Islamic identity is your utmost possession. It is the only identification that matters on the Day of Judgment. It is your faith, your religion, your moral values, and your whole life. This identity is the one that makes you recognize Allah as the One and Only God of this Universe. This identity is the one that makes you wake up before sunrise and pray to Allah. This identity is the one that makes you kind, sincere, responsible, and thoughtful when you deal with people. This identity is the one that forbids you to lie, cheat, steal, gamble, and engage in any immoral behavior. This identity is the one that makes you realize and understand that Islam is a way of life. This identity is the one that makes you good human being, because good Muslim is a good human being.
First, it is necessary to define what is meant by the term "Islamic identity.” Is it fulfilling the five pillars of Islam? It is limited to clothes? Is it growing beard or wearing of hijab? Is it learning the Arabic language? Is it studying only Islam? Is it a tangible, visible feature or an internal construct? Indeed, there is so much more to the Islamic identity we should be seeking to develop as proud Muslims.
The Islamic Identity is taken to mean the way of life of the Muslim, a comprehensive set of beliefs, practices and ideologies as derived from the Quran and the example of Muhammad (PBUH). Islamic identity is that which separates us from non Muslims. Robust Islamic Identity is also what separates between strong and shaky Muslims.
There is no contradiction between Islamic Identity and Nationality. If your nationality is American, then USA is your home, and you follow the rule of the land. There is no contradiction because the rule of the land does not force you to commit sins, cheat, lie, or use interest. This rule of the land does not obstruct your right to carry out your religious obligations, nor prevent you from being a good Muslim. Many people have different paper identifications. They have identifications, called passports, when they travel from one country to another. They have identifications, called driver licenses, when they drive. They have identifications, called voting registrations, when they vote in an election. They have identifications, called citizenships, when they acquire nationality of countries, and so on. These identifications are paper identifications. Islamic identity does not have paper identification, but it has action identification.
There is an urgent need to have a support system in schools and colleges. This can be in the form of Muslim student associations in schools and colleges. And if that is not feasible, small group of Muslim youth can form a group among themselves to support each other with the objective of becoming strong proud Muslims.
There are many other young Muslims in the West and, regrettably, in Muslim countries who are dissolved in Western Pop Culture. They don't realize that their Islamic Identity is their most valuable possession.
I was visiting a Christian friend who is very close to converting to Islam. He prays with me, but did not say Shahada yet. He talked to me about corruption of religions. He said" The Jews, by modifying and omitting texts from the Torah, corrupted it. The same thing have happened with the New Testament. Early Christians followed the The Ecumenical Councils of Church which changed Christianity from Monotheistic to polytheistic religion. Muslims could not corrupt the Quran, so they corrupt themselves. They seem to believe that because Quran states that Islam is the Only religion of God, they can do as they please – such as tyrant dictators oppressing people, something that is completely wrong and will be punished by Allah."
We all need Islamic Youth Awakening and we all you need to build a strong Islamic Identity, if we want success in this life and in the hereafter.
The education system is typically where the learning process starts, under the parent’s direction. Children are sent by their parents to schools with good intentions of an education and a chance for a better life. The children are placed in an environment where mixing of sexes is the norm through the placement of children in multi-gender classes and sporting teams. In the absence of parental Islamic guidance, these children grow up to believe such behavior is normal. This leads, in many cases, to considering the Islamic requirement of segregated sexes as 'old fashioned' or 'backward'. After years in such an environment, it is no surprise that we see so many young Muslims with 'boyfriends', and 'girlfriends'.
As early as in elementary schools in the West, boys and girls drink alcohol, use drugs, and practice sex. Muslim countries are no more a safe haven. Some boys and girls go to the bathrooms together, with no supervision from school administration. Most schools have no agenda for Hifz Quran to kids. Islamic schools are attacked in the west and been called "Madrasah" to indicate that these schools are graduating "terrorists."
In Sexual Education in the West, children are being taught that being promiscuous is a 'natural part of growing up'. They are supplied with contraceptive devices, giving them their tacit approval to commit adultery. These same classes teach that homosexuality is something in the genes and as such is a perfectly 'normal' kind of behavior.
In History, we see a Western view of the world in which the Christians are viewed as the only people worthy of any respect or any admiration. It is rare that mention is ever made of the great contribution made to the Western world from Muslims. It is even rarer that the names of the great Muslim scientists are mentioned. It is no wonder that many Muslim children end up with a sense of shame in being Muslim. This shame is often shown in their refusal to use their 'Muslim names', e.g. suddenly Muhammad becomes known as 'Mike'.
Proper Islamic education should counter the lies and the corruption fed to the children in school. It should be presented in such a way as to engender a feeling of pride in Islam. Furthermore, it should cover Islamic history to offset the lies taught in History, Islamic law to offset the lies taught in legal studies. Parents must take responsibility for arming their students with correct belief and sound knowledge to defend themselves from the decline of the Islamic identity.
Next, how many parents encourage their kids to memorize the Quran? Being Hafiz is an important part of the Islamic Identity. Islamic schools, used to teach Quran in many Muslim countries for kids in preschool, were cancelled. Not because of the current Western allegation of Madrasah, but long before that by secular governments. In the West you see many non-Arab Hafiz children, and in rare occasions you may see an Arab kid Hafiz.
I honestly believe that investing time with children to get them to memorize Quran and teach them Islamic education at home should pay off in the long run, avoiding terrible family crises in the future.
Peer pressure is strong in all levels of schools and colleges. There are positive and negative peer pressures. Positive peer pressure is the influence of good Muslim friends who help strengthen our Iman (faith) and protect from committing sins. Peer pressure is a two way street. Someone may try to encourage you to a bad manner, and you counter back by positive peer pressure to resist getting evolved in bad or evil behavior, and encourage good Islamic behavior. Negative Peer pressure is responsible to a large extent for smoking cigarettes, going to nightclubs, using drugs or alcohol. For the most part, this article deals with negative peer pressure.
As early as junior high school, the pressure is on to attend the school dances. OK, dancing is fairly clear-cut. It is not permitted in Islam. But what about going to the football game and then going out to Pizza Hut afterwards with a bunch of friends? Innocent as this sort of evening sounds? Here you have to remember that the devil is a full-time worker. Peer pressure is at the core of what it means to exist among a group of friends. With non-Muslim friends (and regrettably even some Muslim friends), the pressure may come in the form or a simple offer to drive to the mall with several other boys and girls in one car, or to pair up in conversation with some one of the opposite gender, or to just try a sip of beer. With Muslim friends, the pressure may come in the form of sneaking out to movies, attending parties as a group as “long as we don’t drink,” wasting time at the mall. Not to mention the tremendous burden of freedom that comes with living on campus during the college years.
Peer pressure and Iman are inversely related. The more we give into peer pressure, the weaker our Iman becomes. Think about that for a minute. A Muslim’s Iman is strong as long as he seeks the pleasure of Allah in everything he does. So we could either stay alone or keep good friends. Staying alone, we would have no one to blame but the evil whispering of our own souls. But the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) teaches us that in being alone we are like sheep, easy prey for hungry wolves. Instead, we are encouraged to develop brotherhood and sisterhood, and most of all, to be surrounded by those who submit wholeheartedly to Allah (swt). We are reminded by Allah, “O ye who believe! Be careful of your duty to Allah, and be with the truthful.” (Sura At-Tawba, 9:119).
While dealing with peer pressure is not easy, it is also not impossible. First, take a moment to reflect on your friends and their personalities. Do you ever feel uncomfortable because of their habits? Their character? Their suggestions? Their outlook on life? I am not asking you to judge your friends, I am simply asking you to gauge the level of influence they have on you.
You must teach yourself how to minimize the negative effects of peer pressure. Don’t ever feel that you are missing out or living a boring life just because you don’t give in to peer pressure. Study the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Learn what behavior is pleasing to Allah, and what kind of lifestyle is discouraged in Islam. If you are not armed with knowledge about the halaal and haraam aspects of daily life, you can never fully resist the temptation of peer pressure. Through knowledge, you will develop a better understanding of Islam, and through pious and righteous friends, you will strengthen your Iman.
Entertainment: TV, movies, and music:
What is the purpose of entertainment? Some may say it is a source of amusement, others may say it helps people rest and relax, and yet others may say it is a source of distraction from the worrisome routine of daily life. A commonly expected outcome of being entertained is for the heart to find some rest. And yet, the way for the heart to find rest is clearly given in the Quran, when Allah states, Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest.” (Sura Ra’d, 13:28).
So what about TV, movies, and music? On the most part, the language, the images, the lyrics, the rhythms are all reflective of an outlook on life that is diametrically opposed to Islamic teachings.
Not only does the television serve as a window to the outside world, but for many parents it also serves as a full time baby-sitter for kids. Parents subject kids to scenes with violence, indecent acts or straight out fantasies just to get their kids off their back. TV shows Kids that fun is always associated with sins. The moral bankruptcy of most shows on TV is evident and Muslims should use their understanding of Islam as a benchmark for determining the truth from falsehood.
TV serves to convince the Muslim viewer that what they are seeing is the social norm. A good example is the so-called love scene that forms such a crucial element in movie or TV show. They paint the picture that somehow in some sort of sick way that sex equates with love and is a natural behavior. It is only to be expected that after years of constant brain washing with this message that the initial disgust a Muslim feels subsides to acceptance.
Many shows also focus heavily on parental-child conflict and often attempt to paint this sort of behavior as a 'normal' part of growing up. Typically, the solution to this conflict is either to fight back or to run away. In either case it teaches the children an Islamically inappropriate response to any conflict.
TV shows us how others live, or how others behave. It defines a standard for success, what qualities we see as admirable, what behavior we see as normal. Take for example the so-called lifestyle shows that feature so prominently on TV. We see expensive houses, lavishly decorated with all the accessories of this world and this is pushed onto us as the success ideal. If we are not strong in Islam then these TV-generated standards get adopted as our own. We will start to equate success with owning an expensive car or living in a big house. We will start to think that beauty is dependent on how we look. We will start to forget about the paradise that Allah has promised those that believe, and we will start trying to create a 'paradise' right here in this world. This is one of the major threats to our Islamic identity.
Movies and music have a lasting effect on our minds. Even after the images are gone, the words are finished and the rhythms have faded away, the influence lingers on. We can no longer justify our actions by saying that we will turn away from a sexually explicit scene or fast forward the tape during a violence scene. Neither can we blame the American movies and music as unIslamic and yet take the liberty of exposing ourselves and our families to the equally unIslamic ethnic entertainment such as Arabic movies, Indian songs, or Pakistani dramas. Yes, they may be some good in all of them, but the inevitable questions remain. Do any of the movies and songs help you to remember Allah? Do you increase your Islamic knowledge through these movies or the music?
Perhaps the most critical challenge facing Muslim youth is the development of strong Islamic identity. While there are so many beautiful young brothers and sisters who are living according to Islam, this question of an Islamic identity has not received its due attention.
Our role model, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has left for us powerful teachings and yet we surrender to compromising and acting as if we have no criteria to guide us! Look back at your life, your family, your community and ask yourself how often we all have acted first and then referred our actions to the Quran and the Sunnah. We can no longer afford to use this backward approach to Islam.
Older generation never successfully grappled with the notion of an Islamic identity. Rather than developing programs, activities, and camps that could teach youth HOW to be Muslims, most of the time seems to have been spent on the DO’s and DON’Ts of Islam.
But the challenges for Muslim youth still remain: How can they develop, maintain and model their Islamic identity? How will they bring Islam to the non-Muslims unless they are confident of its teachings? Why will the non-Muslims give up their lifestyle and beliefs if Muslim youth present themselves as backward, unorganized, confused and most of all, unaware and uncomfortable of and with their own beliefs.
If the young generation remains steadfast to the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), I have no doubt that the whole world will come to respect and admire us. Yes, there will be discrimination, prejudice and even racism along the way, but our perseverance and not our compromise will be rewarded by Allah. The emerging Islamic identity will not only be consistent with the teachings of Islam, but it will also send a strong signal to non-Muslims that we prosper because and not in spite of our beliefs in Islam.
We are witnessing a revival of Islam in its pure, pristine form. Void of cultural and national barriers, our identity is developing along paths more in line with the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is indeed a mercy from Allah.
Thriving as a Muslim youth must not be a passive ambition but rather an active goal. Peer pressure, movies, music, and many other challenges will seem overwhelming at first. So let us make du’a that Allah protects our Iman and guides us all to develop a strong Islamic identity.