Young people are an integral part of our community. As the next generation, they have the power to make incredible changes that bring about a kinder and more compassionate society. One that supports the diverse needs of everyone in our community – especially for those most in need.
But our communities first need spaces that give our youth the opportunities to make these changes. Safe, welcoming spaces where young people feel safe to speak out and have their concerns validated. Where young people have the support they need to feel empowered by their decisions and have avenues to give back to their community in positive ways.
It’s for this reason that Islam stresses the importance of looking after our youth. Youth is the most crucial time of our lives. It’s the time when the guidance we receive shapes our worldview and our growth as people. And our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) understood, more than anyone, this importance when it came to caring for and believing in the youngest members of his community.
The Young Companions of the Prophet (PBUH)
In the early days of Islam, many of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) followers were young people. This was, in large part, because of the respect he showed the youth in his community. No matter how busy he was, he never pushed them aside or made them feel less than. The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) took time to greet those younger than him politely and advised them when they came to him for guidance.
In a hadith narrated by Abdullah ibn Amr, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) also said, “Whoever does not show mercy to our young ones or acknowledge the rights of our elders, is not one of us.” (Sahih Musnad Ahmad)
In this hadith, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) emphasises the importance of allowing the youth in our community to learn and grow and be treated with kindness and patience. Even when it came to the children of the enemy, the Prophet (PBUH) saw the best in them and hoped for a brighter future for them.
In fact, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) held the youth of his Ummah in such high regard that he gave many young people jobs their elders thought involved more responsibility than the youth were capable of handling. Because the Prophet (PBUH) knew the young people of his community had a great passion to create change and wanted to give them opportunities to do so.
Such young people included Asma, the daughter of Abu Bakr (RA), who played one of the most daring roles in the Prophet’s (PBUH) escape from Makkah. She was the one who provided sustenance for the Prophet (PBUH) and her father when they took shelter in a cave to evade their prosecutors. Asma (RA) did so by splitting her belt to carry food to them, giving her the nickname Dhat al-Nitaqayn (she of the two belts).
Asma’s sister, Aisha, one of the wives of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in turn, was a well-respected scholar and jurist by the age of twenty. Narrating 2210 ahadith, she provided one of the greatest insights into the Prophet’s (PBUH) life, in matters of the household and beyond. Even after his death, Aisha (RA) continued to serve the Muslim community and spread the message of Islam for 44 years.
Who could also forget Ali ibn Abu Talib (RA), cousin of the Prophet (PBUH) and the first youth to accept Islam? From a young age, Ali was widely known by his community for his courageous personality and noble character. Muslims today also regard him as a symbol of justice and fairness, for the legacy he leaves as a sahabah – a companion of the Prophet (PBUH) – and as one of the four rightly-guided caliphates.
As such, the young companions of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) shone as strong, brave leaders. They were role models for their community as much as their elders were and continue to be inspirations for young Muslims, from their time to today.
The Importance of Supporting Our Youth Today
With how involved the young people in the early years of Islam were in their community, the Prophet (PBUH) would, no doubt, advise us today to uplift our youth and help them achieve noble goals.
As a part of our mission to empower communities, MWA has always been passionate about empowering young people to make the change they want to see in their community. It’s important that our communities work with our youth to provide programs and initiatives that allow them to express themselves freely and talk about the issues or barriers they face. Community-led programs and initiatives that engage in meaningful discussions about what is most important to young people and are for young people, by young people.
It’s from this aim that we see initiatives like MWA Youth Advisory Committee (MYAC) emerge from our youth. A committee established by incredible young women who are passionate about giving young people, especially from culturally and linguistically diverse communities, a voice to speak out about key issues affecting their community and help them participate in causes that help those in need.
The young people of our community have the capacity to make incredible changes. That’s why it’s important that our communities allow our youth to grow in skills and knowledge that not only bring them success in their inner circle but also allow them to connect with and inspire people more broadly. And it’s through this encouragement and support from everyone in the community that our youth become inspired to lead ongoing initiatives that enrich humanity and set a positive example for future generations to come.