Estimated reading time: 22 minute(s)
by Fudia Muhammad
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was asked via Twitter what was the best advice he gave to his children and grandchildren when they were young. He answered: “The best advice is found in the words of Solomon where he advised young people to believe, follow and commit to their Creator in the days of their youth. Unfortunately many of us live to get old before we finally submit. But if young people realize how important it is to submit to God in their youth, then their lives will be a great and productive life for the good of self, family and our people.”
It is the greatest honor and privilege to successfully complete the process of becoming a registered member of the Nation of Islam. This distinction is second to none regardlessto how one found their way to Islam. There is one school of thought that believes it is a greater challenge to “convert” to Islam after having practiced another way of life for years or even decades; whereas others believe it is more of a challenge for those who have never experience a life outside of Islam to remain in the faith. The debate is pointless when we understand that none of us were self-guided and that our individually unique paths were all coordinated by the hands of Allah (God). However, in a world like this; there is something to be said about a young who may be in the world, but decides not to be of it.
According to the Holy Qur’an (chapter 46, verse 15), the age of maturity is forty years. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received his first revelation at the age of 40. Based on that fact alone we know that more than one’s biology must certainly be factored when measuring maturity. A mature man or woman is a fully developed and capable adult – mentally, spiritually and emotionally. A mature person is also one who has reached or attained their final stage of development required to fully embrace, pursue and achieve success in his or her life’s purpose. Therefore, it is no coincidence that so many of our great revolutionary leaders were assassinated before reaching the age of forty: Malcolm X (39), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (39), Medgar Evers (37), Thomas Sankara (37), Patrice Lumumba (35), Steve Biko (30), Fred Hampton (21), and others.
However, reaching the age of forty does not mean we are somehow magically disciplined and begin to exhibit the characteristics and principles of maturity and responsibility. The process begins in our youth. So, while 40 is the age of maturity; 16 is the age of decision in the Nation of Islam. Traditionally in the Nation of Islam, we permit our youth to formally accept the Teachings of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and take the steps to officially become a registered member of the Nation at the age of 16 (fifteen, with parental consent). This allowance is scientific and strategic.
In his book, Our Saviour Has Arrived, The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad wrote, “In the Bible Isaiah mentions the long life of the righteous in these words: ‘that a person one hundred (100) years old will be like a child’ …meaning that their age will never cause them to look old. They will have the freshness of youth says the prophet, Isaiah. And the Holy Qur’an, also verifies the same. Allah (God) in the Person of Master Fard Muhammad, to Whom Praises are Due forever – out of His Own Mouth – Said to me that He Causes us to Grow into a New Growth. And that we would have the look and the energy of one who is sixteen (16) years of age and our youth and energy of a sixteen-year-old would last forever”(Chapter 23 – He (Allah) Makes All Things New). Why sixteen and not thirteen? Why sixteen and not twenty-one?
The age of sixteen is significant for more thanjust driving legally, getting that first job, and visiting colleges (though all important). At the age of sixteen, children are at their optimum in mental potential, physical vitality and spiritual realization. The brain makes tremendous leaps in cognitive skills and competencies during adolescence. The energy of a sixteen-year-old is tangible in all domains. There are truly no limits to what can be conceived and therefore achieved at this special age.
Sixteen is also the age where most teenagers meet a crossroads. Although we have all had the capacity to make small personal decisions since the age of two – those decisions were not at the level where the impact was life altering. However, the decisions we make at the age of sixteen can potentially affect us far beyond the age of maturity. Choosing to go left instead of right; saying yes instead of no; selecting one acquaintance over the other – every moment of our lives we are making decisions.
At the age of sixteen, we unequivocally know the difference between right and wrong; yet are fearless enough to face the consequences of either. We confuse our limitless energy with a belief that we are somehowimmortal, so we are willing to take risks that we would have never taken as a seven-year-old and would never take again as an adult. Researchers say that when given time and access to information, teenagers start to have the computational and decision-making skills of an adult. This state of mind is beneficial and necessary to one’s success, but it needs to be guided because teens are highly emotional people.One should NEVER make important decisions during an intensely emotional period; but teenagers, left unguided, do it all of the time. These decisions that are made around the age of sixteen can affect the trajectory of one’s entire life.
We have a lesson in the Nation of Islam that states, “Make all men and boys join the F.O.I….” Why should we make a boy, or a girl join the Nation of Islam? Because, it is our submission to the law of God that gives us the understanding of His law. For example, you can explain to someone for hours about the benefits of fasting, but until one experiences fasting for themselves; they cannot bear witness to its benefits – but after submitting to a fast, the faster understands why it is beneficial. So, it is with the Restrictive Laws of Islam which all registered members of the Nation of Islam are bound by; regardless of age. By making our youth submit to a way of life free from premarital sex, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, slack talk and gossip allows understanding to come sooner.
The Bible teaches that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Fear precedes love and is more constant than love. Fear of consequences and discipline is a protection for us in our youth. Soon we will understand the law, grow to love the law, and no longer fear it. Loving the law makes obedience to the laweffortless.
As parents, we all collectively hold our breath when our children near the age of sixteen, wondering what decisions will be made today; tomorrow? Peers are very influential at this age, but an overwhelming percentage of teenagers admit that they enjoy spending time with their parents and prefer to have rules and structure. What we model as parents still remains dominant in the hearts and minds of our teens.
Submitting to righteous conduct and behavior during our youth does not insulate us from struggle, difficulty and trials; but it allows us to join the company of those who are favored and protected by Allah (God). This we should seek because it enables us to be perfected by our trials, instead of destroyed by them. The earlier this process begins, the sooner the benefits of our productivity will be manifested within self, our family and our people.
The ultimate decision to become a registered member of the Nation of Islam should not be made by parents; but parents should support, encourage, inspire, motivate and promote this way of life. This does not mean we should give our teens free range and treat them as adults; they are not – but they do need the autonomy to make this particular decision on their own. But make no mistake about it, our children should have NO question about their parent’s desire for themto become a follower of The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and a helper of The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan!
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing.)