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14May/04

Definition of True Manhood

Faisal Hossain

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And now I’m left pondering, what is the real definition of manhood in Islam? Do we have a definition that is reformed and compatible for the 21st Century?

Nelson Mandela - True Islamic Manhood

“Real men are as rare as a reliable strong camel that can endure the burden of long trips; you can hardly find one in a hundred.” A Hadith quoted from Bukhaari.

The Hadith posted above should make all of us ponder. Of course, many of us probably haven’t seen a camel or don’t know what it means in Arab culture to own a reliable one for a trip. The closest American analogue is probably owning a car that runs smooth during the harsh cold winters. So it’s no wonder that the car we drive is often considered a mark of the level of manhood among the growing adolescent generation over here.

I learned about the above Hadith while reading a Khutbah on the “Islamic Ideals of Manhood” by a Khateeb based in Mecca. Of course a lot of the content inside the Khateeb’s speech was deja-vu and I couldn’t disagree more. It had all the typical elements that we hear nagging every Friday. That all non-Muslims, especially the Jews, are out there to conspire against us. That there is something called “Hellfire” and “Heaven”.

That the Muslim world is degenerating further into an abyss of debauchery due to neo-colonialist forces (readers, read that as “The Civilised West”). That nobody really practices Islam nowadays in its truest form the way it was done 1400 years ago (with the exception of Khateebs giving out sermons). That there are really no real men in our world to help our cause therefore. And what was most insulting was when the Khateeb suggested that, for a son to grow up as a real man, Muslim parents should not bring him up in a way that might soften him up. For example, the Khateeb clearly recommended avoiding things that would make him resemble like females, like music, dancing, wearing silk or gold and anything else that is feminine.

Without really getting involved into the debate of what makes us feminine or masculine, I must however admit that some of the Khateeb’s points did have a lot of merit. For example, he said,

“Qualified righteous men are the backbone of missions, the spirit for progress and the focal point of reformation. …….The finest educational curricula can exist, but it takes real men to implement and teach them.”

And then, he went on.

“Manhood is not achieved by the mere possession of big and strong bodies. Allah describes the hypocrites with that which translates to: “… They are as (worthless as hollow) pieces of timber propped up, (unable to stand on their own). They think that every cry is against them” (Al-Munaafiqoon: 4).

In an authentic Hadith the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “The sinful man who was huge in size in this life, will not even weigh the weight of a mosquito on the Day of Resurrection” Then he recited: “… And We will not assign to them on the Day of Resurrection any weight.” (Al-Kahf: 105).”

Amen brother, Amen. Now parts of the Khateeb’s speech was making perfect sense to me as he went on further in the rabble rousing mode,

“O Muslims! What type of men do we require? Is it anyone with a moustache and beard? If so, then we already have too many! Real manhood is not determined by age. There are many seventy year olds with the mentality and interests of seven year olds. They rejoice at ridiculous and insignificant events and are depressed and saddened by trivial matters; they are nothing but children trapped in the bodies of adults. On the other hand, you may find some youths whose speech, behaviour and intellect reflect maturity and manhood.”

And now I’m left pondering, what is the real definition of manhood in Islam? Do we have a definition that is reformed and compatible for the 21st Century? If not, shouldn’t we start thinking about it, defining it, and then start bringing up our kids in that light? May be there really will be a Renaissance for us one day this century. You might think I’m crazy, “but I know I’m not the only one’ (John Lennon: ‘Imagine’). We really don’t have to look too far to get some inspiring examples.

Take for example, Nelson Mandela. Here is a ‘man’ who spent 30 years in jail. As soon as he was released, he conquered the entire South Africa under the banner of Unity with his message of love and forgiveness. He forgave the entire White Apartheid Government and deliberately forbade the Blacks from carrying out retribution. Now that’s one heck of a man I could never be. Or look at Mahatir Mohammed – the Ex Malaysian Premier. He is one tough talking ‘man’ who was adamant on raising the living the standards of the Muslim Malays by any means.

His ‘manhood’ has now transformed Malaysia in to the most advanced Muslim nation today. But we must also be wary of other seemingly great personalities –Middle Eastern Leaders – nope, they are all unman, bunch of womanizing despots who can’t defeat a small country called Israel.

But the greatest source of inspiration for wanting to become a real man can be found in the Hadith itself and in reading the autobiography of our Holy Prophet (PBUH). Remember that story, readers, when he was taking care of an ailing old woman who hated him and would often plant obstacles in his way to work?

Or how he kept a stiff upper lip when he was mocked and ridiculed beyond all tolerable means in the city of Taif? Remember how he forgave the entire city of Mecca upon its conquest – not a single Meccan died? Or how he refused to be arrogant after his victories and never lost faith in defeats such as the Battle of Uhud?

It is therefore important that we have a clear and reformed definition of manhood for the 21st century. And that we make sure to glorify a lot of the above stories to the Muslim boy when is growing up, in movies, in bed-time stories or even while motivating him to improve. Of course, there is nothing wrong in keeping fit, playing sports and music, but our kids should understand on their own that the definition of real manhood is far deeper than what he sees on American Television and movies nowadays.

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