Insha Allah, this is the first in a series of articles in which I will be delving into the idea of raising boys to be good Muslim men. However, to do this we need to consider what it is that we mean by the words ‘a good Muslim man’. What does it entail?
To further explore and understand what we as Muslim women deem to be the qualities of such a man I posed the following question, with the help of the lovely Brooke Benoit, on Facebook: “Please tell me, as Muslim women, how do you/would you define a ‘good Muslim man’? What to your mind is the definition of ideal Muslim manhood? What characteristics are imperative and why?”
This provoked some interesting responses. Here are just a few of the definitions produced:
A good Muslim man is …
…’one who leads his family in deen (religion), pushes them to study Islam by his example, strives to establish Islam within his household’
… ‘one who can change, learn and grow through honest reflection. One who takes responsibility. Same as for a good Muslim woman I think!’
… ‘thinking of those around you first, sacrificing for their safety, happiness, and concerned for the state of their spiritual heart above all else’
…’to be able to maintain truth and justice at all times, even when it is hard.’
…’willing to listen, negotiate, follow through, be open and clear. Good to his family.’
…’supportive, loving and caring. Supportive not only in the financial sense but emotionally too’
These definitions along with the topic remind me of a talk my husband Shahnawaz Haque gave a couple of years ago entitled ‘The emasculated man and feminist hijabis’ (he didn’t come up with the title!). At the start of this, he performed a quick experiment in which he asked members of the front row to supply one typically feminine trait and one characteristically masculine quality.
Below are the results:
Masculine: Strong, decisive, powerful, confident, trustworthy, courageous, protective and logical.
Feminine: Gentle, playful, shy, compassionate, caring, classy, emotional, clean/hygienic and soft.
He then went on to show us that all of these attributes, and more, are found in the best of creation and examples – Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Below are two ahadith that verify some of the above:
Abu Sa’id Al-Khudri reported that “The Prophet (SAW) was more shy than a maiden in seclusion; if he saw something that he disliked, we would see it on his face.” (Bukhari)
Anas (RA) narrated that “The Prophet (SAW) was the best, the most generous and the bravest of people.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
This idea that ideal Muslim men and women might share characteristics was also highlighted by one of our Facebook respondees when she said: ‘Actually the more I think about it I feel that the two ideas ‘Muslim’ and ‘man’ should be considered separately. What makes a good Muslim is the same for a man or a woman. What makes a good human is the same for a man or a woman. So I guess it comes down to what makes men and women different i.e. what does a Muslim man have to do that a Muslim woman does not and vice versa.’
There is the concept that men and women are completely different and alien species, as the title of the famous book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, would imply. However, we are more similar as shown particularly when we contemplate:
‘O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from this pair scattered (like seeds) countless men and women…’ (An-Nisa:1)
So ‘a good Muslim man’ is a man who is in touch with what some might call his ‘feminine’ side, aware of the needs of others, willing to learn, just and able to support emotionally as well as financially. These qualities are all necessary in relationships as a Muslim man, father and husband, as shown in the following versions of the hadith: “The best of you are those who are best to their families…” (Tirmidhi)
“The most perfect amongst the believers in faith is one who has the best manners and best of you are those who are best to their wives.” (Ahmed & Tirmidhi)
In order to attain a fine specimen of a Muslim man, we need to bring up our boys in a balanced way. If we, both mothers and fathers, can follow in the footsteps of the best of examples, Muhammad (SAW), then insha Allah we will be the models for both our sons and daughters so they become balanced individuals themselves.
The idea of bringing children up in a balanced way is thoroughly Islamic:
‘Thus have We made of you a nation justly balanced…’ (Al-Baqarah: 143)
However, this is easier said than done; Al-Ghazali gave the following statement in regard to maintaining the middle way: “It is one of the most complicated and difficult of matters.”
One line of debate that also arose as a consequence of our ‘What is a good Muslim man?’ question was ‘How do you identify that he (a man) fears Allah?’ when so many may be practising just for show. Insha Allah, the discussion will continue in future parts of this series where I plan to look at how to identify a good Muslim man. Other topics related to the matter of good Muslim men that I hope to also explore in future issues include the differing roles of men and women, the question of whether raising boys needs to be significantly different to raising girls, the origin of gender stereotypes and how to teach our sons to be men who do not need to turn to abusive behaviour with their wives to feel like men, bi’idhnillah. I look forward to discussing all these and more insha Allah.
So to conclude, when we contemplate raising men we are actually thinking of the successful rearing of Muslims – those who submit willingly and freely to the Will of Allah (SAW). As men and women are spiritually equal, manhood cannot be separated from a male’s relationship with Allah (SAW), just as a woman’s can’t. A good Muslim man will always be aware of his connection with his Lord.
READ PART 2: Is Your Son the Next King?
Umm Jannah discusses how to inspire, motivate and nurture your son to become a responsible provider and maintainer of his family.
Khalida Haque is a qualified Integrative Counsellor/Psychotherapist with an independent practice, is founder of Khair and is a Counselling Services Manager. She has varied clinical experience that includes working with elders, and feels honoured and privileged to be doing the work she does. Alhamdulillah.