We all want to live our best life. For many of us, our best life means doing everything we can to make the world a better place. Everyone agrees that the youth are the future. In FAYM, the young people are our focus. However, anyone who has interacted with adolescents, tweens, teens, and young adults has realized it is a daunting task. But what if the problem isn’t with them, but with us? Have we prepared ourselves to be the best da’ee (spreader of peace and inviter to a life of faith) we possibly can be? I have compiled a ten point checklist to highlight some key qualities every youth da’ee should aim to possess (not in any particular order).
Disclaimer- These points are a basic compilation from my own personal experience as an educator, youth coordinator, and being a youth in America. They are not meant to cover every aspect of the work but rather bring light to some key areas. It serves as a way to measure our commitment and effectiveness. Also, please note these points are assuming that you have already attached yourself to a group or jama’ah (if you have NOT what are you waiting for????).
(In a powerful wrestling match announcer voice) – “Introducing TEN QUALITIES OF A YOUTH DA’EE”
A GOOD YOUTH DA’EE :
1. KNOWS TO USE TECHNOLOGY WELL
The days of antennas and cassette tapes are slowly fading into a museum showcase of the past. If you have not yet embraced the world of technological growth and think you will be effective without it – you need to wake up. A youth da’ee is well versed in cell phones, video game systems, movie players, the internet, and basic office applications. I’m not saying you must transform into a technology nut. However, if you are unfamiliar with the basic ins and outs of equipment, you will find it hard to cope. This also includes social networking such facebook, twitter, blogs, youtube, and the many ever expanding arsenals of tools. The reality is that technology works. So learn to master it. Always ask yourself how can I use this technology to accomplish the goals of our group?
2. HAS RELIABLE TRANSPORTATION
An entire point dedicated to transportation? Yes, it is THAT important. Independence and movement are critical for a da’ee. You can be prepared in every way, but if you are not present you are not productive. So learn how to drive well and navigate directions and maps. Invest in a GPS, budget for gas, make your car comfortable with prayer mats, snacks, and lecture series, and embrace the road. If you are in an urban area, this may mean learning the train system or bus schedule. Regardless, be safe, say your dua, travel in groups whenever possible, but don’t miss any endeavor because of transportation. The work needs you too much.
3. IS UPDATED ON POP CULTURE & CURRENT EVENTS
Now it is not expected for you to know all the birthdays of Brad and Angelina’s children and every title of the tracks on the newest Mariah Carey album (in fact I’d be concerned if you do) BUT you should not be living in a cave either. Educate yourself on popular figures and popular trends –especially if you are expecting to relate to young people. Yes, that means you may need to look up who is Lady Gaga and figure out what is “Dancing with the Stars” or what is Call of Duty Modern Warfare II. Entertainment and celebrities are a huge part of American culture and the youth are surrounded by this all the time. Also, be educated about current events so you can converse and share with others. Lastly, be aware of some of Islamic pop culture as well. I recommend if you are able, attend at least one convention a year to learn about what’s what on the Muslim scene (ISNA is one of the best for these purposes). Did you see the newest Kareem Salaama video (do you know who he is)? What are Baba Ali’s newest business ventures? Did you hear about the recent research study by Georgetown University on the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World? An effective da’ee is aware about all these and more.
4. IS HEALTHY, FIT OR ATHLETIC
Simply put, you need to be strong. The Prophet (SA) said “A strong believer is better and closer to Allah than a weak believer.” It is part of the Sunnah and a characteristic of a Muslim. Also, sports are a huge deal in American society. An athletic da’ee (especially with boys) has a better chance of relating to a large amount of youth. Besides this, the Islamic work will take physical demands on your body and if you have a weak immune system and tire easily, it will catch up with you. Fitness and exercise is also a great stress reliever and developing a regular schedule will inevitably improve your capabilities and mental health, not to mention enriches your life.
5. KNOWS TO NAVIGATE THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY
The Muslim community is no lk in the park, in fact is more like a walk on the I-95 highway, blind-folded, walking on stilts. There are many different types of ideas, cultures, and beliefs people have about the way Islam should be practiced. An effective da’ee does not get lost in the confusion. Take time to learn about the various groups one will encounter and know where you or your group stands on certain practices (Yomul Nabi, Ashuraa, extremism, etc). By learning you will avoid many hassles and unnecessary drama and therefore move closer to reaching your goals. Know which Masajid are in the area and the type of leaders that run the community. This insight will come in handy more than you would believe.
6. HAS EXCELLENT MANNERS AND BEHAVIOR
If you want to win the heart of anyone you must have superb adab (manners and etiquette). This is the personality of an Islamic Worker. Learn how to give and return salaams with warmth. Be aware of other’s sensitivities and always be polite and kind. This will reflect your sincerity. It is also showing the youth an example they can emulate because when people know better, they do better. Imam Malik’s mom told him, “Learn from his (the shaykh’s) manners before you learn from his knowledge.” Always be respectful especially with the really young, really old, and the learned amongst us.
7. IS ORGANIZED
A da’ee understands the urgency of the work they must embark upon. Therefore, they take pains to keep good files, records, and systems for dealing with junk (junk emails, junk items, and junk people). Create effective spreadsheets and databases of your resources and personnel. Also, find what time management techniques work for you and implement them. I personally use the daily planer method. Invest into learning about new ways to manage time well such as using the GTD (Getting Things Done) System.
8. IS A POSITIVE AND MOTIVATIONAL PUBLIC SPEAKER
Giving speeches is one of the biggest fears people face but it still remains one of the most useful talents a leader can possess. If you plan to work with youth, it will require you to put yourself in vulnerable positions. This means speaking in public and conducting classes, etc. It is important to work on your social skills as this comes natural for some more than others. Remember, you are trying to persuade somebody that your way is better, so you must believe it! Learn techniques to motivate and inspire others. Remember, practice makes perfect!
9. PRAYS FAJR
Now you are probably wondering, why only Fajr? Shouldn’t we pray all our prayers? Yes, you should, and pray them well. But there is something symbolic and special about Fajr. What is it? This is because Fajr prayer teaches us discipline, time management and commitment. It does all that in five minutes a day. It also transforms your day and reminds you what you are fighting for. If you are having a hard time coping, work to improve your Fajr prayer.
10. IS CREATIVE!
We are dealing with people who converse with others across the world, transports messages with the tap of a finger, and has memorized hundreds of songs and lyrics. This is a generation where information is their language. They are intelligent, REALLY INTELLIGENT. Don’t mistake that for a moment. They are also suffering from the idea of entitlement. Everything is available to them, and quite often, with doing very little to deserve it. We need to understand our demographic and work hard to surpass their expectations. Anything ordinary can become extraordinary with a little effort and creativity. An effective youth da’ee always has something up their sleeve to grab attention and capture interest. Remember it is the details that tend to make the difference. Work hard to think outside the box and always ask yourself, how I can leave an imprint that will help them remember my message (Google “Made to Stick”).
Work hard and remember that nobody said it was going to be easy. This is our lifelong struggle and contribution. But the irony of it all is that once you’ve made the decision to really try, YOU WILL LOVE IT!
Young people are amazing creations and will fascinate you if given the attention and training. Don’t give up on them. One child changed represents an entire generation. Make your niyyah firm and let the deeds begin to pile on that scale, one day at a time.
Any more ideas? Please share in the comments below.