By Mufti Abdur Rahman ibn Yusuf
Are you a follower or leader?
Selling Your Paradise for Someone Else’s World
As we get older, we gain more experience of life and particular situations. Having these experiences in life is important. How we deal with these situations allows us to discover the consequences of our decisions and we learn to modify our future reactions appropriately. Generally, once people see that certain actions lead to a bad outcome, and assuming that their minds are mature and they have a concern about their life and, more importantly, their life in the hereafter, they will immediately cease those actions in order to avoid the bad outcome. Similarly, if someone performs an action which brings about a good outcome, they will become inspired to continue acting in that way.
A simple example of this is smoking. Many young people contemplate smoking because they are invited to smoke by the people around them, be it by irresponsible older siblings/cousins or others in their family, or by ’friends,’ if the person is socialising with the wrong type of people. Ask any smoker who has been smoking for a long time and it is guaranteed that the overwhelming majority will say that smoking is a very bad thing and they wish they had never started, but stopping is now very difficult because it has become so infused in their system and the urge to smoke is so great. As the saying goes “once a smoker, always a smoker”. Unfortunately, this realisation only comes with hindsight and experience, once it is too late.
Now, if a young person heard this from a smoker, the question is will it deter them from trying to smoke? If the person is not a ‘follower,’ if they make their own decisions for themselves, then they may be deterred from trying. Unfortunately, the problem we have is that most people are followers rather than leaders, and are unlikely to be deterred by what they hear from someone more experienced than them if they are following the wrong examples.
Essentially, it can be said most people are followers and only some are leaders. To expand further, someone is always there to set the trends. A lot of the time, these ‘trend-setters’ are intelligent people but their intelligence is sometimes applied to the wrong things. They then start encouraging other people, who are followers rather than leaders, to get involved. Outwardly, these leaders who encourage others towards negative things may appear to be successful and seemingly enjoying themselves, and so people are tempted to follow their examples to gain the same success and enjoyment that they appear to have. This applies to older people as much as it does to youngsters.
However, Allah does not want us to follow these people blindly; He wants every one of us to think for ourselves. The guidance in the Qur’an and hadith are there for everyone. One scholar said that the worst types of people are those who sell their hereafter for someone else’s dunya (life in this world); a hadith says something very similar to this.
In other words, to allow someone else to enjoy themselves in this world, people will sacrifice their own life of the hereafter. They may feel that they themselves are getting some enjoyment too, but deep inside, they know that what they are doing is wrong and they feel a sense of remorse or guilt, but because of the need to conform, they will continue with it regardless.
The role of parents here is crucial. If parents advise their children on certain matters but, for whatever reason, they just don’t value their opinion or trust their advice (which is a very common problem between parents and teenagers), then the children should go and seek advice from another responsible adult. This could be an older cousin, an uncle or an aunt, anyone who is responsible and who they are able to talk to comfortably, openly and honestly. It should be noted that parents will always have their children’s best interests at heart, but unfortunately, sometimes young people do not understand this. As a twelve or thirteen year old, they think they know about things and what is best for them and parents ‘just don’t understand’. If a third party (a responsible adult) was watching this interaction between a parent and child, they would be able to tell straightaway that the child simply does not understand and lacks experience.
As an adult, the question is how to get this message across to the child. This is a problem across all communities and has always been an issue. The difference in this day and age is that now, there is no sense of community supervision. In the past, adults would essentially police the youth wherever they were. These adults felt this was an obligation and a duty of theirs, and society benefited from it. Young people would be guided by the adults in the whole community, not just by their parents. The message they received at home would be reinforced by the guidance received from the wider community. Unfortunately, in this day and age, even if someone’s child is misbehaving in the mosque, it is difficult for an adult to tell that child anything as parents now are very intolerant when it comes to other people saying anything to their children. It is true that some people do not know how to deal with unruly children, but many parents do not like anyone ever telling their children anything, regardless of the manner in which it is done, because in their eyes, their children are angels and cannot do anything wrong.
One key message adults need to get across to younger people is that they are still learning and developing an understanding of life, of people and of the world in which we live. Parents have seen more of the world, and are more aware of the potential dangers and pitfalls awaiting their children, so what can seem like a harsh regime of strict parenting is, in fact, parents doing what all parents instinctively do—protecting their children.
In fact, for those of us who were born and/or raised here in the UK, USA or the west in general, I can guarantee that when we have children of our own (or as our young children grow older), we will be more strict with them than our parents were with us, and especially so if your own parents were not raised in this country. The reason for this comes from our experience of knowing what goes on at school, college etc. and also generally in the society in which we now live. We have experienced this culture and pressure for ourselves and will try to protect our own children from its bad influences.
So my advice to young people is simple—do not sell your hereafter for someone else’s worldly pleasure. This is particularly true for those people who are seen as ‘leaders’. If you know people are following your example then you have a big responsibility. It is reported in one hadith that our beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “The one who shows the right way will get a reward for everyone who follows that right way”. Although each individual who follows will get their own reward, the one who showed them or led them to the right way will also be rewarded for the actions of the followers.
For example, if you encourage some friends to go out for da’wa (inviting people to the path of Allah) for any number of hours or days, you will also get the reward for your friends going and for every act of worship which is done by them during those days. By the same token, if you invite someone to do something wrong like vandalising someone’s property, drinking, taking drugs, smoking, clubbing and likewise, you (as well as them) will be considered a sinner for their actions.
Allah Most High says in Surat al-Nas: “Say, I seek refuge with the Lord of Mankind; the King of Mankind; the God of Mankind; From the evil of the whisperer who withdraws (when Allah’s name is pronounced); The one who whispers into the hearts of people; Whether from among the Jinn or Mankind” (114:1–6).
The whisperer who retreats at Allah’s name is Shaytaan, but the final verse here tells us that there are also people that whisper to others, encouraging them into wrong actions. This can be done by persuasion, by belittling those who abstain from bad actions and in other ways which make it difficult for someone to refuse, even though they know what they are being encouraged to do is wrong. What we must ask ourselves is do we want to be human Shaytaans? By encouraging others to do bad things, you become no better than a human manifestation of Shaytaan. It can start off with something small (like skipping school or putting something that does not belong to you in your pocket) and you may not think it is too bad or too serious but, gradually, it will inevitably lead to worse things.
A friend of mine works in a young offenders’ institute. Having spoken with many of these young offenders to determine the cause of the behaviour which led to them being in this institution, he found that most of them pinpointed their parents as the main cause of them going to jail. By this, they meant that there was a lack of proper discipline at home, they had parents who were too soft with them and let them do whatever they wanted. One prisoner, who was there for stealing and shop-lifting, remarked that when he was a child and went to other people’s houses, his mum never made a big deal out of him taking other children’s toys from their houses. This is a common thing we see all the time, even with our own children; when we visit people with children, our child may like one of the toys at the house they are visiting. When it is time to leave, the child will want to take the toy with them and a generous (or embarrassed) host will probably say to let them have it. Unless the child’s parent is strict at this point, the child will expect to be able to be able to take toys whenever they visit another house. Similarly, in the case of this young offender, because his mother didn’t stop this behaviour, it then moved on from toys to picking pockets and shoplifting. What he was saying was that his mother almost made it acceptable to take things which were not his. This can even lead to negative effects on siblings, and in this particular case, this individual eventually got his sister involved.
He now blames his mother for his situation, and wishes she had been stricter with him. When your parents are strict with you, you think they are being unreasonable. As I mentioned before, if there is conflict between you and your parents about how strict they are, seek a second opinion from someone who is older and wiser than you but whom you trust. Ask if they think your parents are being unreasonable or just trying to protect you and preserve you from getting involved in bad things.
The reward for someone who can preserve themselves from bad things when they are in their youth is as great as that for someone who is a just ruler. Being a just ruler is very difficult because you have so much power to do almost anything you wish. This is narrated in the famous hadith of the seven groups of people to whom Allah will grant shade on the Day of Judgement when there will be no shade other than that under His throne. Each of these seven groups will have achieved something difficult, and one of these groups will be those who used to be focussed on worshipping Allah during their youth. Adults find it a challenge to worship and remember Allah, so to manage it during your youthful life when there are many temptations in your path which you must resist is a considerable achievement. These youths will still socialise with friends, play sports and enjoy themselves but they also remember to perform salat, keep good company, don’t mislead others, enjoy the halal and abstain from the haram etc. For this achievement, Allah will reward them with His shade on the Day of Judgement.
If you can preserve your youth, the rest of your life will be preserved. If that message doesn’t resonate with you at the moment and seems difficult to believe, speak to some older people. If you know someone older who has led a life which you think is what you want, then that is even better. If only we could go to a prison and ask those people there how they ended up there and the lessons they would like to pass on, but for them it is now too late. Once you start getting into bad habits, it is very difficult to extract yourself because your desire takes control over you. Eventually, this leads to you becoming bolder, careless and reckless, and sooner or later, you end up in a place you do not want to be.
One final request I would like to make is to ask you to be careful with how you use the opportunities (the bad or doubtful) that are available to you out there. Always question things and ask experienced people if they think something is good or bad. If your heart is already inclined towards (or even against) something, you are inherently biased when judging its merits so you should always get another opinion.
Social internet sites can be very dangerous, especially if you start interacting with someone you know nothing about. Rather than simply chatting, it has now progressed to a stage where people are sending pictures of themselves to one and another or uploading them where anyone can see them. Picture exchanges are taking place between girls and boys without anybody realising how long these pictures will be available publicly and who will see them. These systems rob people of their modesty and honour, but nobody is compelling you to use them. Always think about what you are posting before doing so.
If you don’t need a Facebook account (or any other kind of social media account) then do not have one just to appear cool. You don’t want to be in the situation where you end up ignoring your own parents who are in the same room as you, because you are too busy chatting online, whether it is Facebook, WhatsApp or anything else. Indeed, this is one of the signs of the Day of Judgement and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said “a time will come when a person distances his parents but will bring close his friends”. Unfortunately, we are seeing this in our households today, but just because it is prophecy doesn’t mean we have to be part of it too. Being good to relatives has a great benefit, and in this regard, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said “if someone wants a better quality life, with more sustenance and provision, then they should be good with their relatives”.
If there are no good things which you are involved in, the minimum should be to attend Islamic classes or lectures, spend time inviting others to the deen, read a good Islamic book and pray at least one prayer in the mosque each day. This will give your iman a good boost and bring you great benefit. This is the only way you can stay strong and safe, as well as being able to socialise in an Islamic way.
May Allah give all of us the right guidance—Amin
Transcribed by Bilal Raja
Edited by Ahmed Limbada