Applying Rouge


“It is good to carry some powdered rouge in one’s sleeve. It may happen that when one is sobering up or waking from sleep, his complexion may be poor. At such time it is good to take out and apply some powdered rouge.” – Yamamoto Tsunetomo

The challenge of modernity is not met necessarily in the clash of civilizations, the clash of titans or anything quite as grandiose as we may be led to believe. Rather, it would be the clash of plurality; the attempt to make the many, one. In modern times, we often see the implacability of multiple notions on the same ideal. These neuroses have not escaped the Muslims here in America, where it is often more popular than not for self-appointed vanguards of personally conceived notions to coerce the masses into a mold other than that of their choosing. This is carried out by groups and individuals, that for lack of a better word and for dramatic effect, I will dub virtue bullies. The tactic is simple: bludgeon, batter and browbeat those who are perceived to differ in form and thus function of these bastions of moral rectitude. The results of these cultural-psychological attacks are the demonization of individuals and groups who can now easily be used as target practice – religious target practice in as far as this post is concerned. But in my opinion, these attacks are a rouse; a distraction, a cover-up. An applying of rouge to cover one’s blemishes.

What I am speaking about here, primarily, are the notions and concepts on manhood and vis-a-vie, Islam, that some bloggers have taken to attacking. These rants are not merely a waste of time – indeed, they are a fitnah, a trial and tribulation of the community in a time when we have bigger proverbial fish to fry. We live in a time when we need contributors, not detractors. Those who can strive intelligently and morally to say “yes”. Not to fall back on their shortcomings as a safety net to give us the all-too familiar, “no”. But we must get to the heart of these derisive comments. What is really being said here? What is the goal and what is it that these pundits of manhood are seeking to protect, or as I mentioned above, cover up?

To cut to the quick, many of these attacks have centered around the theme of a “hard working man”. The kind of man who earns his keep and, if possible, with his hands. Work that may not involve physical labor while not outright disdained, is certainly mistrustful. Vocations of an intellectual nature are cast with aspersions. After all, how can one really embody all that is right and manly, if you’re providing for your family while dressed in an ascot sweater, wearing suede shoes. Of course, we must not forget the affinity that such men may also have for coffee beverages, such as lattes, cappuccinos, and the like.

While the examples I am giving here are for dramaturgical effect, they are nonetheless, part and parcel with this scornful outlook on those who do not fit their predetermined profile. But in essence, these attacks are highly reminiscent of nativist sentiments towards immigration. Like the attitudes of many lower-class working whites at the turn of the 20th century who saw themselves as the defenders of a way of life, so to do these unsubstantiated claims smack of the same song ilk. Manhood, in the eyes of this self-selected few deem those who exist outside their socio-economic class as lacking in manhood. I say these notions are folly and instead, it would appear that their mascara is running at this point.

To say that Islam is a religion that is broad and wide enough to emcompass many modalities of manhood goes without saying. I would prefer to move beyond this Islam 101 narrative and instead seek to broaden the circle of enclosure. We must endeavor to find ways to include, not exclude. To state that the only acceptable form of dress is for men to dress as these pundits due is outright idiocy and completely outside their jurisdiction. Many such pundits have had the audacity to call for reforms in the community that will promote marriage, strong families and yet, many of them have been the participants of multiple marriages, leaving a wake of divocees, uncared for children and worse in their wake. How can someone who has little to no formal education, no formidable job skills, and makes a questionable contribution to community or society have the gumption to leer at persons who have a well-paying jobs, provide for their families in comfortable means, and even have the disposable income to potentially give to charity [something most of these individuals are hardly in the position to do, let alone reliably provide for their families in safe neighborhoods, provide quality educational opportunities for their children, etc.]? But instead of pointing the looking glass at themselves, they reach up their sleeves for some powdered rouge. Again, the mascara is really starting to run at this point. Only upon becoming spiritually sober, to awaken from the slumber of half-baked misconceptions of manhood whose substance is that of papier-mâché, will they have the chance to contribute something to themselves, their families and their communities and perhaps even society. I continue to be baffled at the state of some Muslims’ minds. With the serious future we face, that intellectual capital would be spent on something as asinine as this truly boggles the mind. Assuredly, manhood in Islam can be broad enough to accommodate a cup of coffee.

Of course, I am a tea drinker so I dare not ask what may be said of me.

8 Replies to “Applying Rouge”

  1. Salaams,

    Yes, this was so needed. Might I add that I find it disturbing that it is men who are going around bashing each other in this regard? Sure, I think men need to advise each other, but of all the complaining that women might do about what is wrong with some Muslim men, calling out their manhood or limiting the definition of manhood to what one wears and drinks is not something we do. What I mean is, it sounds like excessive posturing by some men and it is actually a machismo that has no place in Islam. Sisters are looking for their men to be “manly” but apparently our definition of manliness is much broader.

  2. Aaminah,
    Hamdulillah you enjoyed it. Yes, it can be a bit disparaging the way men can be either abusive or at the very least, unproductive, acting as psychological tripwires to social booby traps. For some, they are threatened by the idea of modalities of manhood that sit outset their own subset of its definition. In fact, many do not or will not concede that their own definitions of manhood is indeed a subset expression of it.

    I had a recent conversation with a friend who was talking about manliness [and of course, where there’s talk of manliness, you’re likely to find Marc Manley] and related how he grew up with rough-and-tumble manly men [this being before he was Muslim thus these are non-Muslim men]. He then recounted how, outside of the “hood”, he found few Muslim men he could relate to because of their apparent non-masculine behavior. But the issue didn’t stop here. In summary, any man who did not behave in this manner was in a sense, either a closet homosexual or on the verge of becoming one. The conversation then included that his initial reception of an American imam/public figure and that because they came from these disparaging backgrounds, he harbored personal accusations that the imam might in fact be a homosexual because he was not manly in the same definition he acclimated to in his youth.

    I say all this to make the point: men who come from dissonant cultural backgrounds [that background could be as simple as a urban/suburban background, vocational vs. educational/academic, or even entirely different geographical cultures such as typified, urban black backgrounds compared to civil society Asian background], need not and indeed, should not be castigated as not being sufficiently manly. Again, the Prophetic model is so illuminating. When reading the Prophet’s [?] biography as a character study, we see a model of manhood where one can be brave, but needn’t be brash. Courageous but not cocky. Tough and enduring without sacrificing tenderness and emotions. And without a doubt, when reading the seerah of the Prophet [?] from the point of view of his opposition, they loathed him for trying to change their religion, for upsetting the balance, accusing him of breaking the tie of tribe, kith and kin – they even went to war against him, but never was he [?] ever considered a coward. They may have accused him for religious apostasy, but never cultural apostasy. And in a culture that exuded ‘asabiyyah [عصبية] and muruw’ah [مروءة], this point cannot be understood well enough.

    The point I was hoping and trying to get across is that manhood, when viewed from a socio-psychological point of view [which by the way is fancy talk for saying that this is still very much relevant to discussing Islam], should be a fusion of various emotional elements, with neither of the one overturning the maqsad or the kulliyaat of manhood [i.e., its points, goals and objectives]. Namely, to be responsible, protective, nurturing, and honorable, to name but a few. And if one’s model of manhood possesses components of these [and other elements as well] but has negative elements that override or worse, countermand and become a detriment to the kulliyaat of manhood, that it must be examined and changed, not perpetuated as a badge of honor to hide one’s faults. And we all have faults in our manhood [hence, we have the Prophetic model to strive towards in attainment]. It is not a shame but rather an expression of manhood itself to admit that one needs to be a better man, to work to refine, repair or rework the model until it coincides with the Best of the Best [?].

    And God knows best,

  3. What would you say if hair-dressers were killed in your country for cutting men’s beards–as was the case in Basra, Iraq? Please pray that that may never happen!

    That’s a tough one, man. But seriously, why ask me this question? I’m talking about responsibility and manhood and you’re talking about the Barber of Seville.

    I have no comment on such an act [if it happened – I am not aware of it] but acting and living in my own context, such a concern is out of my reach and imagination.

    Did you read the post?

  4. “We must endeavor to find ways to include, not exclude.”

    What would you say if hair-dressers were killed in your country for cutting men’s beards–as was the case in Basra, Iraq? Please pray that that may never happen!

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