View Full Version : Islamic Concept of Beauty in Women

05-28-2010, 07:55 PM
In contrast to the Western identity that has made the mind and desires of the human being the standard to decide how to live life, the Islamic identity is based upon the belief that the Creator of the human being and the universe has sovereignty and sole right to decide how an individual should live their life. After all, it is He alone who
created the human being with every instinct and need that he has and knows how best to regulate them.

The Western secular way of life carries the concept of personal freedom that has ordained that the man and woman should be free to define for themselves how they should dress, their image, how they should view the opposite sex and what kind of relationships they should have, what roles they should adopt in marriage and society and overall how they should behave. In contrast, the Muslim, male and female, live their life on the basis that they are accountable to the Creator for every action that they perform in life. Therefore they understand that they should refer every issue to the laws and regulations, and the criterion of halal (permitted) and haram (forbidden) that has been prescribed by Him alone. For the Muslim woman therefore, her mind and her desires are not the arbiter in how she defines beauty, her image, or how she values herself but rather the Quran and the Sunnah. For the Muslim man, his desires should not be the standard used to decide how to view or treat the woman but rather the Quran and the Sunnah. Allah says in Surah al-Ahzab,

“It is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger, to have any option about their decision. If anyone disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong path.” [Quran al-Ahzab:36]

Islam does not have a fixed concept of what constitutes ‘The Beautiful Woman’ and has not defined a specific image of a woman that represents beauty. Therefore there are no unrealistic expectations that the woman needs to strive towards nor that the man expects. Islam does however discuss the concept of the image that a Muslim woman should adopt in various circumstances and to whom she can reveal her complete beauty.

In the presence of all non-mahrem men (those to whom she can marry), the image that has been prescribed for the woman is that all parts of her body should be covered except her face and hands and that the clothes should not be thin such that her skin can be seen nor tight such that the shape of her body can be seen. Therefore, the whole of the body of the woman, including her neck, feet and hair (even one hair) except her face and hands are awrah (that which is haram to reveal to any non-mahrem man). Whatever is an exception to this, has to be defined by evidence from the Quran and Sunnah and not the mind.

In one hadith reported by ‘A’isha [r], she said that Asma bint Abu Bakr entered the quarters of the Messenger of Allah [s] wearing thin clothes. The Messenger [s] turned his face away and said,

“Oh Asmaa, if the woman reaches puberty, it is not allowed to be seen from her except this and this”, and he pointed to his face and hands. In Surah Al-Nur, Allah says,

“They should not show their charms (zeenah) in public beyond what may (decently) be apparent thereof; hence let them draw their head-coverings (khumur) over their necks and bosoms (juyub). And let them not display (more of) their charms to any but their husbands, their fathers, their husbands fathers, their sons, their husbands sons, their brothers, their brothers sons, their sisters sons, their womenfolk, their concubines, such male attendants as are beyond all sexual desire, or children that are as yet unaware of women’s nakedness; and let them not swing their legs (in walking) so as to draw attention to their hidden charms.” [Quran al-Nur: 31]

Ibn ‘Abbas explained the words, “...beyond what may (decently) be apparent thereof ” to be referring to the face and hands.

In addition, in the presence of non-mahrem men, she should not wear any clothing, jewellery or make-up that would draw attention to her beauty (tabarruj). As Allah relates in Surah al-Ahzab;

“...and do not keep exhibiting your beauty and decorations like what used to happen in the Jahiliyyah period (before Islam).” [Quran al-Ahzab: 33]

In addition, when the woman leaves her home and enters the public arena, the image or dress that she has been commanded to wear is the khimar (a head cover that covers the entire head, neck, and the opening of the garment on the chest) and the jilbab (a one piece dress that covers her (home) clothes and drapes down to the floor). If she leaves the home without these two pieces of clothing then she would be sinful for she has neglected a command from her Creator. The evidence for this is clear.

The verse above discusses the obligation of the khimar,

“Let them draw their head-coverings (khumur) over their necks and bosoms (juyub).” [Quran Al-Nur: 31]

A verse in Surah Al-Ahzab, discusses the obligation of the jilbab;

“Oh Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (jalabeeb) all over their bodies.” [Quran al-Ahzab: 59]

In addition, in one hadith narrated by Umm Atiyya, she said,

“The Messenger of Allah [s] ordered us to bring out the young women, the menstruating women and veiled women for the two Eid festivals. The menstruating women were to keep away from prayer, yet witnessing the goodness and the dawah (address) to the Muslims. I asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what about the one who does not have a jilbab?’ He [s] said; ‘Let her use the jilbab of her sister.’”

Beauty for the Muslim woman is to follow to the letter these ahkham (rules) and ugliness is to leave them aside and follow our own desires. She does not have to measure up to the shallow standards set by any human being. To adopt such an image and behaviour is clearly within the capability of any woman and undoubtedly does not give rise to the host of problems such as eating disorders that result from the unrealistic expectations of appearance, body size and shape imposed upon the woman by the Western identity.

Although Islam does not have a fixed concept of what constitutes ‘The beautiful face or figure’, the Muslim woman is encouraged to perform certain actions that will make her appearance appealing to her husband such as dressing up for her husband and presenting herself in a clean and tidy manner. She knows that in doing so she secures the pleasure of the Creator. However, she performs this action, knowing that she is not trying to match up to the norms of society in the shape of her figure or the fairness of her face but rather according the limits that have been prescribed upon her by her Creator. Similarly, the Muslim husband, when shaping his likes and dislikes would be careful to ensure that they are not simply moulded by the unrealistic expectations of the Western society.

شمله ور خراساني
05-28-2010, 10:27 PM
great post. Jazakallah