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The Islamic Perspective on Beauty

Jan 11, 2013, 10:06 AM

That a Woman should Make Herself Appealing to Her Husband

Islam instructs women to maintain an attractive appearance for their husbands. By observing this instruction, women would merit heavenly reward, reinforce the conjugal relationship, and perpetuate the bond of love between them and their husbands.

Imam Sadiq (peace be upon him) states, “it is not appropriate for a woman to even lack adornment, even if it should be merely a necklace; and it is not appropriate for her to leave her hand undyed, even if it should be with a little henna and even if she should be old”.

The Prophet and the Imams repeatedly alluded to how important it was for women to care for their beauty and appeal. The Prophet instructed the men to clip their nails flush with their fingers but told the women to keep their somewhat long, for long nails add to a woman’s beauty. Women have been permitted and encouraged to use any type of adornment that enhances their appeal in the eyes of their husbands.

Using cosmetics and oil and caring for the beauty of the hair are measures strongly recommended by Islamic law to be acted upon in order to increase one’s attractiveness. These measures are all the most important for women, for the implementation of these measures by the wife leads to the satiation of the couple’s instinctual needs, and this in turn prevents the couple from feeling the need to turn to other men or women. And once the instinctual needs are satisfied, the couple can pursue their spiritual perfection without having to worry about the hindrance these needs can cause.

The Quran prohibits women only from displaying their beauty to those men from whom they must cover themselves according to Islamic law;

And tell the faithful women to cast down their looks and to guard their private parts and not to display their charms expect for what is outward, and let them draw their scarves over their bosoms and not display their charms expect to their husbands or their fathers or their husband’s fathers.....


A study of the purpose of creation as articulated by Islam yields the conclusion that God created the world in order to develop within its matrix the human being, and thus He has subjugate it to him. But that is not the final purpose envisioned by Islam. The human being has also been endowed with a sacred purpose, and it was for the realization of this purpose that God’s prophets strove and toiled. The Noble Quran identifies the purpose of human creation as the attainment to perfection and the realization of obedience to God: I did not create the jinn and the humankind expect at they worship Me. But if we consider that God is self-sufficient and that our actions cannot benefit or harm Him, we will understand that the purpose specified in the above-quoted verse is in fact meant to benefit us and to bring about our perfection. The quoted verse attached great weight to the issue of obedience and unambiguously expresses that it is the purpose of creation of the jinn and humankind.

It should not be objected that certain verse of the Quran point to other purpose and end. One verse, for instance, identifies the purpose of life and death as the divine will that the human being be tested (He created death and life that He may test you). Another verse state that the purpose of the creation of the heavens and the earth is that humankind may realize His omnipotence (it is God Who created seven heavens and of the earth a number similar to them. The command gradually descends through them, that you may know that God has power over all things and that God comprehends all things in knowledge).  The purposes set out in the likes of these verses are intermediate ones. That is, they are purposes to be fulfilled on the way to achieving the final purpose, which is none other than obedience to God.

It is the present author’s conviction that this final purpose bears on the topic of this article as well. In other words, the three categories of beauty that we identified within the Islamic worldview must be examined in view of this all-encompassing purpose.

The Purpose in the Manifestations of Beauty in the World

We have already explained that the inherence of a beauty-seeking impulse in the human nature is beyond doubt. Due to this innate feature, when the human sense grasps a beautiful phenomenon, it invariably affects the soul, arousing in it a sense of attraction and wonder. Now, since God’s beauty transcends sensory perception, it is conveyed through the medium of the sensible phenomena of this world. Seeing the in the phenomena of the human soul and body and in the phenomena of the external world, one is necessarily led to deduce the beauty of the Creator of these phenomena. Thus, the reason why the Quran urges us to reflect on the beauty of the world is this: that we should acquire a sense of beauty of God. As such, where the Quran draws our attention to the beauty of the world, it also asserts that this beauty is the work of God and that this realization should serve as a reminder to awaken us from our material slumber. Elsewhere, the Quran rebukes those who reject the truth, affirming that if they observed with a discerning eye the firmament and its beauty they would not persist in their rejection.

The Quran pursues the same purpose when it articulates the beauty in the human being, in the movements of animals, in the earth, in the seas; it seeks to awaken the human soul and to provoke the human being to see beyond these beautiful phenomena their Creator that he may strive toward his perfection in light of this comprehension. This purpose is subtly alluded to by the attributes that the Quran verses in question use in describing God. We come across such divine attributes as “the All-Subtle,” “the Omniscient,” “the All –Aware.” By specifying these attributes in the context of the verse that deal with the manifestations of beauty in the world, the Quran compels us to contemplate the beauty of the phenomena to infer the power and wisdom and presence of God, for the human being is wont to indulge in the beauties of the world, forgetting that they are manifestation of God’s beauty.

The Purpose of the Islamic Injunction to dress Well and Care for One’s Beauty

It is conceivable that God should create the human being with a soul that desire beauty but then forbid it from expressing this desire? To do so would be contrary to divine wisdom. As a general rule, for every inclination and tendency God has embedded in the human nature, He has furnished the path for its fruition and actualization, for otherwise the soul would be susceptible to dangerous aberrations. And furthermore, prohibiting humankind from taking advantage of its inherent beauty-seeking impulse would have disinclined the seekers of truth from embracing Islam. Such a prohibition would go against the essence of Islam as the religion whose tenets and precept were ordained by God in conformity with the human being’s natural inclinations and needs.

As explained above, the Quran rebukes those who forbid on their own account what God has pronounced permissible. As such, the Quran permits and encourages people to enjoy God’s bounties, for after all, God created these bounties for the benefits and pleasure of humankind.


Reminding us of the manifestation of beauty in creation, the verses of the Quran and the sayings of the infallible authorities of religion invite us to exalt the Creator of beauty and to realize that the beauty of the creation of the human being, of the earth, the sky, the stars, etc., are all signs leading us to Him.

The Quran and the Tradition lay special emphasis on the beauty of certain practices and deeds so as to inspire us to perform them passionately and enthusiastically, thus leading us from the perception of the outward manifestations of beauty to the comprehension of the more real inward essence beauty and from our concern for the beauty of our appearances to the realization of the priority of the soul.

Furthermore, Islamic Tradition instructs Muslims to attend to their appearance. It requires them to groom themselves and dress well when meeting friends. It advises the youth either to shave their head to wash their hair, oil it, and comb it regularly if they wish to wear it long. We are told to wear our best clothes when we pray. Islam orders woman to display their beauty and adornment for their husbands. All these instructions are meant to perfect the beauty of the soul, to promote love, affection, and intimacy and finally to keep humankind away from sin, which can only tarnish the soul and impair its beauty.