Zoha Talpur writes about the beautiful and immaculate personality of the Holy Prophet. In this article, she contemplates how the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) can play a vital role in removing the traits of toxic masculinity from the society.
The Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), even 1389 years after his demise, remains one of the leading examples of piety, love, devotion, and strength for, not only Muslims, but all of humanity. From his physical characteristics to his moral attributes, the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) continues to teach us on how to live a God-centric and moral life. He was known among his people as “The Trusty” and “The True”. This not only emphasises his pious personality, but we must attempt to understand that for a person to be known among their people as The Trusty and The True, they must possess an admirable amount of respectable moral characteristics.
Among all his personality traits, one of the traits that we, as a society, can learn most from is his indifference to maintaining a masculine appearance. He was not afraid to weep during prayer and to ask for God’s Mercy. He was not afraid to show emotion or empathy for others. The Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) deep concern for those around him including slaves, the poor, women, relatives, neighbours and others is emphasised in the Quran: “There has certainly come to you an apostle from among yourselves. Grievous to him is your distress; he has deep concern for you, and is most kind and merciful to the faithful.” [9:129]
In this day and age, some are obsessed with presenting a strong and brave face towards society and try so hard to hide their weaknesses. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) never brought down others to appear better nor did he ever participate in negative and pessimistic ideologies. He never gave publicity to the faults and shortcomings of others and admonished people not to proclaim their own faults. He used to say: “If a person covers up the faults of another, God will cover up his faults on the Day of Judgement” (Bukhari).
Further, The Holy Prophet (PBUH) was very keen on improving the condition of women in society and on securing for them a position of dignity and fair and equitable treatment. Islam was the first religion which conferred upon women the right of inheritance. Negative media representation presents Islam as a backward and barbaric lifestyle, when in reality Islam is one of the only religions that thoroughly advocates for women’s rights and strives to overcome the barriers that toxic masculinity represents. The patriarchal elements associated and deeply integrated within the culture of predominantly Islamic countries are often completely against the teachings of Islam. Majority of Muslims originate from countries in southeast Asia and patriarchal standards are deeply integrated within our culture, not our religion. Many find it difficult to differentiate from culture and religion and since Islam originates from Arabia and is prevalent throughout eastern society, male dominated cultures are stigmatised as a fluent part of Islam. The Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) example emphasises how portraying elements of peace, gentleness and exhibiting deep concern for those around you is not a sign of weakness and nor does it make one ‘less masculine’.
As the Holy Quran itself states, the gentleness and peacefulness of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) is what made him so incredibly powerful and stands as a reminder to us all in the power of love, peace, and quiet strength.
“It is by God’s mercy that you are gentle to them; and had you been harsh and hardhearted, surely they would have scattered from around you. So excuse them, and plead for forgiveness for them, and consult them in the affairs, and once you are resolved, put your trust in God. Indeed God loves those who trust in Him” [Quran 3:160]”
Today, moral qualities like patience are associated with negative connotations of femininity. People who are patient are seen as weak and ‘push overs.’ The Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) life continues to prove that patience is a virtue and a valuable moral quality that we should all strive to exhibit. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) used to say:
“For a Muslim, life is all full of good and nobody, but a true believer finds himself in that position; for, if he meets with success, he is grateful to God and becomes the recipient of greater favours from Him. On the other hand, if he suffers pain or tribulation, he endures it with patience and thus again makes himself deserving of God’s favours.”
Patience is the ability to hold back and persevere through all forms of temptations and challenges that life brings. Patience is essential in one’s journey to finding contentment in life and building a true and pure connection with Allah.
The pre-colonial Islamic world is scattered with examples of women who were warriors, scholars, and even in positions of power. Today, we look back on these examples in an attempt to debunk accusations of misogyny. However, mentioning these examples is not sufficient without understanding how the societal framework allowed women to attain these positions in a world where women weren’t even given autonomy over their own bodies. Contrasting these attitudes to popular modern conceptions of masculinity is of particular importance when considering the rise and establishment of toxic forms of masculinity.
Discussing the flaws of popular conceptions of masculinity can be difficult because of its deep integration with traditional masculinity. The conservative and patriarchal views on masculinity were never Islamic views, but remnants of colonial and cultural influence. For example, English common law did not recognize a married woman as a distinct individual and thus any property she acquired automatically fell under control of her husband. This policy contrasts starkly to Islamic rulings on the rights of a married woman regarding her property. These laws existed while Europe colonised large portions of the Muslim world, and therefore were influential in establishing the norms of a patriarchal and male dominating framework.
These foreign attitudes contrast with Islam, as the pervasive toxic masculinity of today’s world is an affront to Islamic masculinity. A trait of toxic masculinity is the inability to show emotion. Men are not supposed to cry, feel sad, or even show too much excitement, as acknowledging emotion is labelled to be feminine. While most reasonable people can acknowledge the physical harm that arises from bottling emotions, there are spiritual issues too. The Quran and the Hadith repeatedly emphasise the importance of crying, especially when worshipping Allah. Tears are “a mercy from Allah,” a source to “extinguish the fire of Allah’s wrath,” while a “lack of tears” and “hardness of the heart” are signs of wretchedness. If we adopt modern notions of masculinity and shut ourselves off emotionally, how can we expect to have the emotional connection to Allah that we desire and work so hard to attain? The Prophet (PBUH) was loving, affectionate, and kind with his wives, children, and grandchildren. His care and intimacy towards his family deeply juxtaposes the way today’s society feels men must behave in their roles as fathers, brothers, and husbands. His compassion for his peers and the patience, humility, and kindness he displayed towards strangers speaks volumes. To truly follow in the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) lead, we must all understand how to deeply connect with oneself on an emotional and spiritual level as we hope to lead God-centric lives and strive to achieve a personal connection with Allah.