Some problems are virtually unsolvable, at least in terms of what we as human beings can do. Of course, everything is in the Hands of Allah, and He is capable of all things. He can solve all problems. But, as far as pursuing practical means and “tying the camel,” some problems are intractable from our limited human perspective.
What can you tell a weeping Muslim mother who comes to you begging for you to talk to her murtad son, to convince him to come back? You can tell her that you will try. But in the back of your head, you know a conversation is not going to change anything. It doesn’t matter if you have the best arguments, the best proofs, and you have an airtight answer for all the usual challenges against Islam. It doesn’t matter if you take the “soft” approach, try to be a friendly confidant, etc. It doesn’t matter what approach you take, a conversation is not going to make the difference in 99% of cases.
I have plenty of experiences, unfortunately, like this as I travel to different communities and there are Muslim parents desperate for intervention in the apostasy of their children. Increasingly common are the beleaguered parents whose children have “come out” in one way or another. What can be said to them? Is there some quick advice or, perhaps, a program that will bring back the loving, observant Muslim children they worked so hard to raise?
The answer is no. These are not intellectual problems. In this day and age, it is not faulty reasoning that leads a person out of Islam and into atheism, so an intellectual conversation pointing out the faulty rationalism of atheism is not going to help much. [And as someone who specializes in intellectual analysis of atheism, modernism, etc., I can appreciate the irony of me saying this.]
But calling this a “spiritual problem” is not accurate either. Painful as it is to admit, some of these apostate children grew up in devout households with parents who themselves were devout and “practiced what they preached.” They grew up going to the masjid, memorizing Quran (with its meaning!), and doing all the things good Muslim kids in good Muslim families do. Yet, the result was still catastrophe.
As a parent of young children, I find this utterly terrifying. How can you take precautionary measures against a danger that is as unpredictable as it is destructive? How can you protect your kids (or yourself!) from this, and if catastrophe does strike, what is the solution?
Due to modern medicine and pharmaceuticals, many of us are used to the idea that medical treatment can cure everything. Every disease has a prescription. But what medicine or medical procedure will cure someone whose arm has been fed into a wood chipper? The grim reality is, there is no way to un-woodchip an arm. An amputated arm can be surgically reattached. A broken bone can be set and healed. But the wood chipper leaves no recourse.
Sadly, this is what the wood chipper of modernity does to the iman of segments of our community. Their hearts have been fed in and spitted out by a loud, rusty, sharp, menacing piece of industrial machinery. It is depressing, but that is the situation.
If you doubt this, try having a conversation with the young murtad who practiced Islam his whole life and then went to college, took a few introductory classes on philosophy or social studies, and then promptly decided that Islam is a man-made myth and God is a figment of the imagination. Sit down with this kid for one hour, two hours, ten hours, it doesn’t matter. See if you are going to come out of it with anything other than a greater appreciation for the ayah:
Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah ? Then will you not be reminded? [45:23]
And even if you develop a long term relationship with this kid and are equipped with not only the best intellectual arguments but also the best practices of youth counseling, etc., how is that going to compete with all the other influences in his life? His every waking moment, he is surrounded by the sources of his atheism. He is breathing it in constantly. Every part of his environment: friends, teachers, classes, music, movies, social media, etc. Everything in his modern environment is telling him to obey his desires, feed his lusts, that the dunya is all that there is and all that matters, that even if God exists, who cares? What difference does it make? And so on.
How are you going to compete with that? Imagine that we are basting in this toxic waste day in and day out. It is literally a miracle that iman can be preserved in these times. Only by the Will of Allah can anyone maintain his faith. And only by the Will of Allah can anyone regain faith after having lost it.
And this is why we earnestly pray:
Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower. [3:8]
There is one avenue to keep in mind, however. And this is indicated to us in a sahih hadith:
A man killed ninety-nine people, then the idea of repentance occurred to him. He asked who was the most knowledgeable of people on earth, and he was told of a man so he went to him and said: “I have killed ninety-nine people. Can I repent?”
He said: “After ninety-nine people?!” ‘So he drew his sword and killed him, thus completing one hundred. Then the idea of repentance occurred to him (again), so he asked who was the most knowledgeable of people, and he was told of a man (so he went to him) and said: “I have killed one hundred people. Can I repent?”
He said: “Woe to you, what is stopping you from repenting? Leave the evil town where you are living and go to a good town, such-and-such town and worship your Lord there.”
So he went out, heading for the good town, but death came to him on the road. The angels of mercy and angels of punishment argued over him. Satan said: “I have more right to him, for he never disobeyed me for a moment.”
But the angels of mercy said: “He went out repenting.” ‘So Allah sent an angel to whom they referred (the case).
He said: “Look and see which of the two towns he was closer to and put him with its people.” When death came to him he strove and drew closer to the good town, and farther away from the evil town, so they put him with the people of the good town. [Muslim]
Here we have the concept of hijra, or migrating for the sake of Allah. Is migration an option for Muslims concerned about their youth? Is this something that could bring a lost soul back into the fold?
Allah knows best. But the question becomes: Migration to where?
Modernity has left virtually no square inch of the earth unblemished by its corruption. The reality is, the wayward soul can find means to feed itself through communications technology and the reach of the global marketplace even in the most remote parts of the world. Nowhere is hermetically sealed and this is due to the totalizing, hegemonic nature of modernity that demands to rule over every person, everywhere. We of course saw what happened when one relatively small nation recently decided to implement Sharia. The Western reaction was as swift as it was punitive and uncompromising.
But, the matter is not black and white, as there are certain places that are better than others. Is the toxicity found in, say, New York City, greater than Doha? Or Kuala Lumpur? Or any number of other predominantly Muslim cities? Obviously. It is up to each family to make their decisions based on their circumstances. Sadly, even those cities are not immune and ultimately it’s in the Hands of Allah, to whom we pray and beseech.
I can just hear people’s reactions after reading all this: So what is the solution?!
Again, that’s my point. Sometimes, there is no easy answer, no quick, convenient fix. Sometimes the problem is too big, too intractable and recognizing that fact is the only practical thing that can be done because it makes us realize that the only solution is turning to Allah. Sometimes, we have to understand the gravity of the situation, depressing as it is, if we are going to have any chance of coming out alive.
None of us has any power to change the course of the world, to reverse modernity. Only Allah has power.
The hungry wood chipper rumbles on.