Futuwwa, defined as youth and chivalry, is really a composite of such virtues as
generosity, munificence, modesty, chastity, trustworthiness, loyalty,
mercifulness, knowledge, humility, and piety. It is a station on the path to
God as well as a dimension of sainthood, and also signifies that one has made
altruism and helping others one’s second nature. It is an important,
indispensable dimension of good conduct and a significant aspect of humanity.
Derived from fata’ (young man), futuwwa has become a
symbol of rebelling against all evil and striving for sincere servanthood to
were young men who had believed in their Lord, and We increased them in
guidance. And We strengthened their hearts, when they rose up and declared: Our
Lord is the Lord of the heavens and Earth; we will not call upon any god beside
Him, or then we had spoken an outrage.
(18:14) expresses this eloquently. They said: We have heard a youth talk of
them (the idols); he is called Abraham (21:60) expresses the position and
influence of one who has achieved perfect futuwwa in his or her
community, one who has sought to guide humanity to truth. By contrast, the
young men mentioned in the verses: With him there came into the prison two
young men (12:36) and: (Joseph) told his young (servants) to put their
merchandise (with which they had bartered) into their saddle-bags (12:62)
were ordinary young men without chivalry.
As many people have written on or talked about futuwwa since the
Age of Happiness, the concept has been defined in many ways: not despising the
poor or being deceived by the rich and riches; being fair to everybody without
expecting fairness from anyone; living one’s life as a pitiless enemy of
one’s carnal self; being ever-considerate of others and living for them;
smashing all idols or all that is idolized, and rebelling against falsehood so
as to be wholly devoted to God Almighty; bearing whatever evil is done to
oneself but thundering where the rights of God are violated; feeling remorse
for the rest of one’s life for committing even a small sin, but overlooking
others’ sins regardless of how large they are; seeing oneself as a poor,
lowly servant while considering others as saintly; not resenting others while
maintaining relations with those who resent you; being kind to those who hurt
you; and serving God and the people more than anyone else, but preferring
others to oneself when it is time to receive one’s wages.
Some have summed up futuwwa in the four virtues mentioned by
Haydar Karrar ‘Ali, the fourth Caliph and cousin of the Prophet, upon him be
peace and blessings. They are: forgiving when one is able to punish, preserving
mildness and acting mildly and gently when one is furious, wishing one’s
enemies well and doing good to them, and being considerate of others’
well-being and happiness first, even when one is needy.
‘Ali was one of the greatest representatives of futuwwa. When he
was stabbed by Ibn Muljam while leading the morning prayer in the mosque, his
children, who saw that their father would die, asked him what he wanted them to
do with Ibn Muljam. He did not order his execution in retaliation. During a
battle, ‘Ali threw his enemy to the ground and then released him. His reason:
When ‘Ali was about to kill this man, the latter spat in ‘Ali’s face,
which angered him. Fearing that his motive for killing the man was now confused
and sullied, ‘Ali released him. He felt sincere grief when Zubayr ibn
‘Awwam, a leading Companion and his staunch enemy, was killed. Since he
always considered others first even when he was in need, he usually wore summer
clothes in winter and trembled with cold. It was said about him that there
cannot be a young, chivalrous man like ‘Ali, and there cannot be a sword like
Dhu al-Fiqar (‘Ali’s sword). ‘Ali lived with the Prophet, upon him be
peace and blessings, and was raised by him. He lived a perfectly honest, pure
life without any taint, and embodied God’s answer to the Prophet Moses, upon
him be peace, about futuwwa: It means that you are able to return your
self to me as pure or untainted as you took it from Me.
The signs of a fata’ (young, chivalrous one) are that the
individual’s, created with the potential to accept Divine Unity and Islam, is
totally convinced of Divine Unity; that it urges him or her to live according
to the requirements of this conviction; that, without being captivated by
carnal or bodily desires, he or she lives a pure, spiritual life; and that he
or she always seeks to please God in his or her deeds, thoughts, and feelings.
One who cannot be saved from the temptations of the carnal self, Satan,
appetites, love of the world, or attachment to the worldly life cannot climb
upward to the peak of futuwwa.
Futuwwa is a treasure obtainable by climbing high beyond
all the “highest mountains of the world”;
What business have those who fall tired
even on a smooth road with such a treasure?