In most cases, wisdom comes with experience and age (but some will never learn). As for ideals and means, they often diminish with age (in general). That does not mean that young people are ignorant or that older people are impotent. It’s just a generalization.
Now, some will say you shouldn’t generalize. I get it, and that is some very sound advice on a personal level; but on a macroscopic scale, we generalize every day: it’s always hot in July… You can’t find an apartment anywhere… and the granddaddy of them all: culture. The single greatest generalization is culture. You are literally normalizing social behavior on an entire demographic (but using the word culture normalizes the whole thing).
Anyway, back on topic. Young people need to take charge of their destiny, and when I mean young, I mean 16 to 40-year-olds. Sorry, you might still be young at heart, but you are no longer young when you hit 40; you’re not old yet, but you’re getting there (don’t feel bad, I’m on my way myself). And when I mean take charge, I mean by voting, demonstrating, participating in government, educating, learning, being a positive influence in your community…
O.k. I dig taking charge by 40, and it’s normal to be implicated by 30; but 20, 18, 16… that’s not even legal age!?! The way teens act nowadays in ‘’developed’’ countries is a result of their societies. The way the education system is set up makes lingering around the norm, the fashion industry sexualizes girls at a prepubescent age, the commercial sector creates false needs leading to debt which hinders autonomy. Even if the results weren’t intentional, only collateral damage, this damage has become permanent.
Let’s face it, kids become teens way too early and turn into ‘’real’’ adults way too late. You become a teen by 10 or 11 and you turn into an adult around 25 or rather when you switch from Fortnite to Call of Duty. The thing is, the teen years are just that: 13, 14… 19, hence the suffix ‘’teen’’ at the end (that’s what suffix means; redundant… I got it!).
The long and the short of it is that the most precarious state in one’s lifetime is adolescence. So normally, you would kind of want to limit its duration. It’s simple, you get obnoxious at 13, and BAM!!! You’re a man by 16. Easier said than done, right! But it doesn’t have to be. Historically (over 100 years ago), you would see more productivity from a younger age. You can still see this today in 3rd world countries, but not for the right reasons. You see 12-year-olds (and sometimes younger, unfortunately) who are the main breadwinners (and I mean this literally) of their families. You actually get incredibly responsible children by doing so, but they will not be able to flourish as adults since most 3rd world countries are impoverished, not from a lack of natural or human resources, but by corruption and injustice. They end up in the same squeaky wheel for the rest of their lives.
This is where there must be a sane and healthy balance between both worlds. One cannot long in eternal adolescence, nor should one be robbed of a legitimate childhood. Lengthening one vs. shortening the other is equally devastating. Therefore, childhood should be about acquiring useful knowledge and learning from mistakes (your own and others). Adolescence is about responsibilizing. In Islam, you become responsible for your actions towards Allah and towards others at the age of puberty. This is not a time to learn from your mistakes or excuse them for being young and irresponsible; that might have been the case at the age of 8, but not when you’re 15. As for adulthood, you should be a productive part of society; not just on the materialistic side, but in all aspects.
Now, how many exceptional youngsters do you know? Not many… Neither do I. As I have explained earlier, we waste so much time as a western society on trivial matters. As for past generations in the Islamic world, exceptional youngsters were found practically on every street corner.
First off, it was ordinary to find multiple kids on each street block that have memorized the Quran by the age of 10. That is like a 600-page book we are talking about!!! You would find a bunch that would comprehend it and knows the Hadith that would accompany the explanation.
O.k. That is just about knowledge, you’re going to say… And you’re going to tell me how you know many polite and upstanding teens… But how many of those U25 can you name that changed the course of history. Well, for Muslims, change most often came at the hands of youngsters. Just to name a few…
Abd Al-Rahman III (age 21): conquered and unified Islamic Andalusia
Mehmed the Conqueror (age 22): conquered Constantinople (Istanbul today)
Muhammad bin Qasim (age 17): conquered India (nowadays Pakistan)
Usama ibn Zayd (age 18): last appointed general of an army by the Prophet
Az-Zubayr ibn Al-Awam (age 15): 1st to draw his sword on behalf of Muslims (time of the Prophet)
Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas (age 17): 1st to shoot an arrow on behalf of Muslims (time of the Prophet)
Arqam ibn Abi’l-Arqam (age 16): opened his house for the Prophet to spread the message
Muaaz (13) and Muawwidh (14): killed Abu Jahl, Pharaoh of this nation (time of the Prophet)
Ali ibn Abi-Talib (age 10): the first male to believe in the Prophet
Zayd ibn Thabit (age 13): personal scribe of the Prophet, learned Hebrew in less than a month
Attab ibn Asid (age 18): appointed governor of Mecca by the Prophet
Al-Battani (age 19): through astronomical observations, calculating the duration of a year
Al-Biruni (age 21): Through trigonometry, calculated the quasi-exact circumference of the Earth
Ibn-Sina (before his 20’s): was already a phenom, known as the master (after Aristotle)
Ibn Battuta (age 21): began his legendary journey recounted in his famous book, the Travels
When youth is empowered by knowledge (often provided by the old), the combination of means and wisdom always yield a better tomorrow in any society; and yield greatness and justice for mankind when it’s in an Islamic society.