Mar 19, 2010 - for muslim guys    8 Comments

What is masculinity?


A few months ago a brother in one of my forums asked “What is masculinity?”  Now this is a really profound question. No one could really answer the question. I thought about it and had no idea either. I said I needed time to think about it. Fast forward to now.

In Arabic this concept of ‘noble masculinity’ is called Futuwwa. Sometimes translated as “courage”, “chivalry” or “manliness”. Many of the medieval concepts of chivalry/knights/nobleness etc came from these Islamic ideals. Many of the writings include more qualities for men which I think of as more ‘ideal’ qualities than ordinary ones. I highly recommend bros look into this concept and research the Islamic literature of old. It’s really quite fascinating.

One of my ideals of masculinity

One of my ideals of masculinity

To answer this question I thought about the many men out there who I admire and love very much! My father, my brothers, my uncles, my guy cousins, my bro-in-law and my friend’s husbands (in a good way :)), the shaykhs of our community, speakers and activists that I know, good brothers over the years that have really helped and inspired, and still inspire me in so many ways and so on. I’ve even had many non-Muslim co-workers that I admired (in a good way! lol). I only dislike certain actions or a certain type of guy (shallow and/or uses women). I also have criticisms for women for things they might do. (But no one reads those posts! *cry)

So anyway I thought I’d write a post on what *I* think constitutes some good qualities of masculinity. Feel free to disagree and discuss in the comments, also interesting discussion would be to compare this list to what was written by Islamic scholars centuries ago.

1. Strength - This is not necessarily physical strength but put it this way…the knowledge of superior strength put to use in ways to help others. Like even ordinary things… like consistently taking out the garbage…or carrying those baby carriers to the door or going out to buy things for ur wife’s needs, setting up things at events, going out to do something for the family. Can you see what I mean? Even holding a door open. Of course a woman could do those things too, but I think the use of the physical to help the other is more a masculine trait. For us (females) it might be more in our nature to nurture in other ways.

2. Generosity -
I mentioned this somewhere before as a noble quality for guys. And it’s true so many men have it. I’ve never seen a girl volunteer to pay for everyone at the table but I’ve seen many guys do it. Not to show off or anything, but just out of generosity. Any type of problem or difficulty that they perceive, the guys are the first to try to help and cover it. Being generous is a good quality for both men and women but I have to say it is really part of a lot of guys nature and something many of us (wommins) have to work on.

3. Being Protective - In the modern age this is seen as sexist but I think only in the cases where it goes over the top. It is a good quality that a guy always wants to protect his daughter or his family or even community from harm. I’ve seen bros take the blame/responsibility all the time for me out of a sense of chivalry/courage/honor. Part of their noble nature.

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Has chivalry gone the way of dragons?

4. Supportive - Men are a lot more supportive than women. I can state this for a fact.  A man can be 100% supportive  at times while women can be a lukewarm 80%, 40% or 20%. Some men aren’t of course but the good one’s always are. I could choose to join a circus and I know certain guys would support me 100% but I know every girlfriend of mine would criticize me to death (perhaps for good reason hehe). Between women I think there’s a lot of jealousy,envy and even rivalry and stuff. Perhaps this is the same intra-guys too.

5. Honesty - Some women can see this as a negative. Like when they ask “Do I look fat in this?” lol and sometimes men really don’t know how to edit themselves, but being honest is a very good quality. It goes along with being earnest and having real relationships with people. When’s the last time you heard a guy say “Ooomygawwd I love what ur wearing” when they don’t mean it. They’re real and they’re honest.

6. Not (as) emotional - This is hard for me to see as a good quality sometimes but I think that it helps men remain objective a lot of times and weigh things, including decisions. Sometimes they are more objective about issues. They might (I say might :p) have a certain clear-sightedness or fairness about certain things.

7. Humility - This might be strange to add here as part of masculineness, but I think all the great men have this. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They know… how do i put it, the order of things. That they are under God and responsible for what’s under them. It always keeps them merciful, down-to-earth, normal and humorous.

8. Loyalty - Guys are very loyal to each other especially. Guys who grow up with each other are friends for life. College buddies usually remain so. My Dad has college friends all over the world he STILL connects with! Girls have a lot of cliques and drama <– Fact. :(

9. Action oriented - Whenever I tell a guy of a problem I have, he is ready to go out and fix it or lets me know how I can fix it. This I see as a really good quality in that they want to fix the wrongs in the world. They are ready to take action and do things. They can’t just sit back and let it go or even see me let it go. In a lot of ways I wish I could be more optimistic and take-action like that.

10. Romantic - Now I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I really believe men are more romantic than women. More romantic in the sense that they have ideals that they are always looking for and when they find them, nothing can move them from their loyalty. I see this especially with young guys. They have a very idealized view of marriage and what they want and of life. Ask the same to girls and they are a lot more practical and defined.

Sorry I couldn’t really express everything very well but I hope you got the jist of it :) So men may be different, and when good qualities go over the top or out of kilter it may drive us crazy, but there is much to appreciate about the male of the species.
More on Futuwwa:



Ok back to Venus with the ladies,
Arrividerci :)

…and if ur still bored please watch this short educational video :D


  • salams Hummers

    Alhamdulillah awesome post, much needed in today’s world for sure. Here are some of my thoughts:

    On Generosity: I can’t stress how important this is. It doesn’t necessarily mean being generous with your money, but rather with your behavior with others, your thoughts, gestures, etc. Its unbecoming of a man to be stingy, and nothing relegates him to a mere lowly male faster than being stingy with the people around him.

    On Honesty: Make sure the honesty isn’t the crude, blunt type otherwise you might end up saying the right thing to someone at the wrong time. Have some contextual sensitivity.

    Aside from that I’d also throw in the following:

    1.) Class. Its about the fine, nuanced behavior that comes from having situational awareness. For example, when you’re walking with your lady, you walk on the side closest to the street so that *just in case* a passing car would splash water on your coat instead of all over her. There are endless examples to list, but all of them involve being aware of the surrounding situation and to the needs of others, and being able to offer assistance in such a manner that the other person who not feel humiliated or humbled if they accepted, nor would you feel insulted if they refused.

    2.) Overall appearance. This includes combing your hair and beard, keeping it trim and not scraggly or all over the place like you just walked out of a cave. Use gel or hairspray if you want. And take extra care in regards to your dress. Like they say “Clothes make the man.” You don’t have to buy brand name labels, but make sure you’re dressed respectably.

    3.) The right attitude. God created enough signs in His Creation to point to optimism is the right and best way to go. The sun always rises on a new day. A man should never be pessimistic in front of others lest he become the source of a negative atmosphere. You’re a man. Be a rock, be there to offer your shoulder, be there to bring hope to others no matter how dark things seem. The opposite of such attitude is Pessimism, and that is a slow poison that will drain you and others around you of energy and life.

    4.) Sportsmanlike conduct. Play and compete in all things with passion and intensity. Sports, business, debates, whatever. But no matter what the outcome – be gracious and humble in both victory or defeat. Shake hands, and congratulate the other party on their success.


  • Asalaamu Alaikum

    A simple definition could be:

    ‘The ability to forgo one’s rights unconditionally whilst being magnanimous enough to never stint on one’s own responsibilities’

    The only potential problem with that, however, is that you could find that some Muslim women (wives in particular) are more ‘manly’ than their men ;)

    PS This reminded of the thread we had on the old forum where the discussion was whether it was easier to be a Muslim man or a Muslim woman.

  • very nice post mashaAllah, I like how it emphasizes positives and is not too negative or critical… also that video is hysterical, especially the creepy eye contact part, made me laugh so hard :)


  • salams,

    thanks for your comments ppls!!! i was dying for some feedback. not sure if i was totally off the mark or what.. it’s a really hard question to answer.

    shaz i did want to write something positive.. i think sometimes all my ‘advice for the guys’ makes ppl think i don’t like guys!! or that they’re all bad or something. not tru! i love that video hehe

    brkhalid a very good definition, as a definition of futuwwa it’s definitely excellent. i don’t remember that thread about whether it’s easier to be a muslim man or woman?? bet that was an all out brawl huh :)

    maverick great additions!! i never would have even thought of #3 a right attitude. that is sooo true. that really makes a difference in a man. and it reminds me of rasulullah (s) always positive attitude concerning the believers throughout the seerah.

    jazaks y’all :)

  • Ah, but manliness isn’t about men anymore. Men changed the way we treat women because of the sexual revolution see? Women wanted to be out and about, so men went about and said, OK sure.

    I’m writing something on this topic…and I’ll maybe trackback here insha Allah.

    Keep posting!!! Oh yeah!

  • I don’t know what to say about the points just yet, I will have to think about it more ,but LOVED the video! :-)

  • As-salamu alaykum! I hope your doing good both in health and iman, insha’allah.
    I just wanted to tell you that I’m totally in-love with ur blog, masha’allah you have a way with words and Allah swt has blessed you with a tremendous talent…
    P.s Thanks for the review on the letters exchanged by Elisabeth Barret and Robert Browning, I’m on my way to buy it at this very minute:P…
    Your sister in Islam, from Norway

  • Imam Zaid wrote a great article related to Muslim single guys and Futuwaa check it out :)