We have heard of the saying that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. The famous quote by Nelson Mandela encourages members of society to embrace, engage and empower the young. Unfortunately, this has fallen short and has not been consistent across generations, even in the past – the youth have continuously felt that their voices are not heard, and opinions not valued. Oftentimes, they want to play a role in social change and be part of national development but are not given the platform and opportunity to do so.
If we go back into history and look at the life of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, we can see that he actually paid attention to the younger segment of the community. He ensured that they were not only seen but heard while also empowering and enlightening the minds and lives of the youth.
In this spirit and in conjunction with Youth Day, this article will focus on the Prophet’s interaction with younger Companions who later became prominent figures and analyse how his youth empowerment created strong and illustrious individuals.
There was a young boy by the name of Zaid ibn Thabit r.a, who was hardly 13 years old at the time. He came to the Messenger and asked him to enlist him in the Battle of Badr, so that he could participate in defending their rights over their stolen possessions by the Quraysh. As he was too young and physically not capable, the Prophet did not grant permission.
However, he did not dismiss him entirely. Rather, the Prophet empowered him in a different capacity, which was through scholarship. The Prophet s.a.w. who was far-sighted and visionary saw Zaid’s thirst for knowledge and sincere dedication to serve the religion and asked him to learn the languages of Hebrew and Syriac. Soon after he became one of the official scribes and interpreters of the Prophet s.a.w. at a very young age.
His trust and confidence in the young boy paid off later in history. During the Battle of Yamamah, a sizeable number of huffaz – memorisers of the Quran – were being martyred. There was a fear in the Muslim community that if this continued, none would remember the Quran by heart and it would be lost forever.
It is important to note that the Quran at the time of the Prophet was only written in different objects such as bones, skins and leathers. As such, during the reign of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr r.a, they took on the challenging and monumental task of compiling the scattered writings of the Quran in one book and appointed Zaid ibn Thabit to spearhead this massive project. In a very short amount of time, he was able to put the Quran together meticulously.
Such was the character of the Prophet, who saw the potential and talent in Zaid in contributing to the cause of the community and religion and invested in him.
Mus’ab ibn Umair r.a. was a Companion of the Prophet who was known for his intelligence from a very young age. For this reason, he had the privilege of attending the meetings and gatherings of the Quraysh. Even though the Prophet was surrounded by many giants and experienced Companions r.a, he was not afraid to give the youth leadership roles and responsibilities.
During the early days of Prophethood, there was a growing demand and interest from the people of Yathrib (currently known as Madinah) to learn and know about Islam. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. appointed Mus’ab r.a. to be the ambassador of Islam to Yathrib to carry out the task of teaching Islam to the people.
Within the span of 1 year, every household in Madinah had a believer. Referencing the book; The Sealed Nectar which was written by Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri, he said, “Mus’ab stayed in Medina carrying out his mission steadily and successfully until all the houses of al-Ansar (Muslim locals of Madinah) had Muslim elements, men and women.”
This is why the Prophet was the greatest Murabbi; mentor and trainer. He knew Mus’ab was completely competent and thus empowered him through this momentous task, despite his young age.
There was one event which was reported that a young man came to the Prophet and asked him for permission to commit adultery. Rather than reproaching or undermining him, the Prophet approached it gently and empathetically. The Prophet empowered him through questioning, thinking, and confidently responding.
He asked rationally if the man would like that very same thing to happen to his own family members and relatives. When he said no, the Prophet counselled him that similarly neither would anyone like it for their female family members. Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. then made Dua to Allah to forgive his sins, purify his heart, and guard his chastity, and from that day forward, the young man never again inclined to anything sinful.
We could see that firstly, the people around the Prophet especially the young had so much comfort in him to the point that they could be upfront and confide with their innermost thoughts and feelings. He ensured that he kept communications open and established connections with young people.
Secondly, in such situations, people would naturally feel shocked or disgusted. But the Prophet was always full of empathy and understanding with their state of affairs and had never disregarded the problems and challenges that the youth faced. This was the Prophet’s art of empowerment towards them.
The cousin of the Messenger of Allah, Abdullah Ibn Abbas, was someone who was inquisitive and had an appetite for knowledge. He would spend most of his time with the Prophet to learn from him and serve him as best as he could. Due to his dedication and enthusiasm, the Prophet s.a.w. offered him a special Dua as a sign of love and care.
It was reported that the Rasulullah s.a.w. put his hand on the shoulder of Ibn Abbas and prayed,
اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ
“O Allah, give him understanding in the Religion and teach him the interpretation of the Quran.”
Due to the spiritual enlightenment that he got from the Prophet s.a.w, Abdullah Ibn Abbas r.a. became a distinguished and learned scholar who narrated numerous Hadith and commentated the Quran. All this happened at the time of the Prophet’s demise when he was only 13 years of age.
On another occasion, while the both of them were riding, the Prophet s.a.w. said to Ibn Abbas r.a,
يَا غُلَامُ إِنِّي أُعَلِّمُكَ كَلِمَاتٍ احْفَظْ اللَّهَ يَحْفَظْكَ, احْفَظْ اللَّهَ تَجِدْهُ تُجَاهَكَ, إِذَا سَأَلْتَ فَاسْأَلْ اللَّهَ وَإِذَا اسْتَعَنْتَ فَاسْتَعِنْ بِاللَّهِ, وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ الْأُمَّةَ لَوْ اجْتَمَعَتْ عَلَى أَنْ يَنْفَعُوكَ بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَنْفَعُوكَ إِلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ لَكَ, وَلَوْ اجْتَمَعُوا عَلَى أَنْ يَضُرُّوكَ بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَضُرُّوكَ إِلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْكَ, رُفِعَتْ الْأَقْلَامُ وَجَفَّتْ الصُّحُفُ
“Young man, I will teach you some words (of advice); Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. If you ask, ask from Allah. If you seek help, seek help from Allah.
Know that if all of creation gathered together to benefit you, they would only benefit you with something that Allah has written for you. And if all of creation gathered together to harm you, they would only harm you with something that Allah has written against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.”
Due to his love and care for his young cousin, Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. gave advice that would serve Abdullah Ibn Abbas r.a. as a guide for him to navigate his life regardless of the circumstances and challenges.
In conclusion, the Prophet would consistently put forward the advancement and development of the youth because he believed that they play a major role in building and creating a positive impact on society.
This Youth Day, let us put our trust and confidence in our young; hear them, empower them, and let them be the change. Because the youth of today are indeed the leaders of tomorrow.