Radio Islam conducted a panel discussion on the topic of Youth: Personal Development in a Broad Sense. Brothers Muhammed Saley and Muhammed Coovadia were interviewed on the topic. They are both students of Jamia and are founders of the Ummah Squad. The Ummah Squad is a platform that creates short videos on important Islamic topics.
We have always been told by teachers, parents and the elderly to ‘become something with our lives’, Moulana stated. This is personal development, improving yourself. It does not include wealth and personal possessions as this does not make you a better person. “But how do we measure personal development? What contributes to personal development?” Moulana asked.
Brother Muhammed Coovadia stated that “for different people personal development means different things, everyone wants to succeed in various things. Some wish to succeed in sport, others in academic knowledge and others in deeni knowledge and so on. So, in essence, there is not one way to measure personal development.
“I would say, that it all depends on the individual and what he considers important. How he concentrates on his own strength and weaknesses, in becoming the best version of what he sees for himself.” Brother Muhammed Saley explained.
Brother Muhammed Coovadia outlined that, if we look at YouTubers and bloggers, we might say that they have become famous over nothing. Since they are well known not for any particular skill or accomplishment, but just by broadcasting their lives which lead to being famous and eventually brought them an income. They are essentially making money by being on the internet. Which in the past was seen as a distraction in moving forward and progressing in your career or life? Thus, personal development is difficult to measure.
He further states that the most important thing we need to ask ourselves is ‘how do I measure my development as a Muslim and as an Umati’. How do I measure whether I am progressing or regressing? We need to look all ways in which we can connect with Allah (SWT) and not only restrict ourselves to one or another.
Brother Muhammed Saley, emphasised, that we can't judge a persons' development on one aspect. An example we look at someone who had a good Matric, studied toward a degree and has a good job. People will say they have made something of their lives, but why do we say that? We compare that to someone who hasn’t finished school but has opened a business and is making a good living. They have both progressed but in different ways, we can say they both made something of their lives.
“Different communities and families will hold progress in different ways. In certain families, a degree is everything, in others it is the kind of degree. This is how they measure progress” Brother Muhammed Saley argued.
“Sometimes it depends on the family background, if it is an Islamic background or co-operate background, this sort of influences and pushes the person into these directions. This has an impact on your so-called development and measure of progress.” Brother Muhammed Coovadia mentioned.
Today we see many families where there aren’t any Ulamah members or anyone from a Deeni background, but they do encourage their children to study in this field, to become hufaz or alims. We do see a lot of this recently what are your thoughts on this?
Brother Muhammed Coovadia answers by saying that “with the advent of social media, we live in a global community. hence the youth aren’t only influenced by their family and friends, but the world at large. This does have an impact on their personal development.”
Once you leave school you are no longer in a safe environment where your progress is almost guaranteed. Here your progress is all up to you. There is no program guiding your development. You get to make your own choices. But you feel as if you are told that you need to progress, you also have this inner desire to want to progress. But the problem arises in making the correct decisions, you want a successful future but you also want to do what you love. You are thus influenced by all that is around you. Doing what makes you happy might be your motivating factor.
Sometimes people embark on a particular career field which they don’t really like, but only because it is seen by society as a good career choice. Others opt for a career based on the prospective income it will bring. Hence personal development is measured in different ways, brother Muhammed Saley explained. It has to do with recognising who you are and what you want for yourself. You need to take time to think about what you want for yourself. You need to understand your own strengths and weaknesses.
If we look at underdeveloped countries that are extremely poverty-stricken, many people are very determined to progress academically. They live under such bad conditions and infrastructure, and they might look at first world countries and think that for us to progress we need a good education, we need good jobs and good salaries and this will allow us to progress and it will give us definition.
Depending on the community or family you are in, we all have different opinions of what progress is. Every country or religious sect will have different ways of doing things. We as Muslims should ask ourselves if various ethnic groups have their own understanding of personal development. Then, what is our level of progress as an Ummah? We have a complete Deen, what can we use in our Deen to measure our development?
The listeners were given an opportunity to respond and add to the discussion. One listener mentioned that "Allah has created everyone differently, with different skills, perceptions and likes." A certain career may not fit every person, but the life of Nabi (SAW) is meant to fit every person. Everyone has the capability to bring alive the practices of Nabi (SAW) in their lives.
Allah has created us with the ability to carry out his commandments. In every era, there will be truthful people and there will be pious people, how is this known? Allah (SWT) has commanded us in the Quran to be amongst the truthful people, he will not command us to do something that is impossible. So definitely in every era, there will be truthful people. You will always be able to fit the Sunnah in your life. Hence this is the development you need to look at the most. How close to Allah (SWT) have you gotten?
“Even if we look at the Sahabah (RA), who were all so different but they still managed to learn something from Nabi (SAW). The main thing is to be aware that Allah (SWT) is with us at every moment"; Brother Muhammed Coovadia mentioned.
"It is important to spend time in the company of pious people, as you can learn from them. If you are unable to get to that point, then at least create some sort of brotherhood with a colleague or friend. This can help you remain on the "straight path"; Brother Muhammed Saley explained.
How many times do we consider giving and taking spiritual advice to and from others, as part of development? These are all contributing factors to what makes us a better person.
It is important to not only look at your academic achievements but also how you have helped others, there are many aspects to look at when determining development. Nabi (SAW) encouraged us to be the best in everything we do. To make sure you fulfil your purpose and progress in whatever you do.
Do we neglect certain aspects of our lives in trying to progress in another? For example, neglecting academic achievement to progress spiritually. How do we balance this?
We can look at this example - Is it incorrect for an employee to perform Nafl Salalah while he is at work? Because it is optional and you are employed for that time. Our religion tells us to give everything its balance, give everything its right, give everything its due. Our Deen teaches us moderation in terms of our requirements. So we should also have moderation in other aspects of our lives. Usually going to extremes will make things harder to you. Brother Muhammed Coovadia explained.
Another listener asked, "Are there any tips, to get better at self-development?" The Brothers answered with the following tips. We need to determine what are the yardsticks of measuring our development. This will help you understand where you are and where you want to be. Make the Quraan and Sunnah the centre of your life. The purpose of the Quraan and every Nabi was to connect man to Allah (SWT). We need to ask ourselves, are we connecting to Allah (SWT)? We need to make this our purpose.
In every activity of your life, ask yourself, am I connecting to Allah (SWT). By using this as your yardstick, you will be able to measure your personal development. Make the mission on your life, the mission of Nabi (SAW), make the people around you connect to Allah (SWT) by example and verbal dawaah. The best of you are those that benefit others. Master your time energy and focus, to ensure you achieve what you want to. May Allah guide us all.