_1_Beauty and Love in the Prophet’s Words and Actions
«the example of that with which allah
has sent me of guidance and knowledge
is like a rain that falls on the ground,
part of which is good, absorbing the
water and producing much pasture and
grassland. this is the example of one
who is knowledgeable in the religion
of allah and benefits from that with
which allah has sent me, so he learns
(al-bukhari and muslim)
he is a human being. this is an undisputed fact: “say, ‘i am only a human being like you’” (al-kahf 18: 110).
the likeness and correspondence between him and mankind in this, i.e. being human, emphasize two absolute facts, which are:
a. the genetic or biological nature of all human beings, with no exception, and
b. the fact of denying that human beings and all other creatures have any divine nature, for god is one and has no partner in divinity.
while being equally human emphasizes these two facts, it by no means diminishes the special, superior status of the last prophet and messenger, muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
while the differences between the status of divinity and that of prophet must be acknowledged and sustained, prophet muhammad must have all the veneration, reverence, and respect that are due to him:
“do not raise your voices above that of the prophet, and do not speak to him as loud as when you speak to each other, lest your actions would fail without your feeling it.those who speak with soft voices in the presence of god’s messenger are the ones whose hearts have been tested by god for piety. they will have forgiveness and a great reward” (al-hujuraat 49: 2-3).
despite the copious volumes written by various authors about the prophet, the clear and pure stream of his qualities and sublime manners continues to flow, in an abundant flux, revealing further noble, lofty, and superior traits with which believers quench their thirst for spiritual amelioration and from which every person with determination to become a better human being drinks.
let us then dip two scoops, which are beauty and love, out of his words and actions, blessings and peace be upon him.
the prophet was sent with abundant instructions and purposes. one of these is the purpose of beauty, in the sense that he had the task of teaching people about “beauty” and revive their sense and awareness of it. for god, praised be he, is beautiful, the quran is beautiful, and the universe is beautiful. being sent to teach people about this universal beauty, he, undoubtedly had the best share of it. he was characterized by:
i. the beauty of smiling. yes, smiling is a type of superior beauty. it is also a universal human language in the sense that if we see, on television for example, a korean, german, senegalese, or american, or a national of any other country, smiling, we understand that he is smiling, with all the elation, joy, and human affection suggested in the act of smiling. such a picture is a beautiful one, the opposite of a picture of depression, gloom, and frowning.
this is why one of the most important things that public relations trainees are told is to smile.
they are taught how to smile and how to keep smiling. linguists say that smiling, a prelude to laughter, is a facial expression of cheerfulness, in which one’s teeth are a sign of pleasure and joy.
smiling, therefore, is one form of beauty. the prophet was known to smile throughout the day and throughout his life. he smiled more than any other person. jareer ( one of the prophet,s companions) is quoted as saying, “god’s messenger never declined to see me since i embraced islam. he never saw me without smiling at me.” the prophet was not only characterized by the beauty of his smiling, he also promoted smiling and encouraged others to smile. he says, “your smiling at your brother is an act of charity.” he also says, “do not underrate any good action, even if it is just meeting your brother with a buoyant face,” i.e. a cheerful, smiling, reassuring face.
ii. the beauty of handsome appearance. the prophet used to wear the nicest clothes available to him. he groomed himself when preparing to meet delegations in a manner appropriate for him and for them; that is, he dressed what is compatible with the status and traditions of each delegation. he liked perfume. ‘aisha ( the prophet,s wife) says, “i used to apply to the prophet the best scent available.” he prohibited any person who had eaten onions or garlic to get inside the mosque. he endorsed beauty in general as one of the things loved by god. he says, “god is beautiful and loves beauty.”
iii. the beauty of gentleness in behavior, action, and speech. he, blessings and peace be upon him, says, “when gentleness gets into something, it can only adorn it, and when removed from something, it can only disfigure it.” thus, gentleness is an adornment, i.e. beautiful, while violence is an ugly, repulsive thing. the prophet carried all his affairs with gentleness, and, consequently, urged gentleness in all affairs, both public and private.
iv. the beauty of tenderness:
a. he used to shorten a prayer when he heard an infant crying, in consideration of a mother’s anxiety for her child.
b. once he stopped the advance of an army out of concern for a bird grieving for its babies, which were captured by some soldiers. the army resumed its advance only when the baby birds were returned to their mother.
c .he avoided direct, face-to-face reproach. he would rather say something like, “what about those people who feel too proud to do something which i myself do?”
d. he indulged children and joked with them. anas says, “the prophet was so friendly with us that he used to say to my little brother, “hey, abu ‘umair, what has the birdie done?” (a playful, rhyming question in arabic.)
e. he approved and encouraged recreation in his house. ‘aisha says, “i used to play with dolls at the prophet’s, and i had playmates who played with me. when god’s messenger came in, they felt shy, so he would let them pass on to me and play with me.”
f. he said, “let not any of you say, ‘i have a devilish impulse,’ but rather, ‘i have a strong inclination’ ….” ibn hajar, in al-fatth, quotes al-khattaabi as saying that “‘strong inclination’ and ‘devilish impulse’ are similar in meaning, but the prophet disliked the ‘devilish’ adjective and opted for the safer expression. it was his habit to substitute an unpleasant name with a refined one. this tradition implies that unpleasant vocabulary should be avoided.” the point here is that avoiding an expression like ‘i have a devilish impulse’ is an act of tenderness towards oneself.
g. the beauty of tenderness includes devising various ways to honor one’s wife. the prophet used to offer his knee for his wife safia to step on it when she wanted to mount a camel.
h. he preached god’s “tenderness” with his people. he says, “when god created his creatures, he wrote down in his book, which he has on the throne, ‘my mercy outweighs my anger.’”
many genuine and venerable words are used to a point where they are almost shunned or debased. such a word, which one fears may be abandoned or misused, is “love.” love, however, is actually a basic religious principle. it is the basis of great relationships that are most sublime and closest to perfection.
love is the origin of one’s relationship with god, for god loves people who repent and who purify themselves: “god loves those who turn to him in repentance, and he loves those who keep themselves pure” (al-baqarah ii: 222). he loves people who are patient, people who are charitable, people who put their trust in him and turn to him, and people who are fair-minded.
belief is a plant, adorned with love, sown by god in the believer’s heart: “but god has made belief appeal to you and adorned it in your hearts” (al-hujuraat xlix: 7).
hence, the prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, was an advocate of love in both his words and through his actions. he says:
i. “no one may taste the sweetness of belief until he, when he loves another person, loves him only for the sake of god; until being cast into the fire is more agreeable to him than relapsing into disbelief after god has rescued him from it; and until god and his messenger are loved by him more than anybody else.”
ii. “by him who has my soul at his disposal, you will not be admitted into paradise before you believe, and you will not truly believe before you love each other.”
iii. some one asked, “god’s messenger, who is the person you love the most.” he said, “‘aisha.” he was then asked, “and of men?” he said, “her father.”
iv. one of his prayers that expressed love and penitence is: “god, give me the gift of loving you and loving any creature whose love serves me well with you. god provide me with things i love to turn them into a force i use for what you love, and as for the things i love that you keep from me, let them be a free time for me spent in what you love.”
in this one tradition the word “love,” and one of its derivatives, are repeated seven times. this has a very clear significance: that love is the most important and greatest of all values and relationships.
v. on the relationship with locations that expresses gratefulness, the prophet says, “uhud is a mountain we love, and it loves us.”
let all the followers of muhammad, as well as all other people, renew their sense and their strong awareness of the beauty in religion and in the universe, and of love, which is the basic principle of all intimate, bright, sensible relationships. after all, without beauty and love, there is no true religious devotion and no sound life on earth. could either be realized through ugliness and hatred?