Finding the Islamic essence of beauty
Why do you think many cherish beauty?
For many people their highest innermost desire is to be beautiful, internally and externally. Whilst a desire for external beauty can be seen as shallow, deeper reflection can help us to realise that there is a reason we have been made with an inbuilt love and appreciation for beauty in all its forms. There’s a reason why looking at nature gives us a sense of peace, that we consume art in all forms simply for the joy of it, that we decorate our homes, that fashion designers and barbers and salons exist.
For people who are preoccupied with their physical appearance and a desire to become more physically beautiful reflecting on why they desire this at all can help boost their self-esteem; you may find that it’s not really a smaller nose or a forehead that you want, rather to become the version of yourself that you believe a more beautiful version of yourself would be. Maybe that’s why movies that start with an “ugly” or non-conventionally beautiful main character who transforms into someone conventionally beautiful are so popular especially amongst young people. Like the Princess Diaries where Mia transforms from anxious, nerdy and dishevelled to confident, elegant and physically beautiful. Or how in Stardust Tristan transforms from a charmingly awkward young man into a confident self-assured, better dressed stereotypical gentleman. This caterpillar to butterfly metamorphosis is perhaps something we all aspire to in different ways.
In the Qu’ran, beauty is often spoken of as a gift given to the righteous. We are told that on the day of Judgement, when there will be chaos, where the most unthinkable fear and panic will take place even to extent that mothers will forget about their babies (22:2), some people’s faces will “beam in brightness and beauty” (75:22) because they are destined to live in the most beautiful abode, heaven, for eternity (38:40). Beauty is so linked to light in the Quran – it illuminates, opens and gives freely in the same way that the sun and moon and stars shine according to God’s will every day. But the beauty of this physical world is, like everything in this life, finite: it will end. It ends in this lifetime. Even the sun and moon run their course “for a specified term” (39:5).
Only the beauty of the eternal, spiritual world remains forever. For the Prophets their external beauty was a physical manifestation of their internal beauty since their external beauty reflected the beauty of their souls. Yusuf AS was so physically beautiful that friends of the Egyptian ruler’s wife cut their hands in awe when they first saw him. Egyptian ruler’s wife felt a need to possess this beauty in an unlawful manner and this goes to show that whilst we are all made with an internal appreciation of beauty, like everything it can be a source of trial for us. Where we seek physical beauty, neglecting it’s deeper meaning, and truer longer lasting spiritual form, we can possess physical beauty at the expense of the spiritual, seeking this life in place of the next. It’s also important to remember that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. We can only see through the lens of heart, if that is impure, our understanding of what beauty is will also be impure We are warned some people who do wrong cannot even identify that they have done anything wrong at all because “Satan made their deeds look pleasing to their eyes” (8:48). Conversely for the believers, “God has endeared faith to you and made it beautiful to your hearts” (49:7). We can only see beauty to the extent that we seek to be beautiful.
But then how can we be sure that we can truly see what is beautiful? What better place to look than the Beautiful names of Allah SWT? These names are the ideal qualities that we should seek to embody, and the more we can In Sha Allah the stronger the light of beauty shines within us. Reflect on these Beautiful names and how they manifest in life, everything in life can be seen as a reflection of Allah’s Divine names.
What aspect of beauty do you want to strengthen within yourself?