BBC Interviews MuslimMan™ Founder Nabeel Azeez

If you can bear with the awful audio quality of this recording, you are going to really enjoy this interview. Recently, I was interviewed by the BBC for their Heart and Soul podcast for a documentary about the rise of the Muslim manosphere.

When I recorded this interview, I had to do it off of a screen share. I didn’t get the Zoom recording. I asked them for the recording but they refused, it’s not something they do. So I had to ninja record it. Alhamdulillah that I did, because they used less than 5% of a 45-minute interview.

But the audio quality turned out to be really bad. So I had to manually go through and increase the levels when the host spoke. That took several hours. But it’s done now and the podcast is out on BBC too. You can listen to it here.

What I would suggest though, is that you listen to this interview first and then go listen to the Heart and Soul documentary. Because the full unedited interview will give you more context on what we talked about, the tone of the discussion and the overall vibe, as opposed to the chopped-up clips that you’re going to hear on the BBC Heart and Soul podcast, which were edited to fit the story that they were trying to tell.

So here’s the interview. Enjoy. Let me know what you think in the comments.


[00:03:41] BBC Host:

Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. Tell me who you are, tell me what you do and where you are in the world as well.

[00:03:48] Nabeel Azeez:

My name is Nabeel Azeez. I’m a Sri Lankan living in Dubai with my family. I am a marketing consultant by trade. I run a small boutique marketing agency with my brother and I’m also the founder of muslimman[.]com, which is a newsletter for Muslim men.

[00:04:08] BBC Host:

When did your interest in the subject matter of masculinity, gender roles, how to conduct yourself as a man, when did that start for you?

[00:04:19] Nabeel Azeez:

I think it started around 2013, maybe a little bit before that. I noticed, particularly in online Muslim discourse, there was a significant move towards focusing more on what women’s rights are and what men ought to be doing for women and there was no positive kind of content for men, specifically. By men, for men. And so I noticed a gap in the market and being a marketer I thought this would be a nice sort of niche to go into. And I started a blog. That blog was called becomingthealphamuslim[.]com. It’s still live, but I don’t publish to it anymore. The pages are still up, it still gets traffic, that kind of thing. And that was my first attempt to create content around masculinity for Muslim men. I believe at the time I came across other blogs talking about masculinity by non-Muslims. I found the Red Pill subreddit. I found blogs like Return of Kings, Roosh V, Chateau Heartiste, Rollo Tomassi the Rational Male. And I noticed that these are non-Muslims speaking to a non-Muslim audience but they did have a large Muslim audience because nobody was speaking about this stuff from the Muslim perspective. And so I figured it’s about time that we have Muslims talking about this kind of stuff. And at the time, unbeknownst to me, in parallel, there were other figures coming to the same conclusion and creating that kind of content. AbuAmerican comes to mind. That’s the only other person I know talking about Muslim masculinity who was around at that time.

[00:05:57] BBC Host:

Well you mentioned this website, or was it a blog, how to be an Alpha Muslim. Why is that important? Why is it important to be an Alpha Muslim?

[00:06:06] Nabeel Azeez:

Alpha Muslim is a play on words. The literal meaning of alpha is first, right? First and foremost. And so if we’re Muslims and Muslim men in particular, our primary example on how to be a man is Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him. And so every Muslim man aspires or strives to be like him as much as possible. Now, it might not be conscious or in the front of our minds all the time and we all definitely fall short of that ideal. But it is something that we all aspire to. And so, Becoming the Alpha Muslim, while the blog was named provocatively at the time, really it’s more about striving to become like the Prophet Mohamed in our actions, in our demeanor, in the way we speak, in our religious practice, that kind of thing. But the focus was on topics related to men and masculinity.

[00:07:01] BBC Host:

Let’s talk about masculinity, but specifically in the Muslim context. What does Muslim masculinity mean to you personally?

[00:07:08] Nabeel Azeez:

Muslim masculinity, as I said earlier, is striving to follow the ideals of the teachings of the Prophet and attempting to be like him as much as possible. Whatever the Prophet Mohamed, peace upon him, says is how to be a good man, that’s what we should be striving for. And that can sometimes be forgotten or that message can get muddled with a lot of the stuff that we see online today. But ultimately that is the end goal, being like the Prophet. The way he was as a man and not just his magnanimity, but his charisma, his strength, his bravery, his spiritual devotion, all of those things combine together to form the Muslim male ideal.

[00:07:53] BBC Host:

So you mentioned the things that you’re seeing online. What is it that you’ve been seeing online that this is trying to combat?

[00:08:01] Nabeel Azeez:

Most of the content around Muslim masculinity started because Muslim content creators saw that masculinity content online was growing in popularity and there was no one speaking on this topic as a Muslim for Muslims. Masculinity content just in general came about as a response to changing dynamics between the genders, whether that’s in dating, relationships, marriage, that kind of thing. And so the men were trying to find a way, or trying to make their way in real life and online they were comparing notes on how to do it. And obviously as Muslims, we have a different moral code that we live by. And so we needed something in order to speak to Muslim men in a way that’s relevant and in line with our faith.

[00:08:54] BBC Host:

I guess I’m trying to get to the bottom of what has inspired the movement a little bit. Is it a shift in how men are living their lives today, just in general, not specifically Muslim? Is it a lot of the discussions we’re seeing around gender today? Or is it the feminism movement? What’s the real inspiration behind men needing to come back to the ideal of being a traditional man, which is, from reading your book as well, that’s what I felt that you were trying to communicate.

[00:09:22] Nabeel Azeez:

All of what you described and I mean, there’s too many factors. Yes, feminism is one factor. It’s also the way men are having to go about life. It starts from when we’re in school and the way boys are put on ADHD for being boisterous in class rather than being allowed to attend school, study and learn in the way that boys are naturally accustomed to, which is more kinesthetic. The way curriculums and education is designed to favor the way girls approach study and education as opposed to the way men do. The fact that there are a lot of single mothers out there. It’s related to also the way testosterone levels and sperm counts have been declining over the past 50 years. It’s also related to the way the male population is attempted to be controlled by keeping us fat, addicted to porn, addicted to social media. So it’s all related to each other and ultimately it’s every man’s goal to find out what my purpose is and, what my purpose is in life and how do I fulfill that purpose. And that has been lost over the past 50 or so years. And online masculinity content is an attempt to re-identify that and pursue that.

[00:10:40] BBC Host:

Are you suggesting there’s a conscious effort to, in your view, emasculate men? A conscious drive, is that what you’re suggesting?

[00:10:52] Nabeel Azeez:

I wouldn’t say that it’s conscious. I would say that indirectly, the world as it stands today, tends to emasculate men. Men, when we grow up, we want to be providers and protectors. That is not necessarily the case today. So if we’re not needed for our ability to provide and protect, then what is our purpose? Back in the day in traditional cultures, they would have coming of age rituals. We don’t have that anymore. So how do I know when I’m a man? At what point do I stop being a boy and become a man? And through video games, through pornography, through Netflix and just the ability to consume endless amounts of content online, and to fulfill whatever our carnal kind of desires are we’re able to prolong that boyhood for as long as possible, sometimes into our thirties without actually taking on the responsibilities of being a man. And more and more men are doing that. They’re refusing to become the man that they’re supposed to be because there’s no need for them anymore. There’s no need for them to take on the responsibilities of being a man. And so they continue to extend their childhood into their twenties and thirties without actually becoming the man that they’re supposed to be.

[00:12:16] BBC Host:

But isn’t that because we live in a more equal society now? We live in a society now where yes, there are certain inequalities in the world, but we are living in a far more equal society than we did in the past. Isn’t that why the concept of masculinity might be a bit more subjective today?

[00:12:32] Nabeel Azeez:

Yes, we do live in a more equal society and I think that’s a good thing. However, a lot of the way we are as men and women is hardwired and so those drives never really disappear. The male drive to provide and protect is always gonna be there no matter how society changes. That need is always going to be there. And so when that need isn’t met or there’s no outlet for it to be fulfilled men are still gonna find ways to meet that need and to fulfill that need.

[00:13:03] BBC Host:

And so then where do women fit into that context? Because if you talk about masculinity, if you talk about what it means to be a man and being a provider, being a protector, surely you understand that the idea of that has changed over the years. And there are women today that will quite rightly say I don’t need to be provided for and I don’t need necessarily to be protected. I can do that myself or in fact, I can do that. I can provide and protect.

[00:13:31] Nabeel Azeez:

That’s a good point and I don’t think there is any harm in that. I think people are free to live their lives as they choose. While there are many women who would rather be independent, there are also many women who prefer a traditional way of life with traditional gender roles. And so our job as men or my goal as a man is really to focus on what I can control and attempt to be the best man I can be. Physically, intellectually, professionally, interpersonally. The best husband I can to my wife, the best father I can to my children. And while I’m focused on what I can control, and while I focus on striving to be the best man I can be, then I have the ability to say, look, this is what I want out of the women in my life, and these are the kind of standards I’m gonna set, and these are the kind of preferences that I have about my relationship with a wife. And whichever woman is amenable to that, then those are the kinds of women I’m gonna be with. And it’s totally fine for other types of women to live their life the way they want to. But for us as Muslim men, there’s a certain kind of woman that we want. A woman that submits herself to God first and foremost, and abides by the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet Mohamed, peace be upon him. And my goal is to strive to do the same. In the same way that she will submit to God, first and foremost, I will submit to God first and foremost in my relationship with her. And so that is the ideal. Our primary point of reference is, what does God want from us? And so my choice as a Muslim man and well, our choice as Muslim men should be to keep that primary in our minds.

[00:15:12] BBC Host:

I guess that brings me on to my next question which is my understanding and we do share this understanding is you conduct yourself the way that Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him did. That’s the ideal man. But we know this already and that’s what’s taught to us and that’s in hadiths that’s in when you go to the masjid when you go to sermons this is what you’ll hear. So then why do we have why have you written a book like this then? Why did you feel like you needed to write a book to reinforce what a man should be and what a man is? And then why is there a growing Muslim manosphere despite the fact that we are told and taught a way to be in a sense?

[00:15:50] Nabeel Azeez:

Education or lessons need reinforcement. And despite the fact that we already know based on the tradition of Islam or the Islamic tradition how to be as men people will naturally gravitate to examples and role models that are closer to them in proximity. And for me in writing the book I was really fed up of all of these online debates about how men should be and how women should be. I mean it’s it’s bad enough that the non-Muslims have to deal with it. But as Muslims we have a clear-cut example. And so what I decided was okay let me write the book on the topic the definitive book on the topic where we go back to what are the original teachings and put it down in black and white on paper. This is the way how to be a good man based on the teachings of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet. And so that was my objective. And so we need constant reminders. You know the young men of today they’re not gonna go back into the original books and read in the original Arabic. And then on top of that they might feel that some of their role models aren’t relatable. Maybe their only experience of Muslim men are their parents their families and the men that they see at the masjid and at Sunday School. You know what I mean? And so they need more more prominent reminders they need closer reminders. And I think with the rise of different personalities and their popularity take Khabib Nurmagomedov for example. His popularity and the way that he demonstrates what it is to be as a Muslim man. He’s a successful combat sports competitor world champion. And not only that he stays true to his faith in ways that a lot of Muslims in the public space do not. So he’s a staunch Muslim and he highlights it as an example of the way that Muslim men can be dominant in areas of quote-unquote secular life while remaining true to our faith. And so that’s why he became popular and he’s popular among non-Muslims as well who admire his religious devotion his character his integrity all that kind of thing. That’s why this topic is still relevant today. The books were written you know a thousand years ago hundreds of years ago medieval books about manhood about masculinity about chivalry even though that the hadith from the Prophet did already exist and people knew them. So that topic is always relevant. That topic of you know how do boys become men? How do men conduct themselves in the world? The topic is always relevant and we need contemporary examples to help us remember that.

[00:18:26] BBC Host:

So would you say the message of being a man, being a Muslim man, from a religious perspective, has been or can be lost as time goes on? Would you argue that the message can be lost and the messages sort of disappear with societal topics and societal issues?

[00:18:48] Nabeel Azeez:

I wouldn’t say that it could be lost. I would say that it can maybe get muffled or muted in a certain way because the teachings are always there. The books still exist. The hadith still exist, the Quran still exists. There’s signal and noise, right? And so a lot of what’s going on is noise. And we as Muslim men need to focus on the signal. And we need constant reminders that there is this signal-noise distinction and that we need to focus on the signal. And so that’s why you have content creators now Muslim content creators talking about men and masculinity that’s why you have people like me writing books on the topic. I’m not the only one. There are other books on masculinity. I know Imam Dawud Walid has a book called Futuwwa that’s about masculinity and young Muslim men. So people have to still talk about it in order to make sure that the message endures.

[00:19:38] BBC Host:

In the book there were phrases like high value man, high value woman, phrases that I’m sure you can understand that have maybe developed a bit of a negative connotation because we’ve heard that from the lights of Andrew Tate of late, who of course is a divisive figure. How do you feel about using terminologies like high value man and high value woman. Do you see how they can have a negative connotation when they are attributed to divisive personalities like an Andrew Tate for example.

[00:20:05] Nabeel Azeez:

When we use high value man and high value woman in the book it’s an attempt to clarify that these words, they come with a certain amount of baggage. What a high value man means to me might not be what a high value man means to you. Same thing with a high value woman. You ask a hundred different people, you’re gonna get a hundred different responses. And the way we use it in the book was really to, in a mocking kind of fashion, clarify that if you’re gonna say high value man, there is only one example of that. So it doesn’t matter what other people say. We have our example, we have our North Star. And that’s what we have to follow. Even Andrew Tate has to submit to that example. And I believe after he converted to Islam, he’s attempting to follow that example. And so, the things that he said before, we know that when somebody converts to Islam, all of their sins are forgiven. They start with a clean slate, that kind of thing. And from what I can see of Andrew Tate his attempt has been to follow the example of the Prophet in as much as he’s able. Obviously he’s a new Muslim, there’s a sort of a gradual acclimatization to the ways of Islam. And from what I can see, he’s doing his best and he’s succeeding at it.

[00:21:13] BBC Host:

I don’t wanna just make this about Andrew Tate, but there are personalities, many personalities just like him, non-Muslim and Muslim. Do you see the criticism though, that the movement, whether it be red pill culture, whether it be some of these manosphere blogs, the criticism is that it comes across, not anti-feminist or anti-feminism, but it comes across anti-women.

[00:21:36] Nabeel Azeez:

Anytime you have a particular kind of mainstream discourse, anything that comes in opposition to that is gonna be called extremist or anti-this or anti-that. So really what the content of the Manosphere, the quote unquote Manosphere is trying to do, is to identify the best way to be a man in the world today, the way the world is today. So in a sense, it’s very, very practical. It’s really only responding to the way the world has changed around us. And two, the best way to get the most out of your life as a man. And so the common discourse is that men have to sacrifice, men have to serve, men have to basically be the workhorses of the world. And the moment that men say, okay, listen, this is what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna put ourselves first. We’re gonna put our needs first. We’re gonna act with ourselves as the point of origin. Then obviously, people are gonna come and say, look, look, you’re breaking the social contract. You’re breaking the natural order of things. Why are you doing this? You are a misogynist. And so it’s really just a way to shut down the discussion, to shut down the discourse in the marketplace of ideas. To say that, men trying to be the best men that they can be, to try to get the best outcomes for themselves that they can, like everybody else does, it’s just a way to shut that down by calling them misogynist. I don’t think it is misogynist at all. It is, I would say realist, just a response to the real world. And the way that men do, we are problem solvers. We systematize things. And in solving those problems and systematizing we come to the outcomes that we want to get. So really it’s just a way for men, I’m speaking for the non-Muslims here, it’s just for them a way to optimize and maximize the outcomes that they’re getting out of life. It’s not misogynist at all.

[00:23:32] BBC Host:

But the argument would be that there are, the reason we’re doing this is because we’ve seen the rise of content creators, Muslim influencers taking to TikTok, Instagram and YouTube and making masculinity, gender roles, sexuality, the focus of their content and the message they bring out there. But they’ve almost, of course there’s going to be women and Muslim women that will agree, but there’s a lot of Muslim women that disagree. And it seems to be creating a division amongst our community. And do you see that as well? Do you see that there is a wedge in our community at the moment because that’s what’s communicated to me.

[00:24:08] Nabeel Azeez:

I think with any topic just the way the world is polarized, you’re gonna get two sides of a debate, two sides of a topic. Then you add into that the way algorithms function on social media platforms, where really you’re not gonna get that much reach or response or engagement if you present a very middle of the road, milquetoast, balanced point of view. You’re really going to get the engagement and growth that you want when you present extremes of a situation. And so, it’s one part the polarizing nature of online discourse, it’s one part algorithms and it is one part the actual topic at hand, which is, male and female gender dynamics. I do think that the people who are online represent a vocal minority and I think that the vast majority of Muslims who are offline still maintain the traditional gender roles and social contract in society. So the debates and stuff that you see online don’t really play out in the same way offline that they do. The vast majority of the Muslim world is in the Global South. And so, traditional general roles still apply whether Muslim or non-Muslim. And so what we’re seeing online is is really just a unique feature of being online. And that applies whether they’re Muslim or non-Muslim.

[00:25:30] BBC Host:

I’ve come across lots of content where Muslim men say women need to behave like this and Muslim women need to do this and this is what you need to look for in a Muslim woman. I think you put a piece out about a woman is married for four things. You’ve listened your four things there. Tell me what the motivation was behind writing that.

[00:25:51] Nabeel Azeez:

The piece called "A Woman is Married for Four Things" there’s a hadith of the prophet where he says a woman is married for four things. And she’s married for her wealth, her beauty, her lineage and her religious devotion. And then he says marry the religious one so that you’ll be successful. And I’m paraphrasing him here. And so that’s the baseline. We’re looking for religiously devoted Muslim women for our wives and to be the mothers of our children. That is the baseline. Are there any criteria beyond that we might filter those religious women? And so I came up with four criteria that are important to me. They might not be important to other people because everybody is gonna have their different preferences. You need two consenting parties to have a marriage, right? And so I’m going to find women who fit within those preferences. And Rahil, you might have four preferences for the religious women that you marry. And you’re gonna look for women who are like that who you would be more inclined to have a relationship with and you think you’ll be more successful in a marriage with because her worldview, her ethics, those kinds of things align with yours.

[00:26:53] BBC Host:

Of course, everyone’s gonna have their preferences. But you are vocal. You put out content and you put out a book and you put out articles about your preferences, which I guess makes it a bit different. The reason why I thought this article is interesting because I think objectively, I thought maybe a woman would read that and think that’s ridiculous. Right? And I’m sure you knew that when you put that out there.

[00:27:15] Nabeel Azeez:

I mean, the men would read it and think it’s ridiculous.

[00:27:18] BBC Host:

I’ll be honest with you, when I read this it did alarm me a little bit. I was like, interesting, I haven’t heard this list before. And it did slightly come across as very ridiculous to me. And particularly it’s point number one of your four reasons why you should marry a woman, it’s, she’s a pure blood. And that’s regarding vaccinations and boosters. I know that you’re saying this is your personal preference but you’re referencing a lot about faith, religion, hadiths, the way of the prophet, but then this is a deviation from that. This has completely gone, this is your own experience now. So this comes across as you are also putting out content about masculinity, about femininity, but outside of the realm of faith.

[00:27:58] Nabeel Azeez:

Everything that I do is based on the fundamental understanding that I am appealing to religiously observant Muslims. And I myself am a religiously observant Muslim. But beyond that, there’s nothing in the Quran and Hadith about brain surgery. Or about how to use a microwave. And so there are different aspects of life that we have to navigate based on our own discretion, based on our own experience and things of that nature. And so in order to do that, you have to use different criteria. You have to use different frames of reference. You have to use different preferences. And really to each their own. In my case, as a content creator my content has to get noticed, first and foremost, before we can have a discussion around whether it’s right or wrong or ridiculous or asinine or even exaggerated. Maybe it might even be hyperbole sometimes. You have to get noticed first before you can communicate the message and before the message can be understood.

[00:28:55] BBC Host:

That’s where my concern comes in. It’s like, are you, or not necessarily yourself, but content creators like yourself, is it shock value that you’re going for? But then if you’re going for the shock value, isn’t it almost a disingenuous way to get your message out?

[00:29:09] Nabeel Azeez:

Shock value is one thing. Getting attention is another thing. I fully stand by what I put out in public. Anything that I publish is stuff that I actually believe. My job now is to tell the truth in a way that is most appealing or most attention getting the way that people are going to consume it. And that applies to TikTok, that applies to the written medium, that applies to blogs, newsletters, YouTube videos, podcasts, all of that. And so you’re gonna optimize for what you need to optimize for, you know? And if you’re creating content for a 60-second short form vertical video, you might be optimizing for something else as opposed to when you’re creating a newsletter. What I’m optimizing for is I’m trying to make people think by being provocative. Even though everything that I’m writing, it’s stuff that I do actually believe in. So let’s take, the woman is married for four things newsletter, those are actually the things that I believe in. I do want a woman who is going to homeschool my children. And we do homeschool our children. I’m not saying it just to say it. That’s also an important distinction because part of being a man is saying what you believe and being true to yourself and one not complaining, so you never complain and you don’t explain yourself. This is me saying, look, these are my preferences. You’re free to have your own preferences, but these are my preferences for a wife. I will do the best that I can to be the best possible husband I can, the best possible man I can. Whoever aligns with these preferences, let’s get married and let’s start a family. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

[00:30:50] BBC Host:

Where’s the dialogue with women in this scenario? So with your list of four, for example, she has no social media presence, she has no college debt. The college thing’s, that’s hard for women to control that if they need to go to university and get a loan out. That’s just the way it is in a western society. And no social media presence. Again, that’s something that’s gonna be very rare to find. I know these are your personal preferences, but you are, you are seeking to influence as well by putting this out there. Has there been a dialogue? Is there any conversation with women about this? Cause it feels like to me, if I was a woman reading that, and I’m sorry if this comes across as patronizing all if I was a woman reading that, it almost seems quite personal in a sense, right? A lot of people live their lives like this. They go to college, they have a social media presence. And you are almost saying that these things are negatives in a woman if you were seeking marriage.

[00:31:36] Nabeel Azeez:

I mean, they’re negatives in a man. A man who’s, are you vaccinated Rahil?

[00:31:41] BBC Host:


[00:31:41] Nabeel Azeez:

Okay. So that’s a red flag. If I was a woman trying to get married, Rahil is, Rahil is vaccinated and he’s boosted, he’s off the consideration list. They’re negatives in a man as well. But I write, my blog muslimman[.]com is for Muslim men. And so I’m gonna frame things in that certain way. So a man who is vaccinated and boosted, a man who is in college debt, a man who is persistently on social media talking bullshit online, and a man who wants to send his children to the public education or even private education system. If I was a Muslim woman, I would say, I’m gonna be like, listen, thank you, but no thank you. I need a man who is on his Deen and maybe that’s why you’re not married, Rahil, because by the time I was your age, I was married, I had two kids, and I had a third on the way. You know? See, this is the thing, right? This is the thing, right? Rahil, like, you are living your life in a certain way, right? I mean, I’m poking fun at, but really it’s lighthearted, so don’t take it the wrong way. You’re living your life in a certain way. I’m assuming that you want to be married. I’m assuming that you want to have start a family and I’m assuming that you want to start it sooner rather than later. So why haven’t you been successful up to this point? Maybe what you’re doing, maybe the way that you’re living your life, maybe the way you’re conducting yourself with women isn’t the right way. Maybe that the way that you’ve been told to conduct yourself is the wrong way. And if you follow a more tried and true way that’s worked for the past few thousand years ever since man has existed, maybe you’d be more successful. So, my focus is only on what I can control, alright? And so I can only control my behavior as a Muslim man, I can only control my preferences as a Muslim man. I can only control the relationships I have with other people. And so I only want to have relationships with people who fit within my preferences. That applies to my friends, that applies to the people that I do business with, that applies to the women that I marry. That’s what you’re seeing here. It’s a market, right? It’s a marriage marketplace. It’s a sexual marketplace. There is a supply and demand. If there is demand for the kind of man that I am, I’m going to be successful. If there is no demand for the kind of man that I am, I’m not gonna be successful. And I think so far that I have been successful. And hopefully I will continue to be successful over the long term. And so really that’s all that it is. It’s just us trying to navigate the world as it is today, while staying true to our faith and living in a way that is in accordance with our principles. And that might differ from person to person, even though we’re Muslim, both of us, and we have a baseline of Islam that we adhere to, our preferences may differ.

[00:34:15] BBC Host:

We’ll get off this old article and move on to the next things. Look, I do, as a man I tick these boxes here, right? I tick the boxes that you’ve given for a woman, I also take them as a man.

[00:34:23] Nabeel Azeez:

That means you’re not an eligible bachelor.

[00:34:26] BBC Host:

(Laughing) I think, I think I’ll take that on board then. Maybe that’s why, I need to read your book more so I can find a wife, I guess. But I as a man, and I do identify as a man, and I do identify with my faith as well, and you’ve put down things here, for example, they’re not deal breakers for me. I understand these are your preferences, and I have my own preferences. But I’m thinking with the hat on of I know you live in Dubai and you were born in Sri Lanka. But I was born and brought up in the UK and Muslims in the western world we have to navigate our identity as Muslims and our identities as being part of the western world as well. These are unrealistic, these are totally unrealistic traits that just, for a British Muslim, young British Muslim coming up, I think if he was to read this and be influenced by this, surely you’re setting him up for quite a difficult life in Britain where he’s not going to find this. You must know that, right?

[00:35:18] Nabeel Azeez:

I believe I said also in the article that they don’t need to have every single point and you can be flexible on what you need to be flexible about. It’s not a black and white binary. There’s a continuum. And really the criteria aren’t as important as the mindset behind the criteria. If I’m a Muslim man looking to raise a Muslim family in an Islamic way, do I want somebody who is basically an automaton for what the quote unquote system teaches us to be. Do what everybody tells you to do. Don’t rock the boat. Go to school, get a job, be a wage slave, get the vaccine. I need somebody who’s got the kind of critical thinking skills. I’m trying to get the best possible offspring that I can get. I’m trying to have the most successful marriage I can get. I need somebody who has critical thinking skills and who is not just going to do what they’re told just because they’re told, who’s not going to, for example, listen to the BBC when they say that the masks work and that the vaccines work, who’s going to actually think for themselves and try to understand, okay, what is expected of me? What can I do? What is in line with my own values? And so when you’re looking for a mate, that’s really what you need to look for. The criteria aren’t as important. Your criteria might, may differ. And really what you’re looking for is, am I choosing the best possible wife for my situation? In my case, those are the four criteria. In your case that might be different. And really, everybody’s free to live their lives the way they choose.

[00:36:55] BBC Host:

So then you do agree then that it is subjective, that masculinity is subjective, it’s not set in stone.

[00:37:01] Nabeel Azeez:

It’s not subjective in the sense that we do have rules around it because we are Muslims. If we were non-Muslims, we would be having an entirely different discussion. There are certain responsibilities we have as Muslim men, as sons, as brothers, as fathers, and as members of society. And there are certain rights afforded to us as Muslim men from our parents, from our siblings, from our spouses. So there is an objective baseline. But the particulars are always going to be malleable based on the time that we live in. And even though those particulars are malleable, I think you will still find that the best relationship between a man and a woman whether Muslim or non-Muslim is one that adheres to traditional gender roles where the man is the protector and provider, the woman is the homemaker and caretaker and the one who raises the children. And this bears out even today, even though we have gender equality and women are free to live their lives the way they choose, I think you’ll find that a lot of women are finding out and realizing that this new social order, this new social contract isn’t really working out for them and they would much prefer the old way of doing things. And you see that a lot with female content creators who are online and talking about gender dynamics, masculinity, femininity, and things like that.

[00:38:22] BBC Host:

We’re two men. And again, obviously when we’re talking about masculinity of course we’re gonna talk about women as well. But that’s what I’m seeing, I’m seeing men constantly talking about women telling women what they need to be doing and this is the standard of a woman. And if a woman objects to that, if a woman says, well, actually she wants to question that, they get targeted and they get abuse hurled at them and criticized for doing so. Do you not see how the Muslim woman voice can almost be silenced in a sense where if they do speak out against the manosphere movement, which of course is a divisive movement. It’s not really engaging a dialogue, it’s more sort of shutting down dialogue.

[00:39:00] Nabeel Azeez:

It’s mistaken to say that women don’t have a voice in this issue because women are more than able to advocate for their preferences and the way they want to live their lives online the same way that men are. And if you look into it, you’ll find that men are the ones who receive the vast majority of abuse online. It’s just that the women complain more about receiving abuse online. There is a dialogue that’s happening. People are competing in the marketplace of ideas. Sometimes that dialogue overlaps where men and women of differing view viewpoints will sit and talk together. I’ve seen several recent examples of that. There’s a Muslim content creator, his name is Ali Dawah. He has like a reality TV show where he brings Muslim men into a studio and they sit opposite each other and they debate topics of masculinity and femininity and men and women and relationships. There’s also a non-Muslim show shows like Fresh and Fit. That kind of podcast is like blowing up right now where it’s like the men versus women kind of podcast. It’s become its own genre of content. So there is a discussion happening. There is a discussion happening and people are airing their ideas out in public. And I think, even though it’s contentious, I think the discussions are productive and nobody is being silenced because everybody has the right to publish content online.

[00:40:13] BBC Host:

But then going by your standard of a high value woman to marry, if she was to be on social media voicing her opinion, that would devalue her in your opinion. Right? And she’s not necessarily meeting the criteria or standard that you’ve set out in your article. So, in a sense, isn’t the voice being silenced if you are saying that this is an ideal woman and she isn’t really on social media venting what her opinions are.

[00:40:35] Nabeel Azeez:

People are not married online. They’re married in person. When I’m looking for a wife, I’m going to speak to her dad, meet her family, have meetings with her chaperoned. And so I’m immediately going to get her perspective and view of things. And if she’s somebody that I find agreeable and I have an affinity towards, the discussion is gonna proceed favorably and if not, thank you for your time, have a good day. And so, really a woman being online doesn’t necessarily mean that her voice is silenced. In fact people have more impact offline and it’s just this like stupid obsession that we have with being online perpetually that leads us to think that it’s far more important than it is. When really we should be in-person, on the ground trying to better our societies that way and we have much better impact. Cuz if you think about the way online discourse is, you’re talking to people thousands of miles away who you don’t know, when the people that you do know and do need your help are right in front of you.

[00:41:31] BBC Host:

I wanna take this out to the broader picture. Do you agree that there is a Muslim manosphere, and if so, what is its purpose and is it a force of good or do you think it’s problematic?

[00:41:45] Nabeel Azeez:

There is a Muslim manosphere. There are several Muslim manosphere content creators. They might not be specifically talking about men and masculinity but they are men and they do appeal to primarily a male audience. And I do think that they are a force for good because they are, like I said, you need to have role models and examples that are near you in proximity in order for the message to stick. And the vast majority of these Muslim male content creators, I do believe that they follow the traditions of Islam. And they’re not promoting some degenerate lifestyle. So they’re attempting to the best of their ability to stick to the teachings of Islam. And they’re encouraging Muslim men to stick to the teachings of Islam. And they’re encouraging Muslim men to be the best possible men that they can be. So I think overall that is a good thing. And then the more of these Muslim content creators that we have talking to Muslim men, the less that Muslim men need to go to non-Muslim sources, where they might get information and knowledge and education and a perspective that isn’t in line with Islamic teachings and doesn’t even relate to Muslim men and Muslim women in particular. Because a non-Muslim speaking to non-Muslim men is gonna talk about non-Muslim women, when a lot of the behaviors that happen between non-Muslim men and non-Muslim women aren’t even relevant to Muslim men and women in the first place. Our cultures are different and we have different expectations of us as Muslim women and Muslim women.

[00:43:05] BBC Host:

Where I’ve identified the problem, Nabeel, since we’ve been discussing is there’s a line. There’s a line when you are putting content out there which is Islamic teaching. And then there’s, alongside that, the personal opinion. And we’ve discussed that, you’ve spoken about what’s Islamic and then you’ve spoken about what’s just your personal preferences. To a young Muslim man, and this is where my concern comes in, to a young Muslim boy or young man who’s looking to seek education, looking to seek information, he might not know where the line ends of what’s Islamic teaching and what’s the opinion of this content creator. That to me, can come across as potentially dangerous because again, it’s someone’s preference influencing somebody else who will think, well that makes me a good Muslim man if I have his preferences for women or if I view women in a certain light and view men to be in a certain way. Do you not see the danger in where we’re getting our information, particularly if it’s for young Muslim boy or a young man?

[00:44:03] Nabeel Azeez:

That’s an excellent point and I have a sort of different perspective to other people. I think that we insult the intelligence of our audience when we say that they don’t have the ability to distinguish what is Islamic teaching and what isn’t, what is personal preference and opinion and what isn’t. So that’s the first point. The second point is if everybody only limited themselves to what Islam says and that’s it there would be no need for different content creators because everybody would be creating the same content. And I think that’s one of the reasons why you find that young Muslim men are gravitating towards these Muslim content creators as opposed to Islamic scholars and preachers, because they’ve already heard all of that before. They need to hear different perspectives. And, I might relate to a particular Muslim male audience better, and you might relate to a particular Muslim male audience better. And people who are like you are gonna like you. Let’s say we both have an online Muslim audience, right? There are people in my audience who are never going to like me or listen to what I say or take me as a role model, but they might be better influenced by you, even though you have your own personal opinions and preferences and things like that. And so we need that plurality of voices online. We need that competition in the marketplace of ideas. And we need to also have a little bit of trust and respect the intelligence of our audience to know that they aren’t stupid. They’re capable of thinking for themselves. All we’re doing is presenting options and they can make a decision whether or not this is something that they want to follow. I think the problem is that we’re trying to control online discourse. We’re trying to control online discourse, we’re trying to prevent these divisions from happening. But they’re always gonna be there and the more you try to sweep them under the rug, the stronger that they’re gonna get. And it’s better to have these discussions and divisions and debates and disagreements in the open, where everybody has a chance to speak, than it is to move it underground.

[00:46:01] BBC Host:

When you have these big personalities, you have Andrew Tate converting to Islam, and that almost acceptance from the manosphere, specifically that well, you know, you can’t judge his past anymore. Do you not see though that there’s a bit of a double standard with this sort of forgiveness? We don’t know what’s in Andrew Tate’s heart for example. That’s what I hear a lot, right, with this conversion. But at the same time, if I scroll through TikTok and if I see a Muslim woman creating content and her hijab might be slightly offset or a bit of hair might be showing, it’s straight, there’s an attack straight away, you know, get your hijab right. And there seems to be a less forgiving nature towards a woman’s actions and what’s in her heart than there is to someone who it’s known factually earned his empire, earned his high value status through what would be regarded as very un-Islamic business practices.

[00:46:57] Nabeel Azeez:

To the last point that you mentioned, there’s no disagreement among Muslims that Andrew Tate’s life before he converted to Islam was degenerate and haram and there’s nothing high value about that from the perspective of a Muslim and Islamic teachings. Okay? So that’s point number one. Point number two is that, let me tell you the number one thing that I learned from Andrew Tate after he converted to Islam. He taught me how to have compassion for my brothers and sisters. Even the ones who are irreligious or not as religiously observant as I would like them to be. Because Allah’s mercy is for everybody. And if He could guide somebody like Andrew Tate, just think about Andrew Tate and everything he’s done and the life that he’s lived, even somebody like that can be redeemed and gain salvation through Allah’s Mercy. What it teaches us is that we ought to be a little bit more compassionate of our brothers and sisters. Maybe the the scenario that you discussed of, you know, attacking Muslim women for their behavior, maybe that’s not the best way to go about things. Maybe it’s a better way to understand that Muslims are all on a journey, right? And that each of us are striving to the same thing and we all travel at different speeds. And eventually our attempt is to get to the end point of the journey and we’re all taking our own way, but we’re all moving in the same direction. The mercy or the path of Islam is broad. It’s a long road and it’s broad. And we all have an opportunity to gain God’s mercy and God’s favor. And I think it’s upon us as Muslims to help each other rather than tear each other down. There’s a verse in the Quran, the Muslim men and Muslim women are allies of each other. And so I think we should be helping each other rather than fighting with each other and we should be helping each other to get God’s mercy.

[00:48:46] BBC Host:

If a Muslim man rejects the Muslim manosphere, doesn’t enter the Muslim manosphere, doesn’t subscribe to the Muslim manosphere, does that put his masculinity into question or does that put his faith into question?

[00:49:00] Nabeel Azeez:

Absolutely not. The vast majority of Muslim men on this planet have not heard of the Muslim manosphere. They’re able to live their lives, they learn from their fathers, their uncles, their brothers, the men in their community, the religious figures, the leaders in their community. They learn from those people and they live their lives as good Muslim men. They don’t need the Muslim manosphere. It’s just that the Muslim manosphere exists for the terminally online Muslims. And it’s just a way for us to help each other on that journey. The journey that I described earlier. The vast majority of Muslim men in the world, they don’t even have internet access. So why would they need the Muslim manosphere?

[00:49:36] BBC Host:

That’s true. So then my final question would be, why do any of us need the Muslim manosphere.

[00:49:39] Nabeel Azeez:

If you’re a Muslim man and you’re terminally online, you are going to be bombarded with different ideas of what it means to be a man, how you ought to behave with women. You are likely a Muslim man living in the west. You are probably of some means. You probably live in a society where it’s more likely that gender equality is the norm and you still want to find out, you still wanna live a successful life. You want to get married, you want to have children. And you don’t wanna be 34 and unmarried like you are. Like, you are the prime example, the perfect candidate for the Muslim manosphere. So I would say embrace us, come to the light side. Come to the light side and you will be successful.

[00:50:17] BBC Host:

And so Nabeel in terms of being part of this concept of a Muslim manosphere, it’d be safe to say you’re an early adopter of it. You probably caught onto it a lot earlier than a lot of the content creator of today. And you’ve taken more towards sort of publications and written work as opposed to videos and short form videos and shock value sort of titles and whatnot. So why is it that you’ve chosen to go down that road and what makes you different to the content creators that would be regarded as your peers that are emerging today?

[00:50:49] Nabeel Azeez:

I think that’s an excellent question. So when I created the muslimman[.]com brand and newsletter it was because I saw that there’s a gap in the market. So the vast majority of Muslim content creators online are on YouTube, Instagram or TikTok. And so there’s a gap still for written content. Newsletters are a niche that’s growing in popularity right now. You see everybody and their grandmother is starting a newsletter and they turn it to a business. So that’s one of the reasons why I chose the newsletter model and stuck to the written content model. The other reason is that I want to have a more lasting impact, okay? You watch 50 TikToks in the span of 15 minutes and 30 minutes later you don’t remember what you watched. And so if I want to have a more lasting impact, if I want the message to resonate and if I want message recall, I’m going to stick to mediums that are more long-form, That are more likely to encourage discussion more, that are more likely to get people to pause and engage thoughtfully rather than be reactionary. Personally, I think that short form content is, I don’t think it’s the best thing for the collective intelligence of mankind. And so if I see that problem, I’m gonna try to fix it. And that’s what the attempt at the newsletter is for. That’s why, you know, I published a book about Muslim masculinity and Muslim men. And so if I can get people to slow down and read, if I can get people to slow down and think, we’ll have a much better impact in getting the message across. And really it’s gonna have a much stronger effect in removing or not necessarily removing the division, but making it easier for Muslim men and Muslim women to come together to find a new way to move forward in the modern world, as opposed to the 60-second TikTok version where it’s just people talking at each other instead of talking to each other.

[00:52:51] BBC Host:

Nabeel, thank you so much for your time. Honestly, it has been fascinating. I do feel like I have opened the door into the Muslim manosphere to try to understand what’s behind it, why you are saying what you’re saying to help my understanding of why Muslim men, young Muslim men are heading towards a certain direction more now than ever before.

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