Day in and day out we are bombarded with media messages and other influential mediums which define and identify our perceptions of beauty. Interestingly, this is not a unique present-age problem, in fact, it has always been around. Over time, things have evolved and so have the definitions and behaviors pertaining to beauty.
In addition to the impact these definitions have on us as adults, starting from a young age, we voluntarily or involuntarily expose our children to mind-mapping characters that are found in cartoons and movies. And that is not all! Advertising also plays a huge role in influencing behaviors and creating such perceptions at a tender age. As adults, we are pretty much addicted and dependent on social media, too, whether it is for killing time or keeping up with trends (out of fear of missing out). And, most fashion and beauty-related brands are taking advantage of this.
Redefining Characteristics of Beauty
With a general sense of awareness and regard (and more so as part of responsible marketing), there have been some improvements in the retail fashion sector, such that some branded labels are now stepping up against racial discrimination and more positively displaying body imperfections. However, this in itself does not suffice as there are so many other channels through which beauty perceptions continue to be distorted in our minds. Therefore, it is important that we lean on Islamic guidance to realign our perceptions of beauty from time to time.
It comes as no surprise that Allah chose His beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, to possess the best of both outward and innate beauty. He is then the best candidate to carry the task of teaching people about beauty and reviving their sense and awareness of it.
Ibn Mas'ud, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"The haughty, even with pride equal to a mustard seed in his heart, will not enter Jannah." A man enquired: "What about that a person likes fine dress and fine shoes?" He said: "Allah is Beautiful and likes beauty. Pride amounts to disclaiming truth out of self-esteem, and despising people."
SubhanAllah, all praise be to Allah, such were the teachings of Allah's Messenger, may peace and blessings be upon him. Here are some characteristics that can help redefine beauty in its true entirety and meaning.
1. The beauty in smiling
A smiling face gives away friendly and welcoming vibes, making the person more approachable as compared to someone who has a stern face or lacks facial expressions. It is also the simplest of the Sunnahs and a gesture that is part of a universal human language, regardless of language barriers.
“Your smiling at your brother is an act of charity”
2. The beauty in maintaining good hygiene
Imagine adorning a fancy outfit, but smelling like raw onions! Islam encourages its believers to practice good hygiene, and Allah's Messenger went as far as declaring that:
"Cleanliness is half of faith."
There are advertisement for oral hygeine brands, such as deodrants and toothpaste, which are built around the theme of maintaining good hygeine in order to attract the opposite sex. The message which is being promoted is wrong in terms of the laws of attraction, but the concept is true.
3. The beauty of patience
Narrated 'Aishah, may Allah be pleased with her, that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Whenever forbearance is added to something, it adorns it; and whenever it is withdrawn from something, it leaves it defective.”
There are several virtues of practicing patience, too. Allah testifies in the Quran:
Say, "O My servants who have believed, fear your Lord. For those who do good in this world is good, and the earth of Allah is spacious. Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account."
(Surah Az-Zumar, 39:10)
4. The beauty in tenderness
The two most significant and outstanding qualities which define our creator are Ar-Rahman (The Beneficiant) and Ar-Raheem (The Merciful). Similarly, Allah chose all of His apostles to spread His message through kindness, never through violence. Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, came as a final and supreme example of kindness and tender heartedness. Never would he rebuke his enemies, for he knew that his attitude mattered the most in transmitting Allah's message to humankind. It is evident here how big a role, having a tender heart plays in defining us.
5. The beauty in sincerity
The sincerity of our intentions to perform varied acts, defines our personality and speaks volumes for our self-integrity.
Narrated a sister of Hudhayfah, the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"You women folk, have in silver something with which you adorn yourselves. I assure you that any woman of you who adorns herself with gold which she displays will be punished for it."
(Sunan Abi Dawud)
In present age, it is fairly common to hear buzz words such as YOLO (you only live once), or phrases such as “do it for the gram” (as in instagram). These are all ways of distorting our perceptions and misleading us towards falling for superficial anecdotes. We need to be mindful of our intentions, and keep them under check.
6. The beauty of empathy
Empathy is a game changing characterstic, which again, helps define an individual's innate beauty. And we can safely agree that the more beautiful a person is from inside, it is bound to reflect on the outside, too.
It is known that on one account, Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, stopped the advance of an army out of concern for a bird grieving for its babies that had been captured by some soldiers. The army resumed its advance only when the baby birds were returned to their mother.
This suggests, how beautiful and loving our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, was. And, there is greater lesson in it for us, indeed.
7. The beauty of Noor or radiance
Noor means light or glow. This is something that people see when they look at you – vibrant, refreshed and radiant. The glow is simply a reflection of your faith, intentions, thoughts, actions, motives and everything we do for the pleasure of Allah. The noor that appears on your face is actually one of the signs of the righteous – being at peace, with a good attitude and appearing content. The best example is of pregnant women because sometimes, they have that glow. This is the ultimate beauty that is easy to attain and no amount of make-up can substitute it.
By nurturing our inner self, we can surely aim to attain Allah's pleasure Allah and earn His Grace.
8. The beauty of Haya or modesty
Abu Umama reported the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, as saying:
“If any Muslim happens to look at a woman’s beauties and then lowers his eyes, God will produce for him an act of worship whose sweetness he will experience.” (Ahmad transmits it.)
Moreover, it is also an established truth that there is a “Market of Paradise” for those who practice great self-control, and what they will get there will be outwardly of delight and beauty.
Anas b. Malik reported that Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
"In Paradise there is a street to which they would come every Friday. The north wind will blow and would scatter fragrance on their faces and on their clothes and would add to their beauty and loveliness, and then they would go back to their family after having an added luster to their beauty and loveliness, and their family would say to them: By Allah, you have been increased in beauty and loveliness after leaving us, and they would say: By Allah, you have also increased in beauty and loveliness after us."
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and mother of three boys. Always on the quest to learn, she is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it on to others. A writer in the making, she draws inspiration through deep conversations, laws of nature, and her own children. She and her family are currently living in Abu Dhabi, UAE.