The ‘What is Islam?’ Podcast brings you a whole new world of understanding Islam and religion through social commentary and analysis.
This special podcast episode is hosted by Badi Ahmad, the Host of the Mindful Matters Podcast. Badi speaks to Imam Hadi about the “Crisis of Masculinity” which has taken the global conversation by storm.
Discover how Islam explains what it means to be a man. Can masculinity become toxic and how can it impact social institutions like marriage?
Click below to listen to the full episode, watch the video podcast on our YouTube channel above, or read through an abridged transcript below.
Badi Ahmad: Today we’re going to deal with a big one – an issue on every young man’s mind – masculinity. Joining us today is Imam Atae Rabbi Hadi, how are you brother? Journey’s been good?
Imam Hadi: Peace be upon you, I’m good. It’s been absolutely amazing.
Badi Ahmad: That’s good to hear, praise to God. Whilst you’re here – this is probably the biggest topic that you’ve been tasked with, because I’ve heard everyone has been asking you similar questions; masculinity, the rise of male influencers & their impact, “the matrix” as well – all these questions that are tied into this topic. Today, we thought to address these because part of growing up as young Ahmadi Muslim men is to understand exactly where our boundaries lie, and of course getting that overall wisdom from you in regards to that overall topic.
I would like to start off with giving our audience an understanding. So, traditionally we have in Islam this narrative of men that were strong, that prayed on time, prayed in congregation, went to war, 300 men versus thousand, a thousand men versus 10,000, 20,000 versus 100,000. And these men went on to like, conquer lands and defend Islam from catastrophe. And so today we’ve got a very different society, you know, men falling to desires, the rise of female influencers and how that’s impacted men. We look at men and all these sorts of issues that have risen as a result of just the society we live in. Could you give us an Islamic interpretation of what constitutes a man – what is considered masculine? And perhaps, what are some of the things that are not masculine and I mean those that we should avoid in our development as young men?
What made the companions of Muhammad bravely stand up against whole empires?
Imam Hadi: All right. That’s an interesting question. And yeah, this thing is particularly on the minds of all the young men. So it definitely is a big question, it’s certainly an interesting one, and I think there’s definitely a lot of confusion out there today.
There’s a number of reasons behind why that confusion exists and why there isn’t much clarity on such a simple issue. It’s not something that was terribly confusing in the past, for most of us, yet now for some reason, such a simple topic has caused a stir on the world stage – it’s incredible to see now, and I think to really truly appreciate this particular topic, from the perspective of Islam, it’s also important to understand why that confusion exists, so I think that if it isn’t touched upon then it might be a bit difficult to fully understand why Islam comes from this angle. That is the very same reason why the companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) himself behaved in a particular way. It’s the distinguishing factor between society today and Muslim society, which was a role model for the whole world. Particularly at the time of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
Badi Ahmad: See, as a young man, I feel that there is no better sort of guideline for us. There is no better period in history or no better role model of men to look at then that great time in Islamic history. So, even despite the world that we live in today, that was the type of masculinity we should aspire to in any day and age, and this is something that’s timeless. We know Islam is timeless, and that it’s the objective truth for the rest of history to eternity.
Imam Hadi: Absolutely. And that’s exactly the point that I was making, ultimately what was it that made them behave in that way? I mean, it’s clearly established in history and it’s well documented. And it was well narrated that great armies such as the Roman Empire and the Persian Empire would openly say that you cannot go up against these people even though they are small in number.
And the reason why you can’t go up against them is because the enemies, when they would come and spy on them – when they would come and check what they were up against, they would see a community which was fighting all throughout the day and then at the night time they were awake praying to God Almighty. And that’s the point that a lot of people miss today. That’s the distinguishing factor that I was trying to point to. Ultimately at the forefront of their minds was a relationship with God Almighty. Right at the forefront of their minds there was this idea that ultimately “I need to have an intimate connection with my Creator and everything – my identity and everything I do, now revolves around that Oneness of God.”
I mean, this might be more of a theological and a religious explanation, but if you want to look at it from a secular, contemporary perspective, ultimately the difference was that these people had a moral objective standard based on the divine attributes of God.
Why is there confusion regarding masculinity today?
Badi Ahmad: And do you feel that today it’s because of this lack of a moral compass in society – as that’s why men are finding that direction really difficult to achieve?
Imam Hadi: Absolutely. I mean, that’s exactly what it is. Ultimately what happened was, if we even take a cursory glance of history, at what they call enlightenment, no doubt there’s been incredible progress in terms of science but unfortunately, due to the West declaring, directly or indirectly, that God doesn’t exist they took God out of the equation. So, naturally you’ve got a massive vacuum that no one can fulfill.
Badi Ahmad: Do you feel that this has given rise to perhaps some men seeing themselves as gods, or such figures in society like “I’m what you should aspire to be?” And is that what we’re seeing in today’s society that such people are or will influence younger men what to be perhaps later in life?
Imam Hadi: No, I think anyone who would consider themselves to be a God would be highly deluded. So, I don’t think that’s the case, though what I do think is the case, is something that the Holy Quran particularly points out. The Holy Quran says:
“And be not like those who forgot Allah, and whom He has consequently caused to forget their own souls. It is they that are the rebellious” – (Chapter 59 verse 20)
“Do not become those who forget Allah” because if you forget God, the natural rule of law that God has designed is that you’ll end up forgetting your own selves. And that’s literally what you’re seeing today. There’s another thing which I find really interesting in contemporary society that we’re talking about nowadays – we’re always talking about identity, there’s this massive identity crisis.
Badi Ahmad: It’s like, before we had men and women. A man knew that “yeah, I’m a male,” but nowadays this notion is really volatile – hopefully not amongst Muslims. I mean you know we should know, “I’m a man” and that’s it, right. But it’s got to such an extent that even amongst kids this sort of brainwashing is happening.
Children’s TV confusing kids of today
Imam Hadi: Oh yeah well yeah there’s no doubt about that. So nowadays it’s not even happening explicitly, a lot of this messaging is quite subliminal – it’s done subtly as well. I’ll give you an example; in our home we try to limit the amount of TV our children watch, particularly my daughter and my son, because they’re of that age where they understand what’s happening on TV. So my daughter’s eight and my son is five now and my third daughter by the grace of Allah, she’s four months. So I mean, she’s too young, but the other two in particular – we try to limit the amount of TV we watch, and we’re aware that you have to be careful on what content you should be consuming or allowing your children to consume. So, we thought, “well, what’s better than ABC Kids? Because that should technically be government owned. And so they also mention what age group it’s good for, like it would say G rated and you would think “Oh, okay, well that’s universal. That should be fine.”
So one day it was time for my daughter to be able to watch TV and she asked me if I could turn it on and then if I could select a show for her, usually we go for something like PJ Masks and that’s pretty safe as it’s talking about heroism and doing the right thing and learning from your mistakes. But, on that particular day there was this show on called “Love Monster” – now back in the 90s when I was growing up, if I read “love monster” I would think it’s fine but now, instantly I can think of what they were trying to do. So for me now in 2023 reading that, I’m thinking “I don’t know about this, I feel like something might not be right,” and I say ok, I’ll turn it on and see what the episode is about.
His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the Caliph of the Promised Messiah has explained that because of the age that we live in, it’s important that you’re open with your children. If they have questions, then you openly talk to them like friends. So, one thing that we’ve made clear to my daughter is, and this is also based on the guidance of His Holiness, is that there are certain things that you just won’t understand, that there are certain things we don’t need to talk about right now – when you are of age, then we’ll talk about it. So we’ve also quite openly discussed that there are certain things that you shouldn’t be exposed to and we don’t watch these things, so we try our best to avoid them. By the Grace of Allah she understands, right? But this particular episode was so confusing to her because I turn it on and the episode is about the ‘love monster” and his friends celebrating unicorn day, and the balloons have this rainbow coloured image on it. So, technically, this looks all innocent, and I say to my daughter now, it’s okay – we’re not going to watch this. She gets confused and says “But Dad, there’s nothing explicit, there’s no bad scenes that you’ve told me we avoid!” And obviously I say “You won’t understand now, but trust Dad, I don’t think you should watch this.” – Can you imagine? Why should you have to do that?
Badi Ahmad: Yeah! As a father to an eight year old kid, one would assume, you know, you put on a show that’s G-rated and you don’t have to explain all this. But yes, now it has gotten to such a stage.
Do you feel that the masculinity within you had taken over in this regard that you, as the father of the house, you had to define clear boundaries for your kids – for their betterment and for their best understanding of Islam, you had to intervene here?
Imam Hadi: That’s a good question. I mean, I see it as more like my responsibility to God stepping in there that, ultimately I don’t want my child to get confused by the messaging that society is putting out today and take them away from God. But also yes, why not? Ultimately Islam explains that the father needs to lead the household in terms of their spiritual and moral reformation. So yeah, I would agree with that absolutely.
What does it mean to be a man according to Islam?
Badi Ahmad: When we stand tall with our chest out and shoulders big and we’ve got that ego that “I’m the big dog, you know, I’m a big man” – that’s not masculinity. Instead it’s, as you have perfectly said, being able to keep your calm in a state of chaos, being able to be kind to people, being able to be patient. And these are the characteristics that make a truly remarkable Muslim man.
Imam Hadi: Yeah, ultimately, if you want some semblance of balance and clarity in your life it needs to be in association with God, everything else should follow so that we’re not associating partners with God. What I mean by association is, in relation to God, and for the sake of God – for the sake of that identity and that relationship with God, if the scenario dictates a particular course of action, then you take it. So, one concept which is famous within Islam is Jihad – fighting in the way of Allah. However Jihad is not fighting strictly in the sense that you go to war – yeah, the Muslims went to war though for defensive reasons, but even then, as the scenario required it they stood up to the occasion. There’s an interesting thing in the Holy Quran, when men are being referred to, some verses of which specifically mention men and are referred to in the Arabic language as “Rijal” from the root word “Rajala” which means to stand, to walk. So for the sake of Allah, you stand up to the occasion. If you take the example of the early Muslims at the time of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, the Holy Quran categorically states that these people did not wish to have a situation of war, but when war is brought upon you, for the sake of your identity and your relationship with God, you stand up to the occasion and you fight.
The Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, said when you see indecency, taking place within your community or you see that your brother is misbehaving, maybe he’s not just misbehaving, he is being unjust, the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, said firstly, if you can practically do something about it then you should practically do something about it, stop him with your hands. If you can’t stop him with your hand then at least speak to him and try to explain to him the situation. If you can’t do that then at least pray for him and, you know, he said that this is the weakest level of faith, to just pray for him.
So, the point that I’m making is that for the sake of God, you need to stand up to the occasion. And that could be different things on different occasions. So, for example, if for the sake of God – and by the sake of God, I mean in the long run you want to live a long and fulfilling life, avoid depression, be resourceful and someone who can serve – so for these you’d do well to look after your health and if you want to serve, you need to be strong.
Badi Ahmad: Right, so on these points, when we talk about men needing to be strong, fit and able to defend something, they need to be able to protect and provide. All these things have purpose and, in time, do matter in a man and his makeup and his service to God.
Why comparing the value of genders is a pointless exercise
Imam Hadi: Absolutely. Well, I’ll tell you what I think it’s a really important conversation and it’s three-fold, so bear with me. There’s a few things here – let’s take the current situation in the world today; the fundamental reason which we have discussed already at length – is caused by a lack of a moral objective standard. Without it, there’s confusion, because you as a human being find value in your relationship with God. Take God away, then where do you find the value? Well, what happened in society is that those who are “perceived” as the weakest of society – quotations around perceived because it is not endorsed by me or by Islam or any Muslim – nonetheless when you remove God from the equation, the weakest part of society has been left with a vacuum. How do you find value for the weak – there’s a vacuum that needs to be filled – and the thought is, “supposedly we are weak, then maybe the only way we can find value is in comparison to those who are perceived as strong.”
So, what happened next, women who were perceived as weak began to look at men, who were perceived as strong, and developed a relation to that. “If a man can work outside, then I need to work outside. If a man dresses in a particular way, I need to dress in that particular way.” So, what happened is the value of a female began to be judged in comparison to a man – Islam doesn’t teach that. In relation to God, man and woman are absolutely equal, the Holy Quran particularly says that man and women were created from the same source. Fundamentally, this ability to stand up to the occasion for God, is technically found equally within man and woman – the desire to reflect God and have a relationship with Him.
“ […] And they (the women) have rights similar to those (of men) over them in equity […]” – Chapter 2 verse 229:
A man and woman fundamentally have equal rights. So, if you have a right to an education, a woman has a right to an education. If you have a right to health care, she has a right to health care. If you have a right to your freedom of beliefs she has a right to that as well. In fact there’s many narrations from the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, which point this out, that a woman should be educated. What I’m saying is, ultimately what has happened with women is that they started to find their value in relationship to men instead of in relation to God. Do you know what the Holy Quran says? Again, because God is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth along with man and human beings in general, He also acknowledges that a man is ultimately different to a woman.
Badi Ahmad: And this being different, this is biologically different, we have some different features, we have a different sets of mentalities.
Imam Hadi: Absolutely. Because, look at it this way, let’s focus on the idea that you need to reflect the attributes of God in some way or another. There are certain ways in which women can reflect the attributes of God that a man, even if he wanted to, in his wildest dreams, he couldn’t. For instance, there’s an attribute of God called “Rabb,” which means the Sustainer or Nourisher of the universe and everything that’s in existence – a woman brings a child into existence, has an attachment with that child whilst its in her stomach for nine months. Only a woman is able to be a mother to a child and show that child the intimacy and affection it needs that a man could not do in his wildest dreams. What do you think that is, if not a reflection or expression of God’s attributes that a man could not do, even if you wanted to. If we understand this point, then I don’t need to find value in myself by comparing myself to a woman, and a woman doesn’t need to find value in comparison to a man, there’s enough value inherently within you in relationship to God. That’s where the problem is today, because one – God isn’t in the equation, but then there’s this campaign to make women similar to men. What’s happening today – “Well maybe the men should be more similar to women, maybe the men should be more like women now” as a response to women trying to be more like men.
Badi Ahmad: So it’s in essence, what we’ve ended up with is women trying to be like men, and men trying to be like women. No one knows what the true identity is and it’s sort of all over the place. So when you bring masculinity into the equation, of course it’s going to seem toxic.
What constitutes a high value man according to the Holy Quran?
Imam Hadi: So, there’s a number of ways that God addresses men in the Holy Quran in particular and it’s just incredible. For example this verse specifically addresses men, saying –
“By men, whom neither merchandise nor traffic diverts from the remembrance of Allah and the observance of Prayer, and the giving of the Zakat. They fear a day in which hearts and eyes will be agitated.” – Chapter 24 verse 38:
In that, men are not distracted from the remembrance of Allah, due to their business, from observing the obligatory prayers and from giving the zakat and contributing in the way of alleviating the suffering of the poor.
Badi Ahmad: Let’s reiterate – men are those who are not distracted in their worship and who are not distracted in their obligations, such as paying the zakat, doing the charity work. So, when we have all these definitions of man – as someone who needs to own a Bugatti, someone who needs to escape the matrix and needs to be a business owner and an entrepreneur, but the reality is in the eyes of God, who is the Ultimate Truth and what we chase – a man is what you’ve justified.
Imam Hadi: Well, you know what’s interesting? This exact same thing God also addresses in the Holy Quran:
“Beautified for mankind is love of the joys (that come) from women and offspring; and stored-up heaps of gold and silver, and horses branded (with their mark), and cattle and land.” – Chapter 3 verse 15:
Badi Ahmad: Branded horses, we know about that one! Bugattis, Mustangs, Ferraris!
Imam Hadi: What is a Ferrari and a Mustang? They are branded horses, right? But you know what else God said to the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him – Tell them [the people] that what’s better than those? What’s better, is your effort in attaining the Kingdom of God, the heaven destined for you. God further says that heaven is for these people – noting it is not limited to men – the steadfast, the truthful, the humble, those who spend in the way of Allah, and those who constantly seek forgiveness.
Badi Ahmad: So, these five characteristics of what we as young Muslim men in 2023, is what we should be aspiring to.
Imam Hadi: We’re so fortunate! I’ll try to explain this as simply as I can – the only reason people are not looking to Islam is because of the way people have been introduced to religion. And the way people have been introduced is through a way in which religion did not make any sense, this is particular for Christianity, as mentioned in the Holy Quran, modern day Christianity, not the version that Jesus Christ presented. Eventually people moved away from religion, and those who judge Islam, judge it on the basis of Christianity. But if there’s any self-help book which is worth reading, it is the Quran, It is Islam. You know, talking about men – God mentions even further in the Holy Quran again using the word Rijal:
“[…] In it are men who love to become purified, and Allah loves those who purify themselves.” – Chapter 9 verse 108
What does that mean? It means, men are they who have this desire to purify themselves on, the constant journey to become better – to refine yourself, and curate your personality – in every way – your health, your wealth.
Is it manly to be dressed well and wear perfume?
Badi Ahmad: Could this also include, things like you as a man taking care of yourself, in your dress, wearing perfume, making sure your hair is combed, brush, shave – things like these? These aren’t feminine things, right?
Imam Hadi: What does the Holy Quran say? When you’re going to the mosque, make sure you are dressed the best – adorn yourself. What did the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, say when you’re coming to the mosque on a Friday? Take a shower, comb your hair, put some perfume on, put some good clothes on, obviously.
Badi Ahmad: To the younger boys watching this, you might be aware of how, perhaps specific in the South Asian community, we’re taught that branding the latest fashion or doing your hair is seen as too modern and that this is not us and isn’t Islam – those false parallels are made, but then Islam itself tells you that as a man, you should dress nicely as a man. You should wear perfumes along with all these things that adorn you. So, this comes under maintaining masculinity for Muslim men.
Beard talk – Beard hygiene
Imam Hadi: Well, what did the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, say? He said – if you’re a man and if you can, you should grow your beard, but you shouldn’t just grow it out. You should also, he says, have a mustache that is well groomed and keep yourself presentable. The Holy Quran, the Holy Prophet and Islam presents so many guidelines for men, like what is appropriate, what is wholesome, what is nice. I’ll give two more examples from the Holy Quran where men are specifically mentioned:
“Men are guardians over women because Allah has made some of them excel others.” – Chapter 4 verse 35:
That is, a man should ensure that he protects a woman, but in particular his wife, and his mother and his sister, but particularly his wife.
How are men protectors of women?
Badi Ahmad: So, on this, I do want to ask you a couple of questions, because they are really important to too many men of this age. We see with the rise of social media influencers, particularly who are female, and they want to be at the equal of men, in the sense that they say “I want to be the provider of the house, the men don’t need to protect me. I can go and do what I want, and you’re insecure for calling me out to say I’m going out too much.” Could you give us an Islamic perspective on that?
Imam Hadi: I’ll tell you something I tell people doing marriage counseling, which we’re so fortunate to have as a part of the system (of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community). Within our system we have many opportunities to educate, raise awareness and ensure things don’t go wrong – particularly before marriages because of the high rates of divorce that are quite alarming. So His Holiness, the Caliph has instructed that marriage counseling must take place, certain things need to be explained, certain questions need to be elaborated, etc. So one thing that I particularly try to touch upon is that if you will in any way move slightly away from the Islamic principles, you will remember me tomorrow – you’re going to put yourself in a very difficult situation. Islamic principles are designed by God, as dictated by God, are closest to you as your human nature. Maybe we can put a contemporary swing to this, just so just so you can really appreciate what that means.
For the longest time, people thought, “you know what? Drinking alcohol is fine as long as you do it in a controlled way, as long as you’re balanced and well measured.” Do you know what most people are saying now – at least those that are healthy and fit – “don’t drink alcohol, and don’t put yourself in a position where you’re going to end up drinking it.” Even fitness coaches are saying, don’t put carbs and snacks in your home because you’re going to have that impulse in front of you and you’ll end up partaking. Ultimately, there are certain things which are ingrained in us as part of human nature, and if you go against the grain, you will fall into trouble. Hence Islam recommends, for the management of the household, the man should be the one providing shelter, food and clothing to the wife.
One thing that needs to be clarified is that this does not detract anything from the woman. When we say a man should protect and provide – it does not mean to objectify the woman as treat her as your property, not at all. What’s being said, and the perspective in mind should be, is that “I value you so highly and understand that your role as a woman is far more important than mine, that it begets protecting, and ensuring that you can perform your responsibilities in comfort.” In fact it lines up with something I always say – there can be no better moral teacher than a mother.
The objective of Islam for men and women
Badi Ahmad: So all throughout this podcast, you’ve given beautiful examples of patience, courage and absolute will power but also of being kind to your wives, protective of your family, looking out for what your kids are consuming – all this comes under self reformation, which then reforms the world to the point where we can finally look at society and say, that society is where it needs to be.
Imam Hadi: Absolutely, and the thing is, the message is equal to both men and women. If you want to know how to be a proper man, or if you want to know how to be a proper woman, try to align yourself with God Almighty according to the will that He’s designed for you. And you yourself will try and prove that identity. What’s the alternative, if you don’t? Mass confusion, a random identity is now being created and you’re being told that you’re going to have to agree with it, otherwise God knows what you have to face if you don’t conform.
How much should a man contribute in a household?
Badi Ahmad: I think this question will pique everyone – “as a man, do I do the cooking and the cleaning? Do I vacuum? Or am I a big tough guy who doesn’t have to do it and get a free pass?”
Imam Hadi: Well, let’s see what the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, used to do; the companions asked Hazrat Aisha (the wife of the Holy Prophet) that, “Oh, mother of believers, how was the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, at home?” And she said that he was exactly the same way at home, the same way you saw him outside. She said he was basically the embodiment of the Holy Quran, what he was telling you to do, he was doing it himself. What you saw outside, he was like that at home. And then in particular, she said he used to mend his own shoes and when he was finished business outside, would come home and help me out as much as he could.
Badi Ahmad: Sometimes, a lot of women would have complaints about men like, I have to tie his shoelaces. That’s how useless he is at home. “Making his bed, he can’t do that.” So perhaps sometimes that natural ego takes over in some men and they think they’re beyond all this – this is what some people regard as toxic masculinity. But to us as Muslims, we know that we have a self responsibility of looking after our own mess. You as a man should be looking after yourself, it’s not the responsibility of your wife.
Imam Hadi: Absolutely. For instance, if you’ve got children which require your attention – sure, you may have a doctorate degree and it’s a great thing, no one is stopped from being a doctor and practicing or helping out humanity, but maybe it’s not the best idea to do that when you’ve got a child which requires that attention from you.
In that case it’s no longer “me,” once you’re married it’s more so “us” and this also goes for the man if he has to do things that he’s uncomfortable with. Say you just had a new child – yes, you need to provide and protect, and be there to provide shelter and clothing, and you might spend most of your time outside, but if your wife has just delivered a baby, you need to help her out.
Badi Ahmad: Exactly right. Perhaps it’s right that you use some of that leave that you’ve accrued to stay longer with your wife to ease that process for her.
Imam Hadi: Absolutely. You need to help her out. This is so well documented – what happens if you don’t help her out. Women who don’t get sufficient support unfortunately end up with postnatal depression, and that’s terrible. What are you doing about it as a man in that case? You can’t protect your wife, as being with her is also a source of protection. So it really boils down to righteousness – what is righteousness is your moral code, your source of direction based on God Almighty. If it’s based on God Almighty, then your behavior needs to be just. If there’s a lack of justice on either side, there’s going to be friction and you’ll never be able to develop the love that the Holy Quran acknowledges. And a lot of these modern day psychologists now acknowledge you can chase after the fantasy, though you’ll never quite get it.
What if your wife does not want you to provide?
Badi Ahmad: Exactly. I’m going to throw in one controversial question just to close off this part – if a woman tells a man that I would marry you on the premise that you stop working, as a Muslim man whereby your responsibility is to earn and provide, what’s the guidance on that particular issue?
Imam Hadi: Well, it’s obvious, because if the Holy Qur’an is saying you’re the provider and the protector, then that’s not something that you should be agreeing to. But the reason why I say “should” is because – what was the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, told – he was told that “you are a person who reminds and exhorts, you are not a security guard over them.” And the Quranic teachings are very clear, so now it’s up to you to take it for what it is and shape your worldview, though you should perhaps try shaping it accordingly. Nonetheless if someone decides to do that – then that’s up to them. The fourth Caliph of the Promised Messiah touched upon this once, talking about the idea of women earning for the household. Technically it should be a man’s job, he says in that instance the woman becomes the “Qawwam (the Arabic term for provider and protector),” and that’s on you, because of your own volition, despite it being inadvisable.
Badi Ahmad: So, following the proper Islamic tradition, you as a man should put yourself in the position that you are a provider?
Imam Hadi: Yes absolutely! I mean if it was up to me certainly that’s what I would do, and the Holy Quran teaches that as mentioned earlier. Ultimately men are protectors and providers for women and they should live up to that responsibility.
High value men
Badi Ahmad: When you yourself – as a man – can control what you can control, when you are a person of your word, when you are a righteous person, people will look at you and change. They will look at you and see a high value man – “this is someone I want to be with.” Even if there are issues in your marriage, if the men can take the first step, as mentioned earlier, if we can man up and take that first step, there is no reason as to why a lot of these issues that we do have, as a result of miscommunication, as a result of decline in masculinity – could not be resolved.
Imam Hadi: I just love the fact that you use the term high value man, because I know that’s been thrown out a lot, and I think it’s so good you mentioned it because it’s important to point out that a high value man is not all the absurdity that you’re seeing on social media right now, where it’s about access to tons of cars and women and money. That is not a high value man at all. A high value man is someone who constantly tries to build their relationship with God, and is constantly trying to fine tune themselves. I would love to point out one unfortunate thing about our society – we come from a view where we don’t understand what it means to fully develop a relationship with God. It has become ritualistic habits that don’t really have any effect on your life – Islam never taught this. Islam teaches to have a good diet, to eat and drink but do not exceed the bounds.
Badi Ahmad: Exactly, and that’s how you maintain a balanced physique and look good.
Imam Hadi: Absolutely right. And this is just one example, but what is Islam teaching overall? That you have some natural impulses and instincts. It brings that into the moral paradigm, for you to become a civilized human being that people can be proud of, and not only be a well-mannered human being but also a civilized person who contributes to society. But, take it one step further and try to bring it into the spiritual paradigm where every one of your actions is a reflection of the will of God too. If that’s not something that a man can be proud of and want to try and achieve, then what can be? That’s a high value man; someone who genuinely tries to curate his day and his life overall to achieve some level of perfection. So, you work out, have a timetable you follow, establish a bedtime and morning routine, eat your meals in an appropriate fashion, and you’ll work hard. But you’ll work hard particularly because you want to experience God in your life and wish to experience the Grace of God continuously as He assists you to grow. Things like a fast car, a massive house and these other things that get mentioned online – even if that’s what you’re running off to, knowing what we’ve discussed thus far, you’d still be approaching it all wrong.
Badi Ahmad: Will we never escape the Matrix because there’s always going to be someone to one-up you regardless how hard you try? Are you always bound by something if you’re chasing materialistic things?
Can you escape the Matrix?
Imam Hadi: Well, if we suppose that the metaphor is correct, as long as you chase the world, you’re never going to escape the Matrix. It’s very simple: If you’re chasing after the world, you’re never going to have the ability to exit what nowadays people are calling the Matrix because that’s fundamentally what it boils down to. How does Islam explain it? Well, all these material things and pretty much everything that’s on the face of this earth is finite, as God says in the Quran:
“There remaineth but the Countenance of thy Lord of Might and Glory.” – Chapter 55 verse 28
Everything is finite, and only the Countenance of your Lord is infinite, so if you would like to achieve some semblance of reality and something worth chasing after, then it is that relationship with God Almighty. But, more specifically I think what’s being asked, correct me if I’m wrong, is that not everyone is able to fully dedicate their lives to God right? And that ultimately, you still have to do a lot of the things that people in the world are doing – how do you keep up and how do you ensure that you’re making progress and that progress is actually worthwhile?
How can a young man be spiritual?
Badi Ahmad: Yeah, exactly. How can young men better themselves, with what understanding or mentality, so that they could do well for themselves?
Imam Hadi: How about looking at it this way – ultimately every experience that you have in your life is an experience with God. Everything matters. The issue we have today is people dividing things up and in particular they divide life in two, the “work-life balance” – these are two separate things, when in reality there’s no such thing. It’s just life. Life happens – sometimes life is good, sometimes it can get tough, but every single experience is a contribution to your relationship with God Almighty.
Badi Ahmad: And whether you learn from it, whether you get close to God, it’s all up to you
Imam Hadi: It boils down to what your intention is and why you are doing something. Let’s look at the lives of the companions of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him. When they would do trade and business, the objective was always on mind – that if you want to live on this earth, you need to earn your keep – shelter, food and clothing for not only yourself but your family. And as a result they worked quite hard, some of them were very good businessmen. Naturally, good businessmen get really rich really fast, but not everyone was able to do that – though that wasn’t the main objective, it was to provide for the self and the family.
Let’s analyse the idea of retaining more control over your schedule for instance through these lenses, what is the intention behind it? The intention behind having more control of that schedule is to not work a 9 to 5 and ending up burnt out at the end of the day leaving little energy for other things, and eventually I’ll work towards it and reach a point where I have control over my situation. If the intention is to have more time, and have more control over my schedule, then that means I can open up more time to my family and children for the purpose of enjoying what favors God has bestowed on me, which naturally will result in gratitude.
So, another example, If I have more control over my schedule and I’m able to actually stick to a workout routine which will result in a good health and a strong body and which will keep me at bay from depression and anxiety.
Badi Ahmad: And also helps you physically pray longer, which further helps you better your relationship with God.
Imam Hadi: Exactly. If I get myself in a position in life where I’m able to do things that are meaningful. To really experience life to the absolute fullest as much as I can, because every experience is an experience with God, and it’s an experience which makes me grateful of God’s blessings upon me and pushes me further towards coming closer to God and changing my behavior and carefully curating it according to the attributes of God. Then why can’t you particularly live in this world and have both?
Badi Ahmad: It is not just one or the other. You’re either stuck in the matrix, you never get out and you die a meaningless death or that we can live both as long as we switch the mentality that first of all, you’re not “escaping the matrix” with the intention of getting rich, you’re doing it to fulfill a need, and that need fulfills a right or obligation to God?
Imam Hadi: Yeah, ultimately, think about it this way: if your objective is the fast car and the house and all those things, then you decide to find and employ all these different ways in which you can make money very quickly, etc., how have you really exited what you call the Matrix? You’ve just created another one.
Badi Ahmad: Yeah, because one market crash means half of your income gets wiped out
Every experience is an experience with God
Imam Hadi: Well, there’s that, but if you’re looking at it in the long run in terms of finding meaning in your life, and this is all you are after, then how do you really think you have escaped the matrix? It’s a jump from one extreme to another, so the only real way you can come out of the matrix, or this programming where you are just a cog in the machine, is to turn to God. I’ll give you a piece of incredible advice given by the Promised Messiah which is apt; an individual came to him and said “There’s something I’d like to do, but I’m not sure how to go about it.” and the Promised Messiah said, “Stand where God has made you stand, until God opens up a pathway for you.” This means that all the opportunities going your way are God given. If you’re given the opportunity, then take it – otherwise you stay patient and remain content with where you stand until one arises.
Badi Ahmad: And God will open up these pathways and doors
Imam Hadi: Ultimately! And that’s the experience though. So, for example, in your situation where you are saying that I would like to be in a position where I have more control and freedom to be able to do those things that are more meaningful, I’m able to enjoy my time with my family, able to do justice to every every aspect of my life where every right is given its due. And particularly, I’m able to serve in the way of God, I’m able to do all these things. And that’s your end goal. That’s your objective and that’s the position you want, you covet and you want to find yourself in. But in this moment in time at 22, it’s not possible for you to go there at this moment in time. Know, that God has put you in this position for now and stand where God has made you to stand.
When God opens up for you an opportunity, and the means open up – because the means are also provided by God – you move forward, and you gradually move forward. Every experience is an experience with God and when the pathway opens and progress is made, you’ll be grateful to God and you’ll further turn to God in gratitude.
Badi Ahmad: Your explanation at the end could in itself be the conclusion, and I don’t think I need to say too much more with how much we’ve covered. In the end, what I would like to say is if you’ve got any questions to the audience that you would like answered in regards to this particular topic always feel free to ask on ask.fm/mindfulmatters and of course particular issues we’ve covered a lot of related to masculinity. If it’s not covered in the episode feel free to get in touch with us but it’s been an absolute pleasure.
Listen to the full episode where Imam Hadi and Mindful Matters continue discussing the Islamic explanation of what it means to be a man!