeup or skinny jeans, no going to parties (of any description)…I could go on with all the things that today’s Muslim teenager is not ‘allowed’ to do.

It does seem like life for the modern day teen is a bit dry, and that mum and dad, as well as the sheikh at your local centre is saying no to everything and anything you perceive to be fun, whilst all your mates are having the time of their lives. That feeling on Monday when they talk about what happened at the weekend at a house party, or the new ‘sick’ track by some silver tooth gang-star, or worse still, when they make plans to go somewhere at the weekend and you need to make a quick getaway or excuse as to why this weekend (of all weekends) you can’t make it.

Firstly, you’re not the only teenager in all of mankind to go through this difficult and pain staking phase of having to battle between the pressures of social life and the boundaries set by your faith (and your parents). A minority of people somehow sail through this, and are happy to keep their heads down, immerse themselves in studies and eventually wind up married and settled in their early 20s – which, let’s be honest, is the decent way to go about your life. However, what about the majority of teenagers who find this struggle a constant battle, and in many cases succumb to the ‘pressure’. They inevitably regret things, and in some cases completely lose their way, and wind up still single at 40 with a pretty dim and negative outlook on life.

Well, I think it’s important to not be fooled that it’s down to this subliminal and psychological idea of peer pressure. Sure, your friends encourage you (heavily) to have some fun, to push the boundaries and ‘let your hair down’, but be honest, there’s a large part of you that wants to experiment! Take a second and ask yourself, who said that all these risky experiments/acts are the definition of fun?

The real kicker in this dilemma is that you want to experiment, be it with the opposite gender, drugs, alcohol etc, knowing full well that you’ll regret it (at least the first few times), and that you rationally know it’s a bad idea. In fact, based on the videos sent around on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the likes, you have more often than not thought that those people are absolute idiots for doing what they did, and yet you are so tempted to do exactly the same. How many girls do you know that were seen speaking to a guy (God knows what they were talking about), and 5 hours later, via a Chinese whisper chain of about ten people, the same girl has apparently done all sorts with the guy in the local park…? But strangely, you still feel the need to speak with that guy, maybe even swap numbers, promising and convincing yourself that you won’t actually text him, or reply to his text. And my young Romeo brothers out there, you know you’d be shouting from the roof top if the ‘fittest’ girl in your year or class threw a smile your way, let alone gave you her number. So it seems others’ perception and acceptance of us is what fuels our desire to cross our moral boundaries. And there was me thinking we humans were free thinking, independent individuals!

So is it all that bad and wrong? Get some popularity by taking (just) one toke on a spliff, or going to a house party whilst telling your parents there’s quiet birthday party at Mohammad or Fatema’s house…what’s the worst that can happen? – You don’t need me to answer that, because you’ve already thought of at least ten bad (and I mean seriously bad) consequences. But still that ‘voice’ inside is daring you to go for it anyway.

Ever wonder why God has made it so that you go through bulugh (puberty) just as life gets “interesting”? Well maybe because, as the all-knowing one, He wanted us all to understand that we are ready at this point to take real responsibility of ourselves. That doesn’t mean paying for a mortgage, or earning a wage, but for something far greater, and that’s our actions. In the holy book, not to sound too much like that sheikh you thought of earlier, we are told about the satanic whispers that lead us astray, and how the decorations of this fleeting life will deceive us. All sounds very intricate, when all you want to do is try some things out and move on. But what if you don’t move on as quickly as you planned? The reality is that many have experimented, and once the guilt has worn off (which doesn’t take long at all), they have continued down this ultimately negative path of self-fulfilment and hedonism to no avail.

When Ali ibn Abi Talib says the heart of a youth is like fertile land ready to be cultivated, he knew all too well the delicacy of this vital time in our lives, a junction which can be the making or downfall for all of us. As teenagers, either you feel the need to conform to what everyone else does, out of fear that you’ll be an outsider, or, the attraction of various acts pull so strongly on your hedonistic natured soul that you give in to temptation. Therefore, ultimately it’s insecurity in your individual identity, or the lack of appreciation of the reality and consequences of your actions that lead to the downfall.

However, what may make you think twice (and often works for me over the most trivial matters), and steer you back to the path of reason and sense, is the notion that you could die whilst young. With most people this is the very argument which gives them a false licence to live life to the full, but which anyone believing in God and/or a day of reckoning (even vaguely), would take as the alarm clock to wake up and shape up.

It is so easy, and tempting, to be a sheep and go down the same route as most of your non-religious mates. In which case you have two paths;

  1. You experiment, you regret, you vow to never do it again and, God willing, you don’t repeat the mistake and manage to overcome your insecurities and lead an upright, honourable life.
  2. You experiment, very quickly don’t regret, and gradually waste away the seventy odd years you have on this Earth.

Path one is made more baffling by path two, as really all you did was regret and make life a bit more challenging for yourself, whilst risking becoming a follower of path two. As for path two, well, not much to be said, apart from it’s clearly not what anyone wants!

So, is deen for teens? Of course, and it is at this age where you can impact your future, by questioning ideas and concepts so that you can find that contentment and decisiveness to stick to your faith. Practically, keep reminding yourself with the reality that you could die at any time, and what type of person you’d like to return to God as. Be awake when making choices, and don’t just look at the very short term perk of, say, becoming popular. Take a moment to reflect on what your parents have done for you so you can avoid making life mistakes. Sure you may not be the most popular person in school, college or university, but you won’t be the least popular for sticking to your beliefs either.

Within you there is a universe, but it takes real strength of character to expose it, but there is absolutely no doubt, that you have the potential.

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