Futuwwa (Arabic: فتوة, "young-manliness" or "chivalry") was a conception of moral behavior around which myriad institutions of Medieval confraternity developed. With characteristics similar to chivalry and virtue, these communal associations of Arab men gained significant influence as stable social units that exerted religious, military, and political influence in much of the Islamic world.

History and Development


In its most literal sense, Futuwwa described the quality of being young. It was not until the 8th century C.E. that the word came to represent something like a moral code.[1] The evolution of the word, from adjective to moral framework, was driven by a melding of and Islamicization of Persian and Arab traditions.[2]

The spread of Islam was accompanied by the spread of a definition of the ideal Arab man, or fatā.[3] Even in the Pre-Islamic era, this theme constituted a popular form of poetry that revolved around the personage of Ḥātim aṭ-Ṭā’ī, a famous Arab poet renowned for his generosity.[4] At-Ṭā’ī reappears in early Futuwwa literature as a pre-Islamic ancestor to the chivalrous moral code that would later find expression in similar Islamic icons, namely Alī ibn Abū Ṭālib. Over time, this poetry would confer upon fāta, an epithet employed in the Quran to celebrate the righteousness of such figures as Yūsuf and Ibrahīm in the Sleepers of the Cave, a deeper moral significance.[5] The development of an Arabic notion of the ideal man was further influenced by the Persian concepts of Javānmardi, a similar system of ideals closely linked to Sufi orders.

Among the earliest attempts at crystallizing the concept of futuwwa into literary form was a ninth century treatise by Abū al-Fātik linking the behavior of fatā with expectations governing behavior at the table.[6] The associations of young men alluded to in al-Fātik’s code, precursors to more formally constituted brotherhoods of later centuries, are first described in the Kitāb al-Aghānī, a ninth century anthology of poems and songs from the Arab world. Though it does not reference futuwwa explicitly, the poem describes a novel class of young men in Syria that regularly congregated together for drink and merriment and was critical of their predilection for disregarding the laws of the local governor.[7] This explicit standardization of a previously nebulous conception of moral righteousness set the tone for more expansive futuwwa codes that began to develop between the 11th and 14th centuries C.E.

Caliphal Reform

By the 12th century, the concept of futuwwa and organizations founded around its prescriptions spread throughout the Islamic world.[8] A testament to its rapid rise in influence over the region, The Caliph An-Nāṣir il-Dīn Allāh’s approved of and supported futuwwa. In 1182, al-Nasir was initiated into the ranks of the futuwwa, donning their vestments and drinking salt water in the name of its head Shaykh.[9] Over time, the Caliph would use futuwwa as a clever means of asserting caliphal power through religious hierarchy rather than regional power. He was particularly known to distribute the vestments of futuwwa to regional leaders in an assertion of his higher-rank.[10] Though the original text of the Caliph’s 1207 reform measures have been lost, reproductions describe an attempt at restructuring and institutionalizing futuwwa in a manner beneficial to Caliphal authority. One 1221 mission to Anatolia, for example, sought to propagate this reform to the Islamic frontier.[11] Its contents include such measures as a strengthening of the important of the distribution of the trousers of futuwwa by the caliph and an assertion of Caliphal responsibility in protecting buildings of the futuwwa.[12]

Ultimately, the Caliph’s appropriation of futuwwa led to the flowering of literature regarding the institution. Instead of taming the brotherhoods into monolithic units of caliphal control, however, the reform measures spawned an unprecedented diversity of thought regarding the organizations, and new innovations and interpretations abounded.[13] It continued for some time after the death of its founder. Al-Nasir’s attempt to restructure the institution in a manner consolidating his control over Islamic society.[14]

Futuwwa in Anatolia


“Akhism” is a term used by scholars to distinguish the futuwwa organizations of Anatolia from other futuwwa associations throughout the Middle East.[15] By the time of Ibn Battuta’s travels through Asia-Minor in the early 14th century, Akhiyat al-Fityan, or Brotherhood of Youth, existed in every major city in the Anatolia.[16] These Akhi Brotherhoods rose to prominence in the 13th century in the wake of the fall of the Great Seljuk Empire.[17] In the absence of a powerful central authority, these brotherhoods would exercise a stabilizing religious, political, economic, and military presence in Anatolia.

Structure and Membership

When Battuta travelled through Anatolia, he regularly stayed in Akhi lodges and marveled at the hospitality of his hosts.[18] The leader of each brotherhood would furnish a hospice where, at the end of the workday, members would pool money together communally for the acquisition of food and drink. When travelers, like Battuta, were in town, they entertained them with elaborate banquets, religious debate, and song and dance. While the membership of these organizations would eventually skew heavily towards the merchant class, many still boasted a diverse membership. In fact, it is likely that in the predominantly agrarian population of Anatolia, most brotherhoods would not have been able to compose itself of members of solely a single trade.[19]


In many ways, the religious fabric of the Akhis was enhanced by the marked proliferation of Sufi dervishes throughout Anatolia, concomitantly with the decline of Byzantine control and the rise of Akhi political clout[1] Predominantly Sufi in nature, many within the Akhyiat were fervent in their religious expression, engaging in esoteric rituals, song, and dance.[20] Theologian Akhis were integrated into the upper stratum of the Ottoman Empire under Orhan. At the beginning of the Ottoman dynasty, many Christians lived in their territory. Erudite Akhis were deployed by Orhan to publicly debate Christian theologians in hopes of swaying the local population to the side of Islam.[21]

Following the political decline of the Akhiyat al-Fityan, many of its more spiritual members would join such dervish orders as the Mevlevis, Khalvetis, and Bektashis.[22]


The Akhiyat al-Fityan’s relationship with warfare varied widely according to local conditions. Within the cities, the brotherhoods proved fiercely loyal to their cities, and would often come to their defense against aggressors[23] Where some brotherhoods unified peacefully around trade or Sufism, others were closely linked to rogues that conducted Ghazw, or holy war, raiding towns and villages in the Dar al-Harb and collecting significant sums of loot. These alliances both enriched the akhi through combat acceptable under Sharia Law.[24]


Though Turkish expansion into Western Anatolia occurred rapidly following the collapse of Byzantine control there in the 13th century C.E., Seljuk and Mongol policies of decentralization allowed Akhi brotherhoods to exert significant influence.[25] Maintaining this system required a vast network of Seljuk patronage, ensuring the loyalty of outlying groups through the construction of public works, akhi and dervish lodges, and tombs.[26] Within the cities, the brotherhoods sought to preserve order and stability, in some cases operating as diplomats with foreign leaders and the central state to maintain peace. .[27]


The necessity of Turkish artisanal unions to compete with Byzantine craftsmen in Asia Minor.[15] contributed greatly to the establishment of brotherhoods unified by common trades, and the marked influence of the Akhi Brotherhood on the Ottoman Empire can be seen in the integration of the futuwwa tradition into the Ottoman guild system. Although the Akhi Brotherhood was originally open to men of varying professions, as the Ottomans consolidated their rule in Anatolia, the organization was reconstituted into guilds of artisans and merchants.[1] During the Ottoman reign, the government did not train the public in matters of vocation. Vocational training was conducted by guilds, and “Futuwwa treatises were used as the constitutions of the guilds of the Ottoman Empire.”[1]

Relationship with Ottoman State and Political Demise

At the time of the formation of the Ottoman state in the 14th century, the Akhi Brotherhood was a massively influential institution throughout Anatolia. As independent units of local influence, however, imperial authority understood the potential of the Akhi Brotherhoods to become seditious hotbeds of revolutionary agitation and religious heresy.[28] Accused of conspiracy against the state, many brotherhoods found themselves absorbed by an aggressively expansionist Ottoman state, however, under Murad I and his successor, Bayzid the Thunderbolt, Akhi discontent and resentment towards imperial attempts at control ultimately led to open rebellion. As imperial influence increased, these rebellions were put down with greater and greater ease and the Akhiyat al-Fityan more fully embraced their economic or religious underpinnings, absorbing into guilds or Sufi orders.

Futuwwa in Armenia

As early as the 12th century, Armenian priest Matthew of Edessa described Armenian associations of youth were described resembling what would later become the Akhi Brotherhoods of Anatolia. In his journal, the priest chronicles an altercation between a group of eighty youth fishmongers and local townspeople. The text captures a myriad of behaviors that closely parallel their Akhi counterparts, notably drinking, dancing, and physical combat.[29]

In the wake of Seljuk occupation, Armenian people outside of the Kingdom of Cilicia found themselves subject to Islamic law. Through cross-cultural exchange or innovation themselves, the Armenian brotherhoods grew increasingly secular. So much so, in fact, that in 1280 the Armenian Church attempted a reform effort not dissimilar to the futuwwa reform of the Caliph al-Nasir. Constitutions similar to those governing Islamic futuwwa groups were soon penned, notably by the priest-poet Hovhannes Erznkatsi.[30]

Structurally and functionally, the Armenian brotherhoods shared many similarities with other futuwwa groups. Like the Akhis of the Akhiyat al-Fityan, the Armenian brotherhoods were led by a manktawag, who carried both religious and secular influence.[31].There were also many parallels between Hovhannes’ writings and those of Shihab al-Din ‘Umar al-Suhrawardi (1144-1234), the man who wrote the first Muslim futuwwa treatises in Anatolia. First, religion made up the foundation of the futuwwa. Hovhannes wrote about the importance of religious practices like thrice daily prayer. He also outlined regulations for “opening and closing bodily parts.”[32] Most importantly, however, association was impossible for non-Christians. Second, Hovhannes stressed that it was essential for members of the brotherhood to support each other. For example, the treatises stated that members should pool their profits and live off of them.[33] This practice especially bore a striking resemblance to Muslim Akhi Brotherhoods, where members would bring their daily earnings to the guild’s lodge for its improvement and for providing hospitality for guests. Finally, a major goal of the futuwwa was to maintain the moral behavior of its members. Hovhannes wrote that it was important to have a strong body and soul that were like a well-organized city with “one fortification and five gates surrounding it.”[34] The five gates representing the eyes, ears, nose, and the hands and feet, which are all responsible for the senses. “All good and evil,” Yovhannes argued, entered through these gates.[35] Members needed to properly train and use their senses to protect themselves from sin. For example, the treatises mentioned the importance of chastity. If a member was married, he was advised to keep himself clean and far from “foreign” beds.[36] Members were also discouraged from indulging in drinking wine, since it would lead them to bad behavior. The Armenian brotherhoods were commonly tied to a trade and loyally defended their cities and towns from invasion.[37]


Futuwwa became a topic for European orientalists after being mentioned in a work by Franz Taeschner. Later it was studied by Claude Cahen as a social phenomenon of medieval Iraq and Turkey.

Modern reuse of the name

Al-Futuwa was also an Arabic name of the Arab nationalist Young Arab Association founded in 1913 in Paris during the First World War. It was also the name of a Hitler Youth-style nationalistic pan-Arab fascist youth movement that existed in Iraq in the 1930s and 1940s.[38][39] In 1938 the Al-Futuwwa youth organization sent a delegate to the Nuremberg Nazi Party rally, and in turn hosted the Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach.[40]

The fascist[41] pan-Arabist Al-Muthanna Club and its al-Futuwwa (Hitler Youth) type[42] movement, participated in the 1941 Farhud attack on Baghdad's Jewish community.[43][44]

Besides espousing a fanatic pan-Arabism, the Futuwwa adopted a frankly totalitarian ideology.[45]

The Daily Telegraph wrote that although Saddam Hussein never acknowledged the training of a youth brigade, he has, in several past speeches, spoken admiringly of the Hitler Youth. It is widely believed that he belonged to the Futuwa, paramilitary youth organisation which was modelled on the Hitler Youth and was formed in Baghdad in the late 1950s.[46]

In modern-day Egypt, the term is used for youths who try to do quasi-chivalrous acts such as helping others resist intimidation by a rival group.

See Also


  1. ^ a b c d Goshgarian, Rachel. "Beyond the social and the spiritual: Redefining the urban confraternities of late medieval Anatolia." PhD diss., Harvard University, 2008. Proquest (AAT 3295918).
  2. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 22.
  3. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 23.
  4. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 32.
  5. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 35.
  6. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 47.
  7. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 44-45.
  8. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 90.
  9. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 93.
  10. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 94.
  11. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 99.
  12. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 100.
  13. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 91.
  14. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 92.
  15. ^ a b Sahin, Rukiye; Ozturk, Safak; Unalmis, Mehmet (2009). "Professional ethics and moral values in Akhi institution". Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences. 1: 801.
  16. ^ Arnakis 1953, p. 232.
  17. ^ Arnakis 1953, p. 234.
  18. ^ Battuta, Ibn (2013). Travels in Asia and Africa: 1325-54. New York: Routledge. p. 140.
  19. ^ Arnakis 1953, p. 239.
  20. ^ Arnakis 1953, p. 239.
  21. ^ G.G. Arnakis, “Futuwwa Traditions in the Ottoman Empire: Akhis, Bektashi Dervishes, and Craftsmen,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 12 No. 4 (Oct., 1953): 241, Available online at jstor.org.
  22. ^ Arnakis 1953, p. 241.
  23. ^ Goshgarian, Rachel (2013-01-01). "Opening and Closing: Coexistence and Competition in Associations Based on Futuwwa in Late Medieval Anatolian Cities". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 40 (1): 36–52. doi:10.1080/13530194.2012.734957. ISSN 1353-0194.
  24. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 193.
  25. ^ Arnakis 1953, p. 238.
  26. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 172.
  27. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 174.
  28. ^ Arnakis 1953, p. 235
  29. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 250.
  30. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 233.
  31. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 256.
  32. ^ Goshgarian, Rachel. "Opening and Closing: Coexistence and Competition in Associations Based on Futuwwa in Late Medieval Anatolian Cities." Lafayette College (2013).
  33. ^ Goshgarian 2013, p. 18.
  34. ^ Goshgarian 2013, p. 8.
  35. ^ Goshgarian 2013, p. 8.
  36. ^ Goshgarian 2013, p. 18.
  37. ^ Goshgarian 2008, p. 253.
  38. ^ Elliot, Matthew (1996-08-15). Independent Iraq: British Influence from 1941-1958. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 9781850437291.
  39. ^ Communism and nationalism in the Middle East Por Walter Laqueur, Praeger, 1956, p. 179
  40. ^ Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, 1990, Volume 2, Israel Gutman, p. 716
  41. ^ Bashkin, Orit (2008-11-20). The Other Iraq: Pluralism and Culture in Hashemite Iraq. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804774154.
  42. ^ Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East & North Africa: D-K Por Philip Mattar, p. 860
  43. ^ Memories of state: politics, history, and collective identity in modern Iraq by Eric Davis Eric Davis, University of California Press, 2005, P. 14
  44. ^ http://www.fpri.org/orbis/4902/davis.historymattersiraq.pdf
  45. ^ The Axis and the Arab Middle East: 1930-1945, by Robert Lewis Melka, Univ. of Minnesota., 1966, p. 62
  46. ^ telegraph.co.uk: "'You boys you are the seeds from which our great President Saddam will rise again'" 27 Apr 2003
Abd Allah ibn Khazim

ʿAbd Allāh ibn Khazim al-Sulamī was a Governor of the Umayyad Caliphate for the Province of Marw circa 683 CE.

Akhi Brotherhoods

Akhi Brotherhoods (Akhiya or Young Brotherhood) were a crucial part of the urban development and infrastructure of early Ottoman history. The brotherhoods were formed out of the medieval Islamic futuwwa organizations. The purpose of each brotherhood was to provide an infrastructure for production and trade in the town in which it was set up and provide a social framework for the men of town.


Akihya or Akhi Brotherhoods (from the Arabic اخي, “my brother”) were the Sufi guilds of young men dedicated to the betterment of the community focused around Anatolia, in the lands that would become the Ottoman Empire. Present beginning around the time of the Seljuk breaking of the Sultanate of Rum in the thirteenth century, these organizations would provide an organizational force in what were largely loosely hinterlands.

Aksumite–Persian wars

In the late sixth century, Sasanian Empire of Persia and the Ethiopia-based Aksumite Empire fought a series of wars over control of the Himyarite Kingdom in Yemen, Southern Arabia. After the Battle of Hadhramaut and the Siege of Sana'a in 570, the Aksumites were expelled from the Arabian peninsula. They had re-established their power there by 575 or 578, when another Persian army invaded Yemen and re-established the deposed king on his throne as their client. It marked the end of Ethiopian rule in Arabia.

Al-Muthanna Club

The Al-Muthanna Club (Arabic: نادي المثنى‎) was an influential pan-Arab fascist society established in Baghdad ca. 1935 to 1937 which remained active until May 1941, when the coup d'état of pro-Nazi Rashid Ali al-Gaylani failed. It was named after Al-Muthanna ibn Haritha, an Iraqi Muslim Arab general who led forces that helped to defeat the Persian Sassanids at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah. Later known as the National Democratic Party, Nadi al-Muthanna was influenced by European fascism and controlled by radical Arab nationalists who, according to 2005's Memories of State, "formed the core of new radicals" for a combined Pan-Arab civilian and military coalition.


Arrapha or Arrapkha (Akkadian: Arrapḫa, Syriac: ܐܪܦܗܐ, Arabic: أررابخا ,عرفة‎) was an ancient city in what today is northeastern Iraq, on the site of the modern city of Kirkuk.In 1948, Arrapha became the name of the residential area in Kirkuk which was built by the North Oil Company as a settlement for its workers.


Ayyar redirects here. It can also refer to Ayyar of Bulgaria.Áyyār, (Persian: عیار‎ Ayyâr, pl. Ayyârân, Arabic: عيار‎ ʿayyār, pl. ʿayyārūn) refers to a person associated with a class of warriors in Iraq and Iran from the 9th to the 12th centuries. The word litteraly means vagabond. Ayyars were associated with futuwwa, or medieval Islamic organizations located in cities.


Faylakan (also spelled Filkan/Filakan) was a Persian nobleman who served as the governor of the Sasanian province of Meshan. In 637, he was defeated and killed during the Arab invasion of Iran.

Firuz Husayn

Firuz Husayn was an Iranian aristocrat, who was a key figure in the rebellion of Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn al-Ash'ath, which lasted from 700 to 703.

Garamig ud Nodardashiragan

Garamig ud Nodardashiragan was a late Sasanian province in present-day northern Iraq. The province was a combination of two provinces, Garamig and Nodardashiragan. The province is first mentioned in the Nestorian hyparchies in 410. The main cities of the province were Kirkuk and Irbil, which served as the seats of Nestorian metropolitans. The province was conquered in 637 during the Arab conquest of Iran.

Gond-i Shahanshah

Gond-i Shahanshah ("the army of the Shahanshah"), also known by its Arabicized form of Jund-i Shahanshah, was the name of the 4,000 Daylamite elite unit of the Sasanian king. They originally lived in Daylam, but were resettled in Ctesiphon by Khosrow II (r. 590-628), probably some time after 600. After the Sasanian Empire suffered a major defeat in 636 to the Arabs at the battle of al-Qadisiyyah, the Gond-i Shahanshah defected to the Arabs, converted to Islam, and settled in Kufa, where they had their own quarter.


Javānmardi is a Persian word which refers broadly to ideals within the Islamic world linked to chivalry, and particularly spiritual chivalry It is a concept usually discussed within Sufi contexts. It is also referred to (primarily in Arabic) as futuwwa.


The Malāmatiyya (ملامتية) or Malamatis were a Muslim mystic group active in 9th century Greater Khorasan. Their root word of their name is the Arabic word malāmah (ملامة) "blame". The Malamatiyya believed in the value of self-blame, that piety should be a private matter and that being held in good esteem would lead to worldly attachment. They concealed their knowledge and made sure their faults would be known, reminding them of their imperfection. The Malamati is one for whom the doctrine of "spiritual states" is fraught with subtle deceptions of the most despicable kind; he despises personal piety, not because he is focused on the perceptions or reactions of people, but as a consistent involuntary witness of his own "pious hypocrisy"."Malamati" can also refer to a method of teaching within Sufism based on taking blame.

Salman the Persian

Salman the Persian or Salman al-Farsi (Arabic: سلمان الفارسي‎ Salmān al-Fārisī), born Rouzbeh (Persian: روزبه‎), was a companion of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and the first Persian who converted to Islam. During some of his later meetings with the other Sahabah, he was referred to as Abu Abdullah ("Father of Abdullah"). He is credited with the suggestion of digging a trench around Medina when it was attacked by Mecca in the Battle of the Trench. He was raised as a Zoroastrian, then attracted to Christianity, and then converted to Islam after meeting Muhammad in the city of Yathrib, which later became Medina. According to some traditions, he was appointed as the governor of Al-Mada'in in Iraq. According to popular tradition, Muhammad considered Salman as part of his household (Ahl al-Bayt). He was a renowned follower of Ali ibn Abi Talib after the death of Muhammad.

Sasanian Yemen

Yemen was a province of the Sasanian Empire in Late Antiquity in southwestern Arabia. Its boundaries almost corresponded to present-day Yemen.

Sasanian reconquest of Yemen

The Sassanid reconquest of Yemen took place in 575 or 578 after Aksumite men killed Sayf ibn Dhi Yazan after a reign of some four years and took control of Yemen. The rising took place when the protecting Persian garrison withdrew from Yemen. The Sassanids, this time with a force of 4,000 men, managed to reconquer Yemen and install Sayf’s son, Maʿdī Kareb as ruler.A pre-Islamic Arabian poet, Umayya bin Abi al-Salt, has praised the victory of the Persians in one of his poems. His poem is recorded in Abu al-Faraj al-Isfahani's Kitab al-Aghani.A Persian military force now remained in Yemen for over fifty years, with a Persian governor at Maʿdī Kareb’s side. The names of the successive Persian governors are as follows, according to Tabari (there is some variation in the sources over the names):


Marzbān (son of Vahrēz)

Bīnagār (son of Marzbān)

Khurra Khusraw (son of Bīnagār)

Bādhān or Bādhām, who was unconnected with Vahrēz’s line and replaced Khurra Khusraw due to the arabization of the latter.The Persian garrison of soldiers and officials settled down in Sana'a and its vicinity and intermarried with the local Arab population, and it was the sons of these Persian fathers and Arab mothers, with their descendants, who became known as the abnāʾ.

Siege of Sana'a (570)

The Siege of Sana'a took place when the Sasanian under military officer Vahrez besieged the Aksumite city of Sana'a in 570.


Suhrawardy redirects here. For the Bengali politician and Prime Minister of Pakistan, see Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. The well-known Shahab al-Din Yahya ibn Habash Suhrawardi "the Executed" (1153 - 1191CE), the founder of Illuminationism, is unconnected and unrelated.

The Suhrawardiyya (Arabic: سهروردية‎) is a Sufi order founded by the Sufi Diya al-din Abu 'n-Najib as-Suhrawardi (1097 – 1168 CE). It is a strictly Sunni order, guided by the Shafi`i school of Islamic law (madhhab), and, like many such orders, traces its spiritual genealogy (silsila) to Ali ibn Abi Talib through Junayd Baghdadi and al-Ghazali. It played an important role in the formation of a conservative ‘new piety’ and in the regulation of urban vocational and other groups, such as trades-guilds and youth clubs (see Futuwwa), particularly in Baghdad.


Boes (Grecized form of Middle Persian Bōē) better known by his title of Vahrez (Middle Persian: Weh-rēz, literally "having a good abundance"), was a Sasanian general of Daylamite origin attested in the prelude to the Iberian War.

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