8. Dedicate yourself for the youth off campus.
Our role as a university student is just one fraction of our identities. It is just one part of our lives. It does not define who we are nor does it limit where we belong within the community.
Yes, we do belong within the MSA, but at the end of the day we are our own individuals. We do not just represent the youth on campus but we are also representatives of the youth off campus. We are part of a community that grows with the contributions and influence of individuals. Individuals that are not only elders but university students like you.
We, therefore, have the potential to not only do good on campus but can also go beyond.
We can go beyond.
No, rather, we need.
We need to go beyond.
We need to give it our all not just on campus but off.
We need to let other youths know that they can do whatever they set their mind onto, too.
The truth is, as soon as we get our acceptance letters for university, we are automatically given a platform. Acceptance from a university unfortunately leads to further acceptance from the community. It is customary today to be defined by our accomplishments that there are many youths struggling to see whether or not they have something to give. They do not feel that they are worthy, that before trying, they give up. They give up on their potential because they are led to believe that they do not have potential.
This all can change though.
It can all change if you as a university student are active off campus.
If you embrace your background, share your struggles, and show that you are part of the community like everyone else.
You are them — the youth.
Contribute in the community and dedicate yourself for the youth not because you think that you are better but because you see that there is a need.
Because there is a need.
There is a need…for Muslims to be educated.
There is a need for our youth to feel their worth — to have hope of their potential.
It easy to feel worthless when you cannot even physically get up from your chair. Teenagers usually worry about fitting in but I was more focused on making sure that I was still standing. I did not think that much over fitting in because I was too busy trying to survive. I, however, did wish time and again of witnessing those with similar struggles in society. I craved examples so that I could hold on and not give up trying.
I did not see anyone like me active.
I knew of those in the past like Hellen Keller but a part of me wanted to meet a youth with similar struggles. A youth elder than me with similar struggles. I wanted to see them making contributions. I wanted to know whether they were university students.
I wanted to know….not because I did not believe that I could be a university student, but because I felt like in the community it was not expected for me to study further high school. People determined beforehand what I can and cannot do before I even tried. Meanwhile, there was Islam that encourages to study, grow, give, share, believe, trust….hope.
People labelled me as a child that was sick but I found comfort labelling myself as a Muslim. I, therefore, diverted all of my attention in being the best Muslim that I could be even if it meant doing things contrary of what was expected from me.
I could not hang out with my peers that much as a teenager that I resorted to watching online Islamic videos. I came across a Muslim convert speaker that was visually impaired. He talked about his life—how he does boxing lessons even with people telling him not to try. How he found sanctuary and comfort in Islam that he eventually embraced it. How Islam encourages you to try your best and in a way pushes you to be active in the community.
We may not have had a similar disability but I resonated with his story. I admired him for defying expectations. He mentioned the Islamic scholars that he studied from and how he is still young and learning.
Just knowing of his example and knowing that there were elders that believed in him made me want to try.
I looked around those in my life and noticed that even though most of the community did not expect me to try—rather discouraged—there were still few individuals that believed in me.
So, after listening to his talk that day, I made a vow. I promised myself that I will not only try my best, but I will live my story, and share it so that maybe…another youth like me will feel hope.
You may not have a disability but I am sure you have tasted pain and a form of hardship. Your journey is a unique one and there is someone out there that can resonate with you. How will people know you if you do not go out? How will the youth connect with you if you are not there? Go out and be there for the youth. Go out and be there for your younger selves.
I cannot physically do much but I was very happy to see the MSA in our batch help out with Islamic Youth Association’s summer camp. We used to plan out camp activities and asked different organizations for collaborations so that we could invite speakers that are good with the youth. We had Omar Regan—a comedian—be part of the camp and it was beautiful to see all the youth together regardless of being a university student or not.
I was also happy to see some MSA-ers go to Islamic Kasim Tuet Memorial College for tutoring and after school activities. Just being there as a university student can make a huge difference because you are automatically showing the youth that, they too, can go to university.
I know that it is easier to hide.
I know that it is easier to think you do not have time.
But what would have happened if I did not come across that video of the visually impaired convert?
How would have my story played out differently?
He was brave.
He was selfless.
Look what good it brought.
Look what good you can do.
So, I encourage you to dedicate yourself to the youth off campus, too.
I encourage you to try.