The Need For A New Manhood

I keep wondering when Blackamerica is going to take stock. More and more, I see in my fellow young, black males, levels of aggression and intolerance that baffle my mind. Gun violence. Gang violence and even for those not associated with gang violence, the misplaced reverence that so much of pop-black-culture has on it. What, you may ask, is this reverence? In Philadelphia, one need not venture far to see the signs. Scarface T-shirts being sold on the corner or out of someone’s car in South Philadelphia. Grown men walking around in Biggie and Tupac T-shirts with fake bullet holes in them. And then of course, the glorifying of violence in the pop culture through acts of hyper-masculinity. How else could you explain Michael Vick’s behavior? In a discussion with a white associate, he expressed his dismay over Vick’s behavior [and rightly so] in his role in dog fighting. “He’s got it all, you know. Fame. Money. How could someone like that just f#ck that up?” I shook my head and replied, “manhood”. My associate looked quizzically back at me and said, “Manhood? What’s that got to do with it?” I chuckled, wryly, and continued, “it’s a black thing, man. You wouldn’t understand”.

At the risk of dabbling in pan-Islamic rhetoric, this, in my opinion, is one of the greatest things the Prophet brought with his Message. Beyond no god but God, the Prophet also brought about a new modality of manhood, one where you could fully be a proud, protective, strong character and yet it tamed the domineering, bombastic and even violent tendencies that were prevalent in the society he lived in during 7th Century Arabia. It is here that his Sunnah has so much potential for Blackamericans [though not exclusively] to address and resolve the pertinent issues of our time: Hyper Black Masculinity.

I cannot lay claim to the term, hyper masculinity, in reference to Blackamericans. As usual, it was a term I heard coined by Dr. Sherman Jackson. In a talk that Dr. Jackson gave last year at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Jackson urged Blackamerica to deal with three things: education, economics, and sex. And he tied all of these together in a talk that addressed the state of Islam in the Blackamerican community to the malfeasance on black males and their overt masculinity. Dr. Jackson drove home his points by illustrating that the Prophet, as our example, was a man who was never seen as a coward, though he was never full of bravado. He was never perceived to be a “punk” or a “chump”, even by his enemies. The Quraysh had many things to say about the son of Abdullah, but a coward or a chump was never one of them. I need not spend time here reiterating the blessed characteristics of the Messenger – he was kind, caring, compassionate, thoughtful and so on. Yes, we know them but we do not implement them. A recent case drove this home for me:

I was photographing a group of imams and when it came time for the group picture I placed the women in front, seated in chairs. This was done mainly out of photographic needs. But like clockwork, one of the imams boisterously raised his objections to have women siting in front of him.

“Akhiy, these are women and we are men! How can we be protectors and leaders of our community when we place our women in front of us? No, no! We have to have them get behind us.”

“If we have them ‘get behind us’ they won’t be in the picture. Can’t you be a man and stand in the back? No one here seems to be challenging your authority or place as a ‘man’. Need you be a tyrant to show it?”

Needless to say, I’ve had a few issues with this person before and I took this opportunity to stick it to him a bit but this is typical of the reaction of many Muslim men – and yes, the imam was Blackamerican. Instead of addressing real topics and real issues and standing up and dealing with those “like a man” we instead take our misplaced pride and break the proverbial stick over our leg so all can see how manly we are. So I make this plea, this cry to my fellow brothers [and sisters, as they will certainly be a part of this] regardless of religious affiliation, to look at, contemplate and rethink our approach to manhood and to be a man where it counts, to make the change.

9 Replies to “The Need For A New Manhood”

  1. 🙂
    Salaama… (maybe I should use the one with the shades on to look a bit cooler!…) Your words hit the mark. The Prophet, peace be upon him, brought a new (but also deeply traditional, even ancient) vision of manhood which was in fact perfect, complete human saintliness. Sensitive but strong, etc. And in fact, saturated with wisdom from head to toe, from within to without. Caring and compassionate above all. And one of the basic aspects of his message was: we have no right to offend or hurt anyone. And this goes across the board for all Deens… Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Hindu… really, all the revelations to mankind. The Adamic man. Black and white (is our government not also flexing its masculine muscle unconnected to either heart, head OR soul? and are they not mostly white!) So though your target is the mean streets of Philadelphia (of which I am also a citizen), it is also the world. Thank you. Jazakallahu’l-khayr.

  2. Salaam Alaikum brother,

    It’s been a while since I visited your blog – been busy but I’m getting back into blogging hopefully. I was nodding my head throughout reading your piece, especially this line:

    “Beyond no god but God, the Prophet also brought about a new modality of manhood, one where you could fully be a proud, protective, strong character and yet it tamed the domineering, bombastic and even violent tendencies that were prevalent in the society he lived in during 7th Century Arabia.” – So true and to the point! Wish all brothers could read this.

    Wa Salaam

  3. Great post. I’d like to hear your thoughts on whether you see further parallels between the conditions of urban America now and 7th century Arabia.

  4. Salam

    Good thoughts, Sidi.
    “(Therefore) the saying, “They (the wives, women) conquer only the brave; only the cowardly conquer them.” See here.

    ” Les Lumiéres? Mais nous sommes la derriére-garde!” – Abdal Hakim Murad, Contentions 5(43).


  5. Thanks to all for the comments. As Daniel pointed out, the message of this easily goes beyond the borders of Philadelphia and could be applied to many situations around the world. Perhaps yet the topic for another post on globalization?

    M. Shahin – glad to see you’re back! I have dropped in from time to time to see what you’re up to. Look forward to more from you. Glad you got something from this small piece.

    Tom – your question is a good one and I’ll take it as a suggestion to write more about the comparison between our current condition in urban Blackamerica and that of 7th Century Arabia. I hope to see you and Thomas this fall.

    Faramir – good to see another Tolkien fan out there! Yes, we are indeed the “rear guard”. I say away with all this false masculinity and a return to being real protectors, providers and nurturers.

  6. P.S. – Daniel – as-Salaamu ‘alaykum. I must contact you for a signed copy of Abdallah Jones! I was enthralled by your short YouTube reading on your site. Fantastic stuff. I can only imagine how much I’d have eaten it up as a kid if I like it this much at almost 35! Added you to the links section under Art.


  7. P.S. S. Abdallah Jones was eaten up by my daughter, Mia in one delicious bite! She wrote a comment on Amazon Books recommending it highly! As I told Daniel, it is the kind of spiritual/adventure that can be enjoyed by all, at any age. We both loved it!

  8. Interesting post that leaves one pondering on how society has perveted our very perceptions of ourselves. I’ve spent years watching men I love struggle with themselves – torn between acting out a caricaturiazed part that has become so much a part of our social schemas vs being true to themselves and their human potential. Some have managed to overcome it (with battle scars) and others still struggle. It’s heartbreaking, truly. A friend of mine who gave birth to a baby boy looked at me and said “how am I going to raise this boy to be a black man in all this madness?”
    I’ve heard Dr. Jackson speak about the notion of prophetic manhood and it is so moving -it leaves one with hope for the future.
    Btw, Jamie Foxx is getting a hard time for his comments about the whole Michael Vick thing, (Vick’s actions were reprehensible, don’t get me wrong), but what I understood from it was that when you enter into a different social world, sometimes being a “man” can mean a whole different thing. Or maybe I’m just naïve. I’ve been known to be a bit gullible.

  9. Salaams Brother:

    Actually, if one looks at old professional portraits, you can usually see the woman sitting down, with the man standing behind her. Sometimes he has his hand on her shoulder. This was seen as man being “superior” i.e., being a level higher than her.

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