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Character in Times of Crisis: Muslim Youth and Palestine

Muslim youth are experiencing a range of emotions during the current genocide being conducted by Israel against Palestinians. Our team for the Building Blocks Tarbiya project  was able to glean a preliminary insight into their emotions and responses to this genocide through a unique research opportunity. In September 2023, the project team launched data collection for a longitudinal research study on character development amongst Muslim youth. During this data collection period, Israel escalated its genocide attempts against Palestine. We were getting a lot of feedback from our community partners and organizations about how the conflict was impacting Muslim youth. In order to provide youth the space to express how they are feeling, we added open-ended questions to our survey to allow youth to reflect on their current lived experiences and describe how their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors may have changed as a result of the current events.

The response was overwhelming. Although the response rate for open-ended questions is often very low in research studies, we experienced a 82% response rate–out of 521 youth who completed the larger survey, about 425 youth responded to the question about Palestine. A preliminary review of youth’s responses show that Muslim American adolescents are filled with fear, pain, and helplessness. Youth are also experiencing positive character traits and emotions such as gratitude for the blessings they have in their life as well as motivation to improve their lives and engage in activism and civic participation. Sample responses are provided below. About 54% youth reported that they have been impacted a lot by the genocide (on a 4 point likert scale).

Also, The FYI recognizes that the difficulties of Muslim youth expressed in this survey are only a small reflection of the magnitude of pain experienced by the Gazan people. Our aim in sharing these survey responses is to recognize that, as part of a global Ummah, youth in the USA are impacted as they witness these atrocities. While our ability to change the situation in Gaza may be limited, we can ensure that our young people are supported as they navigate these challenging times.

Although this project is funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).