Updated: 3 days ago
Beauty is a quality of excellence, and this is why we seek beauty. We seek out those things that are better than other things, a simple truth. Our Lord is beautiful, He loves beauty, and as He loves beauty so should we.
Allah, the Glorious, has said,
الَّذِيْۤ اَحْسَنَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقَهٗ وَبَدَاَ خَلْقَ الْاِنْسَانِ مِنْ طِيْنٍ
"He is the One Who beautified everything that He created, and He began the creation of humanity from clay."
[as-Sajdah (32): Verse 7]
And in Prophetic Tradition,
“Verily, Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. He loves the loftiest of affairs and disapproves of pettiness.”
[al-Mu’jam al-Awsaṭ 6906 from the Ḥadīth of Jābir and authenticated by al-Albānī.]
Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Whilst there will always be individual preference. It is intriguing to examine the cycle of cultural trends throughout the ages.
Individual life experience can often lead one to finding a person more attractive than another. This holding true, there still remains overall features such as height, muscular build, and overall shape and symmetry that may be encoded into our genes when it comes to preference of physical traits.
Even still, we, as a species, have a tendency to follow the masses, and as such, environment and culture often have impact upon what one finds attractive. Interestingly, both culture and environment evolve or devolve with time, and we find physical trait preference, in areas, also shifting with culture and environment.
In alignment with the aforementioned, our Prophet ﷺ urges us to look for attraction in those we marry,
“A woman is married for four reasons, her wealth, her societal standing, her beauty, and her religious devotion. Seek the one who is religiously-devoted, may your hands be covered with dust.”
[al-Bukhārī (4802) and Muslim (1466) from the Ḥadīth of Abū Hurayrah.]
The meaning here is not that one must choose one quality over the other but the more of these four qualities a person possesses the more suitable the person may be for marriage, as long as religiosity is one of those qualities.
"'If one of you proposes to marry a woman, if he can look at her to see that which will encourage him to marry her, then let him do so.' 'I proposed to a young woman for marriage, and I used to hide where I could see her, until I saw that which gave me vigor to marry her, so I did so.’”
[Abū Dāwūd (1832, 1834) from the Ḥadīth of Jābir and authenticated by al-Albānī.]
“I proposed to marry a woman, and the Messenger of Allāh ﷺ said, ‘Have you seen her?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Look at her, because it is more befitting that love and compatibility be established between you.’”
According to another report, “So he did that, and he married her, and mentioned that they were compatible.”
[ad-Dāruquṭnī, (3/252 (31, 32)), Ibn Mājah, (1/574) from the Ḥadīth of al-Mughīrah ibn Shu'bah]
Below is an expression of early scholarship in the cultural trends of attraction throughout both the classical and medieval periods.
Imām as-Suyūtī [d. 911H] wrote a book 500 years ago entitled,
"اليواقيت الثمينة في صفات السمينة"
"Precious Pearls [Praising] the Characteristics of Thick Women."
The entire work is in praise of thick women.
When Imām Aḥmad Ibn Ḥanbal [d. 241H] sent someone to purchase a concubine for him, he said,
"قَالَ يَعْقُوبُ بْنُ بُخْتَانَ : أَمَرَنَا أَبُو عَبْدِ اللَّهِ (أحمد بن حنبل) أَنْ نَشْتَرِيَ لَهُ جَارِيَةً ، فَمَضَيْتُ أَنَا وَفُورَانُ ، فَتَبِعَنِي أبوعبدِ اللَّهِ ، وَقَالَ : يَا أَبَا يُوسُفَ ، يَكُونُ لَهَا لَحْمٌ ."
“Make sure she’s got some meat on her.”
[Siyar A'lām an-Nubalā, 10/333].
Others said, "Bones are for dogs, meat is for men."
In those times, they used to say,
"لا شيء أزين على المرأة من الشحم."
"Nothing is more beautiful on a woman than thickness."
An Arab Wiseman once used Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation, saying, "More massive objects will attract each other with a greater gravitational pull."
In Africa and the Middle East, thick women were more attractive; yet they did not like it when men were heavy set, even though many great scholars were on the heavier side.
Imām ash-Shāfi'ī [d. 204H] said,
"ما أفلح سمين قط إلا أن يكون محمد بن الحسن."
"No fat man has ever been successful except Muḥammad Ibn Ḥasan ash-Shaybānī." [d. 189H]
[Siyar A'lām al-Nubalā 10/84].
Imām ash-Shaybānī [d. 189H] was a primiere student of Imām Abū Hanīfah [d. 150H], and he was considerably fat.
Notably, in other lands, if a person was fat, the elders used to consider them healthy. If someone was skinny, they used to consider them undernourished.
In many African cultures, men with big bellies are still considered attractive to today. The understanding is a man who is heavier can afford excess food, and because of this, being heavy set is a sign of wealth, luxury, and a lifestyle of comfort in African cultures.
Kenneth "Aqil" Ingram II
Jumādā I 15, 1443 A.H.
December 19, 2021 A.D.
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