Nerdy vs. Cool?


501135216_c78882f3a7_oOk so I admit it: I was a nerd growing up. The sciencey type you know; I had my own little microscope and I knew the periodic table by heart and competed for high grades like the best of them. I was a hit with my parent’s friends and especially old ladies; they just loved how well-behaved and well-spoken I was. I loved it too, until I woke up one day and realized that being nerdy does not equate with being cool.

You see, the elusive ‘cool’ concept that no one really knows how to define, but everyone knows what it is, is a very universal one. What is considered cool might be different from one country to another, but being cool is something that every teenager aspires to be. So my social survival instinct kicked in – I needed to be perceived as cool. I, and every other nerd, wanted to be like those “men” who were perceived to be the epitome of defiance and rebellion against the social norm. Their nonchalant attitude towards school, their careless disregard to a curfew, the way they dressed, and how they played soccer, were all mysteriously intriguing and I wanted to be just like them.

One day, I found my way into the impenetrable fort of ‘cool’: my ticket in was through my friend and neighbor, who shared a ride to school with me, but did not share the same pool of friends. He was a smoker and so was everyone else in the cool crowd. With minimal convincing, I started smoking my first cigarette, and before long I was in. From that day on, I lived my high school years as a nerd incognito, hiding behind a cigarette.

This desire to be cool is not specific to one’s teen years. Human beings are social by nature. We look for a group that we can identify with; we seek to fit in.  From high school to college I transitioned through phases and groups, and have done things I am not proud of. Every time I look back and reflect on those years I find that my mistake was always in the company I kept. The Prophet ﷺ said:

“The example of a good companion and that of a bad one is like the one who [sells] musk and [an iron smith]. The one who sells the musk will either give you some or you will at least get some of his good smell on you. As for the [iron smith], he will either burn your clothes or you will get some of his stench.” (Bukhari)

Subhan’Allah, I remembered that hadith as a kid, but I never paid attention to the advice that lies within it. It is crucial whose company we choose. Peer pressure, although often painted in a negative light, can work both ways. Just as surrounding myself with those “cool” kids led me to smoking, surrounding myself now with people who frequent the masjid has helped me quit. Alhamdulillah, I have learned from my past experiences and I have made, and continue to make, a conscientious effort of whom to befriend. Now when I am not at the masjid for a couple of days, there is a phone call or an email wondering where I’ve been. When I am at the masjid, and one person gets up to pray sunnah, everyone else follows suit.

Allah (swt), who knows His creation best, says

18:28

“And keep yourself patient [by being] with those who call upon their Lord in the morning and the evening, seeking His countenance. And let not your eyes pass beyond them, desiring adornments of the worldly life, and do not obey one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his desire and whose affair is ever [in] neglect.” (Qur’an, 18:28)

That advice was given to the Prophet ﷺ whom Allah has described as having the most virtuous of manners:

68:4

“And indeed, you are of a great moral character.” (Qur’an, 68:4)

He was masoom (protected from committing sins) and absolutely resolute and steadfast with his religion yet Allah advises him here to surround himself by “those who call upon their Lord.” Why? Because the company we keep is vital in achieving our ultimate goal of pleasing Allah (subhana wa ta`ala – glory be unto Him) and entering His Jannah.

If we are selective in whom we befriend and choose to be in the company of those who love Allah (swt) then our love for Allah (swt) will strengthen. We rely on our peers and they rely on us, and together we build upon each other to elevate ourselves to the best of rewards and the highest of honors – Allah’s love.

19:96“Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds – the Most Merciful will appoint for them affection.” (Qur’an, 19:96)

This verse is further explained in Tafsir al-Jalalayn, “Truly those who believe and perform righteous deeds — for them the Compassionate One shall appoint love, between them, so that they have mutual love and affection, and God, exalted be He, will love them.”

When Allah (swt) loves you, everyone else loves you:

The Prophet ﷺ has said: “If Allah loves a person He calls upon Gabriel and says to him that I love this person so love him. Gabriel in turn loves that person and then calls in the skies that Allah loves this person so love him and the people of the skies (the angels) will love him.”

Imagine that! Allah, Gabriel and all the angels will love you. Now that is cool!

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7 Comments

  1. Yus from the Nati says:

    Very nice piece. جزاك الله خيرا

  2. aideh says:

    jazakAllah kheir!

  3. Siraj says:

    I was with a group of friends in college of which two were smokers. I did not smoke but used to hang out with them. One day the smoker wore a t-shirt without a pocket, (and cigarettes don’t belong in trouser pockets) so he dropped the cigarettes in my pocket (which he later took back). Later at home, my mom asked me why my shirt was smelling of cigarettes. :o

    I remembered this when I read that Musk and Iron smith hadith.

  4. Ahmed says:

    Ma’sha’allalh, VERY COOL article!

    I can somewhat relate to this. I am currently studying overseas (Europe) and as far the social life that my classmates participate in, I usually choose not to join, as it consists of r bar-and club-hopping. So outside of class, I don’t spend that much time with most of them and only join a select few classmates that enjoy similar things that I do, such as going the movies and/or a nice dinner. Also, these friends, though not Muslim, are also God-conscious practicing Christians – though from time to time, two Muslims ‘kids’ (as I call them) do join us, as they don’t enjoy that late-night scene either.
    Anyways, I think this is a great article for all ages, but especially the younger crowd who are going through this mental tug-of-war. Jazak’Allahu Khairan

  5. 02if says:

    jazak Allahu kul kul khayr for your honesty. Excellent reminder

  6. Halal says:

    JazakAllahkhairi. completely necessary for the youth growing up. being cool has been equated to looking “strong” and tough. protecting pride behind a wall of a show to put up.
    capping on people on facebook, putting people down to make others laugh, constantly raising yourself.

    however we already know that the strongest one is the one who can hold in his anger nor beat up someone. discipline is more than just staying in the gym 5 days a week. its waking up at night to pray and waking up in the morning to fast.

    Allah grants strengh to these types of people while other who keep their habits and dont change their intentions will only destroy themselves.

    To call the one who follows the Sunnah, is kind to others, always positive, makes duaa to people, does not laugh at the expense of others to be weak, then the prophet (saw) is our example of that mean who did that and yet was ferocious when Allah called him to, then sat down in humility and peace the second it was over.

    I remind and scold myself first..Asalamulaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Baraktuhu

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