By: Asif Balouch
A phrase that has long been thrown around is the popular term, “Real Man”. Being labeled a “Real Man” has forever been seen as the ultimate compliment of respect a man could give another and to be viewed in this way has been regarded as the ultimate goal to achieve for the male population. But what is a “Real Man”?
In some parts of society this achievement is measured in terms of how much alcohol you can consume without keeling over and puking your guts out. Others regard a real man in accordance to how many fights one has participated in and won, even if the reason for the fight is for something completely idiotic and dishonorable. Another historic definition of a real man would depend on how shredded and cut up he is when it comes to his muscularity, never mind if the method of gaining it was questionable. Some societies label one a “real man” depending on how much money he rakes in or how many sexual encounters he's had, disregarding whether the money is earned in a positive manner and overlooking the tremendous heartbreak of the poor women that agreed to be another tally mark to his bedroom antics. Catching a football, driving a pickup truck…I'm sure there's plenty more.
The other day I came across an article on AskMen.com that provided a top 10 list of traits of a real man. Now granted, I don't think the blog was supposed to be taken too seriously because it was from the perspective of a mafioso character. Despite that, I thought it was a good concept to dive into when properly defining a “Real Man”. I believe this top 10 list is significant since what constitutes a real man is not legislated by any regular humanfolk. Oh, no, no, no…the declaration of what a Real Man comes from the words of the Creator, Allāh (God) of man himself, and was put into practice by a man who is without a doubt the epitome of a real man, The Prophet Muḥammad . Just by reading about this man's life, his struggles and the description of his profound character, there is no one on this earth that the label “Real Man” fits more perfectly than him. So without further ado, here are the top ten traits of a real man.
Trait # 1: A Real Man Reads
That's right, just like how your stomach needs to be regularly fed with food, your mind needs to be regularly fed with knowledge. Now there's quite a few ways to attain knowledge of different things but a surefire way for it to stick in your brain is through reading. (A quick note: If you're a real man, you didn't groan when reading this first trait.) And no I'm not saying reading the newspaper, or your Twitter or Facebook news feeds does it. That is NOT true reading. That's not manly reading. I'm talking about books. A man reads books. Books that can save him from making stupid mistakes, books that can inspire him to get off his lazy rear end and do something with himself, books that makes him realize why the heck he's here in the first place. Though the Prophet himself was illiterate, he made it a high priority to seek knowledge and there are many sayings where he mentions the high value importance of attaining knowledge. Some include: “The pen(knowledge) is mightier than the sword” and “He who travels in the search of knowledge, to him God shows the way of Paradise.” A real man doesn't stop seeking knowledge until his heart stops beating.
Trait # 2: A Real Man is a Focused Man
Alluding to the trait above, a real man who has knowledge, recognizes what is important and what is rubbish that ain't worth his time. A real man doesn't lose himself in the pretty bells and whistles of life that don't bring him any real benefit. When a real man sees things that are a distraction, he keeps moving. A real man realizes why he's here on this earth, that he is only here for a short time and that he has to do what he has to do to make sure he's got a ticket to paradise. A real man focuses on what's important: bettering himself, making a living for his family and preparing himself for the future. A real man lives by what the Prophet said:“Live in this world as (if you are) a wayfarer or a stranger.”, which in essence means to not get caught up by all the glitz and glamour of this world because it's temporary. He doesn't stick around and waste time. Don't let things distract you because you have to make it to your destination. A real man manages his time wisely and gives the proper due to his work, his family, and his Creator. Stay focused and do what you have to do, because in the end there isn't anybody to bail you out.
Trait # 3: A Real Man is Gentle but Firm
A real man recognizes that he's a man with an intellect, not an animal. A real man speaks softly and doesn't need to holler and yell at the top of his lungs to be heard or get his point across. A real man doesn't create a scene, start trouble or “act hard” in front of others to show he's a tough guy. When there is trouble ahead, he does his best to squash it in a civilized manner. A real man isn't a punk either. Just because he doesn't raise his voice or try to intimidate others, doesn't mean he's a floor mat that people can walk all over. If he has problem with something, he lets it be heard. A real man practices patience. A real man suppresses his anger like a caged lion. Sure he can open the door at anytime and unleash hell but knows there is more honor and dignity in holding back. Raising his fists is the ABSOLUTE last resort.The Prophet said, “He is not strong and powerful who throws people down, but he is strong who withholds himself from anger.”, in addition he also said, “Deal gently with people, and be not harsh; cheer them and condemn not.” A real man lives by these quotes.
Trait # 4: A Real Man is a Family Man
A real man recognizes the importance of his family and does his utmost to be a contributing member of the family. A real man preserves and protects. A real man recognizes that his children are a blessing from God and treats them as such and brings them up to be upright human beings. A real man MAKES TIME for his family and does not neglect them because of work or his own personal dealings. A real man is the backbone of his family and doesn't have time to be weak. A real man doesn't just take care of his immediate household but looks after his family that he grew up with. He honors his parents to the utmost, especially his mother. He calls his family often and stays in touch. He's good to his siblings and relatives. A real man strives to be the best father, brother, son and husband he can be and works hard to live up to be the best. The Prophet once said, ”The best of you is the one who is best to his own family, and I am the best of you towards my family.”
Trait # 5: A Real Man doesn't Slander/Backbite/Cuss/Gossip
A real man keeps his mouth shut if he doesn't have anything nice to say. A real man, when he hears others ripping on whoever–whether they know them or not, either goes over and shuts it down by warning the party or walks right on out of the room. A real man would say in that situation, “Hey, I wouldn't like anyone saying that about me when I'm not around so ya'll shouldn't be talking about so-and-so like that”. A real man keeps a careful watch on his tongue because he knows that what he says can hurt him then or definitely in the future. A real man doesn't discuss things he doesn't know about or people he hasn't ever met. A real man doesn't cuss to be “cool” and chooses his words intelligently because he can get his point across better without dropping an f-bomb or an s-missle. A real man recognizes the hadith that says ”most people that are in hellfire are in there because they couldn't control their tongue.” In the Qurʾān, God states that he has given man “two lips and one tongue”, so the lips can control the tongue. [Surah Al Balad, 9]
Trait # 6: A Real Man Keeps His Promises
A real man's word is his bond. If he can't keep a promise, he doesn't give his word. A real man is trustworthy and doesn't flake out on somebody. He doesn't use inshā'Allāh (God willing) as a copout. He doesn't break deals and he pays back debts. A real man knows that his words are as powerful as his actions, and that they must be taken at face value. A real man doesn't say “I'll try” if he doesn't have to try it really. He either does or he doesn't and if he can't do it, he says he can't. There's no shame in saying that you can't do a favor for somebody, or you won't be able to come through. At least you'll be upfront and honest about it rather than being relied on and letting someone down. What does the Qurʾān say about this? “O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is with Allāh that you say that which you do not do.” [Surah Saff, 2-3] From this quote, a Real Man knows that keeping a promise is serious business and doesn't screw around on them.
Trait # 7: A Real Man Respects All Women
A real man doesn't “holler” at girls. A real man doesn't sit with other guys and talk about how sexy girls are and drool while discussing their body parts and wanting to “hit it”. A real man doesn't treat women like a buffet. A real man pursues a WIFE, not a girlfriend and he goes about it the right way. If a Real man is interested in a female, he goes to their parents to let them know his intentions, like how they did it back in the days. A real man works on lowering his gaze when beautiful women walk by. A real man keeps his interactions with women short, cordial and to the point and doesn't let it go longer so flirting and dirty thoughts can come into the mix. If a man is married, he stays faithful and doesn't leer his eyes elsewhere – and that includes the TV, the internet and magazines. A real man is respectful to his wife, both in public and in private. A real man does not raise his hands to his wife no matter what the case is. A real man doesn't point out his wife's flaws and treat her like a second-class citizen. A real man treats every female (that isn't his wife) he comes in contact with in the same way he treats his mother or sister.
Trait # 8: A Real Man Keeps His House in Order
Contrary to popular belief, a real man doesn't live in a pigsty. There aren't any pizza boxes on the counter, the sink isn't filled with dishes and his underwear isn't laying around. A real man is the master of his domain if he's living on his own, because if not then he better move back in with his mom and get some lessons if he ever wants to land a wife. That's correct! A real man DOES CHORES, even with his wife around. He does the dishes if they need cleaning, takes out the garbage, does his own laundry, irons his clothes, cooks from time to time. If you haven't reached that level, you better work on it now. The Prophet Muḥammad regularly did household work and did most of his own chores himself like fixing his shoes, doing his own laundry etc. Stop using manliness as an excuse and get your job done, clean your place up, get your documents in order and clean up yourself.
Trait # 9: A Real Man Handles His Own Money
A real man isn't a charity case. He doesn't go looking for handouts from mommy and daddy or friends. A real man isn't satisfied with welfare checks. He goes out there and busts his tail to do something he wants to do and be the best at it. Whether it's being a CEO of your own company or sweeping the streets with a broom, you be the best at whatever you choose to do and give it 100%. When you start making some bread, you don't flaunt it like a douche or splurge it like an idiot. You budget your money and make sure you have some savings for emergencies. A real man doesn't buy a thing he can't afford. A real man relies on his own sweat from hard work and God, to provide for him. Rather than being a charity case, a real man gives to charity and good causes. Unless he wants to rescue the world himself from all its issues, he should support those that are doing good things properly. The Prophet once said that it was better for a man to take a rope and gather some wood on his back to sell then to go out begging for money. So do what you gotta do to make an honest living and give back and God will rain down good fortune on you here and in the next life.
Trait # 10: A Real Man Knows He's Being Tested
A real man doesn't whine, cry and complain when life isn't going his way. He doesn't mope, wallow in his own self-pity or ruminate about all the BS that's going wrong with his life to anyone that will listen. “Why me?” is not in a real man's vocabulary. A real man makes decisions and takes full responsibility of what follows. A real man shows GRATITUDE. He is grateful for what he has no matter how big or how small. He takes the cards he's been dealt and runs with them. He doesn't look at other folks and get jealous because they have more. A real man realizes he has weaknesses and works on controlling them and not being consumed by them. That's because a real man knows what this life is all about. A man knows that he's constantly being tested and the decisions he makes will have either a negative or positive effect in the end when he's in front of his Maker on the day of judgment. A real man only cries out in private to his Lord and asks him for solace, forgiveness and comfort. A real man gives his best effort in anything he does and when life throws him a curveball he takes it in stride because he knows what the Qurʾān says “With hardship comes ease.” [Surah Ash-Sharh, 5-6] A real man knows that there's always gonna be ups and downs in life and that the ultimate down is in the next life if he winds up in Hellfire and the ultimate up and the ultimate form of “ease” is being in Paradise maxin' and relaxin' for all eternity. In the end we're all trying to get to the same place, and a real man knows that with Islam, he's got a compass, he's got the straight path and he knows what he has to do to make it there. Everything else is an obstacle in his way.
So what have we learned here today? Hopefully, we've learned that we guys have some homework to do before we can even consider ourselves a real man, especially one of the caliber of the Prophet Muḥammad . I put this top 10 list together knowing that I do not possess all of these traits fully and it may take a lifetime before I can even confidently say that I meet all these requirements. But these traits are not impossible to attain. All it takes is some effort. A wise man once said that the essence of manhood is when a man has reached the pinnacle of his role. By the help of God, we very well can reach that pinnacle. Last but not the least, a Real man would share this with others. Till next time, this has been your favorite PhilAsifer, telling you to take care and be a man!