By Muhammad Abdullah
Just a Word
If someone asked you to use just one word to describe yourself, what would you choose? From all the words that may cross your mind, which would you select?
Words are important because they can shape our beliefs and ambitions, so before we use a word or a title to describe ourselves we must first understand fully what that word or title means. Many young people like to be described by the word 'gangsta' and consider it a sort of badge of honour. But what does it really mean?
The word 'gangsta' is slang for a member of an urban street gang, but the word it comes from, gangster, shows that it has a much darker meaning to it too. Dreams of a 'gangsta' lifestyle are in reality dreams of a life steeped in criminality and completely opposed to the commands of Allah ta'ālā and to the interests of society.
The 'Gangsta' Way
It's easy to look up to the 'gangsta' way of life, but the truth is that there is no such thing as honour among thieves. Every gang member wants to get to the top and is generally willing to do anything to get there. Whilst being part of a gang may bring a sense of belonging, it's important to realise that in gang culture 'use and abuse' is the order of the day.
Fellow gang members are not truly friends. They see each other living lives of sin and destruction, yet do nothing about it. As a result they are enemies of each other in this world and they will be eternal enemies in the hereafter. The Qur'ān states:
All friends on that day [Qiyamah] will be enemies to one another except the muttaqīn [god-fearing]. (43:67)
When it comes to inter-gang rivalry, the blind loyalty to one's 'crew' is nothing but a return to the tribalism of the dark days of Jāhiliyyah. It was the pagans of Arabia who used to live like that and it was Islām that took them out of that craziness. Islām came to bring people out of the darkness and into the light; a 'gangsta', however, does exactly the reverse because he chooses a path that will take him right back into the darkness.
Easy Come, Easy Go
Maybe it's the money that's so attractive. Money comes easy to a 'gangsta' doesn't it? But it's important to remember that harām income can never bring the blessings and goodness of halāl income. It goes as easily as it comes. Money is meant to help you, but harām money will only hurt you. harām money brings nothing but harm in this world and the hereafter. The Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam said:
A body that has been nurtured with harām will not enter Jannah. (Al-Bayhaqī)
One way of making quick money is through drugs. Some people may try to justify their activity by arguing that dealing drugs is a job just like, say, selling medicine or selling food. They might say that they only supply drugs because there is a demand and that dealing drugs involves a lot of hard work. Others may say that it's OK to buy and sell drugs as long as you don't take them yourself. Some may argue that they are not causing any harm because the drugs they deal are not hardcore drugs like cocaine or heroin.
All this however is just wishful thinking: Islām teaches that the producing, buying, selling and taking of any intoxicant is harām.
Is it Worth the Trouble?
Drug dealing and criminality may seem like attractive options, but as with anything in life, we need to consider the wider effects and consequences. Imagine if we introduce somebody to drugs; not only will we be responsible for their first experience with drugs, we will also be responsible for all the other drug related sins they commit in the future. As the hadīth says:
…Whoever calls towards evil will bring upon himself sin equal to the sins of those who follow him, without their sins being diminished in the least. (Muslim)
Is this a risk worth taking? Whilst we may not have felt the consequences of our actions so far, we need to understand that what goes around definitely comes around. As the respected Shaykh Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullāh warns:
'…Today you deal in drugs and enjoy yourself. You deal to our youngsters and do not think about the harm you are causing. You don't care about the young innocent lives you are destroying forever. You don't hear the pleas of their parents and you don't stop to think about how you are breaking their hearts. But remember, you will also be a parent one day. And remember, Allāh ta'ālā is just. Think and reflect: how will you cope on that day when your child's life is destroyed by the same drugs that you used to sell to others?'
If it's not the money that's important then maybe it's the 'buzz' that comes from being held in respect and fear by others. It may be worth considering a saying of the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam though:
The worst of people is he whom people avoid because they fear his mischief. (Al-Bukhārī)
The type of 'respect' earned by 'gangstas' is hollow; it is earned by acts of bullying, violence and criminality and generates hidden resentment and hatred all around. It stays for as long as the balance of power is in your favour. That's why, with all his respect and reputation, the 'gangsta' has to always keep looking over his shoulder.
Self-respect also disappears for a 'gangsta'. Take the example of gangs hanging around in the street. Does a real man stand on street corners with his crew, eyeing up women who are passing by? Such behaviour is not to be expected from a decent human being, especially a Muslim. The next time we feel we have to stand on the road to socialise we should remember that the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam said:
[The right of the road] is lowering the gaze, refraining from harming others, returning greetings, and enjoining what is good, and forbidding what is evil. (Al-Bukhārī)
How many of us can say that we do all these things when we are chilling outside with our mates?
True respect, like the respect enjoyed by the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam and the Sahābah radhiyallāhu 'anhum, is earned through honesty, justice and helping others. A person with true respect, though he may be held in awe, is loved by the people.
'Umar radhiyallāhu 'anhu once said:
We were a wretched people. And it is through Islām that Allāh honoured us.
Before accepting Islām the status of 'Umar radhiyallāhu 'anhu was such that the mere mention of his name would strike fear into people's hearts. People respected him out of fear of his strength and power. After accepting Islām he was respected even more, but the respect was genuine because Allah ta'ālā made him beloved to the people. They loved and respected this new 'Umar whose strength was now used to support the weak and needy and no longer threatened them.
Wealth, fame and power were slaves to the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam and his Companions y. They were real leaders of men, and everyone around them, whether friend or foe, held them in respect. But they did not let any of this get to their heads because they were not slaves to their image. They lived simple lives for they were slaves only of Allāh ta'ālā.
We need to sit down and think what the 'gangsta' lifestyle really offers. In a nutshell, it offers to make us slaves. In direct opposition to the Prophet sallallāhu 'alayhi wasallam and his Companions y, a 'gangsta' becomes a slave to wealth, fame and power. They go to his head and he feels so proud and superior that he doesn't realise that he is a slave. Instead of being in charge of his life though, he lets his desires rule him.
It takes a true man to be a good human being and a good Muslim; it's up to us to choose whether we want to live free or as slaves, chasing fantasies of being a 'gangsta'.