Qualities of Real ‘Men’ in the Quran

Many people confuse manhood with masculinity. They usually use the two terms interchangeably without noticing any difference between both of them. However, it is more appropriate not to do so as the two terms have categorically separate meanings as far as their denotations as well as connotations are concerned.

Whereas masculinity is opposite to femininity, manhood is opposite to irresponsibility and unreliability. Moreover, masculinity/femininity distinction is used to denote sex or gender, while manhood/irresponsibility distinction stands for psychological, ethical and moral qualities that can apply to either a male or a female; even some children can be described as being ‘men’ based on their stance in some situations!

Though the difference between ‘manhood’ and ‘masculinity’ is not our main focus here, the above distinction should be borne in mind.

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I have extracted nearly all occurrences of the Arabic term rajul/, meaning ‘man’ from the Qur’anic divine text with all its derivatives and the term turned out to have some basic characteristics and qualities that are worthy-mentioning here. Thereupon, those who are described in the Qur’an as ‘men’ have one or more of the following five distinctive features, attributes or qualities:


1. Their hearts are attached to mosques and they love to purify themselves:

Allah the Almighty says what may mean,

{A place of worship which was founded upon duty (to Allah) from the first day is more worthy that thou shouldst stand (to pray) therein, wherein are men who love to purify themselves. Allah loveth the purifiers.} (At-Tawbah 9: 108)

The Qur’an says that in the mosque, there “are men who love to purify themselves”; thus, they come to the mosque while applying ablution and that is why they received the reward that Allah the Almighty loves them as they “love to purify themselves”. Hence, this is the first attribute of those great men who have been granted the honor of being described as ‘men’.

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Moreover, this category of men cannot be found in other than mosques, they are those who are reared therein especially when societies are emptied of all meanings of manhood and loyalty to Allah, the Creator of everything.


2. They constantly remember Allah and establish the Prayer:

Allah the Almighty says in His Ever-Glorious Qur’an what may mean,

{(This lamp is found) in houses which Allah hath allowed to be exalted and that His Name shall be remembered therein. Therein do offer praise to Him at morn and evening; Men whom neither merchandise nor sale beguileth from remembrance of Allah and constancy in prayer and paying to the poor their due; who fear a day when hearts and eyeballs will be overturned.} (An-Nur 24: 36-37)

Those who are in the houses of Allah or mosques are real men. They are not in any way distracted by this world and its adornments, attractions and marketplaces from remembering their Lord Who created them and Who sustains them.

They are those who know that what is with Allah is better for them than what they themselves possess, because what they have is transient but that which is with Allah is eternal.

They are those who give priority to obeying Allah and doing what He wants and what pleases Him over doing what they want and what pleases them.

It was reported that `Abdullah ibn `Umar was in the marketplace when the iqamah for Prayer was called, so the present Muslim merchants closed their stores and entered the mosque to perform the Prayer in congregation. Ibn `Umar said, “Concerning them the ayah was revealed: {Men whom neither merchandise nor sale beguileth from remembrance of Allah.} (Narrated by Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Jarir)

And the last description of such godly people in the above ayah is that they {fear a day when hearts and eyeballs will be overturned,} which refers to the Day of Resurrection when people’s hearts and eyes will be overturned, because of the intensity of the fear and terror of that Day.


3. They stick to the divine path:

Allah the Almighty commended one category of the believers in the Qur’an and, thus, they are described as being real ‘men’. He says what may mean,

{Of the believers are men who are true to that which they covenanted with Allah. Some of them have paid their vow by death (in battle), and some of them still are waiting; and they have not altered in the least.} (Al-Ahzab 33: 23)

Ibn Kathir says, “When Allah mentions how the hypocrites broke their promise to Him that they would not turn their backs, He describes the believers as firmly adhering to their covenant and their promise,” to show the difference between those who are sincere in worshipping Him and those who are not!

Those believers have been true to their covenant with Allah until they met their appointed time of death in battle. And, some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed in the least or broken their covenant with Allah.

Some commentators on the Qur’an say that the above ayah was revealed concerning the Prophet’s Companion, Anas ibn An-Nadr (May Allah be pleased with him) who was distressed that he missed the Battle of Badr with the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) and vowed that if Allah shows him another battle with the Prophet, Allah will see what he will do and he said nothing more. During the battle of Uhud, Sa`d ibn Mu`adh said to him, ‘O Abu `Amr! Where are you going?’ He replied, ‘I long for the fragrance of Paradise and I have found it near the mountain of Uhud.’

He fought against the polytheists of Quraish until he was killed. Over eighty stab wounds and spear wounds were found on his body, and his sister said, ‘I only recognized my brother by his fingertips.’ Then the above ayah was revealed as reported by Imam Ahmed in his Musnad.

Thus, Anas and many other Companions of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) never changed their covenant with Allah or were disloyal or committed treachery, but they persisted in what they had promised and did not break their vow, and that is how Islam reached us as intact and pure as it was revealed on Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings  be upon him) by the Grace of Allah and then by the relentless efforts of the Prophet and his noble Companions.

Unfortunately, this kind of adherence and sticking to the divine path is now lost by many Muslims who deviated from the right and godly path which is set by Allah the Almighty for Muslims to prosper and to gain His Pleasure and Acceptance.


4. They support and defend Allah’s Messengers:

One of the main characteristics and qualities of true and real men as is mentioned in the Qur’an is that they constantly support, back and defend the Messengers of Allah and those who call upon people to sincerely worship Him while expecting no worldly reward or any other materialistic advantage from anyone, not even from the Messengers themselves.

Allah the Almighty says in the Qur’an what may mean,

{And there came from the uttermost part of the city a man running. He cried: O my people! Follow those who have been sent! Follow those who ask of you no fee, and who are rightly guided.} (Ya-Sin 36: 20-21)

According to Ibn Ishaq,

“The people of the city resolved to kill their Messengers, then a man came running to them from the farthest part of the town, i.e., to help them against his people. They said, his name was Habib, and he used to work with ropes. He was a sickly man who suffered from leprosy, and he was very charitable, giving half of his earnings in charity, and his fitrah (natural inclination) was sound.”

His reward was that his people beat him until his intestines came out of his back passage. However, Allah the Almighty said to him, {Enter Paradise.} So he entered it with all its bountiful provision. Allah had taken away from him all the sickness, grief and exhaustion of this world.

Therefore, a real man should serve as an aide to the Messengers of Allah who were sent to guide human beings to the Straight Path without asking them for any payment or reward. A real man is demanded to serve as an aide to the Messengers and not to become their adversary. He should call upon people to accept the Messengers and what they call for and not to become an obstacle in the way of da`wah.

It is worthy-mentioning here that supporting and defending the Messengers of Allah is not restricted to those who were contemporary with them only. Rather, this should be the practice of all sincere and real men until the end of days in one way or another and whenever there is a need for it.


5. They give advice to the believers while in a state of fear:

The fifth and thus last quality of those real ‘men’ mentioned in the Qur’an is that they give advice while they are in a state of fear for the sake of Allah alone. Let us look into the following ayah,which relates the story of a man who came to warn Prophet Musa (Peace and blessings be upon him) against his people’s cunning and evil scheme for him,

{And a man came from the uttermost part of the city, running. He said: O Moses! Lo! The chiefs take counsel against thee to slay thee; therefor escape. Lo! I am of those who give thee good advice.} (Al-Qasas 28: 20)

This man had the courage to take a different route, a shorter route than the one taken by those who were sent after Musa (peace and blessings be upon him), so he reached Musa first and managed to warn him. For sure, if the assassins managed to catch him, he would have been slaughtered. Likewise, if the man did not hasten to Prophet Musa, the assassins would have reached the Prophet first and thus would have killed him in a merciless way as they were driven only by wrath, stupidity and disbelief.

Every one of us should imagine himself in the shoes of such a man and ask himself: Were I do so if I were in his place? Would I warn the Prophet of Allah and take the risk of being caught and killed?!

Is not it tremendous courage to be brave enough to do what you feel to be right?!

Finally, it has now become clear that masculinity is something and manhood is a totally another thing. They should not be mistaken for one another. Moreover, it is incumbent upon every Muslim to have one or more of the qualities of real ‘men’ whose hearts are attached to mosques and who love to purify themselves; those who constantly remember Allah and establish the Prayer; those who stick to the divine path and never deviates from it; those who support and defend the Messengers and callers for Allah at all times; and those who give good advice to the believers while they themselves are in a state of fear and extreme danger.

I implore to Allah to make us all from among those who deserve to be described in the Qur’an as being real ‘men’! Amen.

About Dr. Ali Al-Halawani
Dr. Ali Al-Halawani is Assistant Professor of Linguistics and Translation Studies. He is an author, translator, and writer based in Canada. To date, Al-Halawani authored over 400 original articles on Islam and Muslims, most of which can be accessed on www.aboutislam.net and other famous websites. He has recently started to self-publish his articles and new books, which are available on Amazon and Kindle. You can reach him at [email protected]