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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Challenge of Choice

by Yasmin Mogahed

A big Mac, a super-size fries, and a large coke: they take a minute to order and a minute to receive. So what happens if something takes longer? What happens if something cannot be picked up through a drive-thru and is not quite as fast as fast food or instant messaging?

The American Muslim youth live in a society plagued by this fast-food syndrome, where we expect and, rather, demand, easy quick solutions to every problem. Furthermore, we easily become impatient with anything less.

To exacerbate the problem, we live in a highly pleasure-oriented society, one in which the enjoyment of the individual is the central concern. Ads, campaigns, and most products endeavour to provide the consumer with utmost physical pleasure.

Think about the ad for Hagen dais ice cream for example, 'Passport to Pleasure.' Or consider the ad on AOL for a bar-b-Q summer guide that said, 'Flame your desire.' The ad for Camel cigarettes says, 'Seven Pleasures of the Exotic.' It is through this pleasure focus that products are sold, vacations are bought, and corporations are made wealthy. The products and ads are designed for a society that believes one should 'eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow one dies.'

It is in this very context that our youth are to find their place. They are presented with the nafs (self)-worship they promote. Youth must swim upstream and carefully consider the significance of this age in the formulation of future concepts. The beliefs and schemas that we form in youth are carried throughout life and are almost impossible to shatter or even alter.

We should, therefore, be very careful to note how and with whom we are spending our time, and from where we are building the concepts that we carry into tomorrow. The images that we now allow our eyes to feast on, our minds to capture, and our hearts to worship, are the very images that will have an effect on us in adult life and in our graves.

Should we not then examine who our heroes are and from where we are getting our ideals? What kinds of traits do we covet? What are we striving for? We have to be careful when many of our heroes may be football players, and actors and the things most of us may admire have less to do with faith and more to do with sports ability, fame, and beauty.

We must be concerned when our ideals come less from Allah and His Messenger (salAllahu alayhi wasalam), and more from Hollywood, NBC, and Sport Illustrated.

Our beloved Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) taught us the significance of being of young age, he said, 'No foot of a servant (of Allah) (on the Resurrection Day) will move before being asked about four things: his age (life) and how he spent it, his youth and how he worn it out, his wealth and how he earned it and on what he
spent it…' [Sahih al-Bukhari].

A dutiful and devout youth is so honored by Allah (subhanahu wa Ta'ala) that he is among the seven who are promised shade on a day when there is no shade but the shade of Allah [Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim].

We must understand, however, that our struggle does not end at our own personal purification; it only begins there. The youth of today have a divine mission that begins with the purification of the self and ends with the purification and reform of the entire society. A great task has been laid before us.

We carry with us the responsibility of disseminating a divine message to the worlds. For the youth, this job is of utmost
importance. Islam and Muslim stand now at a crossroads in the U.S. and in the whole world. What we face now is a critical period that will serve a decisive role in the future of Muslims in the West and in the world. The youth of today are in reality, the leaders of tomorrow. It is, therefore, imperative that we take this responsibility very seriously.

What surrounds us is a life of excess, a life centered around immediate gratification aimed especially at us, who are "only young once." Far removed from this life of heedlessness is a sublime life centered around a divine mission, ordained by the Lord of the worlds. In the end, it is ours to choose which life to live and which path to take.

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