Dr. Jonathan Brown Addresses the Men of the Ummah in Open Letter

Jonathan Brown

Dr. Jonathan Brown’s compelling article, “An Open Letter to Muslim Men: The Sunnah Trumps Toxic Masculinity,” published on the website for Yaqeen Institute, addresses a pressing issue within Muslim communities. Drawing on Islamic teachings and the concept of the Sunnah, Dr. Brown emphasizes the importance of adopting a balanced and Islamic approach to gender roles. This article delves into the key themes explored by Dr. Brown and highlights the significance of embracing the Sunnah as a means to overcome harmful attitudes and behaviors.

An Open Letter to Muslim Men

Toxic masculinity refers to a set of culturally constructed expectations and behaviors associated with men that can be harmful to both themselves and others. Dr. Brown aptly identifies this phenomenon within Muslim communities. This is where rigid gender norms can restrict individuals’ personal growth and contribute to gender-based oppression. He highlights the detrimental effects of toxic masculinity, including aggression, emotional detachment, and a sense of entitlement.

Dr. Jonathan Brown also discusses the restrictive nature of plain dichotomies. He writes, “…We face a constant and very consequential problem. First of all, the ‘Sellout v. Real’ axis of polarization blurs into other global axes, like ‘Liberal/Conservative,’ Western/Non-Western.’ Second, the ‘Sellout v. Real’ axis of polarization is like a black hole for our public life, sucking everything into itself. But Islamically right and Islamically wrong don’t correspond to it. So it becomes almost impossible for Muslims simply to do what they sincerely believe their religion guides them to do.”

Islam Transcends Contemporary Ideological Binary

Dr. Brown here is speaking to how Islam and our belief system extends beyond contemporary, man-made labels. He discusses that our faith is one that is timeless and expressed in the language of God.

 He writes, “The American public square seems dominated by two proposed ideals of masculinity. The first is what we might call the Progressive Male: he is sensitive, intellectual, woke, does dishes, is a stay-at-home dad, and is so in touch with his feminine side that he seems to straddle the male/female boundary and even dissolve it altogether. The second is what we could call the Traditional Man’s Man: we can imagine him coming in two models; there is the blue-collar father and husband who knows right from wrong, knows ‘what it means to be a man,’ enjoys beer with the boys and baseball with the kids in all its Americana glory… think Kevin Costner roles; and there is the white-collar model, either the corporate titan or the moral pillar of the community.

Moreover, Dr. Jonathan Brown suggests that the Sunnah, the way of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), offers a powerful antidote to toxic masculinity. The Prophet’s teachings and actions exemplify compassion, respect, and equity. He provided a model for Muslim men to emulate. By embracing the Sunnah, men can transcend harmful gender stereotypes and foster healthy relationships with women and society at large.

The Example of the Prophet (PBUH) in the Treatment of Women 

One of the key aspects of the Sunnah emphasized by Dr. Jonathan Brown is the principle of equality and justice. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) demonstrated a profound respect for women. He treated them with dignity and fairness. He actively challenged oppressive societal norms, promoting women’s rights. The Prophet (pbuh) also recognized their important contributions to society. By following his example, Muslim men can advocate for gender equality and combat the systemic issues that perpetuate injustice and discrimination.

Reclaiming Emotional Intelligence– Jonathan Brown

Toxic masculinity often discourages emotional expression and vulnerability, constraining men within narrow emotional boundaries. Dr. Brown stresses the importance of reclaiming emotional intelligence as an essential aspect of the Sunnah. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) exhibited empathy, kindness, and emotional connection. He challenged the notion that these qualities are incompatible with masculinity. By embracing emotional intelligence, Muslim men can cultivate healthier relationships, promote mental well-being, and dismantle harmful stereotypes.

The Sunnah Promotes Mutual Respect in All Interactions– Jonathan Brown

Additionally, in this article, Dr. Jonathan Brown also addresses the issue of consent and agency within relationships. He emphasizes that the Sunnah promotes the importance of mutual respect and communication in all interactions. This includes intimate relationships where consent must be explicitly given and respected. By recognizing and implementing these principles, Muslim men can contribute to a culture of respect. They can help to dismantle harmful practices and promoting healthy relationships based on mutual understanding and communication.

Dr. Jonathan Brown’s thought-provoking article serves as a powerful reminder for Muslim men to prioritize the Sunnah over toxic masculinity, or whatever the existing standard for “manhood” may be at any given time. By adopting the principles of respect, justice, and emotional intelligence from the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) teachings, Muslim men can transcend the temptations of man-made ideologies that restrict our practices and behaviors to only fit one specific mold. Islam, as a universal and timeless faith and practice, speaks to men in all eras and must be centered in our daily and societal practice. 

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