Liaison office of Grand Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Al Sistani (L.M.H.L) in London, Europe, North and South America.
He gave this advice when responding to questions by various media websites, including the Iraqi Community Voice in the Netherlands, regarding the duties of young people today; when extremist thoughts associated with Islam are being spread among them through social media, thus creating confusion and division in their ranks; some in favour and some against with others in between. So under such circumstances what fatherly advices can you offer everyone?
Here’s his response:
Firstly, we need to recognise the youth are a force not to be underestimated. This sensitive stage in their lives is, on the one hand, a time of sacrifice and giving and on the other hand, they are the foundation of the future and the reason for its existence.
We therefore see the holy Qur’an has not neglected this important segment of society, referring to them in various parts; as in the Surah of the Cave verse 13: ((...Indeed, they were youths who believed in their Lord, and we increased them in guidance)). Also in the story of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him): ((They said, "We heard a young man mention them who is called Abraham.")) Holy Quran 21:60. Also in the story of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) with the daughters of Prophet Shua’iyb (peace be upon him) and in the story of Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him) referring to his immaculateness and trustworthiness. Also in the story of the People of the Trench who were all young people. These stories and others offer us great lessons of how the holy Qur’an cares about young people, because they are a major force in society and their age is an age between two weaknesses; i.e the weakness of childhood and that of old age, as highlighted by the Almighty ((Allah is the one who created you from weakness, then made after weakness strength, then made after strength weakness and white hair. He creates what He wills, and He is the Knowing, the Competent.)) Holy Qur’an 30:54
In this important period of life proper upbringing is essential, so the person’s capabilities and energies many develop to be an active and effective element in society, spreading goodness and happiness among people; imitating the prophets and the immaculate ones (peace be upon them), and those who followed in their way - because they are the best example for humanity. On the whole, this phase in the lives of young people is a happy one - if based on sober upbringing foundations and an honest mentor can be found for them. The Prophet of Islam, from the beginning of his mission, made use of young people’s abilities to solve problems and difficulties which existed in the Muslim society. He (peace be upon him) concentrated on the younger generation, giving them great attention, relying on their sound and inherent nature, informing them of the parameters of ethics and the fundamentals of religion so that they may direct their efforts and energies towards goodness and happiness and be devoted to religious rituals like prayers, supplications, charitable acts and propagating the religion. The nonbelievers were astounded by the Prophet’s (s.a.w.w.) method.
Sa’ad ibn Malik, who was no more than seventeen years old, was an active advocate of Islam during that critical period. Also Mus’ab ibn U’mair who, in the prime of his youth, was the first Mubaligh the Prophet (s.a.w.w.) sent to Madina. After the conquest of Makka, E’tab, who was only twenty one years old, was appointed as commander of Makka. As for Usama bin Zaid, the Prophet (s.a.w.w.) appointed him as commander of the Muslim army in their battle against the Romans. He was eighteen years old then. The Prophet (s.a.w.w.) did not assign such positions to these young people unless he was sure they were capable of withstanding the trials and tribulations involved in defending the foundation of Islam. He (s.a.w.w.) was keen to employ such fine capabilities, so they may not be wasted in vain, and also to achieve honour and success for them and for the Muslim society.
Therefore the youth phase is a once in a lifetime golden opportunity. It is a divine blessing which can lead to future happiness if capitalised upon appropriately according to sober religious foundations.
The most important duties of Muslim youths these days is to understand Islam correctly from its pure sources, like the Qur’an and the prophetic tradition (Al-Sunna Al-Nabawiya) and the ways of the immaculate ones and their writings and sayings. They left us a considerable amount of work in this regard – not to be underestimated – in different sciences and knowledge, giving us a true picture of Islam. All Muslims, if they desire happiness and success in both worlds, need to seek guidance from the ways of the immaculate ones and implement what they drew out for us, otherwise the Muslim nation will lose all its vital components. The messenger of Allah (s.a.w.w.) linked the immaculate ones to the Qur’an by saying: “You will never go astray after me if you stick to them.” i.e stick to the holy Qur’an and the immaculate ones from his progeny.
The loss of the Ummah’s youth today is due to their lack of adherence to these two tight bonds of guidance to the right path. Also, we strongly emphasize upon the youth to be mindful of what they read and the speeches and ideas they hear. They should check with the Qur’an and the Muhammadi tradition to see if such speeches and ideas conform, if so then they can follow, if not then to reject them. Lately we’ve seen some speakers speak about Islam according to their moods and emotions or what others dictate to them, without searching for the truth from its authentic sources.
By this, they are spreading poisonous ideologies and thoughts in the minds of young people, which destroy their lives and souls and they lose out in this world and in the afterlife. The holy Qur’an has mentioned them as follows: ((Say, [O Muhammad], "Shall we [believers] inform you of the greatest losers as to [their] deeds? [They are] those whose effort is lost in worldly life, while they think that they are doing well in work.")) Holy Qur’an 18: 103 &104
On this premise, I direct my fraternal appeal to the Muslim advocates and preachers everywhere to verify the sayings (Ahadith) connected to the Prophet and his pure progeny (peace and blessings be upon them) so that they do not lead others astray; because some sayings are weak, bizarre or invented. We therefore need to convey to the youth, and to the general public, the beauties of the words of the Prophets and Imams and the righteous ones, for if people hear them they would love Islam and be guided to it. This is our first duty.
Our second duty is, to practice what we’ve learnt about the licit and illicit in Islam, otherwise we will be like those described in the Qur’an as: ((The example of those who were entrusted with the Torah and then did not take it on is like that of a donkey who carries volumes [of books].
Wretched is the example of the people who deny the signs of Allah. And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.)) Holy Qur’an 62:5.
Also described in this verse: ((And recite to them, [O Muhammad], the news of him to whom we gave [knowledge of] Our signs, but he detached himself from them; so Satan pursued him, and he became of the deviators.)) Holy Qur’an 7:175
Our third duty is to adhere to the directives issued by the grand Mara’ji (sources of emulation) who deal with the Muslim nation’s affaires and issues, because we are instructed to follow them during the occultation era [of the 12th Imam aj.t.f]. They are role models and leaders for us and for the Shari’a, preventing both from loss and deviation and leading us to salvation.
The fourth duty is to invite people to Allah and what can be more honourable than this ?: ((And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah...)) Holy Qur’an 41:33 After learning about Islam and practicing what we’ve learnt from it in accordance with the above conditions, we begin inviting people to it. Starting with ourselves, our brothers and family and community, as Allah the exalted says: ((O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire...)) Holy Qur’an 66:6
The fifth duty is for all Muslims to stand together and unite as Allah says: ((And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided....)) Holy Qur’an 3:103 There is a Surah in the holy Qur’an, if practiced by Muslims they would not need anything alse: ((By time -1- Indeed, mankind is in loss, -2- Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience.-3- )) Holy Qur’an 103.
We would also stress that the responsibility of parents is not limited to the material aspect of life when raising their children, but must be educational, ethical and religiously based according to the narration (Hadith): Take the initiative to speak to your children before the Murji’tes beat you to it. i.e those who lead them astray from their faith and innate nature. It’s been narrated from the Prophet of Allah (s.a.w.w.) that on one occasion he saw some children and said: “Woe to the children of the end of time from their fathers. He was asked from their idolaters fathers? He said: No from their believing fathers who do not teach them about their obligatory acts of worship. Even if their children learn something, the parents would prevent them [from it]. They would be content with what little this world has to offer them; I am therefore disassociated from them and them from me.”
We should not forget the responsibility of the Imams of Islamic centers and institutions, preachers and teachers alike, who need to welcome the youth and educate them correctly according to the Muhammadiyah Islamic teachings and the methodology and ethics of the Ahlulbayt (a.s.)
We ask Allah Almighty to guide us and guide our youth to the right path, He Listens and Responds.