TheNigerianVoice Online Radio Center

The angry Muslim youth (II)

'But the situation then is unlike the situation we have now' the northern Muslim youth would counter.   This is true.  Taking the middle path is not easy when the Muslim world is engulfed in despair and fury.  But we're not the only Muslim youths in the world.  There is a feeling of helplessness among Muslims around the world as they watch their brothers attacked, marginalized and invaded. But other Muslims are able to live in a similar situation and still be productive.  Youths in Malaysia and Indonesia are a few examples. In Indonesia, there are youth organizations or organizations that cater for the youth like Muhammadiyah and Nahdatul Ulama .  Muhammadiyah for instance, was built on two principles: religious mass movement to achieve a civil society and wasatiyah (the middle path or moderation) the later is a principle the Qur'an enforces and Prophet Muhammad (P) lived. Indonesia with the largest Muslim population in the world can easily be a breeding ground for extremism - and there are a few extremists - but organizations like Muhammadiyah and Nahdatul Ulama have refused to play to the gallery and will have nothing to do with extremism. Rather, education is the core item on the agenda of Muhammadiyah and Nahdatul Ulama activism. Ahmad Dhalan, a young man who started Muhammadiyah came back to Jakarta in 1888 after receiving religious education in Saudi Arabia. He believed that education was the only way to unchain his people from poverty and illiteracy.  Further, he wanted to abolish superstition and idolatory. He built the first school in 1911 and five more before establishing Muhammadiyah.  Before then, the conventional schools were the Dutch schools and only the children of the elite attended.  Dhalan modeled his schools after the Dutch system but opened his doors to the poor.  He then included women empowerment, healthcare and poverty eradication on the list of his organization's activities.  The organization believes that Islam is all about good deeds and building an exemplary ummah (community). Today the organization manages 12,000 schools, 167 institutes of higher learning , 345 hospitals and a bank.  Now imagine how better our situation will become if the youth have 12,000 schools and 345 hospitals to manage in northern Nigeria . This education focused charitable work has permeated the Indonesian society.  I was in Malaysia in 2009 when a young man from Indonesia presented a video of the charitable work they do.  They built a beautiful, standard school which is completely free.  One of the challenges he highlighted was to build more of such schools.  These small Islamic organizations built by the youth exist alongside big ones like Muhammadiyah and they are not in competition but in cooperation for the good of the society. Consequently, the focus on education by the Muslim youth is bearing fruits for Indonesia.  Economy is growing fast as the masses are becoming better educated. The situation in Malaysia is not different but slightly more sophisticated.  Anybody who is familiar with the history of Malaya knows that the country as we know it today was built by scholars who came back from the Arab world after their studies. Later there were the 'Kaum Muda'  (Young Turks) with Sheikh Syed Ahmad Al Hadi leading the pack.  They believed that Islam is all about humanity and to address genuine universal and local issues.  Today the Malaysian youth dialogue with their elders whenever they have problems.  They don't just turn around and start burning things.  But then I've seen Nigerians who go to Malaysia and accuse them of practicing a diluted version of the religion.  The fact that Malaysia has a superior social justice system (by far better than what we have in northern Nigeria) is completely lost on them.  What is Islam if not social justice?  I once attended a lecture where Mahathir Mohamad , the former prime minister of Malaysia said, 'if it is not justice, it is not Islam.' Our youth and students also believe that to be a good Muslim is to fight for all Muslims everywhere in the world.  It is true that the concept of brotherhood is significant in Islam but how do you help your brothers when you burn property because one person abuses the religion in the Netherlands? How do you help Palestinians by getting angry when they are attacked by the Israelis?  Here is what Malaysian students do: both Muslims and non-Muslims cooperate to organize a Save Palestine Week on campus.  In this week, they organize different theatrical performances and raise money for Palestine.  That is one of the ways  to help your brothers in a creative way. Even so, the important thing in Islam is for one to achieve peace with Allah.  Although, Islam encourages community kinship, the emphasis is on the individual.  The Qur'an says 'save yourself and family from hell.'  And it is completely impossible for a band of individuals to imbibe the teachings of Islam in their personal lives without building a peaceful community.  So if we start with ourselves, there will be a natural evolution of a peaceful, strong and prosperous society. But how can we build such a society when our youth are not honest in their business dealings or don't fulfill the rights of their neighbors even though the Prophet (P) said, 'anyone that believes in Allah and the Day of Judgement should honour his neighbor'?  How can we build such a society when we block the road on Fridays in the name of praying and prevent our non-Muslim neighbors from pursuing their daily livelihood instead of going to mosque on time and free up passage of traffic? In conclusion, Islam is really a simple religion: believe in one God, pray, give the poor his due (Zakkat), fast in the month of Ramadan and go on pilgrimage. That's all.  Those are the five pillars of Islam that other fundametal religious practices - like good neighbourliness - are built upon. It is also worth knowing that except for the belief in one God, all the pillars of Islam have 'if you're able to' (whether explicit or implicit) attached to them. Believe me, in northern Nigeria, we already do these things more intensely than even so Arab nations .  The spirit may be lacking but that's left for the individual to find.  And our youth would do well to save themselves by finding it instead of looking everywhere for real or phantom enemies. By Ibraheem M. Dooba