By Hira Zubair
Wherever you look, exaggerated ideals of beauty are being promoted. Women on the billboards are a constant reminder for us to be in shape, models shown on television advertisements seem to be giving us a message that to stay happy we need to be beautiful. Observing this mania in society is deeply upsetting, because our perceptions of beauty have merely become limited to physical characteristics.
This explains why every person is highly concerned about the way they look. Perhaps this is why the cosmetic industry earns billions each year.
We are made to believe that the way we look will determine our position in life, how happy we are, and how successful we will be. And even if deep down we believe that physical characteristics do not determine who we are, we are judged by the society on the basis of how we look, what we wear, and how much we weigh.
This indeed is a situation that leaves us melancholic and worried. But, we need to slow down, pause, and think about beauty from the perspective of Islam. Our deen has given us clear guidelines revolving around the nature of beauty so that we are able to confidently uphold the true values set by our religion.
Islam acknowledges physical beauty, and because of our perception, we may think that a person is more beautiful than someone else. But, Allah has also taught us that before appearances come the virtues of deen — how a person is as a Muslim comes before any other worldly trait. This is beautifully described by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in the hadith below.
Abu Hurayrah (رضي الله عنه) reported that the Prophet ﷺ said: “A woman may be married for four things: her wealth, her lineage, her beauty and her religious commitment. Seek the one who is religiously-committed, may your hands be rubbed with dust (i.e., may you prosper).” (Muslim 1466)
Merely focusing on the physical traits of people to determine how beautiful they are is baseless because these ‘looks’ are perishable. Thus, Islam has given us a different dimension of beauty, it advises us to look beyond physical looks and instead focus on the beauty of the soul: how obedient a person is to Allah. It shifts our focus from the beauty of physical appearance to the beauty of pleasing our Lord, the beauty of nicely spoken words, the beauty of the purity of soul, the beauty that reflects from the good actions we carry out. This is the beauty that will stay. When physical looks begin to fade away due to old age or other circumstances, the beauty of good deeds will remain. This beauty will not decay with time; rather it will continue to grow with every effort a Muslim makes.
Although we have been bestowed with a different perspective to view ourselves, and others around us, we should never forget that we are all beautiful in our own way. We don’t have to be fair, skinny, or have a ‘perfect’ nose to feel that way; rather we must always remember that Our Lord has created us all in the best of ways.
“He is the One who has made perfectly everything He has created.”
(Al Qur’an 32:7)
Allah is talking about each of us in this Surah, He has made us perfect the way we are. We are unique, and we should be proud of it, because the One who has created us wouldn’t want us to think otherwise.