Being his school's administrator and counselor for several years, I observed him from the moment he arrived at the school to register that first summer. He was the tall, silent type that could easily be misread as insecure. But if one paid attention, one could see in his eyes the spark of strength and intellect that the lay just below the surface.
As he found his place among the other students and began adjusting to his surroundings, he slowly became more comfortable. On the basketball court, he could certainly hold his own but was never the trash talking kind. And in the classroom, he was no slacker. With adequate reflection, he soon decided what his academic and professional goals in life were.
Of course, life is never this simple and clear cut. Like every teenager, he struggled with focusing on his future at times. And sometimes he made mistakes. But that's quite normal for a boy learning to be a man.
Naturally, one of the biggest challenges for his age group was girls. Having lived that phase of my life without the benefit of knowing of Islam, I had been exposed to far too much of how girls and boys could behave when they hit their teens. I had seen how unrestrained hormones could compel the girls to dress and behave seductively. And even those who didn't go that far with regard to their outward appearance surprisingly could be going much further away from chastity behind closed doors than the immodestly dressed ones.
And the boys, well they could be something else. Some would just go from one girl to the next getting all they could and then leaving each behind for another. Even as publicly as in the school hallways, the pursuit of passionate desires was obvious in the looks and even contact between the boys and girls.
Unfortunately, the surrounding culture didn't do much to encourage self-restraint either. Every night on television, the actors and actresses were playing the "glamorous" roles of seduction and physical sensation. The magazines at the checkout counter promoted risqué attire and products through sexual appeal. On the radio, even the oldies in my day reminisced about pleasures of a night of infidelity.
Of course the irony of it all was that no parent wanted a child to end up ruining their future with a teenage pregnancy, but almost all of them were encouraging their teens and even pre-teens to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. How mixed up it all was!
Nearly twenty years later when this young Muslim joined the school were I worked, nothing had gotten better. Quite to the contrary, they were much, much worse. According to the Center for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States 2005 over 30% of 9th graders and over 60% of 12th graders have had sexual intercourse. Astonishingly, even pre-teen multiple sex partner parties were in the news. And because of all this indiscretion among such a young segment of the population, making inoculation against a sexually transmitted disease mandatory for girls as early as the 6th grade had become a serious consideration among government officials!
To say the least, I praise Allah that I now know the Right Path and the magnificent safeguards that Allah, the All-Knowing, has placed in the way of life He laid down for us to protect against falling into such moral degradation. It truly was a blessing to find a belief and a community that strives to instill the desire for a chaste and wholesome life in its youth through the excellent example of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, with sayings like:
If someone could give me the assurance for his tongue and his private parts,
I would give him the assurance of Heaven. (Bukhari)
And as related by Ibn Umar from the Prophet:
Whenever obscene practices appear among a people to the extent that they make them public, there shall appear among them plagues and agonies which were unknown to their ancestors. (Malik)
Having this and so much more to encourage the Muslim teens to guard their modesty and save themselves for the healthy pursuit of physical satisfaction in marriage, one would think that it would be easy for a young Muslim to distance him or herself from such pitfalls. Unfortunately, it's not always that easy. Living in any society that does not adhere to Islamic law and whose people are not devoted to guarding against perversion consequently forces the Muslim teen like all others to come face to face with physical temptation. And very sadly, I must say, many, especially the girls, are failing miserably in understanding the significant impact of the way they dress and behave on the opposite sex.
Regardless, there are those like this young man that seemed to have figured things out. Being ambitious, he found himself a part-time job while in high school that would give him a good introduction to the career he wanted to pursue. Of course, this put him regularly in the company of non-Muslim adults, and they were curious about this well-mannered Muslim boy. One day, a lady from his co-workers took the initiative and asked the typical question, "So, young man, do you have a girl friend?" Fortunately, his answer was "No". "Well, why not? You're a handsome boy? Don't you like girls? Don't you have those kinds of feelings?" she pried. A bit annoyed by this pressure but trying not to be disrespectful, he responded firmly, "Of course I do, but I am the master of my emotions. They are not the master of me."
May Allah bless all of our teens growing into adults with such resolve for what is right. May He give society integrity and protect it from moral corruption and self-inflicted destruction. And when the time is right, may He bless each one of our youths with the best and happiest of marriages. Amen.