A week or so ago I received some advice that knocked me off course and disorientated me. Reflecting on their words, I found myself wandering around, wondering if I really had got everything wrong. I pondered on the advice and criticised myself for not being a dictator. And then, when I was done, I decided to ask a trusted friend and teacher for his advice as well.
“I was wondering if you could advise me how Islam defines manliness,” I said, “and/or point me towards a good book that covers the topic.”
As is often the case, his insight set me back on course again. I intended to post his response early last week, but the demolition of an outbuilding took precedence, occupying me every evening after work. But better late than never:
‘Manliness is “rujula”; it is what a man should reflect. In short, a true man is close to Allah, and the further from Him he is, the less of a man he is. So humbleness is manliness, arrogance is not. Patience, endurance, forbearance and so on is manliness.
Eating while walking in the street without a good reason diminishes one’s manliness. To serve your parents, your wife and family is manliness.
It is one of these men of our predecessors who said to his wife, “May my hand be cut off if it were ever lifted to strike you.”
Anyway this is a very broad topic, however I hope that the following points will be of help inshallah:
1.There are books about men, closely linked to the sciences of hadith but not always. There are also books about women. These books have different names. Some of these books are called “tabaquat…” e.g. tabaquat alquraa (men of Quran recitation), tabaquat alhufath (men of memorisation), tabaqat ashafiaa (men of the Shafiee school), etc. Tabaqat actually means levels, but it’s about men hence I translated it as men, albeit men at different levels.
But the best book of all about who is really a man is AlQur’an. AlQur’an mentions men who were Prophets and some who were not. Sometimes the Qur’an just uses the word “man” without naming the person.
2. Man and male are two different things. Every man is a male but not every male is a man. Man is a status, so a young boy of 11 may be a man and yet an adult of 50 may not be. We have a very common expression that goes “mashi rajel” —“he is not a man”— when a person breaks the etiquettes of Islam when dealing with others.
There are always men but not all are complete. Men are ranks: they are of different categories and they enter aljannah in the group they belong to.
3. We’ve been studying one category which is called “ibadu rahman” i.e. the servants of the Most Merciful at the end of Surah alFurqan.
4. Culture has a lot of influence on men and can entrap them. Hence spiritual migration, but sometimes it has to be a physical one. Historically all Prophets travelled, and were even expelled and rejected by some members of their tribes. Also it has always been the way of the ulema to travel.
However not everything that is cultural is condemned by Islam. As you know, in the Algerian desert, men cover their faces, but women do not. Also in the countryside sometimes it is the women who work the fields. The kitchen in Islam is not a space reserved only for women. The Muslims as you may know developed a whole industry related to cooking. As you may know the famous scholar ASuyuti wrote a book about cooking. And ASuyuti is definitely a man of high calibre.
6. Some men had very hard wives, but the good way they behaved with their wives propelled them to amazing levels of men. They became ‘legends’.
7. No true man sees himself above anyone else even if it were on a battle field. And there are true men who do not even feel their very existence in front of their Lord.
And Allah and His messenger know best.’