On Friday 28 April 2023, IHRC hosted an author evening at SOAS with Imam Dawud Walid on the issue of Islamic Chivalry and Toxic Masculinity based on his book Futuwwah: Raising Males into Sacred Manhood (purchase here from the IHRC Bookshop).
Imam Dawud Walid was joined by guest speaker, Shaykh Thaqib Mahmood. The event was chaired by Muhammad Jalal (The Thinking Muslim podcast).
WATCH THE AUTHOR EVENING:
Muhammad Jalal commenced with a brief introduction to the book and why it is important for Muslim men of all ages and backgrounds. He explained the importance of this topic in light of the issues faced by men and explained the place Imam Dawud’s book is positioned within education today. He expertly discussed the need for men and women only spaces and what they should be taught in each spaces in order to grow in to the men and women of tomorrow. Read a brief excerpt of his talk below:
The advent of liberalism has ushered in an era of free thought and individualism, but has removed previous accepted notions of roles and obligations, chivalry and virtue. Liberal feminism in particular has explicitly sought to form a hollow version of equality and this on the whole has harmed and confused both women and men alike. The backlash has been a crude assertion of masculinity that loathes women and removes any of their rights that Allah SWT has given them.
“Social media is awashed with a morass of failed gender relations and gender conflicts to which many young Muslim men, however well-intentioned, contribute. This is where this timely contribution by Imam Dawud Walid sheds some light on this topic of masculinity. His book, Futuwwah and Raising Males into Sacred Manhood, concisely discusses the principle within Islamic chivalry or spiritual chivalry which young men should strive to embody, and which we should inculcate within our Muslim communities. While the virtues described in this text are not all the while exclusive to young males alone, this book is tailored towards males and specific issues faced by males alone as they strive to grow into the path of manhood.”
Referring to specific verses from the Qur’an and lessons from hadith, Shaykh Thaqib Mahmood explained the ethics and spirituality of Islam to utilise to raise righteous sacred men. He discussed the importance of refining one’s character as the epitome of gaining God-consciousness and closeness to Allah SWT, regardless of gender, and the ways in which our scholarly tradition focuses on this. Shaykh Thaqib also shared examples of sahaba (companions of the Prophet SAW) and Ghazali’s work to draw focus to the beneficial and essential qualities of a Muslim, which is one that has surrendered to the will of Allah SWT, and of being devotional and obedient to Allah SWT.
You can read a brief excerpt of his speech below:
“We have to take into account the significant work by Imam Dawud addressing the theme of futuwwah. This is a crisis, the emasculating of men. I would like to first take us on a macro viewpoint… And understand that what informs many of our perspectives is essentially the Qur’an and hadith, and the understanding of that through the exposition and the contextualisation of our scholarly tradition.
The outstanding verse which resonates and which really is always pointed to the significance of nurturing character, is how Allah SWT announces to the Messenger SAW in Surah Qalam (verse 4): “And indeed you are of a momentous character”. This is not just said to extol him or to praise him SAW, but it is to point out that this is what believers should be striving to use. When you look at the series of oaths Allah takes in many places in the Qur’an, Allah only swears on things that are significant as a way of drawing our attention about the thing being made an oath upon is something of importance.
Only in Surah Shams do you have seven consecutive oaths. If you look at what is known as the culminating reason for why Allah swears by the sun, its splendour, by the moon, by the night, by the heavens, by the earth, and then by the soul that rectifies itself. This is the understanding that the soul needs to be attended to, through the cultivating of character and virtue. This is why the resulting statement in that surah after all of these oaths, the closing, is when Allah says, “Successful indeed is the one who purifies their soul”.
Why this is the point we need to attend to is because when we talk about cultivating virtue and qualities in opposition of vice, this is not a gendered discussion, nor an ethic or race discussion, because these are the very things that transcend those boundaries (that is not to say that those things act as barriers pf many people’s misunderstandings). But the Qur’anic narrative is to get us to focus on universals that rise above those impediments and prisons. They prison people; people are racist, people are prejudice but if you counter this, you must counter it with the Qur’anic worldview. That means you move beyond that. Allah SWT says ‘you are acknowledged by me for what I have created you as and for the qualities I have posited you with and with that the ability to become my closest servants and that is to know me’. This is the endeavouring, this is the human project; that is how to become servants.”
Imam Dawud Walid commenced his talk with an introduction of his book and discussed how our traditions and knowledge were historically transferred from one person to another. He expounded on the Islamic notions of what it is to be a man or a woman before further explaining the many social and societal issues that are breaking down the family structure. On this point, Imam Dawud makes a very subtle, but yet still very profound statement; he briefly mentioned that one of the factors that lead up to the break-up of the family structure is people deciding not to get married. Imam Dawud outlined the blueprint of how the Islamic spiritual tradition can raise men and women. The centrality of the Imam Dawud’s speech resounded around the idea of the need for spiritual Islamic guilds and role models, especially for men, who are responsible for passing down knowledge and traditions.
You can read a brief excerpt of Imam Dawud’s speech below:
“This book is meant to be somewhat like a primer or a beginning guide for teachers but it was not meant to be. Because at the end of the day we know that it is living breathing human beings that help, mold, shape and guide other living human beings. Our Tradition, although books are very important, our tradition has been preserved really from books to other books from living breathing healthy hearts of people with healthy spiritual States that then transfer and embodied practice and understanding other human beings and this is what makes us the people of the sunnah because we believe in the transference of this tradition not just in books but also in lived in embodied practice right and this I believe the power of our tradition in the way of our people of the Islamic spirituality especially when we talk about this particular topic of futuwwah that has been loosely translated as spiritual chivalry or sacred chivalry”.
A Q&A discussion was held with the audience, where speakers discussed themes relating to masculinity, modernity, issues about LGBT, marriage, and the role of religion.
About the speakers:
Imam Dawud Walid is the Executive Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI) and member of the Imams Council of Michigan and a Senior Fellow at Auburn Seminary based in New York.
Walid has studied under qualified scholars the disciplines of Arabic grammar and morphology, foundations of Islamic jurisprudence, comparative Islamic jurisprudence, and sciences of the exegesis of the Qur’an.
He previously served as an imam at Masjid Wali Muhammad in Detroit and the Bosnian American Islamic Center in Hamtramck, Michigan, and board president of Al-Ikhlas Training Academy.
He is the author of the books Towards Sacred Activism, Blackness and Islam, and Futuwwah and Raising Males into Sacred Manhood, and co-author of the books Centering Black Narrative: Black Muslim Nobles Among the Early Pious Muslims and Centering Black Narrative: Ahl al-Bayt, Blackness & Africa as well as author of essays in the 2012 book All-American: 45 American Men on Being Muslim and the 2014 book Qur’an in Conversation and author of the foreword to the book The Spirits of Black Folk: Sages Through the Ages.
Shaykh Thaqib Mahmood is a traditionally-trained Muslim scholar and instructor in Arabic. He has studied the traditional Islamic disciplines in Yemen, Syria, the UK, Mauritania, and Turkey. He currently teaches Arabic at the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford. He holds a PGDIP in Arabic teaching from the School of Oriental and African Studies, and has completed a Master’s degree in linguistics at the same institution.
He is also a gifted grappler and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
Muhammad Jalal is a lecturer in Politics and host of The Thinking Muslim podcast. He delivers a regular course for young Muslims exploring the thoughts of Islam and Liberalism, and is currently working on developing content on the same subject for the Sapience Institute. He writes for numerous online journals including Traversing Tradition, Muslim Matters and CAGE.
About the book:
Futuwwah and Raising Males into Sacred Manhood concisely discusses the principles within futuwwah, or spiritual chivalry, that young men should strive to embody and should inculcate into our communities. While the virtues discusses in this text are not all exclusively related to young males becoming men, this book is tailored towards males, and the specific issues faced by males as they strive to grow into the path of manhood. Just as young women need their own spaces to learn from women how to become honorable sisters, young men require their own special places to instill in them the virtues of upright brothers.
The Islamic tradition calls for a revival of organized training relating to spiritual chivalry and sacred manhood – this is the task of the hour. There are beautiful and majestic qualities embodied by the Prophets that he passed down to his family members and pious Companions. Those upright men were methodically raised up: they undertook rites of passage, and manly responsibilities which were placed upon them with expectations that they would be executed with excellence.
This book begins by establishing the linguistic and operational definition of the Arabic ‘futuwwah’ translated here as “spiritual chivalry.” The text then discusses the essential virtues for developing healthy manhood, in a specific order of their priority in teaching. The Qur’anic verses, Prophetic narrations, and sayings of pious Companions and scholars on the subject of futuwwah are related with sound meaning, accompanied by meticulous citations in footnotes and endnotes.