The Doctrine of Futuwwat

The prophet Abrahamis famous for his hospitality. The Sufis have followed this trait of his character. Hospitality is a collective virtue. The term futuwwat means and implies that an individual should be of service to others. He should oblige the people. He should not hurt anyone. He should bear with a smile the harm and injury caused to him by the people. The strict adherence to this doctrine resulted in the establishment of a body known as fityan in Islamic society. It resembles to a marked degree many voluntary and social organisations of our present day.

The famous traveller ibn Battuta (d. 1368) had the occasion of seeing this body from very close quarters. He writes thus: ‘There is none in the world to surpass them in looking after the travellers, in feeding them, in fulfilling their wants and in holding the hand of the tyrant. May Allah bless this body! How generous the body is! What sacrifice does it make! With what love it treats the strangers and with what regard and consideration it treats travellers! When a traveller comes to it, it seems as if he has come to his dearest kinsmen and relations!’

This body was an institution in itself. It was endowed with certain moral, social and spiritual qualities. It was characterised by its generosity, nobility and hospitality. Once it so happened that some people of this body visited a certain member. He welcomed them and showed them utmost courtesy. As usual he wanted to entertain them and he asked his slave to stretch the dining-carpet. Three times the slave was ordered to do so, but still the order was not complied with. The man then inquired from the slave: ‘Why are you slow in stretching the dining-carpet?’ He replied: ‘The dining-carpet was full with ants and it was impertinent on my part to stretch it, full with ants, before the guests – and to move the dining-carpet amounted to depriving the ants of their livelihood. Hence I hesitated, until the ants slowly moved on’. Hearing this, all those present said: ‘O, slave! A man like you can alone serve us!’