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View Full Version : Generation Gap – Friend or Foe?

05-09-2005, 01:46 PM

Sometimes do you get annoyed at your parents? Although my annoyances aren't covered in this article, it does cover other common issues for people:

Generation Gap – Friend or Foe?

By Latiefah Akhmat**

May 1, 2005

The generation gap is a continual source of pain and confusion for every successive generation. It is often seen as the difficulties and struggles represented in the attitudes and experiences of older people and how they interpret the attitudes and behavior of young people.

What does Islam say about the generation gap? Parents should play with their children until they are 7 years old, teach them until they are 14 and after that, parents should be their children’s friend. It can be a problem if parents do not communicate with their children in an appropriate way.

In the Qur’an we read about a man called Luqman (in Surat Luqman) and how he advised his son concerning parents. He told his son in a loving way how much parents, especially the mother, have done for him and Luqman explained how the son should deal with his parents in a loving and kindly way. This is a lesson for all of us. It means that just because there is a problem it doesn’t mean the young person has to pack up and leave, or that the parents have to tell the young person to leave the house! It means that even at times of contention, the older and younger people have to show mercy, gratitude, and kindness and prove the maturity of their minds.

One time there was a man and his son, who was in his mid-20s. They had a disagreement over a silly issue and the son moved out and got his own house. They became estranged and because of the bad feelings, it was difficult for them to visit each other or even to talk to each other. The son became more and more self-centered and materialistic. By turning away from family values, which is what the father stood for, the young man lost his way in life and by the time he became 40 years old, he was rich but very lonely. He always felt this empty space inside himself—the space where his parents should have been in his heart and in his life. It wasn’t until his parents died that he realized how important they were to him and how they had maintained the stability of his life. So now he is trying to make up for this neglect by taking care of and supporting other family members.

The peak of failure in dealing with the generation gap is when family ties break. It is said that “parents are the windows into the past and the vision of the future.” So if the youth want to have a peek at the past, they need to open that window; but if they don’t want it, it will be closed to them and they will be the ones who will miss out. Even though older people have surely made many mistakes in their lives, they still have a lot of experience to share and some unique views and perceptions that can feed the young people and draw out their budding insight.

At the same time, not all older people are kind and wise. So this leads us to the question of how the youth should deal with neglectful, even abusive older people.

Ideally, if we follow Muhammad (peace be upon him) such things won’t happen, but we are human beings and reality means that these things do happen. So how should the youth cope?


Find an older person you trust and respect so he or she can guide you and take the place of the lost role model.

Try to keep within your extended family and try to maintain family ties even by a phone call or a letter.

Don’t turn to your friends for advice on important matters. Young people do not usually have the experience and wisdom to deal with all kinds of situations. Even if the adult you consult does not know everything about your problem, he or she will be able to direct you to other people who can help.

It is usual that many young people do not know how to talk to their parents about some issues; they find it difficult and uncomfortable. So in such cases parents should be wise and direct their child to a trustworthy person who will guide him or her in the right way. Parents shouldn’t take it personally if the young person seeks to confide in someone else.

If you want to know more about life, you need to know the history of life. Simply because young people are young, it means they haven’t yet acquired experience and knowledge to the extent of older people; so young people should benefit from this knowledge and experience and enrich their own. If you find your grandparents, parents, uncles, or aunts going on and on about how you should be careful of the friends you keep, just keep in mind that perhaps they, at some time in their lives, had real life experience in such matters. They may have dealt with, for example, drug addicts throughout their lives and may have even been one. Maybe the older people will not want the younger person to know such things about them because they don’t want to be looked down upon. But they can share a lot of valuable experience and advice.

One man was a drug addict for 30 years and he had two sons. What do you think he tells them? He tells them not to mix with people who use drugs!

The youth might say to the parents, “But you do that!” It may be that in doing that, the parent knows how important it is that the young person doesn’t do it!

One young woman wanted to marry a man but her mother advised her not to. The mother had had a difficult life with the father for years, and she saw in this young man many similarities with her husband. The young woman didn’t listen and now her husband is a drug addict and beats her up. The young husband refused to work and the young wife and her baby had to return to her parents’ house. What should the older people do if they see their beloved young people heading toward a cliff? Should they just keep quiet and let the young people make their own mistakes?

A friend of mine told me about herself when she was young and I want to share this story with you. She was 19 years old and she described herself as “very stubborn.” She felt she could justify her stubbornness because of the hardships she had undergone. She wanted to marry a certain man and her parents disagreed. Now her parents had made quite a few mistakes with her and she had fallen into the trap of feeling sorry for herself and justifying her doing what she wanted because of the pain she’d been through. So when her parents refused that she marry this man, she obstinately went ahead and married him. She confided to me that she was almost going to change her mind about marrying him because of some things she’d discovered in him, but when her parents objected she dug her heels in and married him anyway. Needless to say, she had a difficult life with this man and they divorced after a few years. She recalled that at that time she said to her parents some words that rang in her ears for many years to come. She said in a very arrogant and haughty way, “I have the right to do what I like. It’s my life and I’m the one who will live with the consequences of my actions!” Those words were hard to swallow because at the time she didn’t realize that not only she would live with the consequences of her actions, but so would her son who was born later.

Some words of advice to close: Always try to keep your parents and older people in your life close to you—don’t estrange yourself. If things are not good right now, Allah willing, they will be better. Learn about Islam and strive to live according to its principles. Know yourself and be honest about your strengths and weaknesses. And above all, before you make any important decision in your life seek Allah’s guidance.

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