HOME: A VERITABLE MEANS OF ACHIEVING COMMUNAL PEACE

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TEXT OF LECTURE DELIVERED AT THE ANNUAL CONVENTION OF MAJLIS ANSARULLAH AHMADIYYA, NIGERIA HELD AT LOKOJA, KOGI STATE, NIGERIA ON SATURDAY 19TH AUGUST, 2017

INTRODUCTION

The modern human society today battles with several social maladies ranging from poverty, diseases, divorce, racial discrimination, social stratification, gender inequality and corruption to student cultism, gangsterism and insecurity occasioned by terrorism and bad governance. The multiplicity of these problems and the complexity of the challenges they pose have revived discussions on issues of identity and selfhood. Pragmatic minds however see beyond these and have realized that the solution to these crises, as complex and multi-dimensional as they are, lies in restoring the dignity of the human family through a realization of the centrality of the home as the moral cauldron where human conducts are brewed and distilled.

It is becoming increasingly popular that there is hardly any challenge in the contemporary world which is not directly, remotely, overtly or covertly connected with the home which according to anthropologists is the world in microcosm. It is a miniature picture of the universe and it revolves primarily around woman who is the moral authority within it and who is the major ‘constructor’ or ‘de-constructor’ of man’s personality. She shapes man and by extension, shapes the world. Indeed it is true that “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world“.

Before entering into the main discourse, I think that it will not be out of place if we briefly reflect on the position of woman in history.

Woman in Human Society

The most ancient human societies honoured woman as man’s equal partner. For almost two million years, man and woman lived by hunting and gathering food for themselves. While man hunted the wild animals, woman gathered the wild plants. Ten thousand years ago, when the Neolithic age began, man began to domesticate the animals he hunted and woman began to cultivate the plants she gathered. Hawkes and Woolley write:

It is generally accepted that owing to her ancient role as gatherer of vegetable foods, woman was responsible for the invention and development of agriculture. Modern analogies indicate that so long as the ground was prepared by hoeing and not by ploughing, woman remained the cultivator.

From the above, it is obvious that woman has always been relevant in the human society, not as a passive subject of history but as an active agent in the construction and re-construction of the human world. The valuable contribution of the woman in the Neolithic age must have informed the position of pre-eminence she occupied then. This matrilineal structure however was not common among the great civilizations of the world.

According to E. E. Evans Pritchard, all the known great civilizations were patriarchal. This is particularly true of the ancient Greek civilization at its early stage. The Greek woman at the time had no legal rights; she was an outcast morally and socially. Her fate was conditioned by the myth of Pandora, the woman who, according to their mythology, brought evil into the world. Since a woman was the cause of all ills and misfortunes, every woman must be treated as a sub-human being. This image of the woman is akin to the image of woman in Judeo-Christian traditions which was also conditioned by the story of Eve. The negative influence of this story was what prompted the diatribe of Tertullian, one of the early fathers of the church against her that:

“She opens the door to satanic temptations leads man to the forbidden tree, breaks the law of God, and corrupts man, the image of God.”

In a similar outburst, St. John Chrysostum, one of the Greek fathers of the church also describes woman as:

“An inevitable evil, an eternal mischief, an attractive calamity, a domestic risk, a charming and decorated misfortune”

The natural result of such a view was an unprecedented hostile treatment of woman in the Western world which she had to bear in silence or adjust to with masochistic indulgence. With the coming of the Greek enlightenment, the status of woman improved. However, the patrilineal structure persisted among them and the western to the early Middle Eastern civilizations, two images of woman persisted through the ages. One is of the woman the goddess, while the other is of woman the giver of pleasure. The veneration of woman as goddess was particularly common to all of the civilizations that congregated along the banks of the three great rivers, the Euphrates, Tigris and Nile. In Babylonia and Egypt, religious activities revolved round the fertility cult where offerings were made to the mother-goddess.

Among the Phoenician, the mother-goddess was Astarte, in Egypt she was Isis and in Babylonia, she was Artemis. Goddess Artemis of the Ephesians was identified with the Roman Diana, the huntress, who roamed the woods and mountains, revelling in music and dancing. She submitted to no man and was seen in their mythology as the symbol of the freedom of women.

Worthy of mention is the code of Hammurabi, king of Babylon, which he claimed to have received from Marduk, the Babylonian Zeus, as Moses, Muhammad and other Prophets claimed to have received their laws from a Deity. Under this code, a woman could be judge, secretary, elder and witness to important documents. More important however is the opportunity allowed women to serve as priestess, abbess and holy sister. Those women thus consecrated to religious office, held equal positions with men.

However, in the marriage contract, wife purchase was common, a custom still very much alive in different hues in many countries of Western Europe and Africa and was common throughout the ancient Semitic world. One thing that distinguished this practice of wife purchase is that the bride price, however high, belongs to the wife. If a woman happened to be childless she allowed one of her maids to share her husband’s bed in order that he may not be childless. If out of jealousy, she does not allow this, the man had the right to choose a concubine who usually was a slave but who must be set free and elevated in status so that her children could be treated as legitimate heirs of the man. Though, sensible this may appear, we must not lose sight of the fact that the childlessness of a couple may not necessarily be the fault of the woman. Several times, the man has been found to be unable to produce enough fertilizing spermatozoa.

WOMAN IN ISLAM

In Islam, the position given to woman is very special. Islam sees woman as man’s partner in life. Unlike in the Judeo-Christian tradition, Islam places the responsibility of the first act of disobedience upon the shoulders of man and woman. The Qur’an does not accuse the woman of leading man astray. It rather says that man and woman were led astray by Shaytan. It was this equitable approach to the story of the fall of the first human family that shaped the attitude of Islam to issues relating to women.

It is however necessary to draw a line between divinely ordained qualitative distinctions and human quantitative egalitarianism. While Islam does not discriminate against a woman in her essence, it assigns to her a role different from the one it assigns to her male partner. These roles are complementary and mutually indispensable. Physically tasking duties are given to man while the emotionally tasking ones are given to woman.

Islam proclaims that in God’s eyes there is no difference between man and woman. Each is a precious soul. What makes people stand out from one another is their excellence in virtue, piety, reverence, spiritual and ethical qualities. It is open to both men and women to achieve this type of excellence. At doomsday each soul will be judged, regardless of sex, according to the fruit of their actions, by the above criteria. As it is written in Q16 v 97:

“Whosoever works righteousness, male or female- while he or she is a true believer, verily, to him We will give a good life {in this world} and We shall pay them a reward in proportion to the best that they used to do”

Many women possess such personal excellence and intelligence that they attain great heights of true humanity and happiness. Many men, alas, fall to the lowest depths because they flout reason and abandon themselves to their passions.

It is related that on one occasion Second Caliph, Umar, said from the pulpit in the presence of a large crowd:

“I will fine any man who gives his bride 500 dirhams or more as dowry. He shall be made to give the same amount as that by which his dowry exceeds the Mahr-us-Sunna (traditional dowry) to the public treasury.”

At this, a woman who was in the congregation cried out in a loud voice, her objection to Umar’s statement saying:

“Your proclamation contradicts God’s law: for has Allah not declared in Q 4 v 20: “But if you decide to take one wife in place of another ,even if you have given the wife you put away a talent of gold as her marriage dowry, take not the least bit of it back.? How can you, then, in contradiction of the Divine law which has stated that it is permissible to give more than the legal minimum marriage portion, make your proclamation thus?”

Umar could not deny this and he withdrew his proclamation saying:

“It was a man who erred and a woman who uttered the truth.”

Fourteen centuries ago, Islam had decreed women’s total financial independence, their right to own and dispose of property without the restriction or control of any man, to conduct business, trade and all the transactions concerning their profit and loss, including the execution of deeds of gift, without having to check with anyone. Allah says in Q4 v 32:

“And wish not for the things in which Allah has made some of you to excel the other. Whatsoever a man earns is his own .Whatsoever a woman earns is her own. Pray to Allah for the bounty of His providence for He knows all things.”

Apart from property rights, Islam bestows dignity, liberty and freedom on women. This is very true in the matter of marriage. Marriage is one of the most important and sensitive steps in a woman’s life. Islam gives her the freedom to choose her spouse from among the believers. She cannot be forced into marriage against her wish, neither by her parents nor by the state. Seldom before in history had she been accorded such privilege.

DIGNITY OF WOMAN IN ISLAM

According to Islam, the essence of a human being depends on his body and soul. The dignity of a woman is therefore reflected on how she nurtures these two components. The essence of a woman’s being lies in preparing her for her role as the true moral authority of the world. Though the contemporary society, in the name freedom, seeks to enslave woman by making her an object of man’s sexual gratification, Islam insists that true freedom lies in a woman’s acceptance of her God-given roles and developing them for the well being of humanity. She should be subservient to her Creator and not to man. Her subservience to man at any time must only be within the purview of what Allah has enjoined, that is, within the home.

Modern Public Relations and Advertising practice exploit the tenderness of women and the sensual instincts of man. Woman is seen as bait for entrapping man. This is why women are often used either as receptionists or as ‘roving marketers’ in the corporate world. The intention behind this is that their physical charm will captivate men to patronize such outfits. This is why nudity is being promoted with millions of dollars all over the world because of the link between sensuous images and consumer behaviour. Woman’s body is thus a weapon of profit making for the materialistic wolves of the world.

TOWARDS BUILDING A MUSLIM HOME

The home is a blessing. It is a gift of the Almighty Creator of the universe. It is not just a house. A palace, castle or mansion may not be a home while a hut may be. Allah, the Benevolent Sustainer of all explains the main criterion for a home. He says:

“And Allah has made for you in your homes a place of rest…” [Q16:81]

Explaining this, Ibn Kathir said:

“Here Allah, Blessed and Exalted is He, mentions His comprehensive grace upon His servants: He has given them homes which are a peaceful abode for them, to which they retreat as a haven which covers them and gives them all kinds of benefits.”

What is a home? It is a place where one finds peace and comfort. It is a place where one is not assailed by fear and apprehension and can therefore sleep and rest. It is a place where one can be in peace with one’s loved ones.

If we reflect on the plight of the refugees, the internally displaced persons and indigent persons who are homeless, who live in shanties, or on the streets, or in temporary camps, we will appreciate the blessing of having a home. If we have ever listened to a homeless person recounting his ordeals such as: “I have nowhere to live, no place to rest. Sometimes I sleep in the streets, sometimes in a park or a market or under the bridge”, then we will realize how much we need to thank Allah for the gift of a home.

Sometimes we have an apartment, rented or otherwise, in which we live alone with no one to soothe our pains, share our troubles and listen to our tales of blessings or tales of woe and complaints-an apartment where our soul companions are the deaf walls of the house and the dumb roof over our heads; where we weep alone, laugh alone and sigh out of frustration and self-pity. It is during such periods that we realize that we are indeed homeless. A home is where all our human and material possessions give us joy and peace of mind.

It is in realization of this that Allah instructs believers to pay attention to their homes. First, they are enjoined to protect themselves and their families from the Fire of Hell, and keeping them safe from the burning punishment:

“O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire whose fuel is men and stones, over which are (appointed) Angels, stern (and) severe, who disobey not the Commands they receive from Allah, but do that which they are commanded.” [Q 66:7].

Second, the home is a place of refuge that protects one from evil and keeps one’s own evil away from people. It is the refuge prescribed by Islam at times of tribulation.

The Noble Prophet (saw) said:

“There are five things, whoever does one of them, Allah will be with him: visiting the sick, going out for jihad, entering upon one’s leader with the intention of telling him the truth while still respecting him, or sitting in his home so that others will be safe from him and he will be safe from the people.”

The Prophet (saw) also said: “The safety of a man at times of tribulation is in his staying at home.”

The benefit of this advice can be seen when one lives in a foreign land where there is much evil and one is unable to change it. Here the only refuge is one’s home. When one reaches it, he is spared the pains of seeing evil things and his household is also protected from having direct contact with the decadent system in the society.

Third, and most importantly, paying attention to the home is the most important means of building a Muslim society because the society is made up of families and clans which constitute its building blocks. From these families, neighbourhoods come into being and from neighbourhoods, societies grow.

If the building blocks are sound, the society will be sound in its essence and structure. It will provide all the means by which man can attain the purpose for which he was created which is to worship Allah, the Almighty with the intention of creating a paradise on earth wherein the Divine Will is manifested through human conduct which is itself a reflection of the attributes of Allah. Thus, the society will become a haven of perfect bliss where goodness is radiated and evil is banished. The home is therefore the basic unit of design which will produce the leaders, reformers and God-fearing men and women who will build the ideal society.

CHOOSING A SPOUSE

Muslim men and women are expected to seek pious partners with whom they can start a home. The choice of a partner should be based on piety and good conduct. The Holy Prophet said:

“A woman may be married for four things: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty or her religion. Choose the one who is religious, may your hands be rubbed with dust [i.e., may you prosper]!” (Agreed upon).

In another tradition he said:

“This world is all temporary conveniences, and the greatest joy in this life is a righteous wife.” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith No.1468).

Similarly he declared:

“Every one of you should have a grateful heart, a tongue filled with dhikr and a God-conscious wife who will help him with regard to the Hereafter.” (Musnad Ahmad Bn Hambal, vol. 5 page 282}

In yet another tradition, the Prophet said:

“A righteous wife that helps you with your worldly and religious affairs is the best treasure anyone could have.” (Sunan al-Bayhaqi, Hadith no 4285).

As a righteous and dutiful wife is one of criteria of happiness, so is an unrighteous wife one of the criteria of misery and misfortune. The Holy Prophet said:

“One of signs of good fortune for you is a righteous wife whose sight pleases you, and whose fidelity concerning herself and your property you can trust in your absence. And one of the signs of misfortune is a bad wife who upsets you when you see her; who hurts you with her vile tongue and whose fidelity concerning herself and your property you cannot count on in your absence”.

It is also of paramount importance that a Muslim lady marries a pious husband. No other condition is important. The wellbeing of the family depends largely upon the head of the home who, in this case, is the man. Considerations such as the tribe to which he belongs, the size of his income or the nobility of his family should not be given primacy over the moral and spiritual status.

The Prophet (saw) said:

“If there comes to you one with whose religion and character you are pleased, then marry your daughter to him, otherwise there will be great corruption in the land.”

The task of building a righteous community falls on the shoulders of righteous couples who populate the society. They are the ones to bring forth upright offspring who will build the society. They should nurture their children with love and care. They should instil in them sound moral precepts that would set the pace for the enthronement of peace in the society.

The search for peace is a global obsession and only spiritually commissioned guides who have drunk from the fountain of the Divine can give the adequate recipe for true peace in the world. The recipe must be wholesome and all encompassing. It must embrace the personal, social, political and economic terrains of human experience.

One of the most outstanding of these divinely commissioned spiritual guides is Hadrat Mirza Bashir ud Din Ahmad, the 2nd successor of the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Speaking about the upbringing of children for the wellbeing of the society, he declared:

“……..childhood training is very important. What he becomes as a child, he will become as an adult. No wonder the Holy Prophet, on whom be peace and blessings, has said:

Every child is born true to nature. It is his parents who make of him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian.

It is true also that it is his parents who turn him into a Muslim or a Hindu. The Hadith does not mean that when the child has grown up, his parents take him to a church to have him baptized as a Christian. The meaning of the Hadith is that a child as a child is at the mercy of his parents. He absorbs what he hears them say and does what he sees them do. The child is a great imitator. If the parents do not set before him a proper model to copy, he will go elsewhere to find a model which he can copy.

Some liberals think that it is best to leave the children alone. Even Ahmadis say it and say that when they grow up, they will discover Ahmadiyyat themselves. But what I say is that this may be true if no other sound reaches the ears of the child nor any sight his eyes. But this is not true. All sorts of sounds are impinging on the ears of the child. All the time the child is learning. If angels do not communicate with the child, then it is certain that Satan will become his friend and given him his company. If good things do not reach the child’s ears, bad things certainly will.

Let Ahmadi parents take note. If you want your children to grow into good adults, then use your home as a kind of segregation camp. Keep children away from everything except good influences. This is the only way to safeguard the future generations.

From the above, it is obvious that what the parents programme into children is what blossom into the right wrong conducts that manifest in the larger society. It is in the light of this that parents must know that no project is greater than the upbringing of their children. Children must be given the right orientation in life so that they can become agents of peace in their various communities. Hadrat Muslih Maw’ud has greatly assisted us in this regard. He writes:

1. As soon as a child is born, the first step towards its education is to proclaim Azaan into its ears. I need not elaborate this point further as I have already dealt with it in the course of this speech.

2. A child should be kept neat and tidy and, should be properly cleaned after stools. Some of you might say that this particular chore belongs to the mother. This is true. But it is equally true that the mother will perform it properly only if the father is properly orientated in this regard. It is men’s duty to bring home to women the fact that an unclean child will not have a clean mind.

Unfortunately not much attention is paid to this matter. Women are sometimes guilty of grave negligence in this regard. During parties, they would let the child defecate over a rag which they do not even care to throw away. In the environs of Qadian, rustic women sometimes let a child do this and did not hesitate to foul the area by throwing away the excrement indiscriminately. How can you look after the inner cleanliness of the child if you do not look after its external cleanliness? Let the child have a clean body. Its impact on his mind will be great. As a consequence, the child will come to have a clean mind and will become immune to sins which are caused by uncleanliness. Medical research bears out that a child commits its first sin because it is dirty. Dirt irritates the anal passages which the child rubs and manipulates. It finds pleasure in the process and becomes conscious of sex.
It can be safeguarded against sexual eros to a very large extent if it is kept clean. This training must begin the very day it is born.

3. A child should be fed at fixed hours. This will breed the habit of self-control and save it from a number of evils. Lack of self-control occasions evils like stealing, etc. Such a child does not learn to resist temptation. The fault lies with the mother who is ever ready to feed the child anytime it cries. It is a great mistake not to inculcate regular food habits in the infant and in the grown-up child.

Regular food habits will further lead to the following good habits:

  1. Punctuality.
  2. Self-control.
  3. Good health.
  4. Cooperation. Such children will not be egocentric and selfish for they will have learnt to eat with others.
  5. Frugality. Such child will not suffer from the bad habit of wastefulness and extravagance. The child who is given to eating at odd hours will eat less and waste more. But if it is fed to a fixed measure and at fixed hours, it will make the best of what it gets and remain content with it without a tendency towards waste.
  6. It will develop the inner strength to resist temptation. It wants to have something which catches his passing fancy in the street. If you do not get it for it, it will learn the habit of fighting temptation later in life.
    Similarly If the child wants to have an eatable which is lying about in the house, like sugar cane, radishes, carrots or homemade sugar in farming families, tell him to wait till it is time for meals. This will fortify his self-control and enable him to exercise restraint.

4. A child should be helped to form the habit of relieving nature at regular hours. This is very helpful for its health. But a greater benefit is that its limbs come to acquire a sense of punctuality. Bowels become conditioned to move at fixed hours and evacuation takes place at the proper time. Some Europeans can even tell the time by the movement of their bowels for they learn to evacuate with clock-work punctuality. Regular bowels, therefore, are a must for a child. The child who learns to perform its natural functions regularly, readily forms the habits of praying and fasting. Also, he learns not to delay performing national duties. It curbs displays of ill-temper and petulance. The main cause of such tantrums is irregularity, particularly irregularity in food habits. For instance, the child is busy playing. Mother summons it to come and eat. It fails to turn up but when it does, mother wants the food to be heated for it. The child is hungry. It fumes and frets, for it is late for its meal. It is hard to stand the pangs of hunger. Hence its outburst of rage.

5. Food should be served according to a prescribed measure. This will teach the child contentment and discourage gluttony.

6. A child should be given a variety of foods. It should have meat, vegetables and fruit, for dietary habits affect morals and a variety of food is necessary for a variety of morals. It should have more vegetables than meat as meat excites and in childhood there should be as little excitement as possible.

7. As the child grows, it should be asked to do small tasks under the guise of play-acting. It should be asked to fetch a utensil, to replace or carry an object and do sundry other small tasks. But it should also have the time to play on its own.

8. A child should be allowed to acquire self-confidence as a matter of habit. For instance, if it wants to have an object which it has just seen, it should be told that it would get it at a certain time. Hiding the object is no solution, for it will imitate and try to hide things which will breed the habit of stealing.

9. A child should not be over-indulged. Too much petting or caressing leads to many vices. When such a child sits in society, it expects to be fondled. This results in a number of moral evils.

10. Parents should be capable of self-sacrifice. Foods which are prohibited for an ailing child should neither be brought into the house nor should they be eaten by the parents. The child should be told that they are abstaining on his account. The child will thus learn the habit of self-sacrifice.

11. Extreme vigilance is required when a child is suffering from a chronic illness. Vices like cowardice, selfishness, peevishness, lack of emotional control, etc., are the result of illness. Even grown-ups become irritable during illness.
Some ask others to sit with them. Others shout at passers-by and say: Can you not see? Are you blind? In illness, the patient is allowed complete rest and full comfort which he slowly comes to regard as a right and wants to rest all the time.

12. Children should not be told tales of horror. This would make them cowards. When they grow up, they would do nothing brave. If a child exhibits a tendency towards cowardice, it should be told stories of courage and made to play with children who are brave.

13. A child should not be allowed to choose his own friends. This choice should be made by the parents. They should choose well behaved children as associates for their children. The parents too will benefit from this arrangement. They will come to know the parents of other children whom they have chosen as associates for their child. It will lead to a kind of inter-parent cooperation. Also when they choose playmates for their child, they will watch over their behaviours.

14. A child should be assigned responsible jobs suited to its age. This will help create a sense of responsibility in the child. It is said that a father had two sons. He gave one of them an apple and asked him to divide it with his brother. The father asked if he knew how to divide the apple. The child replied that he did not. The father said: He who divides should take the smaller half and give his brother the bigger half. At this the boy said that in that case the apple had better be divided by his brother.

This shows that this boy had already acquired the habit of selfishness, but knew that if the responsibility fell upon him, he would have to accord priority to his brother. Game like football, etc., are a useful exercise for this purpose. But in sports too we should be ever watchful lest the child picks up bad habits. In the event of a difference of opinion in games, parents usually support their child and force the other child to accept what their child says. This leads their child to be obstinate and it always wants to have its own way.

15. Tell the child that it is nice and good. The Holy Prophet (on him be peace) said: Do not curse a child for when you curse, angels add: Let it be like that; and like that he becomes. Incidentally, this also means that angels are responsible for the consequences of actions. When you tell a child it is bad, it draws an imaginary picture in which it figures itself out as bad and does in fact become bad. Therefore, do not abuse a child. Praise it and teach it to be good.

This morning, my little girl came to me to ask me for a coin. When I wanted to give her the coin, she extended her left hand to receive it. I told her this was not right. She admitted she was wrong and promised not to repeat her mistake. She at once became conscious of her mistake when it was pointed out to her.

16. A child should not be allowed to become obstinate. If it persists in being stubborn, its attention should be diverted to something else. Later, the cause of its obstinate behaviour should be traced and removed.

17. Address a child politely and courteously, for a child is a great mimic. If you address it rudely, it will return the compliment in kind.

18. Do not lie to a child nor be peevish or arrogant with it. It will certainly imitate you. It is the parents who teach a child lying. The mother does something in the child’s presence but denies having done it when asked by the father. Thus the child learns to lie. I certainly do not mean that parents are permitted to misbehave in the absence of the child. What I mean is that if they cannot help doing such things, they should try to be circumspect, at least, in the presence of children to save the younger generation from such evils.

It is natural to make mistakes. Perfection belongs to Allah alone and the Prophet whom He has perfected. Parents should not behave as if they themselves do not make mistakes. Hadrat Muslih Maw’ud declares:

Teach them to admit their mistakes, as a matter of habit. For this, the following methods would be found helpful:

  1. Do not try to hide your own mistakes before a child.
  2. Be sympathetic when it commits a mistake. Let it feel that the mistake is a kind of loss it has suffered. Hence so much sympathy. Also let it feel that a particular mistake has resulted in a certain loss.
  3. To guard against the repetition of a mistake, talk to the child in a manner that brings home to it the trouble its mistake has occasioned to the parents. They could, for instance, pay for the loss its mistake is supposed to have caused. This will make it realize that the result of damaging things is not good. The doctrine of atonement is not valid but the method is useful for the training of a child.
  4. If you want to reprimand a child, do not do it before others; do it in privacy.

Children should also be given common ownership of some property. For instance, they should be given a toy and they should be told that it belongs to all of them that all should play with it and that no one should try to damage it. This would teach them to safeguard common property.

As children grow into adulthood with such upbringing, they will become empowered to tackle communal and national challenges. For instance, the Nigerian National youth Development Policy defines youth as young men and women of between 18 and 35 years. This period is obviously the most important period in the life of a human being. This is the time the most distinguishing features of mental and physical growth reach maturity in an individual. The youth at this period may be a source of blessings for the nation or a harbinger of doom. The future of any nation depends largely on the position of youth in the socio-political wisdom of the drivers of the nation’s economy.

It is disheartening to note that Nigeria is one sorry example of a nation that is totally insensitive to the plight of her youth. Despite the existence of the national policy, it is obvious that the youth have not been prepared for any leadership role in the social universe of the nation. The inadequate attention given to the education sector by successive Nigerian governments is one evidence of this fact. Bad governance and the predatory instincts of Nigerian politicians have combined to sink the boat of any development in the area of education.

The average Nigerian youth is particularly unlucky. His impoverished parents are too busy with survival that they have no time to attend to his moral training. His fate is caught in a dubitative existential caveat. His selfhood is badly bruised to such an extent that he neither recognizes who he is, nor what he wants. He sees the ostentatious display of wealth by the nation’s politicians and their cohorts on a daily basis; he sees the way the society celebrates well known crooks in public service; he sees the arrant perversion of justice by the nation’s law enforcement agencies, sometimes with the connivance of the judiciary; he therefore seethes with the resentment of an outcast. He sought refuge in the religious houses but found the hallowed men of God turning into sanctified and ordained ‘area boys’ singing the praise of the oppressors.

Out of frustration, the youth turns to the educational institutions perchance he would find a way out, but he was shocked to discover that education in the country is not more than a meal ticket and not a refiner of human personality. He sees the acquisition of material wealth, whatever the source, as the ultimate good and thus treats integrity, hard work and morality with step-motherly derision. He is totally disoriented. If well taken care of, he can fly the kite of this nation to the farthest stars. Nature has endowed him generously for great things; if, on the other hand, he is neglected, he can sink the nation overnight. He can create nightmares for young and old alike. He can sacrifice this nation on the altar of its own insensibilities.

For him to play his role in the re-construction of the nation, the sensitivity of his position within the general matrix of national development must not be ignored by the powers that be. The leadership of this nation should know that the youth state is the most important phase in life and it is from the home that youth can learn the right attitudes and develop the positive attributes that can entrench peace and allay our fear of insecurity. These attributes transcend the boundaries of religious creed, race or colour alone. They are strengthened by the determination to abide by what is right whatever the cost. The word for youth in Arabic language is ‘fataa’ which primarily means the valiant one. It was in this light that Ash-Shafi’ said:

ان الفتي حمال كل ملمة ليس الفتي بمنعم الشبان

Surely, the youth is he who bears all kinds of hardships
He is not one who inclines to youthful exuberances.

A Muslim youth therefore is not just a pleasure seeker. He is the most important factor of growth in the dual societies he belongs to- the larger human family and the Ummah of Islam. The family should therefore make sure that he is equipped for his roles in both. He is the vibrant sojourner who is expected to unearth the wisdom of the elders and build upon it for a glorious future in the light of Allah’s guidance. If he is idle, he becomes a willing recruit for Shaytan. As a Muslim, he must be orientated to bow before the throne of Allah’s majesty alone and to refuse to bow to the promptings of Shaytan or the deceptive allure of the alien cultures.

As a child and subsequently a youth thus orientated, he defines his goal and struggles towards it. He enters into the game of life well prepared. For his defence line, he chooses three fine men namely, Fear of God, Love and Charity. On the right wing, he appoints Study and Diligence while on the left wing he places Cleanliness and Good Behaviour. At the centre, he places Humility, Patience and Perseverance while at the goal post he appoints a truly reliable player called Trust in God.

Since he is aware of the fact that Allah is the sole Referee, Who makes all the rules and nothing is hidden from His All-Seeing glare; the youth tries not to play foul because it cannot escape that ever probing sight. With such consciousness, he sees himself in an examination hall working hard at becoming successful and trying hard not to make mistakes. With such an attitude, he will be a harbinger of peace in the community. If on the other hand, he is not fortunate to have gone through the grilling of a good home, he will become a nightmare to the community and a harbinger of doom for the entire human race.

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