Even though there is so much overwhelming evidence that the world is in this great mess simply because mankind, on a massive scale, is striving to follow its collective desires, each successive generation is bound and declares that it is right. Mankind has such a limited perception of things; we only see things according to the angle where we stand, and it is impossible to see things comprehensively—hence we disagree most of the time. Any disagreement or conflict requires an effort to overcome it and this includes the problems associated with the generation gap.
In the midst of all the confusion and conflict amid feelings of self-righteousness, a lot of generalizations are made and injustice is done. Older people usually say they know everything and younger people usually say that older people don’t know anything at all and don’t understand anything. Perhaps one of the parties is right and perhaps both of them are wrong! Only Allah knows.
But it is true to say that not all teenagers are troublemakers and rebellious, and it is also true to say that not all parents neglect their kids; certainly not all parents are abusive. The media plays an important role in confusing the young and the old about their roles in life and how they should see each other. It is trendy for young people to buck authority and disobey their parents, and likewise many older people sit together and complain about the younger generation without acknowledging their positive points.
Both sides of the gap need to be objective, kind, and openhearted. Both sides need to learn to appreciate each other and learn from each other’s special perspectives.
Believing in and practicing Islam bridges all gaps, even the generation gap. In the days of the Prophet (peace be upon him) we had examples like Usamah ibn Zaid, who led the Muslim army when he was only 17 years old after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Many of the older and renowned Companions fought under his command. Also, `Ali ibn Abi Talib was loved and respected from a young and tender age. He was only 10 years old when he accepted Islam and accompanied the Prophet (peace be upon him) everywhere.
When we look at such examples, we notice that when it comes to respect, either from the old to the young, or the young to the old, it is based on decent and moral behaviour. The people who were worthy of respect were respected because morality was valued.
Some people are easy to love and respect because of their characteristics and behaviour; while with others you have to dig a little deeper to find the goodness that may lie hidden under mounds of shyness, aggression, defensiveness, hostility, aloofness, or fear. But if you care to be patient and spend some time, you’ll surely find that buried treasure that will enrich your lives.
*By Selma Cook