Yesterday as I drove home from work as usual I was listening to "The Power" on XM radio, and they were wrapping up a discussion about what is a real man. I began to think more and more on the subject and realized I never really pondered this myself. I mean after all, I'm a man, so what makes a "real man"? The most I ever heard about the subject came from my uncle when I was 15 or so. I distinctly remember him telling me and my cousins that a man isn't defined by age, but more so by his responsibilities. He went on to add, once you have your own everything, and take care of it, then you begin to understand manhood. I knew that this was a covert criticism of one of my younger uncles, who at 26 or so, was still living home with grandma. Either way, I got the gist of the discussion, and to make a long story short, that was the last time I actually thought about it.
Over the years I have tried to be responsible and self-sufficient. I joined the Marine Corps fresh out of high school at 17 and I have been on my own ever since. I never borrowed money from my parents, and for the most part have been 100% self sufficient. It never once crossed my mind if these actions proved my "manhood" or not. Until yesterday that is.
Most have said and do say that I'm a "good" man. I mean, I'm on my second marriage, my 3rd serious relationship, and all the women I have ever been in a relationship with, well for the most part would agree that I have been honorable and took great care of them. I'm currently married with 5 little boys my marriage is happy and fun, we are doing good some would say great for a 25yr old with my "circumstances". I'm not trying to toot my own horn, just reflecting and wondering aloud of course, if this defines manhood.
As I went into reflection, as I often do these days, I realized the best and only way to define manhood for me would be in the context of my religious beliefs. It should be of no surprise to the readers of the blog and those that know me personally, that I context everything in accordance with my religion. So I sought out the Quran and decided to see what is said about this subject. What I came up with was various passages, that I believe would clear this question up, or at least place me in the right direction.
Allah declares in the Quran:
"Men are the maintainers and protectors of Women". 4:34
"tell them that I have not created the invisible beings and men to any end other than that they may know and worship Me." 51:56
"then He forms him in accordance with what he is meant to be, and breathes into him of His spirit: and thus, O men, He endows you with hearing, and sight, and feelings as well as minds: yet how seldom are you grateful!"32:9
So from this I derived these thoughts: A "real man" protects and maintains women, knows and worships God, and lives in accordance to that which God created him to be.
This is obviously a "meaty" subject, actually more so than I originally intended as I began typing these thoughts, so its probably easier if I handle these three verses separately.
Men are the Protectors and Maintainers of Women
In my opinion a "real man" ensures that women have the rights endowed upon them from God to be free. That means they should be free to worship how they want, study how they want, work how they want etc. The maintenance part comes in through our support physically, mentally, and spiritually. Anytime we are non-supportive to our wives, sisters, mothers, or women in general, we are not maintaining them. Anytime especially as married men, we don't financially support our wives in a manner that gives her the freedom to choose or do what she pleases, we are not maintaining properly. Proper maintenance of a women to me, is when she is secure. Security means different things for different people and especially women, but the basics tend to be food, finances, and shelter. We must ensure women have places to live, food to eat, and the necessary finances to pursue her endeavours, whatever they may be. There really is no way around this, especially as a Muslim. That is why the Prophet of Islam(saw) instructed us men to only get married once we can afford it. A woman should only work when she wants to. She is our first teacher, leader, and guide, if we have her burdened because of our lack of maintenance, what happens to the next generation? Better yet, what has happened to the next generation? Protection of women is also physical, mental, and spiritual. Domestic violence is out of hand. There should never be a reason to put your hands on a woman. She is not your child, she is your equal and the mother of civilization. How can you put your hands on the woman God created as your direct equal? That's a slight against God, for without the women, where would we be? Verbal abuse is just as bad. I'm not going to go too deep with this, but when you see her, you should see all that is right with creation, for without her, nothing could continue. It is only through her that we begin to unravel the mysteries of God, which is actually locked away in her womb. Would you disrespect God? We have allowed our women to become mere objects, some would debate the responsibilities in this matter, but I'm putting it on us. Let me be blunt for a moment: Turn on your TV. Do you think for one minute that Mary the Mother of Jesus(saw) would be caught looking like that on television? Would you want to see your mother, sister, niece, aunt, etc. on the television shaking there backsides? Then why would you allow or even tolerate someone else,s family doing it? The mark of the believer is that they want for their brother what they have for themselves. So if its not OK for your daughter, why should it be alright for mine? I used Mary as an example, because we are taught in Islam that she was the most righteous woman to have walked the Earth and is an example to women and the world. We should support our women in such a way that they want to emulate Mary who through her all nations were blessed, instead of wanting our women to only fulfill our carnal and low desires. You can judge a nation and civilization by the way they treat their women. If this is in fact the true criterion, how would we measure up?
Knowledge and Worship of God
Brief and to the point. You can't know where your going until you understand where you have been. When we reflect on our origins, ancestry, etc. how can we not look back in awe. What's even greater than that awe is that there is an Active force behind it all that make all that we imagine possible. Why shouldn't you reverence that? Why shouldn't you reverence the Creator and Origin of all that is? Leaders must also be lead and are judged by that which they follow. If the head of life is not that which Originated you, or you don't even feel the need to respect and reverence your Origin, why should one follow you, if they rely on you to show them the way. If you don't even reverence where you came from, who wants a leader who can't possibly know where they are going? The study and knowledge of who we are and where we came from ends up with God. That knowledge should lead us to worship God. A "real man" in this instance, is one who has sense of direction, drive, and knows where he has been. Based off that knowledge, he knows where he is going. A "real man" has aim and purpose in life and has a plan, because we all know those who fail to plan, plan to fail. If God isn't what you reverence, isn't your center, or that which directs your life, than who or what is?
A "Real Man" lives in accordance to that which God created him to be
You have all read it before, maybe in different books, scriptures, etc. but the message in any form is consistent. From the Bible to the Quran and everywhere in between, we are told that God created us in His image and likeness, we should have the mind that was in Jesus(saw), or we were created to stand in the place of God on Earth. This is a great task and serious undertaking. What is this "image" of God that we are created in? What is this "mind" that Jesus(saw) had that we should have? What does it mean to stand in the place of God? I have been taught that God=force+power. Therefore, anything that exercises force and power over something else can for all intensive purposes, be a god. Anytime your environment controls you, whatever in that environment that exercises force and power over you is your god. If you can't look at another without sexual intention, lust is your god. If you can't be faithful to your spouse of significant other, sex has become your god. If you can't function without the desire for more money and things, greed amongst others is your god. That addiction or habit you can't seem to break, is your god. If we are created in the "image" of God then that means we have the ability to create and destroy within the context of our present reality. That means that our environment shouldn't change us, but we should change our environment and create and destroy it according to our will. The mind we should have that Jesus(saw) had is that of submission. It was due to his submission and faith that all thing were possible by him and through him. If we had that mind, our potential would be limitless. We are are own worst enemies. When we start to act in accordance with these rules we become the men we were created to be. We can stand in the place of God on Earth in our homes, neighborhoods, and lives. We can be the masters of our universe. "Real Men" realize their potential, actively pursue it, and use it in such a way, to create and environment pleasing to God. Life is what we make it, literally. We have the power, but we have to recognize it and use it. We humans reverence or at least should, all that God created so it makes sense to follow Him, what do you suppose would happen if we became god in our lives? Do you think our homes would be broken? Do you think our neighborhoods would be filled with crime? Do you think society would be the way it is?