Not being afraid of 'Why?' 

It was a particularly hot summer, and the harvest was about to begin. Thus, it was a most inopportune time for a military expedition. Yet, this did not deter the Prophet . The tribe of Ghassan, a Christian tribe to the North, repeatedly attacked the Muslims and declared its open hostility to the Muslim state in Medina. Thus, the Prophet was compelled to deal with this emerging threat. There was only one problem: Ghassan was an ally of Byzantium, and any attack on Ghassan necessarily meant an attack on Byzantium, which would definitely come to the aid of their Arab co-religionists. 

The Prophet knew this, but fight them he must, otherwise the lives and livelihoods of the inhabitants of Medina would be constantly threatened. Therefore, the Prophet ordered every Muslim capable to carry a sword to converge on Medina to take part in the attack on Tabuk. Many responded. Yet, there were some, chief among them the hypocrites, who did not want to take part in such a difficult task, and they came to the Prophet with all sorts of pathetic excuses as to why they could not go and fight with him. The Prophet accepted them without question, because he knew that these waverers would be of no benefit to the Muslim army anyway. 

There were some Muslims, however, true believers and not hypocrites, who failed to join the army and had no legitimate excuse. The most famous were these three: Ka'b ibn Malik, Mararah ibn ar-Rabi' and Hilal ibn Umayyah. When the Prophet returned from Tabuk, he rebuked them and ordered that they be ostracized from the community. No one was to say one word to them, not even "salam." In fact, whenever one of them would say "salam" to the Prophet , he would not answer out loud, but would mouth the words "alaikum salam." 

This continued for forty days until Allah revealed this verse: "And [He turned in His mercy, too,] towards the three who had fallen prey to corruption, until in the end-after the earth, despite all its vastness, had become [too] narrow for them and their souls had become [utterly] constricted, they came to know with certainty that there is no refuge from God other than [a return] unto Him; and thereupon He turned again unto them in His mercy, so that they might repent: for, verily, God alone is an acceptor of repentance, a dispenser of grace" (Quran 9:118). 

The earth, despite its vastness, had become too narrow for them. That feeling, I suspect, is the exact same feeling our youth have growing up here in America. This is especially true for the youth who struggle to stay committed to the laws and dictates of Islam. I was one of those youth, and the earth indeed felt ever so narrow around me. I felt totally alone, even though I was surrounded by hundreds of fellow students in school. It was a horrible feeling and a very difficult time in my life. 

These feelings will naturally lead the young one to ask "Why?" He or she will ask, "Why can't I go to that party?" "Why can't I drink alcohol?" "Why can't I ask him or her on a date?" "Why can't I go to the prom?" And the answer given to them from their parents and elders are frequently inadequate and cold-hearted: "Because...because I said so." 

This is wrong. Allah , the Holy Creator on High, never said "Because I said so." So, why should we? Of all the beings in the universe, Allah , the creator of everything, should not be asked "why," as the Quran says: "He cannot be called to account for whatever He does, whereas they will be called to account [for what they do]" (Quran 21:23). Yet, Allah still provides an explanation for why he makes certain things forbidden. That is why He is such a wonderful Lord and Sustainer. Why, therefore, should we be threatened by the "whys" and "wherefores" of our children and youth? 

When our youth ask "why?", we should seek out the motivation behind such a question. Frequently, we will find out that he or she is seeking to understand his or her faith better; he or she wants to understand the reason behind a particular prohibition, especially when it comes to issues alcohol, dating, and sex, things which are pervasive among youth today. Rarely, they ask these questions out of sheer rebellion. 

Youth and adolescence is perhaps the most difficult time for any person, let alone a devout Muslim adolescent growing up in America. Whether we like it or not, our conduct embodies Islam to our youth, and if we fall short of the ideals of our faith, our youth frequently become disenchanted with Islam and are liable to leave the faith. They know what the pamphlets and brochures about Islam say, but when they see us behaving in a manner unbecoming of a Muslim--all the while criticizing them for their rebellion against the faith--they will immediately see through this hypocrisy, and it will have a devastating effect on their faith, especially given the enormous pressure they face each and every day as an American Muslim in the post 9/11 era. 

Our youth are our future. Let us welcome them and their questions with open arms. Let us include them in the running of our affairs: they have a valuable perspective having grown up as Americans. Let us improve our own religious commitment and live up to the ideals of our faith. If we fail to do this, I fear our mosques--gorgeous and magnificent on the outside--may be completely empty of the next generation of believers on the inside. And we will have no excuse whatsoever before our Lord on the Day we will meet Him again.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. His forthcoming book, "The Beliefnet Guide to Islam," is due to be published by Doubleday in 2006. His blog can be visited at:

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Older Comments:
Not only good article, but we can feel the pulses of sane heart willing to make some positive changes. It's a deep breath !
Thank you

Good article!!! I have been there and I know how it feels. I have become a better Muslim, thanks to Allah's grace as time went along.

I totally agree. Growing up, in school or in society, no one seemed to know about the reasons behind most of the Islamic practices. In fact, pious people seemed to delight in pointing out every single prohibition, whether they knew the reasons were valid or based on weak hadith, or knew no reason at all. i felt my religion was purely one of difficulty, until i went to find my way on my own, through reading. Then i understood that the truth was far closer to my heart than i suspected. but by then, it had become a matter of pushing my way back to obedience and belief - had things been taught and explained with reason and logic when i was younger, perhaps i need not have suffered all the resentment and doubt at all. why enforce ignorance in the place of reason? it was totally unnecessary.

As a recent convert to Islam, I must say that I wholeheartedly agree with this article. One of the strenghts of Islam is that is readily offers an explanation for all that its adherents practice. Often, I am asked "why" by others, by non-Muslims who really do not know or understand the religion. It is important to have an answer.

This is a very valid problem we have, not in US but in Pakistan, and may be in other muslim world.

The most important thing is to elevate our right spirits and goals. Each of us should think to be a Muslim first, being a career of his faith, being a representative of Islam in all forms.
If we strengthen our believe of meeting our God on the day of Judgment, the fire of hell on displeasing Him and the pleasures of paradise on obeying Him, our spirits would be raised. For this nothing is much effective then the words of Allah(SWT) Himself, i.e. the Holy Book Quran.
In this way our problems could be diminished.

We should change our goals/objectives. Start following the Guidance from our God individually and to struggle for collectiveness. Then Inshallah our next generations would get a fruit of what we do, otherwise the degradation will go on...

O Allah (SWT), show us the right path.


I agree with the article. We need to tell our kids anything we rufused them to do that God forbiden us these things, and there is an adventage about it. some of the adventages we can see them right now, like drinking. we can see why Allah forbiden us drink. hundreds or thousands lost their lifes and others became disable. there other advantages we don't see but only God knows what best for us.

I agree with the article, my parents never really explained to me any of these problems when i was a kid. I saught the answers by myself, by reading Quran and then contemplating, contemplation works a lot, but still as parents, it is their duties to explain to us the question at hand whether it may be from why is alcohol haram to why a girl has to wear the hijab they should have the answers, otherwise it shows lack of faith i ntheir religion and the child will pick up on the habit and say why bother if they don't. There are some good responses to these questions, that we have a problem with everyday check out this site. It gives me a great amount of info.

salam alaikum

As an American Muslim, born and raised in this country for almost 20 years, I understand the pressures our society creates on youth. Raised as a dedicated Catholic-Christian, asking Why was a sign of a "lack of faith." For 18 years, I was shunned away from the important answers about creation, life, and death. Answers that were more important than the questions, as it showed there was much more to life, than what we are lead to believe. I thank Allah everyday for the chance to learn and explore Islam. Though I am an educated college student, never in my life have i felt more appreciation to the values and beliefs that are displayed in Islam. Without those values, anarchy would be the destination of my country's future...something I am actively involved in preventing. So, it is important for us to live by example. If I never met some Turkish brothers, based on their genuine, good-hearted nature, I would not have been open to listening to the information about Islam. It was always curious to me, why "faith" in the U.S. is a noun, like "what faith are you?" Yet, faith in Islam is the action of peace, charity, community, and above all, prayer. This is something that I can never forget, the answer to my "Why else are we here?"

heartedly be sure first that your faith in islam is a true path leading to permanent live with comfort as our prophet salalahu alaiyhe wasalam says Amantu bellahe sumastaqam it means have faith in Allah subhanhu wa taala and be firm on it,and be aware of your enemy (satan)and whatever your question is the respond will be found in Quran by reading Tafseer of Quran reflection and ponderation

This article is very true. I as a youth often have questions about Islam and have attempted to ask my parents about them, unfortuanly their responce is "because it is forbidden/bad in Islam, and God will not be pleased with you". Yah but why? I never know. I am constanly faced with questions from my ever curious classmates and friends but can never give them a good answer. Eventually they just have a worse view on Islam, thinking it's a religion with a whole bunch of senceless rules. I don't know what to do, and is there any suggestions of where to get the correct information from. I even asked a mosque about some of my questions and they haven't replied. I don't know where else to get info from and i don't want to get it from a bad source. Oh yah another thing they say is to look it up in the hadith or the Quran but when i do i don't always understand it (even when it's in english). To me there are some parts (as a non-muslim classmate pointed out)in the Qur'an that promotes viloence against everyone who is not muslim and has unreasonable laws. So I don't know what to belive.

I agree! VEry true.

Excellent article. I whole heartedly agree brother. I was and one of those children in high school, and alhumdullilah, my parents did explain to me the reasons why I couldnt engage in some of those things. Some of them seem obvious enough, but there are times when fitting in overtakes us. And I understand today now than ever "why". With abortions, drunk driving incidents, and STD's, I thank Allah for having parents that taught me those things. Again, excellent truth in this article. Asalamu alaikum.

I don't know what's the moral behind this story. Does it mean we should have a blind faith in our leaders? I beg to differ.
From a historic point of view. It sounds like our prophet was blaming others for a failed adventure. am I wrong on this one?

I agree with this article 100% as I grew up asking the same questions that Hesham A. Hassaballa has addressed in this article. Growing up a devout Muslim in an area with zero Muslims was extremely difficult for me and for that matter difficult for ANY Muslim. I went through a tremendous amount of "suffering" as I was alone and had no Muslims to look up to. I had the courage to resist temptations around me and to read about my religion on my own AND I was lucky to have parents who educated me on the the tenets of our religion. As this article states Muslim parents should explain to their kids the importance of Islam and give them the reasons for certain prohibitions in Islam i.e. prohibitions on dating, alcohol, sex etc. When teenagers get answers to their "WHY's" then they are less likely to fall prey to the "temptations" around them.