All praises are due to Allah who has created us in the best of form and He has also made us to grow in various stages during our life on earth. I bear witness that none deserves our obedience and worship except Allah and I beseech Allah’s peace and blessing upon the soul of our noble Prophet Muhammad (saw). To Proceed:
The youths of any nation represent the future and that explains the often repeated statement that the youths are leaders of tomorrow. The vitality and the prosperity of any nation is guaranteed especially when adequate programmes are initiated to tap and develop their potentials. The youths are unique beings among mankind because they are faithful to the ideals they cherish, sincerely committed to any action and show adequate enthusiasm in all their pursuits. These remarkable qualities have earned the youth as agents of change in any society. A society with a vision does everything possible to ensure that the youths are adequately catered for in their quest for development. There is no gainsaying the obvious that a mismanagement of the youths by any society brings about anarchy, armed robbery, cultism and social disorder.
ISLAM AND THE YOUTHS
In Islamic system, the youths occupy an important place in Islamic paradigm and this can be put into fore when we look at the roles played by Muadh b. Jabal, Ali b. Abu Talib, Abdullah b. Umar, Abdullah b. Abbas, Khubayb, Khabab b.Arat, Musayb b.Umayr, Sa’id b. Abi Waqqas, Ubaydullah b.Jarrah and among other Muslim youths in the everlasting change Islam brought to mankind. They were indeed agents of positive change among humankind. While their contemporaries were busy with idol worshipping, they resented it and submitted themselves to the worship of One True God. In the Qur’an 18:13 Allah narrated the story of some youths thus, ‘We relate their story in truth. Indeed, they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance’.
The youthful period is a watershed between the weakness of childhood on one hand and the weakness of old age or grey hair on the other. In Q 30:54, these changes are explained to us, ‘ Allah is He Who created you in weakness, then gave you strength after weakness, then after strength gave (you) weakness and grey hair. He creates what He wills. And He is the All-Knowing, the All-Powerful’.
The Prophet Muhammad advised mankind, “ take advantage of five things before five things, take advantage of your life before death overtakes you, good health before sickness, spare time before pre-occupation, your youth before old age and wealth before poverty” (al-Hakim and al-Bayhaqi on authority of Ibn Abbas). In another prophetic tradition, Prophet Muhammad said that, ‘man shall never be acquitted and discharge on the Day of resurrection until he has been questioned on four themes, “with regard to his life and how he spent it, with regard to his youth and how he spent it, his wealth, where did he earn it and what did he spend it and with regard to his knowledge, what use did he put it to?” (al-Tabarani)
AREAS OF CONCERNS FOR THE UMMAH FOR CHANGE AGENTS
There are many issues that weigh down the spiritual and moral growth of the Ummah that should deserve the attention of the Muslim youths in order to recapture the goals of Medinah state. Among the issues include:
i. the existence of ignorance among the Muslims and the arrays of Muslim children that are out of school.
ii. There is geometric increase in individual and collective disorganization of the ummah. There is unprecedented increase in broken homes among the younger generation of Muslims.
iii. The level of poverty and unemployment among the Muslim youths is alarmingly high which make the youths ready army for extremist and violent groups.
iv. The level of corruption in all sectors of the society has compromised the future of the youths. The implication of this is the increase in the involvement of the youngsters in unlawful activities like kidnapping, armed robbery, yahooyahoo (internet scam) and insurgency.
v. The ummah is also bedeviled with expensive cost of marriages, high dowry, increase numbers of single ladies, problems of widows and remarriage with consequences of high level of prostitution, beggary, unmarried mothers and orphans etc.
LEARN TO BE VOLUNTEERS
The youths have roles to play in changing the negative narrations to positive one by embracing volunteering services. Volunteering is the most fundamental act of citizenship and philanthropy in the society. It is offering time, energy and skills of one's own free will. It is an extension of being a good neighbour, transforming a collection of houses into a community. By caring and contributing to change, volunteers decrease suffering and disparity, while they gain skills, self-esteem, and change their lives. In volunteering services, people work to improve the lives of their neighbours and, in return, enhance their own.
We need to understand as Muslims that, “Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others.” The Prophet (saw) beautifully explains this, ‘the best of you are those who are of benefit to others’
DEFINING MUSLIM YOUTH AS AGENTS OF CHANGE
The youths that are needed are those who are:
1. Steadfast in prayer: The one best equipped to help others is one who is steadfast in prayer
2. Regular Charity: This of course fosters a personality that is giving and develops a character that is empathetic to the needs of others.
• Communities where members give regular charity of all kinds both compulsory and voluntary benefit each other and feel responsible for each other.
3. Fulfill Contract:
• Muslims working in the field of social services must be trustworthy, honest, and conscientious of their duty to their clients.
• Services delivered cannot be haphazard or half-hearted.
• When we make a pledge we honor it when we make a promise we keep it and when we set ourselves up as helpers we fulfill that task to the best of our ability.
4. Patience in pain, suffering, adversity and panic: These are characteristics that are essential for Muslim social workers, counselors, Imams, and leaders.
• When people depend on us for support and rely on our counsel we cannot be hasty, impatient, or panic at first sign of difficulty.
• The task for Muslim workers in the area of social services is soul wrenching and requires a personality that is blessed with Taqwa (God consciousness) and Sabr (patience).
5. Truth: As the Prophet Muhammad stated: " A Muslim cannot be a liar".
• Truth and honesty is the cornerstone of any public service.
• Lies stand in the way of trust without which a Muslim social worker or counselor is not viable.
• We must be honest in our dealings with our client and not use any underhanded ways.
• Truth is also a virtue that is admired universally and inspires respect, trust, and reliability.
6. God Fearing:
• One, who fears Allah and is always conscious of her duty to her Creator, will never harm or put in harm’s way those who are under their care.
• Sense of accountability and responsibility to Allah must be the core trait of a Muslim community worker.
WHAT TO DO TO BE A GOOD CHANGE AGENT
The work of change agents is a noble assignment and there are things needed to be relevant in the task. Among the requirements include:
1. Muslim change agents must love Allaah and be proud of Islam always. The slogan is, I am pleased that Allah is my Lord, Islam is my religion and Prophet Muhammad is my Prophet and Messenger.
2. They must be focused in your education (Islamic and Modern education).
3. They must choose friends wisely. Everybody cannot be a friend. In Qur’an 9:119, Allah says, ‘O you who believe fear Allah abd be with the righteous always’.
4. They must flee to their Lord always as refuge. Allah says in Q 51:50 says, ‘So, flee to Allah. Verily, I am a plain warner to you from Him’
5. They must be dutiful to their parents as charity begins from home. Abdullah ibn 'Umar said, "The pleasure of the Lord lies in the pleasure of the parent. The anger of the Lord lies in the anger of the parent."
6. They should avoid the distractions associated in modern gadgets like cell phone, internet and social media.
7. Finally and the most important for them is to connect with Allaah in dua’a (supplications) as prayer is the shield of a Muslim.
May Allah enlist us as agents of positive change in our communities and may Allah accept our efforts as acts of worship. May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon the noble Prophet Muhammad, his family, his companions and all those who follow his footstep till the day of reckoning.