Using the book, The Preservation of Life, by Ibn al-Qayyim, as a guide, Abū ʿIyāḍ takes us through the various stages of development of the human being, culminating in the most difficult stage — youth. He presents in detail the obstacles that the youth face and ends with ways and means to overcome these obstacles.
A Man’s Life Is a Journey
On this journey of life, a person acquires merchandise. The person who is awake and alert during this journey will benefit much whereas the one who is negligent will face humiliation because he will have no ʿilm and will lend his ear to all sorts of doubts.
Good health and free time are two favours from Allāh to the people, but most people do not benefit from them whilst they have them. One should take advantage of his health and his time before he is called to account. Hasten to do good deeds before 6 things reach you, among them: the rising of the sun in the west, the dajjāl, and your death.
The Various Stages of Development on This Journey:
From birth to maturity/puberty: Most of this time is spent with the parents. Whatever you teach children in this phase is like engraving something into stone; it will stay with them for a long time as children are impressionable by nature. Parents teach their children the basics of tawhīd, teach him/her to pray, memorise Quran, and whatever else they can understand.
Age 15-35: A man becomes responsible for his actions when he reaches puberty. The idea of adolescence is something new and is a social construct in western society; it was never the case in past civilisations. This is the greatest part of your life. In these years you are faced with many desires and many obstacles. In this phase, you should seek knowledge. Whatever you do in this stage will make your life easier moving forward into the next stages of your life. The one who spends his youth (this stage) pure, chaste, and in obedience to Allāh, then Allāh is indeed amazed at him/her.
Age 35-50: The desires of this world are still present; however, they become weaker to you, and you become wiser.
Age 50-70: The desires of this world are weakened evermore. And one who falls into sins at this age is severely blameworthy because desires are not as much a natural inclination at this age. One must pursue them.
Age 70+: At this age, one knows that death is likely near.
The Obstacles Faced by the Youth:
- The Shayṭān
- The worldly tribulations
- Evil company
Abū ʿIyāḍ goes on to detail how to protect ourselves from these obstacles.
Here is a breakdown of the lessons:
Part One: Stages of a man’s development. The 1st obstacle is introduced — ignorance.
Part Two: 12 ways of removing ignorance from yourself.
Part Three:12 ways of removing ignorance from yourself cont’d. The 2nd obstacle is introduced—Shayṭan and his methods of deceiving the youth.
Part Four: The 2nd obstacle (Shayṭan and his methods of deceiving the youth) cont’d.
Part Five: The 2nd obstacle (Shayṭan and his methods of deceiving the youth) cont’d. Practical steps to combat Shayṭan’s deception.
Part Six: The 3rd obstacle—The trials and tribulations of the world.
Part Seven: The 3rd obstacle (The trials and tribulations of the world, cont’d). How to deal with the trials and tribulations of the world. The 4th obstacle—evil companionship—is detailed. How to choose and keep righteous companions.