Attitude towards Beauty
because wealth, splendour and beauty are characteristics of the garden, the imitations of them in this world remind people of the garden. that increases a believer's eagerness and desire to attain it, but the disbelievers settle for it in this life and show no interest in the afterlife.
everything—endlessly flowing rivers, places of great scenic beauty, gardens of dazzling colours, human beauty, aesthetic compositions and amazing works of art—are all blessings and a grace from allah to humanity. in every one of these blessings in this earthly life there is a hint of the creation of allah. a believer will regard all beauty in this world as the reflection of an original, and as a model and announcement of good news:
give the good news to those who believe and do right actions that they will have gardens with rivers flowing under them. when they are given fruit there as provision, they will say, "this is what we were given before." but they were only given a simulation of it. they will have there spouses of perfect purity and will remain there timelessly, for ever. (surat al-baqara: 25)
however much the blessings in the afterlife resemble those in the world, they are superior to earthly blessings in their reality and in being eternal. allah has created a perfect garden endowed with numerous blessings. a person with the values taught by the qur'an will ponder the creation and excellence of the garden in everything he sees. when he looks at the sky, he will think of "a garden as wide as the heavens and the earth" (surah al 'imran: 133); when he sees beautiful houses, he will think of "lofty chambers in the garden, with rivers flowing under them" , (surat al-'ankabut: 58); when he sees dazzling jewels, he will think of the adornments of garden "gold bracelets and pearls" (surah fatir: 33); when he sees stylish and attractive clothing, he will think of the clothing of the garden made of "the finest silk and rich brocade" (surat al-kahf: 31); when he tastes delicious food and drink, he will think of the "rivers of water which will never spoil and rivers of milk whose taste will never change and rivers of wine, delightful to all who drink it, and rivers of honey of undiluted purity" (surah muhammad: 15) in the garden; when he sees attractive gardens, he will think of the garden "of deep viridian green" (surat ar-rahman: 64); when he sees attractive furniture, he will think of the "sumptuous woven couches" (surat al-waqi'a:15) in the garden.
the reason for this way of thinking is that all the beautiful things in the world are for a person of faith the source of great pleasure and occasion for gratitude, whether he possesses any of them of not. at the same time, they are an important source of pleasure that will increase his longing for the garden and his efforts to attain it.
a believer who lives according to the teachings of the qur'an will not be jealous or angry when he sees someone who is richer or more attractive than him. for instance, unlike many people he will not regret that he does not have a beautiful house because one of the basic aims in a believer's life is to attain not transient but eternal beauty; his real homeland is the garden. allah draws our attention to this in the qur'an:
their lord gives them the good news of his mercy and good pleasure and gardens where they will enjoy everlasting delight. ( surat at-tawba: 21)
those who avoid the teachings of the qur'an ignore the fact that their real homeland is the garden and so they are passionately attached to the ephemeral pleasures of this world. their basic goals are: to be well spoken of, to be respectable and important in their own right, to increase their material means and to live a good life. throughout their lives they are constantly running after transient, unimportant and deceptive worldly values. to see good things they do not possess only increases their jealousy, greed and sadness. for example, they take no pleasure in being in a beautiful house that does not belong to them. their minds are occupied with questions such as these: "why am i not this rich?" and "why don't i have a beautiful house like this?" for these people, the beautiful things in this world are usually a source of irritation because in order to take any pleasure from beautiful things, they think they have to own them.
however, those who live according to the teachings of the qur'an know how to appreciate beautiful things whether they own them or not. for example, a person who has an awareness of his faith may, as a part of his test from allah in this world, not be living in wealthy neighbourhoods, perhaps not even having seen one. but he realises that there is a definite reason for his situation. a believer knows that he does not have to go to such places to see the beauties of allah's creation. with his special perception and understanding, a believer will notice the incomparable beauties of allah's in every place and at every moment. the splendour of the stars at night and the incomparable beauty, colour and design of a rose are two examples that everyone can see and appreciate every day.
as we stated earlier, the longing that believers feel for the garden causes them to change their surroundings into places that remind them of the garden. certainly, the garden is a place that is a work of art greater than anyone can imagine, with perfect sights and beauties that no one on earth could conceive. but a muslim who lives according to the teachings of the qur'an will use all the means at his disposal to beautify his surroundings. we learn from the qur'an that sulayman's courtyard was paved with glass (surat an-naml:44) and his house was decorated with high arches and statues, huge dishes like cisterns and great built-in cooking vats. (surah saba':13) in the qur'an, allah also says that the family of ibrahim (as) were given an immense kingdom (surat an-nisa':54).
with the high position, and sometimes great possessions and power that they had been given, allah's messengers used all their blessings as allah directed and according to his will. for this reason, they are praised in the qur'an. believers take all prophets as examples and take care—as the awliya (closer friends of allah) also do—to use every blessing that comes to them to please allah.