By Na’ima B. Robert
When was the last time you looked in the mirror and
smiled: `alhamdulillah’ ? Chances are, your last encounter with a
full-length mirror was conducted with a worried frown on your face
as you ran down a long, humiliating list of your figure’s faults and
Why do we do this to ourselves?
As women, the pressure to live up to a collagen-enhanced, air-
brushed ideal of beauty is greater than ever. We are constantly
bombarded with images of women with impossibly clear skin,
symmetrical features, long, glossy hair, perky fronts and backs,
toned thighs, dainty feet: no wonder we feel inadequate!
Even being a Muslimah doesn’t necessarily shield one from our
society’s insistence on codifying `beauty’ and making it a standard
that all women should aspire to.
What’s a girl to do? Some of us rise to the challenge: we work out,
watch what we eat, keep our daily `cleanse, tone and moisturise’
routine and invest in flattering make-up and complementary clothes
in shades that suit our complexions.
BUTâ€¦ if you are like the many Muslim women that I know â€“ busy wives,
even busier mothers â€“ you just don’t have time for such a hectic
grooming schedule. So, in a way, some of us opt out. We give up
trying to compete. We cover our bodies with our abayas, hide our
split ends under our hijabs and bury ourselves in the many demands
of home and family life.
But we are not `conscientious objectors’. We have not taken the
decision to neglect ourselves as a matter of principle and so, we
are still unhappy when we look at ourselves in the mirror. We are
still dissatisfied. And we are still ungrateful.
Yes, we are ungrateful. We agonise over our stretch marks and ignore
the miracle of the womb that blossomed and left us with those
We worry about our dimply thighs and forget that our legs are strong
and capable of bending in prostration, of walking around the Ka’aba
and carrying us through life.
We fret about our flabby upper arms and turn a blind eye to the
amazing strength of our arms that have carried schoolbooks, rocked
babies and comforted husbands and friends..
My sister, look at your body. Take a long, hard look. Then say the
du’a of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wasallam): "O Allah,
as you have made my appearance beautiful, make my character
That’s right, my sister, you are beautiful, masha Allah: believe it!
You are a unique, amazing creation of Allah ta’ala and your body is
a witness to His Majesty every single moment of every day, with
every breath you take and every beat of your heart. And your beauty
is not fleeting or in and out of fashion like the false ideal of
beauty being peddled on the high street. Your beauty is more than
skin-deep: it radiates from your soul, from the beauty of your iman,
from a life lived for the sake of Allah.
For the ideal of beauty that we should be striving for is the beauty
of the believer: the light of inner peace, the glow of the night
prayer, the smile of contentment and gratitude, the beauty of a
righteous and noble character. That is the true beauty and the only
one worth striving for.
So, if you work out, keep a daily exercise routine and keep your
high standards, you go, girl. And if you don’t, just do your best.
But just remember that beauty is about so much more than clear skin
and toned thighs. It is about acknowledging the bounties of Allah
and recognising the beauty He looks for and can see. And that is the
kind of beauty that everyone should aspire to.