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Forget Dove. Islam is the Source of the Beauty Revolution

Like many parents, I worry about my daughter’s perception of beauty and how it will affect her as she grows. (Read more on what I think of our society’s beauty standards and how we should approach them here.)

I remember reading this article a few years ago and thinking – yes, absolutely! We shouldn’t place focus on girls’ appearances at such a young age (or any age actually!). Instead we should engage children (especially girls) in a way that values their ideas, their opinions and whatever else interests them.

Everything a child learns about herself at a young age will stay with her in the long-run – whether consciously or subconsciously. For examples, if a parent is overlyconcerned with the child’s appearance, the child is more likely to adopt that outlook and become overly concerned about her appearance as well.

At the same time, striving for a happy medium in the way we look and dress is not a negative thing.

The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: “Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty.” This statement can take on different layers of meaning. Everything that Allah (swt) created for us is beautiful and perfect. In fact, we are called upon in the Quran to continuously reflect on the beauty of creation and how that forms our understanding of the Perfection of the Creator.

The Prophet (saw) also said: “Allah loves to see the affects of His grace upon His servant.” So if Allah (swt) blesses a person with wealth and success, then that person should dress and live within their means (i.e. not reject success by being purposefully disheveled, poorly dressed and generally miserly towards him/herself). Instead, he or she should embrace these blessings by spending on him/herself and spending on others. These two types of spending are not mutually exclusive.

Accepting Allah’s blessings upon you, putting them to use and thanking Him for them is a form of worship.

But by far, the most important and valued type of beauty is the beauty of character. The Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “Verily Allah does not look to your faces and your wealth but He looks to your heart and to your deeds.”

So while Allah (swt) loves to see us be generous with ourselves by dressing neatly, taking care of our bodies and surroundings, He doesn’t judge us one bit over our actual physical form. Instead, He values our character, our hearts and our actions.

If we were brave enough to embrace the truth of real beauty and strive to beautify our character more than we strive to beautify our bodies, we would be completely different people. We would achieve more, we would be kinder and we would be more successful in every sense of the word.

Now, how does one effectively incorporate and teach these concepts of true beauty to children?

While I still think about this question a lot, I started doing something very simple with my daughter in the hopes that I would raise her with a more accurate and holistic definition of beauty. When she does something kind like share her toys or her food with others, I tell her “you’re beautiful.” When she is helpful to me or others, I tell her “you’re beautiful.” When she remembers to say please and thank you, and Bismillahand Alhamdulillah, I tell her “you’re beautiful.”

I want her to feel and know on every level – consciously and subconsciously – that true beauty lies in our actions, not in our appearances.

And it’s worth noting that the opposite of this definition of “beautiful” is never “ugly.” When she does something wrong, I will tell her so, but never insult her with that word.

I say these simple words to her to create positive and realistic associations with the word “beauty” in her mind. When her actions and character are good, she knows that she is beautiful, regardless of what her physical appearance is.

I hope that when she’s older and she hears someone being called “beautiful,” she’ll automatically ask herself, in her heart of hearts, “what kind and beautiful actions did that person do in order to be called beautiful?”

Physical beauty dissipates over time. And depending on the era you live in, physical beauty has many different standards and definitions. But the beauty standards of character don’t change. The beauty of good character is the kind of beauty we want – that is the kind of beauty we absolutely need.

May Allah (swt) allow us to understand what true beauty is and strive to be grateful to Him for His innumerable blessings on us.

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