Written by Wardah Abbas
Before I begin typing in the actual words, let me introduce a special someone in my life. His name is Nouman. I call him “Bobo” – much like a pet name because he’s super cute. And I’m privileged to be his mother. It’s over 365 days since Allah gave him to me. But instead of seeing him as a gift, I choose to see him as a trust. Because in the end, I’ll be accountable for how I raised him. As the days pass, I try to picture him in my mind’s eye, first as a 5 year old, then as a teenager and finally an adult. And all I can wish for is seeing him grow into the most responsible, well-rounded and deen-conscious young man. It’s not too much to ask and the journey to that final destination is not a walk in the park. So now more than ever, as I reflect upon the kinds of people I would love my son to emulate and take as role models, my mind naturally inclines towards men in the seerah; men who left indelible footprints of great iman, morals and courage. The most striking of all is when I reflect upon the lives of the men who did extraordinary things which would in modern times be mocked at or scoffed at, seeking for my son the same qualities that made them so elevated by Allah. One of these men is Yūsuf .
In the glorious Qur’an, Allah dedicated an entire surah to Prophet Yūsuf, narrating his story with a great deal of detail in order that we may be inspired and follow in his footsteps. From his dream to his brothers’ jealousy and betrayal; from his life as a slave to being seduced by his master’s wife; and from his time in jail to his rise to prominence, there are so many lessons to be learnt.
“Surely, In the story of Yūsuf and his brothers, there are signs for those who ask.” [Qur’an 12:47]
Although, his entire life remains an inspiration, one exceptionally striking aspect of his story that is of great importance to modern Muslim men was his sexual modesty. In today’s Muslim world, there is so much focus on the modesty of women. From the way they should dress to the way they should walk and even their mode of speech, the topic of female modesty is an ever-trending topic.
However, Muslim communities around the world as well as online dawah media have to a large extent ignored the topic of male modesty.
We cannot deny the fact that female modesty has gone down the hill lately. But a more important aspect of modesty – sexual modesty has a greater influence on men than women. We will all admit here that there is a double standard when it comes to the societal reaction to flirting women as against flirting men. In other words, philandering men are viewed positively while women who do the same are censured. Unfortunately, this double standard does not favor the men who choose to guard their sexual modesty; men who want to be chaste and stay away from the forbidden.
In today’s world these men are scoffed at, belittled and looked at with disgust. Sometimes, they are accused of “self-righteousness”. They are also deemed “not man enough” or accused of being “queer” – in every meaning of the word. Woe betides the man who comes out to proclaim his virginity. The reality remains that the young man whose virginity is still intact pretends to possess vast practical experience in the subject of sex in order to be accepted by his peers.
In a world where male sexual modesty is utterly shunned, where does the young Muslim man stand?
It is very easy to read or listen to the story of Prophet Yūsuf and be inspired. However, we seem to look at a figure like him as some sort of superhuman. Considering the number of centuries between us, we tend to believe that the men of those times were probably of a different physical and genetic makeup and that their piety cannot be matched. However, upon an objective comparison between the circumstances faced by Prophet Yūsuf and those facing the young men of this generation, one will soon realize that there are some great deal of similarities.
First is the fact that the women during the lifetime of Prophet Yūsuf were just as immodest as those of now.
Secondly, he was a man with a large number of women trying to seduce him because of his extreme beauty. Yet, he was aware of the obvious danger that stared him in the face. He knew he was vulnerable. But instead of giving in to his desires and blaming the circumstances, he expressed his vulnerability to Allah and sought His help against falling into the evil trap.
“When they saw him, they were so stunned by his beauty, that they cut their hands and exclaimed, ‘Good God! This cannot be human; this must be a noble angel!’ Yūsuf said: ‘O my Rabb! I would rather go to prison than that to which they invite me; and unless you ward off their cunning snare from me, I may, in my youthful folly, feel inclined towards them and become one of the ignorant.’” [Qur’an 12: 21-32]
By being able to remember Allah in his most vulnerable moment, Allah granted him the strength to overcome all temptations. Yūsuf guarded his own sexual modesty even upon being lured by the most beautiful and sexiest woman of his time. He knew all too well, that in the end, in spite of the slew of women who directly or indirectly tried to seduce him, he would have to take responsibility for his own actions.
This is the definition of a real man.
Today, we live in a society that declares sexual modesty an utter impossibility. We are now in a world where the most lewd and sexually inclined man is the real man. In Islam, the real man is the one who can put a check on his lesser desires even in the face of seduction. This is what we should teach our sons and young men. This is the type of masculinity that should be promoted. The story of Yūsuf needs to be invigorated as a manual for the 21st century man.
Bio: Wardah Abbas is a Lawyer who chose to pursue a career in writing. She’s passionate about Islam and has a particular interest in green and wholesome living. When she’s not writing, spending time with her family or bonding with a book, she can be found in the kitchen, whipping up edible ingredients into luscious skincare. Find her blogging at greenmuslimblog.com or visit her website at wardahabbas.com