You're Beautiful...but it doesn't Matter
A Letter to my daughter:
You are beautiful. I knew it from the moment I laid eyes on you in the hospital after a difficult labour and delivery – you were beautiful to me then, even as your wrinkly and strange newborn features contorted and your pained cries of hunger pierced the air. You have been beautiful in my eyes even since before you were born. You were beautiful through the kicks, punches and acrobatics you inflicted upon me, particularly when I attempted to sleep. You gave me indigestion, but you made my life more beautiful.
You were known to God, and your beauty was known to Him before I ever knew you existed.
Sadly, there are forces seemingly greater than you and I that will attempt to decide your worth based solely on your physical appearance. They will tell you that you aren’t beautiful enough for their standards. They will tell you that your skin is too dark, your hair too curly, your lips too thin or too plump, your body too fat or too slim. They’ll tell you your eyebrows are too thick, that your feet will only look good in heels, that the wrinkles that will eventually form on your face are some kind of barrier between you and happiness.
They will try to convince you that you are ugly. They will try to convince you that you are unhappy and you hate things about yourself. They’ll try to convince you that you must purchase things in order to combat those difficult perceptions of yourself.
Then they will entice you with fragrances and clothes and make-up that will purportedly make you smell, look and feel less ugly. They will insist that you are laced with imperfections that only a certain product can fix.
I promise you that you are beautiful. I promise you that your nose is the exact right shape for your face, and that the curls in your hair and the caramel of your skin are what suit you best.
You are beautiful. You don’t need to believe me, but you need to believe your Creator:
By the Fig and the Olive,
And the Mount of Sinai,
And this City of security,-
We have indeed created man in the best of molds
Allah (swt) swears by the fig and the olive, and by the mount of Sinai, and by the blessed city of Makkah that you are perfect. I’ve eaten ripe figs and olives, and I’ve climbed Mt. Sinai, and I hope that one day soon I will be blessed to visit the sacred house in Makkah. These are not minor things to swear by. These are serious creations for us to ponder over.
Figs and olives are two of the most strangely delicious things that grow on trees. They are the source of livelihood for many and the trees on which they grow originate from lands where many prophets came from. In some commentaries of the Quran, they say that these lands are Syria and Palestine.
Mt. Sinai and the surrounding mountain ranges are frighteningly vast, rocky and seemingly desolate. When you stand on the peak of the mountain and survey the landscape, there is nothing around except more rocky mountains as far as the eye can see. It is in this area that a part of the story of Musa (as) and the Children of Israel takes place, after having escaped the grips of Pharaoh. A group of them were lost in those mountains for 40 years because of their disobedience of God’s orders.
And the city of Makkah is where so much of our history began, and where it continues today. Where the sacred house was built by Ibrahim and his son (as), where the prophet Muhammad (saw) smashed the idols and re-established the worship of the One True God. It’s where we go at least once in our lives to reaffirm and reconnect with the worship of Allah, and walk in the footsteps of the final messenger.
He, The AlMighty, The One who created you, fashioned you, breathed life into you and your parents, and every one of your forefathers until the first humans, Adam and Hawaa…He swears by all of these amazing creations, then says that YOU are physically perfect, created in the exact shape that was meant for you.
Now do you understand how pivotal it is for you to know that you have been created perfectly?
The prophet Muhammad (saw) also taught us, upon looking at our reflection in the mirror, to say “O Allah, just as You have made my external features beautiful, make my character beautiful as well.”
This dua presupposes that you are beautiful. The Prophet (saw) didn’t ask only those who considered themselves beautiful to utter these words. These words are suited for every single person, because regardless of what your physical features entail, there is beauty in them.
So now that you know you are beautiful, you should also know that in the way you live your life, your beauty doesn’t actually matter…
We have indeed created man in the best of molds
Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low,-
Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: For they shall have a reward unfailing.
The beauty of your mind and heart – that which leads you to worship God alone, with no partners and intermediaries, and that which makes you strive to be better and do better every single day that you are alive – is the only beauty that matters. The desire to attain the pleasure of God through closeness to the example of the prophet (saw) is what will help you enter into paradise with a reward that has no end.
You will still be physically beautiful if you are a terrible person in all respects, even if you reject God. But your beauty will only be skin-deep, and it will be short-lived. The ugliness of your heart will soon overshadow the beauty that fades.
What you wear doesn’t matter. Brands don’t matter. The things you own, if used selfishly, proudly and without care or consideration for others will only cause you to be regretful on the Last Day. All that is in your hands will perish, except what you have spent from it in the cause of Allah.
You can certainly love white or black, pink or blue, green or purple. The Prophet (saw), too, had a favourite colour. You can dress according to your preferences and culture, within the limits of modesty. That’s normal and natural. To deny our desire to clothe ourselves well and to look good is to deny a part of our humanness.
So dress modestly and neatly. Make sure your body is clean and that you care for the cleanliness of your surroundings. Brush your teeth. Brush your hair. Keep your body healthy. These things are a trust given to you by God to take care of. And that’s the complete and holistic way of the Prophet Muhammad (saw).
Outer cleanliness, neatness, modesty and health are actually tools we should use to enhance our worship. The external needs to be taken care of, but do not be fixated on it.
In fact, you can wear clothes that are considered to be out of style, I don’t care. You do not owe anyone a wardrobe of shoes that perfectly match every outfit. You do not owe anyone a wardrobe that is continuously updated with what’s in style. You definitely do not have to keep up with the potentially detrimental “hijab trends.”
You can wear the same thing several days in a row, as long as the clothes are clean. You’ll soon realize that this is just not what matters most.
You can go out with dark circles under your eyes without feeling like you must cover them up with concealer. If you are exhausted from working to make this world better and to build yourself a home in paradise – through the Mercy and Forgiveness of Allah – then wear those dark circles with happiness. They do not make you less beautiful. They make you absolutely stunning.
Your perfection is more a testament to the perfection of your creator than it is a testament to your ability or worth. Because you didn’t decide what gender you’d be or who your parents would be or what you’d look like. Allah (swt) decided all of that.
You are beautiful because God created you that way. So when you look in the mirror and you ponder over the unparalleled precision and exactness of your fingers and toes, the shape of your face, the arch of your eyebrows and the intricacies of each part of you, praise God that He created you in such perfection.
And then strive to have that perfection reflected within your heart and your character.
Most important of all, the knowledge that you are – beyond the shadow of a doubt – beautiful, will place in your hands something incredibly powerful: your time. In the absence of striving to attain a distorted and unattainable standard of physical beauty established by self-serving corporations, you will have time to strive for a better state for your soul, a better state for your family, and a better state for the world. You won’t be bogged down with trying to figure out what make-up routine best suits your features, what outfits match best, what brands are the most popular.
Instead you can spend that time reading, worshiping, learning, laughing, changing, teaching.
And how beautiful a life that would be.