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In Search of the Body Beautiful

In Search of the Body Beautiful

Ifrat Azad

There seems no limit nowadays to the extent that women (and men!) are prepared to go to achieve that "perfect look". Forget false eyelashes and wigs, we are now talking scalpels, implants and liposuction!

Cosmetic surgery amongst the actresses has been commonplace for quite some time now, but these days, we wouldn't be too hard pressed to find ordinary women on the street who are more plastic than real. Indeed, in some circles, having multiple facelifts has become a status symbol: the more you have, the higher you are in the status rankings.

If questioned whether cosmetic surgery was Islamically corrrect or not, then without doubt, most Muslims would instinctively respond by saying that it isn't, for the simple reason that it would be interfering with Allah's creation. And certainly, this would be the correct response. The Companion, Ibn Mas'ud (r) once said (quoting what he had heard the Prophet sallallahu alahi wa sallam say): "Allah has cursed the tattoers and those who have themselves tattooed, and those women who have their teeth filed for beauty and those who have their (facial) hair plucked and thus alter Allah's creation". A woman remarked, "What's all this?". So Ibn Mas'ud (R) said: "Should I not curse one whom Allah's Messenger cursed? And it is in the Book of Allah?!" She said"I have read the Qur'an from cover to cover, but I did not find that in it. He replied: "If you had read it thoroughly you would have found it. Allah says: "Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it and whatever he has forbidden, refrain from it." (Suratul Hashr 59:7)". (1)

So the Prophet Muhammad (saw) forbade women from performing these three practices which the women commonly did for the sake of beauty in their times - seemingly "insignificant" practices for which they would incur the CURSE of Allah. And the prohibition isn't just restricted to the procedures mentioned in the hadeeth. Because Allah says in more general terms in His Book:

"So set your face truly to the faith, Allah's handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind; (Let there be) no change in the creation of Allah (2)" (ar-Rum 30:30)

Therefore it is obligatory for us to accept the creation of Allah as it is, not making any alterations to it (3). More importantly though, it is also obligatory for us to believe that all of Allah's creation is beautiful, because Allah, the Khaaliq (Creator), does not create anyting except with beauty and perfection, which is why He says to mankind:

"You can see no fault in the creation of ar-Rahman. Then look again: can you see any rifts? Then look again and yet again, your sight will return to you in a state of humiliation and worn out."
(al Mulk 67:3)

This may all sound quiet strange when we consider how often we hear women complaining about their appearance (and men doing it for them!). In fact, it is estimated that over half of the Western women today actually perceive thmselves to be ugly. In addition, surveys show that nearly all women feel under pressure to "look good". As a result, the quest for beauty has become a serious preoccupation for many women. Open up any womens magazine and you will not fail to find a single one which doesn't contain tips on how to "look good", or which don't contain huge adverts promoting new creams that half the ageing process or concealers to hide wrinkles, etc.

Beauty today is big business. Beauty contests are very profitable and - contrary to popular belief - more are spawned every year. The cosmetics market is a multi-billion dollar industry; the demand for cosmetic surgery is growing at a tremendous rate. All three industries promote the same notions of beauty that women everywhere are expected to meet: mainly a white, European, "Barbie-doll" like standard. The pressures on women to conform to these standards are enormous and few are able to withstand them. (4)

In Islam, beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder, beauty is in the whole of creation, because Allah - the One free of all imperfections - is the one responsible for it. And as Allah says:

"Your Lord creates whatsoever He wills and chooses: no choice have they.
Subhanallah! And far removed is He from the partners they ascribe (to Him)".

So it is from the wisdom of Allah that He has chosen to create some of us short, others tall, some fat, some thin, some dark-coloured, some light - all are beautiful and perfect in their own right. That is why we are taught from the sunnah, the beautiful du'a that the Prophet (saw) would say: "O Allah, as You have made my appearance beautiful, likewise make my character beautiful". (Allahumma kamaa hassanta khalaqi fa hassin khuluqi) (5)

As Muslims, we must believe that evil and imperfection cannot be attributed to Allah (6). The desire to change any aspect of ourselves means, in effect, that we are disatisfied with Allah's choice and His handiwork, and that there is imperfection in what He has created. Thus to say about ourselves or anyone else that we or they are ugly is a great sin. This point was reinforced by the Prophet (saw) when he once saw the Companion, 'Amr ibn Fulaan al-Ansari (r), whose izaar (lower garment) was hanging low (to the ground) so he (saw) ordered that he raise it. 'Amr made an excuse saying that he had skinny shins (ie he was embarassed to show them), so the Prophet responded by saying "O 'Amr! Verily Allah azza wa Jal has created everything in the best form" (6)

All this is certainly not intended to discourage women to look after themselves and adorn themselves in lawful ways (e.g. wearing nice clothes, having nicely done hair, etc). Indeed adorning oneself is something that the wives are oblgied to do for their husbands and Allah rewards the woman who pleases her husband when he looks at her (7). But with these tremendous pressures on women to conform to the ideals set by the marketing media, it may be hard for Muslimahs to resist feeling insecure or uncomfortable about their appearance. Consequently, many Muslim women have shed their hijabs for the sake of following fashion; Muslim women too develop inferiority complexes about themselves.

We must bear in mind that this search for the "body beautiful" is, in reality, a deception from Shaytaan. Shaytaan has vowed that he will created such false desires in mankind. He has said (as stated in the Qur'an):

"Surely I will arouse in them (mankind) false desires; and certainly I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and Indeed I will order them to change the nature created by Allah"
(an-Nisa 4:119).

May Allah always keep us safe from the false promises of Shaytan, for Verily He is the One who Guides to the Truth.


(1) Reported by Ibn Mas'ud (r) and collected in Sahih Muslim eng transl. vol. 3 pg. 1166, no.5301.
(2) Note that this prohibition applies to the whole of creation, not just human beings. Therefpre, defacing any part of Allah's creation is haram.
(3) This is with the exception of those things which have been prescribed in the Shariah eg. clipping nails, shaving underarm and around the private parts etc.
(4) In fact some women now go to such extremes that it results in them developing health problems, anorexia nervosa for instance. The carcinogenic nature of breast implants are also well documented now. No doubt, the future will reveal more harmful effects of these artificial means of changing creation.
(5) One hadith which contains this supplication mentions that this du'a should be recited on looking in the mirror. However, the chain of this hadith is not authentic. But it is authentically reported as a supplication to be recited at any time. (See Ibn Taymiyyah's "al-Kalimat-Tayyib").
(6) Sahih, collected in Musnad Ahmed vol. 4, p.200
(7) see Musnad Ahmed, an-Nasa'i and others. Also it is forbidden for the husband to invoke ugliness on the wife, as was a common practice amongst the pre-Islamic Arabia.





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