How Do I Get The Youth To Listen? An Essay by

This is a question which has probably been lingering in the minds of many “Islamically-aware” youth in the Muslim community for a very long time. They may be the main volunteers in their masjid, be active in their MSA, but cannot figure out an effective means to working with the Muslim youth of their locality.

My intention with this post is to shed some light as to the proper and most effective way of guiding (in the directional sense; it’s only Allah who guides) Muslim youth who have strayed from the community, back to the masjid. So after working with Young Muslims for the past six years, being a youth director for a period of time, and taking the advice of du’aat and scholars in the west, I have put together this small post.   To start:

a. Give Da’wah with Wisdom

Allah tells us in Surah Nahl 16:125, “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction.” If you want to work with a teenager, realize that different circumstances surround that teenager’s issues. He/she may be neglected by their parents, they may be hanging around with bad friends, or may simply be looking for the right path but have not found it yet. Every situation must be treated different for the most part.

Another item to remember is the saying of Aa’isha (R) the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who said, ”If the first revelation was to tell the Arabs to stop drinking, they would have never stopped drinking.” The hadith went on to mention the act of fornication in that context as well. The whole point is that we cannot expect results in a day; rather, we need to be patient and persistent in the youth work we are involved in. Do not ask a sixteen-year-old Muslim youth to stop listening to Jay-Z or stop wearing tight jeans if he/she is not praying salah.

b. Three Types of Muslim Youth

As one of my teachers categorized it, generally the Muslim youth in the west fall into three categories:

1. “Religious Youth”

They are your MSA going, weekend seminar attending, shaykh so-and-so rocks, etc type of brothers/sisters (You know who you are). They are keen on gaining knowledge, want to go study overseas, and attend college/high school at the same time. They’re active in da’wah and are recognized in their communities. They teach sunday school and conduct the weekly halaqas in their masjid, and truly care about their communities. They are the rising leaders of the Muslim youth.

The brothers and sisters in this category may have issues of their own relating to family, community, school, etc, but they are motivated to continue working in the path of Allah no matter what. They use their situations to relate to youth who are looking for guidance. For the most part this category is pretty much self-explanatory.

2. “Middle-Men Youth”

a. Be their Friend

THESE are the youth the religious crew need to focus on! Who are they? They come to the masjid for Jumu’ah, come to the Friday night youth group, Islamic events, etc. At the same time they may listen to Lady Gaga, could find some better friends to hang out with, and may even let a few curse words fly here and there while they are with their friends. They have a relationship with the religious youth and with the third category (who will be talking about next), the non-religious youth. The religious youth need to understand that THESE are the people who they need to work with and build a rock-solid relationship with! They are the most effective route towards getting across to the non-religious Muslim youth. How?

Be a brother, not a scholar!

Instead of being du’aat, ameers, ameerahs, MSA presidents, and coordinators, learn to be good friends with the middle-men youth. Take them out to eat randomly and buy them a slice of pizza, take them to the mall if they need a ride, etc. Simply, be really chill with them. That’s the first thing before anything. As John Maxwell says, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

b. Conduct Relevant Activities

Do not focus on many lecture/knowledge type events for them. The weekly halaqa should be their main Islamic discourse for self-development. These halaqas need to be lots of fun and attention catching. Make sure there are moments in which you have the guys (and/or girls) on the edge of their feet, at times be laughing with them, and at times be really emotional with them. This will stir their emotions to make them think about their true purpose. At the same time, stay 1000 miles away from presenting overly academic material in halaqas in which the middle-men youth are present. Sorry, but Usool al-Fiqh, Uloom al-Qur’an, and Deviant Sects won’t work here. Please impart your Deen Intensive and IlmSummit notes somewhere else.

Make sure there are lots of halal activities available for them. The middle-men youth have interests and hobbies as anyone else would. As a “religious youth”, you need to find out what they are. For example, the youth I was working with were into basketball, skiing, fencing, bowling, and the like. A few months back we went bowling. After wards, we went to playing basketball after Fajr every Sunday, football before the halaqa on Fridays, etc. Basketball tournaments were a big turn on for our community’s youth; then again, as one of the aspiring leaders of the youth you would know what activities your community’s youth are into.

c. Be Up-to-Date

Another thing which is important is to be up to date with sports, movies, and music which is popular amongst youth. If you try to relate to them through Ferris Buehler’s Day Off (best movie ever :) and the youth you are speaking with are 13 years-old, then perhaps you should read up a little bit more on today’s media. I am not saying to go out of your way to watch or not watch Social Network or Inception or listen to the latest song by Rihanna or Drake, but at least do research and find out whose tracks are topping the charts, which movie is currently a hit in the theaters, and what is the latest sports drama, etc. If you’re not up to date with pop-culture and live in a cave, then it is time to enter the real world and feel the sunlight. Once again, I am not saying to be or not be a movie buff, just know what everyone is talking about around you.

3. “Not-So-Islamic Youth”

These youth have a bit of a long road ahead of them. They may not come to the masjid except on Fridays when their parents bring them. They also may not be involved with the masjid, MSA, or even pray regularly. They have girlfriends/boyfriends, do drugs/alcohol, and also do not hang out with a healthy group of friends. The middle-men youth are really the only group to have a grip on these guys. They are the ones who can bring the “not-so-Islamic youth” towards the masjid and/or activities planned by the religious youth. Of course the religious youth can have an effect on the non-religious youth directly, but it is the mildy-religious youth who may have a greater chance at convincing the “not-so-Islamic youth” through indirect means to come to the masjid.

“But They Still Don’t Listen!”

Even after we may put in our effort, we need to understand that guidance is solely in the hands of Allah. At the same time it is never a black/white situation when working with the Muslim youth. We can only do so much as to ask Allah to put in us the ability to direct our youth towards the right path. Please do keep in mind that this is a process which takes months and years and not hours and days to implement in the community. But inshaAllah if we are steadfast, the fruits of this type of work may sprout in front of you or perhaps when you are gone; you never know!

In conclusion, remember the hadith of the Prophet (SAW) in which he said, “To guide one person towards Islam is better then the world and all that it contains.” We are working with youth for Allah’s sake, no matter if our efforts reaped benefit in front of us or not. This hadith should be our motivation to do what we do.


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  • http://JawaadAhmadKhan.com/ Jawaad Ahmad Khan

    Man, just thinking about it, Da’wah to youth is so difficult, yet so rewarding. May Allah bless everyone’s sincere efforts to grab the interest of our Muslim youth and allow them to be a generation that spreads Islamic knowledge and exhibits manners and character that resembles the best generation (i.e. generation of the Prophet (S)).
    Ameen.

    These are good practical concepts that every youth da’ee needs to understand.

  • http://www.NahyanInc.com/ Nahyan

    Excellent article, mashaAllah.

    I especially liked the point on #2 – be a brother, not a scholar.

    It’s also like a chain, #1 looks after #2 and #2 has a pull on #3

  • shiney

    very nice article masha’allah. It defined the 3 groups very well and made clear to me kind of abt where i belong. can you send me a link to that lecture you heard if you can? Thank you.

  • http://www.NahyanInc.com/ Nahyan

    Excellent article, mashaAllah. I especially liked the point on #2 – be a brother, not a scholar. It's also like a chain, #1 looks after #2 and #2 has a pull on #3

  • shiney

    very nice article masha'allah. It defined the 3 groups very well and made clear to me kind of abt where i belong. can you send me a link to that lecture you heard if you can? Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Assalamu Alaikum warhmatullah

    Mashallah, that was such a helpful article :D. Reaching out and knowing how to help your fellow Muslim bro/sis with wisdom is definitely on the “need to know” list for young da’ees. And subhanallah, it’s sad when some of the “mildly” religious youth feel like they can’t get help from their religious friends because their religious friends won’t understand, or will not be able to relate to how they feel. I think the youth should cooperate with the masjid to start engaging events that a lot of the other Muslim youth would want to attend.

  • anisa_2011

    Assalamu Alaikum warhmatullah

    Mashallah, that was such a helpful article :D. Reaching out and knowing how to help your fellow Muslim bro/sis with wisdom is definitely on the “need to know” list for young da'ees. And subhanallah, it’s sad when some of the “mildly” religious youth feel like they can't get help from their religious friends because their religious friends won't understand, or will not be able to relate to how they feel. I think the youth should cooperate with the masjid to start engaging events that a lot of the other Muslim youth would want to attend.

  • Anonymous

    A lot of valuable advice in this article. JazakAllah, it provided some valuable guidance regarding a matter that I’ve been mulling over and trying to figure out myself. Insha’Allah be putting it into practice.

  • Zainub

    A lot of valuable advice in this article. JazakAllah, it provided some valuable guidance regarding a matter that I've been mulling over and trying to figure out myself. Insha'Allah be putting it into practice.

  • Sami Z

    This is an incredible article! Arif – can you please sign your name when you write articles :)masha’Allah – Allah yi7fadhak ya habibi

    • http://www.muslimyouthmusings.com/ Arif Kabir

      This was one was actually written by Nihal Khan, ya Sami :)

      JazaakumAllahu Khayran for the suggestion though – I’ll try inserting in some code that will display the author of the posts Insha’Allah.

  • http://www.muslimyouthmusings.com/ Arif Kabir

    This was one was actually written by Nihal Khan, ya Sami :)

    JazaakumAllahu Khayran for the suggestion though – I'll try inserting in some code that will display the author of the posts Insha'Allah.

  • waleed

    Thanks alot bro, this will help me understand better how to get my neighbornet up and running!

  • https://www.islamstruth.wordpress.com Abu Suhaylah

    Yes this was some good information. I’m young and came to Islam when I was 16 and seeing the state of some of the younger Muslims I came up with it hurts none the less. I’ve actually just posted and article to my site similar to this. Check it out. And keep up the good work. http://islamstruth.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/a-reminder-to-the-youth/

  • SumaiyahKhan

    such a helpful article. sort of told me where i was, what i should do. it was ver beneficial.

  • Vibratingflames

    MASHALLAH very enlightening piece of writing,i was really looking for smthn like this JAZAKALLAH khairan kathira

  • Adam Kareem

    Great article, masha’Allah! A certain interscholastic tournament may be looking to benefit from this piece insha’Allah :) Jazakallahu khairun!

  • Bible

    ah the youth of today, they just seem to want to have a good time. Dancing, learning and going out with the opposite sex.  Disgusting. Life is about facism, hate, violence and hypocracy; WHEN WILL THEY LEARN??

  • Wmuslimah4

    Bismillah.   As Salaamu Alaikum WRWB…I sincerely love this article, Thank you for taking the time with our youth masha Allah May Allah(SWA)Bless you in all your good efforts you and your family Jennah Ameen. You are a very good example to follow Subpann Allah This is a very serious matter that faces us all in one way or another in our families or in our communities we diffidently need some answers as to the right approach of reaching Our Youth Insha Allah I really like what you said about..”No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” By John Maxwell.  So true!  May Allah(SWA)Continue to Guide You and All the muslims Ameen… 

  • SchaNoorain

    Thank you for posting this article. I’ve been working for the the Ways on How To Empower The Youth for my Islamic Studies assignment. This had helped me a lot! :)