In Search of the Body Beautiful
By Ghulam Mustafa
There seems no limit nowadays to the extent that women (and men) are prepared to go to for that 'perfect look'. Forget false eyelashes and wigs, we are now talking scalpels, implants and liposuction!
Cosmetic surgery amongst film 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 fa
celifts has become a status symbol: the more you have, the higher you are in the status rankings.
If questioned whether cosmetic surgery was Islamically correct 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. [Scholars have noted several exceptions to this general rule if there is a genuine medical need for it. - Ed.]
The companion, Ibn Mas'ood radiaIaahu 'anhu, once said (quoting what he had heard the Prophet, sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam say): Allah has cursed the tattooers 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'ood - radiAllahu 'anhu -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. [Qur'an ul-Hashr (59):7]"
So the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam forbade women from performing these three practices which the women commonly did for the sake of beauty in those days - seemingly 'insignificant' practices for which they would incur the curse of Allah. And this forbiddance 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. [Qur'an Ar-Room (30):30].
Therefore, it is obligatory for us to accept the creation of Allah as it is, not making any alterations to it. 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 anything except with beauty and perfection, which is why He says to mankind: You can see no fault in the creation of Ar-Rahmaan [the Most Merciful]. 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. [Qur'an Al-MuIk (67): 3-4].
This may all sound quite strange when we consider how often we hear women complaining about their appearance. In fact, it is estimated that over half of the Western women today actually perceive themselves 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 women’s 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 advertisements promoting new creams that halt the aging 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 woman 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. (Please read the follow-up to this article below-Ed.)
The fact is that Western women today may complain that they are not treated with equality and respect, but it is they themselves who have made it acceptable for society worldwide to see women merely as beauty-objects who are there to be ogled by the men who in turn are the (im) polite voyeurs. When viewed in this light, we find that beauty contests are not too dissimilar to reality itself: just as the tallest, slimmest blonde girl gets the title in the beauty contest, in the real world it's the tallest, slimmest blonde girl who gets the man!
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. SubhaanAllah! And far removed is He from the partners they ascribe [to Him]! [Qur'an Al-Qasas 28:68].
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-colored, some light - all are beautiful and perfect in their own right. That is why we are taught from the Sunnah, the beautiful du'aa (supplication) that the Prophet sallAllahu 'alaihi wa sallam would say: 'O Allah, as You have made my appearance beautiful, likewise make my character beautiful. - ('Allahumma kama hassanta khalaqee fa hassin khuluqee").
As Muslims, we must believe that evil and imperfection cannot be attributed to Allah. The desire to change any aspect of ourselves means, in effect, that we are dissatisfied 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, sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam when he once saw the Companion, 'Amr Ibn Fulaan Al-Ansaaree radiallahu 'anhu, whose izaar (lower garment) was hanging low (to the ground), so he, sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, ordered that he raise it. 'Amr made an excuse saying that he had skinny shins (i.e. he was embarrassed to show them), so the Prophet responded by saying: O 'Amr! Verily Allah Azza wa Jal has created everything in the best form.
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 obliged to do for their husbands and Allah rewards the woman who pleases the husband when he looks at her. But with these tremendous pressures on women to conform to the ideals set by the marketing media, it may be hard for Muslim women 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 create 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. [Qur'an An-Nisaa (4): 119].
May Allah always keep us safe from the false promises of Shaytaan, for verily Allah is the One Who guides to the Truth.
This article was originally published in 1995 in Ad-Da’wah IlAllah – The Magazine Featuring Women’s Issues
May Allah reward sister ‘Ifrat for her thoughts and effort. We provide the following item taken from the October 19, 1998 issue of the English language daily Arab News published in Saudi Arabia. This is for anyone who has followed the articles in "From The Sister’s Pens" for the past several issues and has some doubt as to what the authors of those articles have expressed regarding the all-out battle for the Muslim woman’s heart and soul and ruination of her Islamic character. The article is a stark example of what occurs when Muslims are totally separated from any real understanding of their religion and being a Muslim merely represents an "ethnicity" and not a way of life to be learned, treasured and adhered to.
Dethroned Miss Croatia Hurt But Optimistic
ZAGREB, Oct. l8 (AEP) Beauty queen Lejla Sehovic, who was stripped of her title of Miss Croatia on Friday for being Muslim, is hurt but optimistic in her determination to press charges for religious discrimination. "I was very hurt by all of this, but now I am pretty relaxed after these last frantic days. I am an optimist and I hope for the best," 22-year-old Sehovic told Agence France-Presse in a telephone interview from her hotel room in Zagreb. Beauty contest director Milan Seckovic deposed Sehovic on Friday and proclaimed runner-up Ivana Petkovic, 17, as Croatia’s candidate in the next Miss World competition.
There were "irregularities in the voting process," Seckovic told a press conference where Sehovic showed up uninvited, stunning organizers and getting applause from journalists. "I could never have believed such a thing could happen to me: that on a beauty contest one’s religion is checked. If I had known the ‘right’ religion was needed, I would never have applied," Sehovic said.
And she added: ‘I feel terrible when people look at me as if I was from another planet. I am just a human being made of flesh and blood."
Calling the contest "an absolute disgrace", Sehovic’s lawyer Vesna Alaburic told AFP she had requested Seckovic to hand over his evidence for dethroning Lejla. "We are going to press charges against the organizers, if it appears that Lejla was disqualified on the basis of religious discrimination. We will inform the world: From all legal institutions in the country, including the president, and human rights groups, up to the European human rights court," Alaburic said.
Lejla Sehovic was born and raised in Croatia’s southern city of Dubrovnik where her parents moved from Sarajevo in 1975. Her father Esad died when she was nine, leaving her and two other sisters, Anela and Djana. She is the niece of an eminent Sarajevo writer, Fedja Sehovic.
The election of a Muslim girl is seen as embarrassing to President Franjo Tudjman’s ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), which backed Bosnian Croats against Muslims during the recent Bosnian war. But in Dubrovnik, where the opposition won local by-elections last Sunday - the same day Sehovic was elected Miss Croatia - local people as well as her family support her, she said.
I was told that a big welcome party will be organized," she added. "Now I see how many people stand by me. My mum told me that the phone has not stopped ringing: everyone is calling, even the mayor, and people are calling local radio stations requesting songs for me," Sehovic said.
Meanwhile, runner-up Ivana Petkovic has not said whether she accepts Sehovic’s crown. Her family said she would go public in the next few days. "I will let Ivana decide. I think this is a very tricky situation for both of us," Sehovic said.
The incident has split public opinion in Croatia. "Because Croatia is predominantly Catholic, I believe we should be very proud of having a non-Catholic girl as our miss," said Davor Brezicevic, 45.
But another woman, who gave her name as Marija, 25, said Sehovic’s crown should be taken from her, "for even on her face you can see that she is not a true Croatian girl." Sehovic whose plans include, besides hanging on to her crown, following a management course in Dubrovnik, is confident things will work out for the best.
"I am the moral winner," she told AFP. "The things that do not kill you in life will only make you stronger."
Unfortunately, Miss Sehovic is not in the least unique, because we find beauty pageants held in different parts of the Muslim world with indeed Muslim women parading themselves in the most indecent of manner while their families take pride in their daughters’ achievements! Certain Muslim countries pride themselves on their liberality when it comes to women and one may witness women participating in any range of activities dressed in clothing that leaves nothing to the imagination! You may recall that the top fashion "supermodel" a while back was a statuesque Somali beauty ironically called Iman, and she was often described as being a "devout Moslem". She later married the British rock star David Bowie (who last time we heard had not converted to Islam). Throughout the Muslim world, you will find dozens of magazines featuring Arabian looking damsels on their covers (and I dare not look inside), in most of these countries.
Such is the sad reality, but perhaps even sadder is if any Muslims who read the article above are more upset by the blatant discrimination of the Croatian pageant authorities than the fact that a Muslim woman was participating in the first place! We are not sorry she was dethroned and we pray for her guidance and victory of the Muslims over their enemies for surely her loss on the Day of Resurrection is liable to be far greater than that of a crown.