Historical origin of futuwa groups is obscure. They were ideologically connected to Sufi mystics who used to refer to futuwa as a moral direction.
Through a membership on the futuwa group, artisans and crafters were linked to other social groups and vice versa. This served as a social connection that stabilized to local community and balanced the power of aristocracy. They often influenced the course of political events and were definitely a part of the community. Different futuwa leaders could have serious rivalries.
Some futuwas were equivalent of trade guilds with sufi ideology, preference for self-government and forming a counter-force to power of Turkish despots.
One form of futuwa was a social group. The leader of the group would furnish a hospice. At the end of the workday members would bring the money that they used to buy the food and drink for the hospice. They entertained travelers with elaborate banquets or, if no traveler came that day, enjoyed the feast themselves with song and dance. They also invested in charities (vakif). According to Ibn Battuta, members were called fityan (young) and groups’ leaders as akhi.
Other form were Warriors for the Faith; warbands or warrior societies. Some of these were just glorified bands of brigands. However, for example, in 1100’s in Damascus, Ibn Jubayr founded an organization called the Nubuya that fought the fanatic Shi'a sects in Syria.
Abbasid Caliph an-Nasir (1158-1225) approved of and supported futuwas. In 1182 he organized a warrior futuwa that was for all practical purposes a knightly order with mounted warriors. He became the head of the order and gathered ruling princes and other notables to its membership. It continued for some time after the death of its founder.
This military futuwa was also practiced by Javans, mercenary soldiers of 10th and 11th centuries in Khurasan, Persia (although they may have also had non-Muslim soldiers amongst them). Apparently it may have been a model for janissaries.
Al-Futuwa was also an Arabic name of Arab-nationalist Young Arab Association founded in 1913 in Paris during the First World War.