Imagine a young man coming to the Imam of your neighboring mosque with this strange request: “Can I get a fatwa that permits me to commit Zina (fornication/adultery)?” What kind of response he will receive? I think that shocked and angry reproach is the most likely reaction of the attendees and the Imam; you would hear yells like, “Shame on you! How dare you mention such despicable things in the mosque and, even worse, request to commit it?” Well, let’s read this story and see how the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) handled a situation like this:
Abu Umama Al-Bahily (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that a young man came to the Prophet and said: O Messenger of Allah, give me a permission of Zina. The Companions turned to him and started rebuking him. The Prophet said: “Come closer.” When the young man drew nearer to the Prophet and sat down, the Prophet asked him: “Would you like it for your mother?” The man answered; No, by Allah. May Allah make me a protection for you! The Prophet commented, “People also do not like it for their mothers.” The Prophet added, “Would you like it for your daughter?” Again, the young man answered negatively. So, the Prophet said, “People too would not love it for their daughters” Further, the Prophet asked, “Would you like it for your sister?” The Prophet received the same answer and made the same comment. The Prophet went on asking about the man’s paternal and maternal aunts. The young man’s answer was the same and the Prophet repeated the same comment, “People do not like that for their aunts.”
The Prophet then placed his hand on the young man and prayed for him, “O Allah, forgive his sins, purify his heart, and protect his chastity.” Abu Umamah, the narrator of the hadith, said that the young man did not pay heed to any temptation thereafter. (Authenticated by Al-Albani)
With this gentle, understanding, and convincing approach, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sought to empower the young man rather than destroy him. He aimed to strengthen and fortify him in his battle with temptations rather than alienate or undermine him. Following this Prophetic example is crucial when dealing with the youth as it does not only determine if the youth will commit Zina or not, but most importantly, if they would ever come back to the Mosque to discuss and find answers for their future problems or not.
Listening to the youth, understanding their problems and heartedly embracing and caring for them, whatever the issues they may have, are all elements of the Prophet’s art of empowerment. In the above hadith, the Companions themselves were not able to contain their shock. Perhaps this would be the natural reaction of our imams and community leaders if faced with a similar question. The Prophet, however, dealt with the situation as a great educator; he drew the young man nearer to him, discussed the problem rationally, and thus succeeded in convincing the young man to the extent that, as the hadith narrator reported, the man would pay no heed to any temptation after that. Furthermore, the Prophet did not let the incident pass without his unique spiritual touch. Placing his hand on the young man and praying for him must have left an unforgettable effect.
Criticism does no benefit in such situations. It would only alienate the youth and make them think twice before looking for solutions in the Mosque. If we are not friendly enough to embrace our youth and recognize their concerns, they would look for other environments to channel their worries and needs. The young man above dared to address the Prophet with his unspeakable request; do our youth feel home and welcome in our mosques that they can open up and comfortably discuss whatever busies their minds. Unfortunately, the difference between the Prophet’s attitude and that of many of us is as great as the difference between building and destroying, empowering and undermining.