The Truth About Beauty Contests
“On the Perils of Being Pretty, and the Hardships of Being Handsome….”
By Michelle Yeung
There’s a world wide contest going on right now, involving beautiful people. It’s the original “beauty contest” and it’s taking place internally, within people, right this very second. It could be taking place within you. This contest is between that part of you that is a slave to your own external image, and that part of you that strives for higher aims, and is struggling to break free from lower ones.
Beauty is a blessing, but like all blessings it comes with its responsibilities to The Bestower, Allah. Here are some common pitfalls associated with beauty:
Probably the most obvious potential pitfall of beauty, is for it to lead to arrogance. Beautiful people are often regarded in many societies as being superior in some way, as though they did some act, independent of any higher being, which made them necessarily deserving of their beauty. Although Muslims know that this idea is false, it is still possible for them to fall into this trap, and this arrogance can begin to shape their thoughts, inclinations, character, and actions.
Arrogance can lead one to unfairly judge others, on things like their appearance, including weight and even skin colour.
The dangers of arrogance are well known and it is a subject that is often mentioned in Islamic tradition.
Becoming a person of this world
Attaching oneself to one’s own beauty can happen if a person perceives that they can gain some worldly “good” due to it. If one becomes attached, they are also likely to exist in a state of always trying to maintain or improve this appearance because they value it so much. Whilst there is nothing wrong with making an effort with one’s appearance, this is done for the sake of Allah, rather than being an end in itself. If one finds that they are preoccupied with asking Allah to improve their appearance, and taking all kinds of measures to do so, then this may be a sign of worldliness.
If we are attached to that which disadvantages us from our pursuit of the next life, then this is something that we must seriously address.
Dissatisfaction with Allah’s decree
If one revolves their identity and their self worth around their looks, then what happens when they get older and feel that they are losing their looks, or when presented with a more person that they consider to be more beautiful? Their self worth plummets and their identity becomes fuzzy. This leads to the person becoming dissatisfied with themselves and with Allah’s decree. They may begin to resent the fact that there are people they consider to be more beautiful than they are, and question why they were given the appearance that Allah gave them.
- Stop making du’a for Allah to make you taller / whiter / shorter / more tanned / generally look completely different. Instead, try making du’a to Allah to enable you to stop being preoccupied with such things that you cannot do too much to change, and instead to enable you to occupy yourself with those things that He has commanded of you.
- Don’t fish for compliments, such as “I’m so overweight I look terrible in everything, don’t I?” (in private with one’s spouse, maybe this is acceptable. On Facebook to 1,500 “friends”, I generally would not consider it to be advisable)
- Sisters try having some makeup free days if you wear it regularly and let all of your friends see you without makeup at least once in a while.
- Surround yourself with people who are not preoccupied by worldly matters.
- Be cautious about the media that you allow yourself to be engaged by.
How you can help others
- Be moderate in your compliments. For example, if your friend posts the thirtieth photo of themself that week on Facebook, don’t feel that you have to comment on how pretty / cute they look, for the thirtieth time, even when they don’t. This probably won’t help your friend in the long run if they have problems with arrogance or a lack of self-esteem.
- Be a constant reminder of Allah and the afterlife for them, and don’t engage in worthless talk with them.
- Encourage them towards modesty at all times, including in their dress.