Islamic Perspective on Beauty Standards:
The hijab is a religious commandment from Allah (SWT) who has instructed women to dress and behave modestly and not to flaunt their beauty to unrelated men. However, it can take on a personal meaning and represent different things to different women. I personally choose to dress and behave modestly for two main reasons.
- As a symbol of faith and devotion to the commandments of Allah (swt).
- The hijab is also a protective shield that acts as a resistance against societal pressures to conform to unrealistic feminine ideals.
The Islamic standard of beautification states that practicing good hygiene and dressing in nice/clean clothes is a requirement that needs to be fulfilled as part of one’s faith. There’s no unnecessary pressure placed upon women to alter their natural physical appearance just to gain the attention and approval of men. This is precisely why for some women the hijab is a symbol of empowerment and resistance against societal pressures. However, this concept of covering your body to protect yourself from unwanted attention goes against the beauty ideals the western world celebrates which is the objectification and hyper-sexualization of the female body. The west tries to convince women that exposing their bodies leads to true liberation but of course, most Muslim women aren’t buying into this ideology.
Although generally speaking, women have the freedom to dress however they like, whether that’s revealing or covering their bodies, it’s undeniable that society by large judges women for their sexual attractiveness and profits from their insecurities. The female body is used in almost every sector of business to sell practically anything. I’m a firm believer that the hijab protects Muslim women from this level of objectification. Islam advocates that women are so much more than their bodies and deserve to be respected for their character and intelligence. Understanding the true wisdom behind the hijab has helped me overcome my own body image issues.
My struggles with body image issues:
Having arrived in Australia at the tender age of 10, I grew up internalizing media messages about beauty standards. By the time I was 12/13 years old, an image of the ideal female body was imprinted in my brain which made me begin to dislike my own body at a time when I hadn’t even fully developed yet. I spent the rest of my teenage years constantly comparing myself to my peers and feeling like my natural features weren’t conventionally attractive. This really affected my overall confidence for a long time and I genuinely believed that no man will ever love me or find me attractive until I change everything I was insecure about. Keep in mind, none of us are born with insecurities, it’s something that’s planted in us through social comparison. By the time I was 18, I began wearing makeup on a regular basis to conceal my imperfections and this gave me a false sense of confidence. However, I became reliant on make-up to feel beautiful, and soon enough that confidence faded.
For the longest time, I also struggled with wearing the hijab as it’s meant to be worn and this is something I’m constantly trying to improve on. Covering my hair is the easiest part, I’ve done it basically my whole life; It’s become a permanent part of my daily routine. The hardest part has always been dressing the rest of my body modestly and this to me means not wearing tight clothes that accentuate my figure. I think when you’re young, you’re likely to obsess over wanting to feel beautiful whether that’s through wearing makeup or dressing in a certain way. I really struggled to find a balance between the two even though I was aware this didn’t align with my Islamic values.
The light at the end of the tunnel:
Now that I’m older, I’ve overcome succumbing to societal pressures on beauty standards. I know that my priority should always lie with pleasing Allah (SWT) and not his creation. Beauty ideals change regularly so I had to learn to be comfortable in my own skin, without all the superficial stuff. True confidence is developed from within and although my body image and confidence may fluctuate in the future, my values will always keep me grounded. In the future, as I age, I know my body will continue to change and I want to always be able to hold myself up in high esteem. Also, one day, if I have children of my own, I want to be a good role model for them and this is something that keeps me motivated.
Allah (SWT) says in the Quran that “We have certainly created man in the best of stature”. With this ayat alone, I felt a huge weight lift off my mind because of the sudden realization that I can love and accept my body just the way it is. This ayat is also a reminder to all of us that we were created by the same God that created the heavens, the earth, and everything in between and he does not make mistakes. I’m finally able to look at my reflection in the mirror with fresh eyes and appreciate my body and natural beauty. Also, from a spiritual point of view, my body is just a temporary vessel for my soul, and one day when I’m buried 6 feet under, all I’ll have with me is my soul and my deeds. Instead of succumbing to the pressure and in the process damaging my mental health, I decided to focus on nurturing and purifying my soul. While you’re still alive, be grateful for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon you in this lifetime.
Thank you for reading, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be sure to get back to you.
Until then, take care of yourselves and stay safe.