السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته
Assalam o’ Alikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu
الحمد لله رب العالمين ، والصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين و على آله واصحابه اجمعين ثم ام بعد آمين
Alhamdulillahi Rabbil Alamin, Wassalatu Wassalam Ala Ashrafil Ambiai Wal Mursalin Wa Ala Aalihi Wa Assahbihi Ajmain summa Amma Baad. Ameen
So I am not gonna talk about my topic. So I just wanna let you know ahead of time. So everybody is okay with that. In sha’ Allah. It is a wonderful topic but you know in these kinds of opportunities, I rather get some specific messages across that I think are relevant to youth that I don’t get to talk about in other forums. In sha’ Allah oTa’ala. So these 20 minutes may be at the most 25 minutes or so that I have, I am gonna talk about just some specific lessons from Ashab-ul-Kahf or highlight some things and discuss some things that I feel very strongly are missing in Muslim discourse especially which has to do with our youth.
First thing I am going to talk about is the cultural onslaught. The first thing we will take from the people of cave, Ashab-ul-Kahf, is that they drew themselves away from a dominant culture. They pulled themselves away when they saw that there was overwhelming evil and they had no way of escaping that culture and actually the verdict was given that they were to be executed as a result of their faith, they pulled themselves out of that culture. And one of the most important things to draw from that for ourselves is until our life is in danger we have to engage in society. It is only when their lives were actually threatened that these young men left society. That they, you know, withdrew towards the cave, because their actual lives were in danger.
Muslims cannot have the attitude that we are not going to engage in society and some how everything outside is a fitna and we have to protect ourselves and we have to shelter ourselves and the only way that we are gonna keep our faith is if we keep guarding ourselves totally shunning ourselves from the outside world. This is, this attitude actually means we already accepted defeat, because at the end of the day that attitude means defects. That attitude means that everybody else is attacking us and we gotta save ourselves and pull back and stay strong within our fort etc. But the entire idea of Islam being the truth, the imagery that Allah presents of Islam, you know, Allah ’Azzwajal says, you know that Allah hurls..
بَلۡ نَقۡذِفُ بِٱلۡحَقِّ عَلَى ٱلۡبَـٰطِلِ فَيَدۡمَغُهُ
Bal naqzifu bil haq qi alal ba_tili fayadmauhu (21:18)
That We hurl the truth against falsehood. Allah gives the image – truth being a weapon, and falsehood being the victim of that weapon running away. And the truth attacking falsehood and falsehood being on the run so who is on the offence and who is on the defence, who is actually questioning the wrong that’s happening in society and engaging with it and saying we are here to change things and who is actually supposed to go into hiding and supposed to hide behind shelter – that’s supposed to be falsehood. So the mentality of the Muslims generally, especially of Muslim youth, isn’t supposed to be I have to save myself but actually I have to engage and I have to help the world become a better place. That’s the first thing I wanna get across.
The second thing I wanna get across is Allah ’Azzawajal usually does not do this. He usually does not highlight the age of people when he talks about them. He doesn’t normally do that. We don’t learn the age of Musa (a.s.) when he went to the mountain, we don’t learn about that. Very rarely does He do that, like for example Allah ’Azzawajal talks about Musa (a.s.) when he became a mature adult or when Yusuf (a.s.) became a mature adult.
وَلَمَّا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ
Walamma balagha ashuddahu. (12:22)
Their ages are talked about. But usually the peoples ages not mentioned, as though that’s a non factor. When it came to the people of the cave, these sleepers of the cave as they are called Asshab-ul-Kahf, Allah ’Azzawajal says:
innahum fityatun (12:13)
Even though without the word fitya the sentence is complete. Innahum fitya or Innahum amanu beRabbihim without the word fitya the sentence is completely fine, Allah ’Azzawajal mentions no doubt about it that they were in fact Ammanu Be Rabbihim – they believed in their Master. Allah ’Azzawajal wants us to know their age, wants to know that they are young, because especially when you are young you are more susceptible to follow the culture around you. You are more susceptible to accept the pressures of society, you are more susceptible to wanna be like every body else. Why wouldn’t you be? I mean, it is when you go to high school that you start feeling the pressure of being different from other people. It’s when people start saying things to you that make you feel – man, why am I so different than every body else. And then you feel the pressure to wanting to dress like the other, to look like the other, to talk like the other, you know, so even if you are religious and you know, you wanna grow a beard or something it’s the pencil thing, it’s a little more hip, it fits in better. And we start assimilating ourselves more and more at that age, at a younger age.
These young men are highlighted as people who understood the values of their faith and where the faith and culture clash against each other and they are gonna hold on to their faith no matter what. And if time comes when they can’t even live anymore, holding on to Islam for them meant losing their life then they rather not even live in that society. They rather just leave that society. They chose a cave over that. Subhan Allah. The idea I am trying to present here that youth are actually the pillar of strength, not the weakness. So many conferences being held about the problems of the youth, the fitna of the youth, we have to save our youth. No, the youth have to save us. It’s the other way. You guys have to realize this position you are in. You have to realize the responsibility that set on you.
I am happy that Sheikh Omar talked about vigilance, setting goals, ’cause that’s what I really want to talk about in these fifteen minutes– vigilance and setting goals. I am personally offended by Muslim youth who go to college and they are in their junior year, senior year, and they are like yah, I am majoring in blah blah blah, but I am not sure. I don’t know. You ask a student what do you gonna do in school. I am gonna do accounting. Why are you doing it? I don’t know, I guess. What is that?? You have no sense of direction – not in deen and not in dunya. Not in deen and not in dunya. And this is unacceptable. Muslim youth need to have a very clear sense of direction, a very clear sense of purpose. And if you don’t have it, you better start working on finding it now. What are you good at and how are you gonna put it in to the service of Allah’s deen? And I say, aim really, really high. Aim extremely high! Allah has put us in an incredible opportunity in the United States. So many Muslim youth around the world don’t have this opportunity that we have here in the United States.
I am talking about what we can do for our deen and what we can accomplish even in terms of dunya and how we can use the dunya to do more for our deen. If we are a people of vision, every body else going to school and college is thinking when they are going to get a job, how much money they are gonna save, where are they gonna get their first apartment, what is their first car gonna be, when are they gonna get married. Those are the thoughts of every body else because that’s the highest they can think. They can’t think past that. They don’t know there is anything beyond that. But the Muslim youth – one that has vision, one that has purpose, says you know, I am gonna graduate and yes, I will get a job, and I will get a place and I will get a car, and I will get married and all of that but you know what – I have bigger purpose – I am gonna use my career to do something huge. I have this idea that I think will really benefit the Ummah. I have this idea that will really further the message of Islam. I have this idea that will really benefits the society and people in general. And I am gonna run with that idea. I am gonna do something towards that. And I am going to use my education and my inspiration from deen and combine those two things and here is what I am going to accomplish. Here is my 5 year plan, here is what I see myself doing in 10 years, here’s what I see myself doing in 15 years. Goals for yourself! Targets for yourself! You have to set those. You can’t just wing it. It doesn’t work then we don’t accomplish anything. Know the infamous piece of Arabic poetry I teach every year at my campus to the students, one of the first things I teach them is that:
وَمَن يَتَهَيَّبْ صُعُودَالجِبَالِ يَعِشْ ابَدِالدَّهْرِبَينَ الحُفَرْ
Whoever feared climbing the mountains stays forever in the ditch
Aim high and so in these few minutes I just want to talk to you practically about just some couple of ground work basics, foundational things that will help you aim high. In sha Allah o’Talah and help myself aim high.
As far as our religious maturity is concerned everyone of us should see ourselves next year, you know, from this Ramadan to next Ramadan, or you know what Ramadan is already over, so this December to next December, this winter to next winter, how am I gonna be a better Muslim. And I’d like to highlight three areas, so those of you who are writing it down, just 3 areas where you wanna be able to say to yourself, in a tangible way, I am better off, I’ve made some progress in three areas at least.
The first of those areas is Worship. The first concern is worship. Has my Fajr improved? Am I making Isha and Fajr at least on time perfectly? The guys – am I waking up for Fajr and making it to the masjid? Make it a goal. May be you are not doing it everyday but set a goal that you are going to accomplish that this year. More and more. I am going to sleep early. Oh my god, you can’t accomplish anything in life if you don’t go to sleep early. I am telling you. You know those deep conversations you have over hukkah at night that’s not reviving the Ummah. Let me tell you now. Those deep brows, good talk, good talk, then you wake up at 10 am to pray Fajr. You know. The Ummah sure gonna revive through that. Those were some deep discussion last night over hukkah. Go to sleep on time. Go to sleep on time. Wake up early. Get your Fajr right. Get your Quran in the morning.
إِنَّ قُرْآنَ الْفَجْرِ كَانَ مَشْهُودًا
in-na qur-“ana al-fajri kana mashhudan (17:78)
Get your Quran in order. We talk about changing the world; we can’t even change our day yet. We can’t even change our day yet. When you can change your day, you can change your year that means you can change your life. But you start with your day. There is a daily goal. My mornings have to become more productive in terms of worship. In terms of worship! Part of worship, I would include, especially those of you who are people of vision, your vision will come, your inspiration will come with the Quran. And the Quran has to be in your heart. You have to have a project of memorising as much Quran as you can. As little at a time as possible, if you can handle more, take on more but every day at Fajr, a little bit of memorization, a little bit of recitation and that’s what starts your day. And I can guarantee you if you do that in your life, even if you do that this week once, if you do it once, you will notice the difference the rest of the day. You will notice that the day has more barakah in it, you are getting more accomplished, the doors around you are opening, opportunities are coming, your mind is clear, creative ideas are coming to you. You will see Allah brings those blessings to you, opens those doors that are otherwise closed.
So the first of how many areas did I say – I said 3 areas and the first of those areas is worship. That’s the first area I am going to improve in.
The second area that you really have to work on, that you really really have to be concerned with, is knowledge. And how am I going to grow in my knowledge this year. And by the way, I separate knowledge from worship. I separate the two because some people focus so much on knowledge and their worship is terrible. They don’t worship. They think their knowledge is compensating worship so they are studying lots of tafseer and they know a lot of tajweed but they don’t even pay attention in Salah. I mean, what are you doing? What’s that knowledge for? I mention these things in priority. First thing was worship. The second thing is knowledge. And I don’t mean become aalim and get a degree in sharia. Those of you who want to do that –congratulations! I am talking to everybody here. Not everybody here’s gonna be a mufti or an aalim or whatever. But you have to be educated Muslims. You have to be at – there needs to be some minimum level of education in your Islam. And my recommendation for you for that is that by the end of the year, the coming year, you’ve studied at least a couple of things:
You studied the Seerah – the life of the prophet (SAW) once. And you should do it every year once. And actually you should read a different source on the Seerah every year for the next few years. And really study it. So if you take one book of – don’t ask me which book I should read on the Seerah – read all of them, but take one at a time. Take one and go through it one year. Then go again to the Seerah again, again another year, then again another year. You know what, because that is – the life of that man (SAW) is our vision, is our inspiration. So you have to be going back to it. That’s a part of your education. And it will give you perspective and it will open doors for reflection and contemplation for you – that study of Seerah in it self. There are wonderful resources on that available. And I don’t think you’ll have any trouble finding them (IA).
At the same time, you have to make substantial gains, in that same year; you have to make substantial gains in your Quran. I am still in the area of knowledge. First area was worship; second area is knowledge, right? In this knowledge, you have to make substantial gains in your Quran. Let’s just say you decided this year, you gonna try to memorize, I don’t know, Surat-ul-Kahf – let’s just say. So you set a goal. This year, I am going to memorize Surat-ul-Kahf – that means I am gonna memorize it, I am gonna study its tafseer, I am gonna read it in translation, I am gonna try to understand every word in its vocabulary. If there is a lecture series on Surat-ul- Kahf, if there is a tafseer available on Surat-ul-Kahf, if there is an article in paper on Surat-ul-Kahf, I am going to take it. And I’m gonna consume it. This is Surat-ul-Kahf year for me. Next year might be Surat-ul-Rehman year. The year after that might be Surat-ul-Bakara year, I don’t know. May be it’s a couple of surahs a year. But every year, you make a substantial gain in your Quran. The tangible! Don’t just say I am gonna study the Quran. Don’t just do that and don’t just take random passages. Take a surah, take a couple of surahs and focus. My biggest criticism of Muslim youth today is that we don’t have focus. Focus on one thing. Get it right. At least you can look back and say AlHamduLillah this year I accomplished one more surah. Two more surahs, three more surahs, some things and when you study a surah, you just don’t learn its meaning – a student came up and ask me – what’s more important you think – understanding Quran or memorising it? And I said: How do you think those two things are separate? Why do you think that? You know why we memorise the Quran so that we can repeat it over and over again. And when we repeat the ayaat over and over again, Allah gives us more room to think and reflect more and more and you start seeing things when you recite something ten times that you didn’t see when you recite it nine times. He opens more doors. Wallahi, it’s the asool of Quran, the more you recite it, the more you understand it. And the less you recite it, the less you understand it. It’s not like any other book. And memorising it is a fundamental piece of understanding. It is a fundamental of understanding it. So the surah you are going to study and understand better be the surah you are memorizing. Those two things go hand in hand. So I talked about Seerah and I talked about Quran.
Now I will add one light elective. This is your Islamic semester for the year for yourself, right. I will add an elective to this semester. And the elective is at least 3 or 4 duas. Three or four duas, you’ve studied them, you’ve memorized them, and they became a part of your day. This is actually combining knowledge with practice. Memorising a few duas from Prophet (SAW) that you can make a part of your day, now you are combining knowledge with practice. You are combining both of those things. Okay? And actually each of these three areas of knowledge that I mentioned and I didn’t mention others, I know there is fiqh, I know there is aqeedah, I know there is tafseer, I know there are other areas of knowledge. I mentioned these three things on purpose. Because these three things will make you a better Muslim immediately! Immediately, they start having a practical impact on you. Your salat starts improving because you are reciting Quran that you’ve understood, you know. Your love of the prophet (SAW) is increasing because you are learning about his life every year. So every time you send salawat upon him, it’s deeper. Those salawat are deeper felt. Your knowledge of dua is bringing you closer to Allah because now you know what you are asking him. You know what you are actually asking him. Now, this is knowledge. So the first thing was worship, the second thing was knowledge. And I hope you see how I tried to fuse those two things too, even though I kept them separate – one is helping the other. So if your knowledge is not helping your worship, I don’t know if it’s real knowledge. I don’t know if that’s real knowledge, in terms of deen.
Then there is the third area and that is Service. There is service. And that’s where you have to figure out, you have to set some time whether it’s once a week, whether it’s on the weekends, you know, once in a month but you have to do some kind of service – meaning help people. Help people. And that doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to do this under an Islamic banner. If you want to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity, do it. It’s okay. It will be cool to see a bearded guy helping out with that too. It will be cool. We don’t have to do things under our own banner. Good causes are good causes, whether Christians are doing them, Jews are doing them, you know, the Gates Foundation is doing them. It doesn’t matter. If it’s a good cause, you can be a part of it. And actually, personally, I recommend Muslims to be part of good causes that are run by non-Muslims so they get to see that Muslims care too. And it gives them an opportunity to ask Muslims questions about Islam. It gives them that opportunity, so volunteer. Help out. Be part of something, something you feel passionately about, and just do it for yourself. Don’t advertise. Don’t tweet about it – just helped out volunteered today, feeling good, Alhadulillah. Humble brag! Don’t do that. Just do it for yourself. It will make you a better human being. You will become a better person, when you do these kinds of things. And parents, those of you who have teenage children, if you can encourage that sort of activity and even take part with your teenage kids, it’s actually most important in teenage years to engage in the activity of helping other people. That’s part of what builds maturity. Because the teenage years of youth in general, not just Muslim youth, are the most self absorbed. Their world is themselves and how they look, and their friends, their Facebook status, or how many friends they have or whatever. That stuff is really important to them at that age. That becomes very patty and if you can pull them out of that mindset at that age, and make them care about things beyond themselves: helping other people, seeing what suffering looks like and helping with that, you know. Like recently, for example, with the disaster – the storm that hit, all those people in New Jersey and New York and all of this, this is not too far from you guys. If you did a weekend trip every weekend, with some Red Cross or anybody else, and you went in, just helped out people whose homes are destroyed or there is a tree in their drive way or something. And just went, helped and came back. If you just did that, I am telling you, it will bring you closer to Allah like nothing else. You do these three things and you’ve at least met the foundational goals to do great things in life. This is not your goal; these are the things you’ve met so you can actually achieve goals.
Now let’s talk about your goals. I tell Muslim youth because if you are a desi, you are probably going to a med-school. If you are gonna be a doctor, don’t aim to be a doctor. Aim to own a hospital. What are you gonna be doctor for? You are not just gonna be a doctor, you are gonna run “Doctors without Borders”. You are going to transform the medical industry. You are not just going into pharmaceuticals. You gonna cleanup that industry. You are not just doing an MBA to get a business degree and get job at a bloodsucking corporation. Get your MBA, be an entrepreneur and start a socially responsible entrepreneurial company that provides a great service to humanity and at the same time is worth multiple millions that gives back to the community. Think big. Don’t think small. And part of thinking big is thinking entrepreneurially, thinking creatively. You are at the age now; the younger people in the audience are of the age right now, where you are full of really cool ideas. You are full of really neat ideas. But you know what happens to your ideas – Yeah, I got this idea for a website, it’s gonna be awesome. And you are sitting next to your friend while you are.. (texting on your phone) this website is going to transform the world. And your friend next to you.–yeah, that’s pretty awesome. But you won’t do anything with it. You’ll do nothing with it. If you have an idea, work towards it, run with it. Be entrepreneurial. And do it, not once you graduate from college, or you finish this and then you can venture into those things. Do them when you are a teen. Do stuff when you are a teen. If you have an idea, run it by people who are successful in business or entrepreneurship, discuss your idea with them, refine it, see how you can get started. And don’t always think you need to have big investment capital to start something, all you need is a good idea and work ethic and you can start something. And you could be huge. You could be huge. That’s what the Ummah needs. The Ummah needs creative entrepreneurs – the few that we have, the few entrepreneurs that we have are driving, they are actually shaping the direction of the community. Alhamdulillah, summa Alhamdulillah. We have enough doctors. We have enough programmers. Don’t be a programmer to work at a company. Start your own firm; make the next most amazing, most downloaded app. You should do that. That’s what you guys should be. And when we do that, I tell Muslims to do this – you know why – because we have to understand the new language of power in the world is economics. We have to understand that. Right now we are struggling to even pay for our masaajid in America. We are some of the most well off Muslims in the planet. And we have a hard time paying off; we don’t even have an economically sustainable model for our own masaajid, our own schools. That’s because we haven’t thought big enough. We have to learn to start thinking big. And we have to develop a work ethic for it. But the barakah, the blessings, in that creative work will come when the foundation I talked about is already there. If your salawat are good, your worship is solid, your knowledge is increasing and you are serving humanity, your mind will be in the right place and Allah will put barakah in your business. Allah will put barakh in your entrepreneurial venture. And He will not let you become a materialist and a greedy capitalist. He will make you a socially responsible entrepreneur that will make this country and In sha’ Allah the world a better place. And we are here not just to serve the Ummah, we are here to fix the world. You have to think that big. You have to aim that high. Don’t short change yourself. Don’t under estimate yourself. And even though we are just, at the end of the day, slaves of Allah, and we are the lowest before Him – the closest we are to Allah is when we put ourselves the lowest on the ground, that’s our humility to Allah. But when Allah gives you a gift and Allah gives you intelligence, and Allah gives you an educational opportunity, and Allah gives you a creative idea, and Allah gifts you with a talent, and you say I am too humble to exercise my talent then that is not humility that is ingratitude. That is ingratitude. You have to exercise your talent. You have to make the most of yourself.
قُلْ كُلّ يَعْمَلُ عَلَى شَاكِلَتِه
Qul Kullun Ya`malu `Alá Shākilatihi
Tell them everybody should work in accordance with their predisposition.
Every one of you has a predisposition. You have a talent. You are good at something. Find out what that is and find out how you are going to use it to its maximum potential, so you become a contributor to the world, not a consumer. Everybody else, their own goals, their own bank accounts, their own savings, their own fashions – one day I am going to drive that car, I am going to have that kind of house, that’s all they think about. We are going to say – someday I am going to make people come out of poverty in this neighbourhood, one day I am going to transform the school systems in my town, I am going to make this city a different place than what it is now, that’s what I am going to do.
My time is up but I want to leave you with a really cool story. I was really floored and inspired by it. Last week, I met, two weeks ago actually, I met a brother in New Jersey at the American Muslim Consumer Conference. He is the mayor of Bergen County in New Jersey. And the mayor of Bergen County in New Jersey is, Alhamdulillah, a Muslim fellow – young man, who actually prayers Fajr every morning at the masjid. Alhamdulillah. And he, you know, people at the masjid, of course, treat him like garbage because we are Muslims. But let me tell you something about him. I said – how did you win the election, when you are clearly brown, and you are openly super Muslim? He doesn’t hide it that he’s religious and he’s a Muslim and he’s conservative etc. etc. And, you know, it’s a majority, almost 90 percent, Jewish population in that county. It’s a very heavy Jewish population. There are more synagogues there than the rest of New Jersey. So how did you win the election? He goes: I didn’t win once, I won twice. ..Oh, sorry. First time 56%, second time 85% of the vote. I said – how did you do that? He said – well, I went into public service with the belief that I am here to serve the public – my public. I have political views about Gaza. I have political views about, you know, drone strikes. I have those views and I openly state them but I also openly state, none of my political views matter when I am serving public office, because I am here to serve you people. So I go to the synagogues and I go to the businesses and I go to the stores and I go to the offices – without the reporters, without the press release. I just walk in and say hey, how’s it going? I am the mayor of this town. How can I make your life better? I am just here to serve ’cause I wanna see this city improve. I am just gonna serve. And people see that for what it is and I get the vote. I said, man – that is awesome. That’s what a Muslim is supposed to be like. Ehsaan, you know. I am gonna do something and I am gonna do it better than anybody else has done it. And I am gonna let my work speak for itself. No banner, no advertising campaign. He doesn’t have to put up a whole advertising campaign that I am a Muslim but I am not crazy. Please vote for me. I am not like the other crazy guys. I wasn’t, you know, one of the eleven or whatever, one of the nineteen. I am not one of those guys. He doesn’t have to do that. He lets his work speak for himself.
It’s high time the Muslims stop crying that we are being stereotyped against. People say, assume things about us. They make fun of us. They say offensive things about us. They make films about us. It’s high time now that our work speaks for itself. Our contribution to society speaks for itself. That will shut everybody else up better than anything else. Let the action speak. And the words will be silence themselves. I pray that you are the generation that makes us look back and say Ma sha’ Allah, we did something right. We raised the generation that Allah out put barakah in and they were the entrepreneurs, and they were the pioneers of the Ummah to come. Think big of yourselves and don’t live petty lives. And when you get a sense of vision and direction in your young age, then your youth will be spent exhausting those energies in the right direction. Otherwise, you will be the people of play stations and xbox360, facebook and twitter. And that’s all you life will amount. You won’t be much after that. You will just be a consumer. The biggest thing you are looking forward to is the next upgrade to iPhone. Get over it. There are bigger things in life. You are here to do more important things.
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته و بارك الله لي ولكم
Baraka Allahuli wa lakum wassalam alikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh