Muslim Men and Prophetic Masculinity

For Representational Purposes Only

THE Prophet of Islam (PBUH) is reported to have said, “Best among you is one who is best to his wife, and I am best among you in my dealings with my wives”. This is but one out of hundreds of prophetic sayings which exhort believers to be compassionate, kind and loving to their wives in particular and women folk in general. But how have we, as followers of this Prophet of mercy (PBUH) and one of the greatest protagonists of women’s rights in history, responded to his call pertaining to familial and marital affairs? Have we, in the spirit of prophetic teachings embraced the prophetic call of liberation and honour? Or are we too like the Arabs of the Prophet’s era, wedded to our outdated social customs, oppressive cultural ideals and degenerating practices of era of ignorance?

Our society, as a matter of misfortune, does represent a dismal picture to this end. If not all, most of our men have equated masculinity with prerogative to oppress women, be unkind to them and indulge in an orgy of marital violence which is not only discouraged but abhorred and condemned by Islam as a symptom of barbarism and inhumanity. More tragic is the fact that these acts are committed under the rubric of Islam and many of our brethren live under the false consciousness that Islam vindicates these actions. Nothing else can be farther from reality and illustrations from the life of Prophet (PBUH) will amply demonstrate the kind of sublime treatment that Islam commands to be meted out to women.

Islam restored to women, her dignity, rights and a place that legitimately belonged to her. A full appreciation of these facts can’t be gauged without taking into account the social and familial structure of Arabian society of the Prophetic era. To begin with, the gores of this era, particularly pertaining to women, saw women as springheads of shame and disgrace, humility and burden, infamy and dishonour. No wonder that most, if not all Arabs, were involved in heinous crimes like female infanticide. Barring few elite families, scant in number, female infanticide was a spectre throughout Arabia. The Quran vividly testifies this social malady when it says, “and when the female infant buried alive is asked, for what sin she was killed” (Quran- 81:8-9). What conception of women’s dignity could be had in a society like this and what could have been the limits of liberty and prestige conferred upon women in such a society which saw women as womb of all woes. It truly fell to the Prophet (PBUH) to mend and amend this anathema single handedly and to raise women to the pedestal which Arab society had never known before.

While Prophet (PBUH) left innumerable instances, examples, guidelines and holy sayings in effect to correct the position of women in Arabian society, but the role he played as a husband, creating an example of own and setting pristine standards for familial life is something we can learn from even in an era of ours.

Are we not the pseudo champions of women’s liberation, irked and deeply distressed on seeing women outscoring us in any facet of life? Aren’t men, who are seemingly advocates of Women’s liberation, unnerved at the first sign of challenge to our cultural masculine privilege? Are we not the ones who think of tenderness and affection as a feminine trait which is a threat to our masculinity? How then can we claim that ours is a norm of masculinity taught by the Prophet (pbuh)?

In a world like ours, masculinity has been predominantly equated with muscle power, robustness and aggression to subjugate women.

This is a complete digression from the spirit of the Prophetic model of masculinity which guided men to treat women justly and see them as equal beings. On the other side of the spectrum, in today’s world, contemporary modes of women liberation reduce women to the foul play of objectification and submit her to the claws of exploitation under the rubric of liberation. In such a scheme of things, it is only fair for Muslim men to return to the true spirit of prophetic masculinity which is free from prejudices that we have learnt over the years through culture and society.

But let’s look back to our prophet (PBUH) and reflect on his conduct with women.

It is reported in the books of Ahadith that Prophet (PBUH) Prophet Muhammad (SAW) always supported his wives and helped them in household chores. He did his own work and participated in house chores as well. This is something which most of us, if not all, find contrary to our dignity, our definition of manhood and our perception of masculinity.

It is also very unfortunate that being affectionate is deemed frivolous by our men folk here in Kashmir. For us to engage in any funfair with our spouse seems too compromising for our position as a man and it seems to violate our self identity. We ignore the fact that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was affectionate with his wives and even engaged in halal fun games with them. He made them feel close to him by devoting his time and attention to them.

When God describes the Prophet (PBUH) as paragon of moral perfection and emulation, it includes in its embrace, the role of the Prophet (PBUH) as a husband. The records of his familial life can help us tackle and solve familial and social issues of our own. We need to let go of our outmoded and asymmetric social and cultural mores and follow Prophet(PBUH)’s model whose success God has vouched for.

  • Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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Amir Suhail Wani

The author is a writer and columnist

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