Islam, modernity and Somali youths

An increasing number of Somali youths have recently been abandoning their religion, Islam, and have been unabashedly and openly discussing this fact on social media.

Majority of these youths live abroad, but there are those in the country who have reservations about the religion. They, however, cannot openly discuss their doubts for security reasons.

I had a debate, about the existence of God and the truth of Prophet Muhammad, Peace be upon him, with a group of youths and officials, including legislators, ministers and ambassadors. When an issue affects more than several people, it is called a phenomena and can no longer stay veiled.

Compounding this problem is also religious extremism, conveyed through explosions and beheadings by groups such as Al-Shabaab and Da’ish, in conjunction with those non-violent extremist groups such as Al-sa’idun Bil-Xaq and others.

Also emerging are youths who have little knowledge of the religion, but who attempt to define the religion through short, lighthearted and humorous messages.

The actions of the extremists have turned people away from the religion and led them to fall for the blithe messages of youth.

Also complicating matters are the various religious factions that used to exist in Somalia, but who have in recent times faded away, such as Al-Itihad, Al-Islah, Al-Wahda, Aalu-Sheikh and similar groups, whose origins lie with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia’s Salafis. Those groups had come up with impactful slogans and created new awakenings to drive home the message that Islam is a solution for life and governance.  They formed political movements and attempted to refute Western ideologies born out of contemporary modernity.

Prominent founders and leaders of these Islamic movements told their followers to take from modernity the parts related to technological and scientific knowledge, but to avoid its philosophies, ideologies and human/social definitions.

Their students, when they properly immersed themselves in modernity’s philosophies of science and technology, found themselves drowning in a sea, confronted with many unanswered and mind-boggling questions.

The Islamic movements also failed to come up with answers for the sad sate of affairs in the country, which further demoralized the youths they were leading.

Majority of the scholars, meanwhile, ended up devotees of worldly affairs and chasing wealth. Some joined business and NGOs while others surrendered to the various administrations that ruled the country. Their powerful principles and ideologies were lost.

Yet another issue is the fact that Somali youths born and raised outside country are at odds with their parents and modern Somali scholars.

The parents, at best, can only take their child to a mosque, not enough to answer those children’s questions arising from the philosophies and lessons they are taught at their schools and universities. Especially answers to questions on ideas that run counter to the teachings of their religion.

The horrifying actions of terrorist groups and the absence of Somali scholars and thinkers (with majority of our scholars today producing only repetitive messages of warning and counsel), has created an environment where young people do not get logical answers to their questions that could convince them on various matters, and instead encounter curses and abuse.

During the time of Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, many Muslims studied philosophy, resulting in general disdain for the religion and religious scholars, with anyone who did not study philosophy regarded as illiterate.

Al-Ghazali then started studying and researching philosophy, and then critiqued and refuted it. He wrote the famous book titled “The Incoherence of the Philosophers”. It was said that Al-Ghazali floored philosophy from its highs and brought it to ground.

Today, we are in need of many Al-Ghazalis, who would study modernity in combination with the religion, and then respond to the many questions that need proper answers.