The Beautiful Veil of Knowledge
Beauty in Islam
By Nabeela Kausar
This (khutba) article is essentially about the concept of beauty in Islam. It is of particular relevance to women for example who are sought for their beauty in marriage and knowledge of it is indeed a blessing from Allah. (It is envisaged it can serve as a speech as in Hadith 5146 in the Book Of Wedlock for marriages.) Thus beauty is a complex interdimentional terminology for the Muslim to study, discuss and discover. Here, in this article I seek to outline and elaborate on the Islamic, Koranic and Hadith explanations and definitions of beauty, and its relevance to modern Muslim society.
Beauty, a creation of Allah and a gift bestowed from him can refer to many types of beauty, including the gift of beauty for women children and man and as it is popularly referred to, as well as the Organic definitions of beauty, the Hadith concerning beauty, the elucidation of it’s meaning and scope in Islam, and its importance from an Islamic perspective.
In Islam, beauty is revealed to us in the Koran, in four main sections. The first concerns the beautiful names of Allah, the second a call towards beautiful preaching, the third a reservation of women’s beauty for their husbands and finally the reward in paradise for Allah’s true servants of spouses that are modest of gaze and beautiful of eye.
Also there are references to general verses in the Koran that help to protect sustain and maintain beauty. Thus for example Surat 4 Ayat 34 elaborates that men are the protectors and maintainers of women and that includes her beauty needs, wishes and desires. So we must realise that there is a heavy interconnection in the Koran with the development of the Islamic concept of beauty. Thus the closely related verses of the Koran and Hadith will also be looked at. I will now turn to each Ayat(Koranic section) in turn.
In Surat The Heights, at ayat 180, it is stated;
“The most beautiful names belong to Allah; use them to call on him, and keep away from those who abuse them – they will be requited for what they do.”
Here, in the Koran we are first introduced to a most potent form of beauty, that which is contained in Allah’s names. Thus Allah’s ninety-nine names contain serious depths of beauty that mankind can learn, appreciate and comprehend as acts of worship.
For example we see multifarious depths of beauty if we look at the name Al Wadud. This name of Allah’s, the God of love describes to us beauty for instance in family law, beautiful wives and children with love placed between us. We can see the depths of the beauty of love that Allah has created in our hearts. The feelings and emotions of love and those that beauty arouses.
If we look to the name of Al Khalique, the creator, we see the beauty of creation. Beautiful landscapes, countryside, animals, plants, flowers and creatures that Allah has created for us to understand the beauty of creation.
We see also the connection to the creation of health that beauty has. Thus beautiful hair, teeth, skin and nails are examples of beauty from an Islamic medicinal viewpoint. Also, the use of for example, honey and black seed oil as traditional Islamic remedies in the beauty industry relate it closely to health.
The name of the All Knowing, Al Alim can describe to us the beauty of religious knowledge. Thus the beauty of the Koran as knowledge from Allah is appreciated as containing verses of magnificent beauty and eloquence.
The name Dhu’I Jalal Wa’l-Ikram shows us the Lord of Majesty and generosity. Thus we can appreciate how generous Allah is in creating beauty throughout the world. Closely linked to this are the names of Al Hamid, the praiseworthy one and Al Karim the generous whereby people can see that as Muslims they can pray for gifts of beauty from Allah’s bounty that he generously bestows upon mankind.
Al Batin, The Inner, begins to allow us to appreciate the hidden depths of beauty that is the development of qualities and components of beauty that mankind comes to possess.
Similarly, Al Maghni, The Enricher, can enrich people’s lives with beauty, and Al Baqi the everlasting shows us that it is within Allah’s capabilities to grant us everlasting beauty.
Also in the name Al Wali the protector, we see for instance that Allah is the protector of beauty for example in revealing to us verses on the veil, and Allah also protects beautiful women and children through giving this protective responsibility to men.
Thus we can see through examples the meaning and scope of the beautiful names of Allah. We must not underestimate however that these names serve as an explanation and encouragement to worship the true Allah, so we are told to call on him through his names and appreciate this bounty and develop responses for prayer through beautiful names.
We are also warned to stay away from those who abuse his names. The most striking example of this being the name of Al Wahid, The One, through which we are warned to keep away from idolatrous practices and people and those who associate with Allah such as the Christians. Thus the beautiful names of Allah require contemplation.
The next ayat, contained in Surat 16, the Bee, in ayat 125 exhorts the Muslims to beautiful preaching.
“Call people to the way of your lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching. Argue with them in the most courteous way, for your Lord knows best who has strayed from his way and who is rightly guided.”
Here, we see the call to the muslim people to preach the Islamic way of Allah with wisdom, such as intelligence and beautiful preaching. We can see many multifarious types of beautiful preaching that muslim people have developed as a result of this verse.
Thus the Khutba’s that Imam’s recite, the Islamic art forms such as Islamic poetry and Islamic art that contain revealed verses as well as Islamic literature and historical developments as well as developments such as legal case law are all cited as examples of beautiful preaching. We see the conveyance of the quality of beauty in a striking calligraphic design of Islamic art for example as an example of beautiful preaching.
We are reminded to argue in the most courteous manner especially with people who do not yet believe, and Allah reinforces his omnipotence in the matter by stating he knows best who has strayed and who is rightly guided.
Thus, through the Prophet Mohammed PBUH we are deliverers of a warning for all mankind that we must argue in order to convince the non-believer to belief, but must do so in a courteous manner, neither raising voices, tempers , using violence (except for jihad) or causing a commotion that could bring impressions of Islam into disrepute.
We are also told to try to convince and convert the non-believer and as beacons of the muslim way we convey this dua in a form that is both supplemented and rooted in the twin virtues of wisdom and beautiful eloquence in the style of preaching. Hence, we must remain intellectually Islamically astute and also very talented in the art of beautifully communicating the message of Islam to such an extent that it leads to the belief of mankind in the faith of Allah as our Lord.
Thus, Surat 16 The Bee Ayat 125 helps us to develop and understand as well as grow in the quality of Islamic beauty.
Elsewhere, in Surat 24, the Light in Ayat 31 is revealed to us an ayat containing revelation regarding the beauty of Women, and the reasons for it, as well as the Islamic sharia law regarding it. Thus;
“And tell believing women that they should lower their glances, guard their private parts, and not display their charms beyond what it is acceptable to reveal; they should let their headscarves fall to cover their necklines and not reveal their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands fathers, their sons, their husbands sons, their brothers, their brothers sons, their sisters sons, their womenfolk, their slaves , such men who attend to them who have no sexual desire, or children who are not yet aware of women’s nakedness; they should hot stamp their feet so as to draw attention to any hidden beauty; Believers, all of you, turn to Allah so you may prosper.”
Here, the Koranic injunction that regulates women’s beauty is revealed. Hence, beauty of women is a precious gift to be protected both by Allah and by mankind. Such prevalent abuses of women’s beauty as exist today, such as its propagation for immoral and unchaste evils are abhorred and forbidden. The strict regulation of women’s beauty thus serves to preserve the chastity, dignity and respect and thankfulness of Allah’s favour of beauty to women.
It is of course recognised that beauty is attractive to men; this is part of its creation, to please the spouse in his appreciation and viewing through the medium of the eye. Yet beauty is also something that must be protected from unfamiliar male members of the opposite sex, who may try to abuse it. Thus strict observance of chastity requirements to help to protect and preserve the creation of female beauty.
This is not to underestimate the celebration and appreciation of beauty by women. Thus female beauty is restricted to a protective domain, such as female only organisational appreciation of beauty. Such events as female only fashion shows, female only beauty salons and female only shopping and advertising of beauty products all allow for the preservation of beauty in its private form.
Thus husbands are the one’s who the beauty can be primarily directed to of women. This of course includes all of the legally sanctioned through sharia Ayats and verses of proper Islamic marriages that bless women with strong iman (faith) in Islam e.g. the Hadith to seek women through their fathers leads to the opposing of corruption and afflictions, two very anti-Islamic evils that the obedient women will be blessed with acting against for example through their offspring.
Thus properly constituted Islamic marriages, which do not abuse beauty or chastity, bring with them many rewards. Here, women are also reminded in the wearing of jewellery and beautiful adornments not to clatter or make noise that may attract the attention of men, thus putting them in danger. Hence, women are taught to be modest in their beauty rather that gregarious.
Finally the last Koranic revelation concerning beauty is found in Surat 37 Ranged in Rows; ayat 48, where it is revealed concerning Allah’s true servants;
“With them will be spouses- modest of gaze and beautiful of eye.”
That such a reward is available in the hereafter to both men and women is interesting in that men too please women in their attractiveness as Allah wishes this. Thus to be one of Allah’s true servants, that is to have adhered to and believed in the truthful revelation of the Koran, and to have served Allah in some way are the requirements for this reward in the hereafter. We see then this ayat arranged to encourage iman through preaching of the Koran and the service of Allah and the reward in the hereafter of a beautiful spouse is indeed one to adhere to and seek, as Allah specifically makes provision for it.
Beauty is also mentioned in several of the Prophet’s Hadith, and these merit discussion. The majority are found in the Book of Wedlock, and this confirms their importance in the Islamic marriage
Early on, in Hadith 5064, men are warned to act justly to orphan girls whose beauty they are attracted to, by granting them a fair Mahr as a marriage gift. Therefore the beauty of vulnerable women such as orphans is protected by Allah and the Prophet Mohammed PBUH.
The Prophet’s important transmition in Hadith 5090 is a firm testimony to those seeking the institution of an Islamic marriage. The Hadith 5090 is primarily directed at men, and reminds them to prefer women of faith to those of beauty. Whilst this is superior, the other three qualities of wealth, family linage and beauty are also considered subserviently important to mankind although faith is of primacy. Hence the women whose beauty is also a testimony to her faith, is indeed the most blessed one.
Again in Hadith 5140 we see the explanation by Aisha through the Hadith not to seek to abuse the beautiful orphan girl by reducing her mahr. This reminder also serves for all women, who are to be dealt with in a just manner by the muslim men, who are to pay them adequate mahr for marriage. Therefore the strengthening of justice to women through this example.
Finally, in Hadith 5248, we see some communication regarding Surat 24 ayat 31 that women were not to reveal adornments except to husbands. Here we see Fatima and Ali performing medical services to the Prophet and this Hadith reminds women to remain covered around non-permitted males.
Thus we see, through our discussion of beauty as an Islamic concept as revealed in the Koran both stipulations and revelations as to its meaning and scope for the Muslim and how through faith to relate to the concept of beauty as Allah desires.
Finally we must understand the interconnectedness of this concept and bounty from Allah by treating it alternately as a bounty and reward, and aspiration of the Muslim to achieve through worship. Thus the close connectedness to Ayats in Surat’s that offer this understanding and appreciation of beauty through Allah as rewards and gifts of beauty for example in Surat 4 the Women Ayat 32 and Surat 4 the Women Ayat 173.
In conclusion, we can see how we can attain and understand a level of beauty that belongs to and is derived from Koranic revelation. Thus, a truly beautiful person is one who invokes Allah’s names and preaches them, preaches with wisdom and beautiful preaching, guards their chastity and acts modestly, serves Allah and preaches the Koran, and the one who obeys the negative injunctions in the revealed verses such as staying away from those who abuse Allah’s names. These are the one’s who truly become beautiful people, and are blessed with the gift of beauty from Allah and the understanding of it.
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