Pietistic Heroism

الْفُتُوَّةِ 338

Allah, the Almighty, said:

{Indeed, they were youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance.} [al-Kahf 18:13]

قَالَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: "إنَّهُمْ فِتْيَةٌ آمَنُوا بِرَبِّهِمْ وَزِدْنَاهُمْ هُدًى"

The heart of futuwwah is that you do not perceive for yourself any advantage or entitlement. It is of three levels:

نُكْتَةُ الْفُتُوَّةِ أَنْ لَا تَشْهَدَ لَكَ فَضْلًا، وَلَا تَرَى لَكَ حَقًّا. وَهِيَ عَلَى ثَلَاثِ دَرَجَاتٍ.

The first level:

  1. refraining from disputation

  2. ignoring the slips (of others)

  3. forgetting the harm (of others)

الدَّرَجَةُ الْأُولَى:

  1. تَرْكُ الْخُصُومَةِ

  2. وَالتَّغَافُلُ عَنِ الزَّلَّةِ

  3. وَنِسْيَانُ الْأَذِيَّةِ

The second level:

  1. to bring closer those who push you away

  2. to show generosity to those who hurt you

  3. to apologize to those who wrong you339

all out of clemency, not mere restraint; and out of compassion, not mere tolerance.

الدَّرَجَةُ الثَّانِيَةُ:

  1. أَنْ تُقَرِّبَ مَنْ يُقْصِيكَ

  2. وَتُكْرِمَ مَنْ يُؤْذِيكَ

  3. وَتَعْتَذِرَ إِلَى مَنْ يَجْنِي عَلَيْكَ

سَمَاحَةً لَا كَظْمًا، وَمَوَدَّةً لَا مُصَابَرَةً.

The third level:

  1. to not make your journey contingent on proofs340

  2. to not taint your responsiveness with the desire of compensation

  3. to not observe any forms in your shuhood (witnessing)

Know that one who causes his enemy to seek an intercession and is not too shy to listen to his apologies has nothing to do with futuwwah. In the knowledge of the elite, the one who seeks the light of Truth through reasoning is not entitled to the claim of futuwwah.

الدَّرَجَةُ الثَّالِثَةُ:

  1. أَنْ لَا تَتَعَلَّقَ فِي السَّيْرِ بِدَلِيلٍ

  2. وَلَا تَشُوبَ إِجَابَتَكَ بِعِوَضٍ

  3. وَلَا تَقِفَ فِي شُهُودِكَ عَلَى رَسْمٍ

وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ مَنْ أَحْوَجَ عَدُوَّهُ إِلَى شَفَاعَةٍ، وَلَمْ يَخْجَلْ مِنَ الْمَعْذِرَةِ إِلَيْهِ لَمْ يَشَمَّ رَائِحَةَ الْفُتُوَّةِ. وَفِي عِلْمِ الْخُصُوصِ، مَنْ طَلَبَ نُورَ الْحَقِيقَةِ عَلَى قَدَمِ الِاسْتِدْلَالِ، لَمْ يَحِلَّ لَهُ دَعْوَى الْفُتُوَّةِ أَبَدًا.

338Futuwwah (lit., ‘young manliness’) is a synthetic concept. There is no praise or dispraise of this term in the Revelation. It was never mentioned in this verbal-noun form in the Qur’an. What was mentioned in the Revelation, admittedly in a mostly positive context, is the noun from which ‘futuwwah’ is derived, which is ‘fata’, meaning a young man or its plural form. The word ‘fata’ had positive connotations in pre-Islamic Arabia. It was used at times to refer to the ideal young man who demonstrates the most desirable qualities the tribal communities of Arabia expected, particularly courage, generosity, and allegiance. Sometimes, other virtues were implied and even vices as well, like extravagance, binge drinking, etc.
After Islam, the masters of proper Sunni Sufism attempted to draw on the inherent positivity in the word. They wanted to change its use to denote certain positive aspects common to youth, such as the natural ones of energy and strength and the moral ones like courage, generosity, and allegiance. Some developed it into a complete code of conduct representative of the moral and spiritual chivalry, gallantry, and magnanimity expected of the seekers.
Afterwards, it was used to refer to paramilitary organizations, professional guilds, and certain fraternities. Some of them added innovations to the concept and ritualistic practices for which they had to fabricate chains of transmission. Therefore, some scholars like Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah be pleased with him) condemned those deviations, while acknowledging the good virtues and pure beginnings.
Finally, in some places like Egypt, the term futuwwah was used as a noun to refer to violent thugs who intimidated entire neighborhoods, although at times they acted chivalrous! What the sheikh uses the term for here is obviously the concept of pietistic heroism or chivalry expected of the seekers. Many of the concepts addressed overlap with other stations, but the angle from which they are being approached is different. The vigor of youth is the essence of this usage to describe a form of moral and spiritual vigor that is sustainable only by the strongest believers.
339 You may have caused them to wrong you or contributed to it. If not directly, remember that the One Who made them harm you likely did that because you deserved it. In your apology to them, you acknowledge that your sin against Allah or someone else caused them to earn a sin against you.
340 One who needs a proof to start the march to Him is never entitled to the claim of futuwwah. He is the proof for Him and everything else.

Manâzil as-Sâirin


Shaykhul-Islam Abu Isma‘il Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Ansari al-Harawi (396-481H)

Translation and Footnotes


Hatem al-Haj