Khutba: Gangs and our communal responsibility

To the people of Thamud We sent their brother, Salih, saying, ‘Worship God alone,’ but they split into two rival factions. Salih said, ‘My people, why do you rush to bring [forward] what is bad rather than good? Why do you not ask forgiveness of God, so that you may be given mercy?’

They said, ‘We see you and your followers as an evil omen.’

He replied, ‘God will decide on any omen you may see: you people are being put to the test.’

There were nine men in the city who spread corruption in the land without making amends. They said, ‘Swear by God: we shall attack this man and his household in the night, then say to his next of kin, “We did not witness the destruction of his household. We are telling the truth.”’

So they devised their evil plan, but We too made a plan of which they were unaware. See how their scheming ended: We destroyed them utterly, along with all their people. As a result of their evil deeds, their homes are desolate ruins– there truly is a sign in this for those who know– but We saved those who believed and were mindful of God. [Surah An-Naml 27: 45-53]

In the above aayaat, Allah (SWT) presents the story of Prophet Salih (May Allah bless him) and nine evil people, the gangsters of their, community. They plotted to kill Prophet Saalih and all the good people with him, however, Allah(SWT) destroyed them with huge rocks as well as a natural calamity on all the evildoers from this community.

Gang culture is trending currently in England and there have been a number of regional and local cases which show the dangers it poses in schools and on the streets. Why do people join gangs? And what is our perspective as Muslims on this phenomena and how to deal with it?

Why do people join gangs?

In order to address this issue effectively, it’s important to identify its causes which will then help address social challenges we can also work to address. Common reasons for people joining gangs include:

A Sense of “Family” Young people might feel that they don’t receive enough support or attention at home. They may be trying to escape a negative home life or may be looking for a father figure. Gangs often make promises to give unconditional support and to become the “family” they never had.

Easy money or future prospects Gangs may present themselves as a means of survival to youth who think they lack the skills for anything else. More and more, gang members use their affiliation to make a profit through illegal activities, such as selling drugs and auto theft.

Desire for protection Communities with high gang activity often see young people join a gang just to survive. It is often easier to join the gang than to remain vulnerable and unprotected in their neighbourhoods.

Peer Pressure Kids and teens face constant pressure to fit in, and they may not have the support they need to avoid the pressures to join a gang. Peer pressure can come in the form of intimidation, coercion, a dare, harassment, friendly persuasion, or repetitious begging.

Family history or tradition Families can have gang involvement spanning over multiple generations. This is one of the toughest forms of pressure to escape, as the gang lifestyle is deeply rooted in family traditions and values.

Excitement Some young people get a rush out of defying authority or committing crimes. They may be attracted to the gang lifestyle, as it lives outside the law and participates in many illicit behaviours.

To Appear Cool Gangs have mastered the art of manipulation to attract potential recruits. They wear the latest fashion trends, throw the hottest parties, and drive the coolest cars. They can appear to have the ‘perfect’ lifestyle to a young kid who’s looking to fit in somewhere. The offer an image of “cool” that has been glorified by the media and entertainment industry.

The harms of gang culture

Becoming a slave to the gang

You will never be your own person in a gang. You will always do what is ordered, wear what they say, and spend your free time building up the gang. What about your dreams? Islam came to free you from the worship of creation to the exclusive worship of Allah(SWT).

Blacklisted

If you get arrested, an arrest record will make it hard for you to get a job. If you want to have a future, know that this is being recorded in this Dunya but more importantly in the Akhira by the One whose angels are writing down our every deed.

Prison

Are these few moments worth a sentence in a cell? The Prophet (SAW) told us the believer

Verily, the example of this world and myself is that of a rider who seeks shade under a tree, then he moves on and leaves it. [Musnad Ahmad 3701]

Injury or Death

You will be just another enemy to those rival gangs – those knives or bullets won’t care that you’re my child. You could get injured, or even killed. We don’t want to lose you.

Threats to Family

Once the gangs know where you live, your house will become a target. How would you feel if they attacked your mother or your baby sister, just to get to you?

Future

A gang may seem cool now, but what happens when you get tired of the lifestyle? What if you want to get married or start a family? What if you want to get a legit job, who’s going to hire you with all of that history?

So how do we work together to address this?

For every problem, there is a solution with Allah’s help and we all have a duty to enjoin good, forbid evil and protect those under our care and in our reach from harmful behaviour.

  1. Recognise we need to be present, engaged and inclusive so that our youth do not feel the need to seek identity and belonging in gangs.
  2. Keep informed and provide accurate information about alcohol, drugs and crime to those at risk of being involved in gangs.
  3. Highlight and develop the strength of our youth so they are confident enough to say “no” and persevere. Build students’ self-esteem, and teach them to resist peer pressure.
  4. Empower our youth with early decision-making and encourage them to weigh up options and recognise the consequences of their behaviour. Find opportunities to develop respect and humility on this journey so that we can all protect ourselves from pride and oppression.

    This can be reflected in the Quranic story of Fir’own and Quraysh where Allah(SWT) thwarted their plans in this Dunya and the Akhira.

  5. Provide opportunities and advice through your profession
    Many of us didn’t grow up with adults around us who had secured a stable, well-recognised job – this has changed now and we have a responsibility to support our upcoming generation on their journey so they can be better than us. Lack of role models and pathways is a massive contributor to youth delinquency.
  6. Choose friends wisely
    For yourself and your children. Spend time with people you want to be raised with before Allah(SWT) and your children will follow.
  7. Encourage positive spaces in the community
    Some corners and parks are notorious. Steer clear of them and work with your local masjid and community centre in a collaborative way to ensure fun activities which can bring them closer to Allah.

Remember, you may turn a blind eye today, but the scourge of dangerous gangs, crime, violence and weapons will reach you and your family too.

In the collection of Imam Bukhari, Nu’man bin Bashir reported that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us we all have an active role to play to saeguard our society:

The example of the person abiding by God’s order and restrictions in comparison to those who violate them is like the example of those persons who drew lots for their seats in a boat. Some of them got seats in the upper part, and the others in the lower. When the latter needed water, they had to go up to bring water (and that troubled the upper deck passengers), so they said, ‘Let us make a hole in our share of the ship (and get water) so that we do not trouble the upper deck passengers.’ If the people in the upper part left the lower deck passengers to do what they had suggested; then all the people of the ship would be destroyed, but if they had prevented them, then both parties would be safe.”

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