Every Muslim community has its handful of out-of-control youth. But these days, even the decent kids from religious families are falling into Haram when it comes to pre-marital relationships. Yes, we're talking about those youth in the community who have pretty much been born and raised in the Islamic center. The ones whose parents try their best to guide their children to the path of Islam, and once most of the fundamentals have been engraved into the minds of these youngsters, the only hassle for these parents is to try and keep their children on the flawless path of Islam. Now the question at hand is: why are such good Muslim youth faltering when it comes to pre-marital relationships?
For starters, half these kids truly believe that it is perfectly "Halal" to be involved with their cyber boyfriend or girlfriend because it's not in "real life". But when these cyber relationships grow and the emotional attachment is so great that from online chatting and emails it turns into incessant texting and four-hour-long late night phone conversations in which "I love you" is said every minute, we have a slight problem.
The more alarming problem is when Muslim youngsters take such relationships to the next level and go to the extent of "meeting" each other, whether this be around school, work, cafes, or even at community functions. Everybody knows that when a non-mahram boy and girl are left alone together (without going into too many traumatizing graphic details), Shaitan is always present and suggesting new and interesting ways of doing more Haram. This is the stage when the kids do realize that what they are doing is prohibited, but because they've been so involved for such a long period of time now, they simply "can't let go". This is usually the point at which the good kids admit that they've gone slightly off track from their faith but believe they are still better than "those other out-of-control youth", as their pre-marital relationships is the only area of their faith in which they falter. And besides, a bit of Haram can't hurt if the idea is to "marry the person I love", right?
Sometimes the youth find themselves in this situation because the person they are involved with is usually the person who they intend to marry, and they originally started speaking to him/her as it was all just to "get to know them". Of course, within the limits of Hijab, it is possible to get to know a person in a permissible way, but as we all know that's not the case for the majority of kids in this situation, and while being involved for "marriage purposes" is the usual excuse, the fact of the matter is that it's actually about having the satisfaction of being in a relationship, regardless of how remote the chances are of actually marrying the other person.
A closer analysis of this sad reality will depict that on one hand, we have the kids who legitimately feel the need for a partner, someone who can provide them with emotional support, solve their problems, and give them something to look forward to each day. On the other hand, we have youth who never felt the need for a partner but unexpectedly came across the opportunity to be a part of a relationship and were sucked in before they could think twice about it. Whatever the justification, one thing is for sure – it is becoming harder for the Muslim community to keep a hold of its decent youth, and it all has to do with the fact that they are finding it harder to resist the temptations that Haram relationships have to offer.
So what's the solution? Sending our children to single-gender or Islamic schools? Have our children engaged to some distant relative as soon as they become of age? Being tougher on them by taking away their Internet access and mobile phones? Some parents try these strategies prior to any incidents occurring so that their children are not given any "opportunities" to get involved with such relationships. Other parents implement all (if not more of) these "solutions" all at once when the unfortunate crackdown occurs and the children are confronted by their parents and family about their "personal life". In most cases, the success rate of all these solutions is nothing more than epic failure.
Let's do justice to ourselves. Before coming up with a magnificent solution that will solve all our problems, we need to identify what the underlying issue at hand is. For most people, the desire to have a partner and "being with someone" usually sprouts when they are in their mid-late teens, and they are not to blame. It's a natural instinct to feel this way, and anyone who attended those elementary school health classes knows that sexual activity and "relationships" with the opposite gender are encouraged from a very young and most probably an unhealthy age.
Simply put, there is a need for the parents to address the importance of marriage at an early age for our youth. The sad policies of "You're not going to get married until you have enough money to buy a house", "You need to complete your undergraduate, post-graduate and then get a job before you can marry", and "It's impossible for us to find you a good boy/girl!" are taking our communities towards unimaginable disaster. Islam has encouraged marriage as early as possible, and yet our youth are getting the idea that they will be in their late twenties or early thirties by the time they have their first partner. Of course, this seems slightly unfair, as most people in the West have their first partner early on in the teenage life, if not even sooner!
What needs to be promoted, and especially to the religious and active teens and youth in the community, is that marriage should not be delayed until either the boy or girl are entirely "settled". Let's face reality here, Muslim youth who have a pretty good understanding of their faith and the logic behind its Divine laws actually look forward to marriage, because as parents often tend to overlook these days, it is in fact a part of our religion, and it is encouraged at an early age for the sole purpose of allowing us to become better believers!
We all know that marriage "secures half of your faith", but our Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) also said that when it comes to a young person who marries at the beginning of his/her youth, his/her devil moans and intensively regrets that s(he) has protected two-thirds of his/her faith from Satan! Sadly, parents are failing to realize the necessity and benefits of having today's generation at least Nikkah-ed by the time they are in their late teens, early twenties. Each case is unique, however. So what's essential is that our youth are given a realistic timeframe, and it is only fair for today's young generation to know when they can expect to be permitted by their parents to enter a Halal and loving relationship.
Excessive fears of how early marriages will cope if our children haven't completed their education, how our daughter will starve to death unless the boy she is marrying is a doctor, how our sons won't get along with girls unless they look like supermodels, how the next generation will be completely "Westernized" if either boy or girl is unable to fluently speak in their native language are all completely bizarre and unrealistic expectations. All that is needed is a basic maturity level, and after that, parents, scholars, and community leaders have an obligation to encourage among our youth the kind of mental and emotional maturity they need in order to become successful husbands and wives.
It's time for the Muslim community to wake up and realize that if we plan on our next generation being good Muslims, we must frankly and openly discuss the issue of marriage with our children. Times have changed, and it is extremely pressing for us to be considerate towards these emotional and physical needs of our youth, so that we may put a stop to all this Haram that we ourselves are causing them to resort to. As the Holy Prophet said, "Join your children in marriage, because thereby Allah renders their tempers good, adds to their sustenance, and increases their sense of honor."