Aesthetics, elegance vital to Muslims’ lifestyle

Updated 19 June 2014

Aesthetics, elegance vital to Muslims’ lifestyle

We may experience numerous distressing events in the relations we establish with others. We may be distressed by some people’s selfishness, by the lack of understanding of others, or by still others’ obstinacy, inability to listen, mocking jokes or affectation. One issue, which most people may never think about, lies at the basis of this common unease — lack of quality.
Quality is vital in Islam. A lifestyle devoid of love, understanding, art and beauty predominates in many Islamic countries today. Although this totally conflicts with the fine and clean lifestyle that Allah describes in the Qur’an, it is still regarded as largely legitimate by those societies. Yet a lifestyle devoid of quality and a way of thinking devoid of beauty are unbecoming of a Muslim.
This lifestyle devoid of quality spreads over a wide sphere involving all of life, from the way a person thinks to their pleasures, from their goals to their conception of beauty and humor, from their deportment to their speech and what they eat and drink. When quality is not valued and when concepts such as beauty are missing from people’s lives, the world literally comes to resemble hell.
The importance of quality, cleanliness and fastidiousness instead of living a coarse lifestyle is revealed with particular emphasis in the Qur’an. In the verse, “Purify your clothes. Shun all filth” (Surat Al-Muddaththir, 4-5) Allah reveals that Muslims must use all their means to live a spotlessly clean life. Quality must therefore be one of the main features of Muslim communities.

Muslim world lacks the concept of elegance
One of the greatest problems in the Muslim world is the lack in some communities of the quality that all Muslims should possess. Of course there are sincere Muslims who apply Islamic values in the best way and attach due importance to quality, art and beauty; however, there are also Muslim societies that are deficient in that regard, either out of ignorance and lack of education or from their learning about Islam only from their traditions. Circles that wish to make anti-Muslim propaganda generally describe these communities lacking in quality as the “true Muslim model.” That is why we so often encounter images stressing Muslims’ lack of quality on the television, in newspapers, on the internet and in videos. Therefore, Muslims who misinterpret Islam and live in that way cause the whole world to have a badly mistaken idea of it.
Due to these false models, many people think of a ‘Muslim’ as someone who is loveless, joyless, with no understanding of art, who rejects science, has no sense of humor, dresses badly and rejects modernity: Distaste for music and joy, disregard for cleanliness, lack of affection and contempt for women are regarded as basic characteristics of Muslims in many parts of the world. And that inevitably leads to unease and a counter-reaction and encourages opposition to Islam.
Some of our Muslim brothers, however, are unaware that the main reason for this reaction is those Muslims who misinterpret and thus misrepresent Islam, and accuse others of “hostility to Islam and Muslims.”
Yet what people are actually reacting against is not the true Islam, but an inaccurate perception of the faith caused by the false models they see. A second reason for this reaction is the determination shown by some ignorant Muslims in defending a poor-quality, unclean, ugly and badly groomed model.
One of the distinguishing features of low-quality people is how they try to force their own lives and beliefs on others. Yet Allah has forbidden compulsion in the Qur’an. According to the Qur’an, a Muslim must be understanding, loving, speak pleasantly to other people, respect their ideas and values and create a pleasant climate, not just for himself, but for all.

Muslims must be quality-conscious
Religion means love, compassion, affection, friendship, cleanliness, goodness and loving orphans, the needy, the elderly, animals, plants and everything created by Allah. Such a lofty moral perception will of course bestow enormous quality and selectness on all of a person’s thoughts and behavior. Therefore, Muslims who live by this moral concept in the Qur’an are the highest-quality and most noble people in the world.
What some Muslim societies need to do to escape their low-quality lifestyle is to realize and accept that quality is indeed an important characteristic of Muslims and is required by the moral values of the Qur’an.
When quality prevails in art, science, politics and in all spheres of life, this negative view of Islam held by some people will vanish of its own accord. Even if the other person is irreligious, if asked what he thinks of “a climate of love, compassion, affection, friendship, good intentions, pleasant conversation and an advanced level of art and science,” his answer will be, “I am wholeheartedly in favor.”
That is the essence of Islam; the finest conception of all these are an intrinsic part of Islamic values.
Some people’s conception of quality is very different to that described in the Qur’an. These people’s idea of quality is restricted to an expensive car, designer clothes, a fine house and a good education. Of course these things, bestowed as blessings by Allah, can make one look attractive, but quality really must be lived in the soul.
Quality is one of the main adornments of life. When quality disappears, people become introverted, uneasy, selfish and insensitive and even turn their backs on religion. Most may perform their religious observances, but lack of quality makes them unhappy. Dark and gloomy homes, places devoid of beauty and badly maintained places of worship cannot make people happy. People who look ill-kempt, have no love in their faces, are apathetic, speak angry or negative words and who take no delight in life — and who even try to destroy these things — spread throughout society. Brotherhood, beauty, love, peace and comfort vanish in such societies. Everyone distances himself from everyone else and becomes fearful. That is of course something that nobody can want.

Our Prophet lived the most aesthetic life
Although means were very limited in the time of our Prophet (peace be upon him), he attached great importance to quality and beauty. Under the harsh conditions of that time he grew roses around his house in the desert climate; even under the most difficult conditions, he tried to establish the finest and most pleasant environment. Our Prophet’s (peace be upon him) person, clothing and home were always spotless and bright. He used the best-quality and most delightful scents of the time, and wore impressive clothes that suited him best. His language, the words he used and his manner of speaking were all of exceptional quality. His gait, deportment and table manners were exceedingly fine. Quality prevailed at every moment of his life.
The model that Muslims must adopt in determining their own moral understanding and way of life is therefore the verses of the Qur’an revealed by Almighty Allah and these fine moral values of our Prophet (peace be upon him).

The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science.

The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016

The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.