Being a man is simple. Go to the gym. Get big. Joke about women’s rights. Play Call of Duty. Drop jokes like “That’s what she said””. Watch the Raptors. And eat steak. Lots of steak. Mmm, steak.
That’s what I used to think (I still love steak).
Young Muslim men (including myself) in North America are brainwashed with destructive ideas of manhood from day one. When we are young, we are given action figures of our favourite superheroes who are always strong, white, and insanely good looking. High School friends demand that we party, date, drink, and you know the rest. The list goes on and on. In short, young boys are molded to believe ideas about manhood that we don’t even understand or are even aware of.
Toxic, contagious, non-productive ideas about what makes a man go often un-interrogated and immerse themselves in our daily routines. It takes difficult conversations like these to awaken our deeply held convictions about what makes a man and shed light on the dark future that awaits men if we don’t mobilize an agenda to change our horrid condition.
We are conditioned to strive towards an imaginary version of what a man is. Strong. Handsome. Alpha-male. Well, nothing a little spirituality can’t fix, right?
No. As young Muslim men return to Islam, it is not uncommon to translate the Western ideas of manhood into Islam and attempt to use the faith as a platform to justify their imaginary version of what a man is. Or, they have not returned to Islam, yet they have not been able to comprehend any sort of productive positive expression of masculinity (basically they never really changed because their ideas were never challenged). Both fail to produce a healthy Muslim lifestyle that benefits themselves, their families and their communities.
While a larger conversation needs to take place, here are 4 action items you can take away from this article:
When the Prophet PBUH was handed his daughter’s son who was dying, his eyes flooded with tears. His companion Sa`d then told him, “What is this, Prophet of God?” He (PBUH) said, “This is a mercy that the Almighty has made in the hearts of His servants. And surely God has mercy to the merciful ones among His servants.” [Bukhari]
2) Be gentle, not soft
“Allah is gentle and loves gentleness. He gives for gentleness what He does not give for harshness, nor for anything else.” [Muslim]
3) Offer help, not hate for homosexuals
“Every son of Adam makes mistakes. But the best of those who make mistakes are those who repent.” (At-Tirmidhi)
4) Do chores around the house
Aisha reported, “The Prophet Muhammad PBUH used to stitch his clothes, milk the goats and help in the chores inside the house.” [Bukhari & Muslim]
There is so much work to do for ourselves, our families, and our community. Men need to be real men and take accountability and responsibility for their actions. The days of Muslim men and women accepting anti-Prophetic ideals of shallow secular masculinity in the West must end. This message is not exclusive to men, but to women as well. We’re all in this together.
We must embark on a journey to stop men from hurting themselves, their families, their communities and their sacred relationship with the Divine. The time for growth, healing and wisdom needs to begin.