According to a narration, God is a beauty and loves beauty. In this article, we will briefly discuss the instances of beauty in the Quran and see what God considers beautiful. This includes both material and spiritual beauty.
The article covers the following topics:
The Meaning of Beauty in the Quran
How linguists define the word beauty is different. In English, when we say something is beautiful, we mostly mean physical beauty such as a beautiful face, beautiful house, beautiful car, beautiful handicraft, and so forth. On the other hand, in the Quran, in addition to meaning physical beauty, the word jamīl (جَميل) or beauty mostly refers to abstract and spiritual concepts. For example, the Quran talks about “beautiful patience,” “beautiful forgiveness,” and so on. This goes in line with the English saying, “Beauty is only skin deep.” It is hoped that this introduction clarifies how the Quran uses certain adjectives such as beauty in a way that is different from other languages.
Jacob’s Patience as an Instance of Beauty in the Quran
وَجَاءُوا عَلَىٰ قَمِيصِهِ بِدَمٍ كَذِبٍ ۚ قَالَ بَلْ سَوَّلَتْ لَكُمْ أَنفُسُكُمْ أَمْرًا ۖ فَصَبْرٌ جَمِيلٌ ۖ وَاللَّـهُ الْمُسْتَعَانُ عَلَىٰ مَا تَصِفُونَ ﴿18﴾
And they brought his shirt with false blood upon it. He said: Nay, your souls have made the matter light for you, but patience is beautiful and Allah is He Whose help is sought for against what you describe 1
This verse is talking about the events that took place concerning Prophet Yusuf (یوسف) or Joseph and Prophet Yaqub (یعقوب) or Jacob (peace be on them). When Prophet Joseph’s brothers had thrown him in the well and came back to their father, they told him that a wolf had eaten Joseph and brought his shirt smeared with the blood of an animal. Jacob replied to them, “Patience is beautiful,” meaning he would exercise great patience.
Jacob wanted to say that he would choose to be patient in face of this separation and calamity. Although he grieved the separation from his most beloved son and his heart was in pain, he did not say anything to show ungratefulness to God or hopelessness and despair.
Therefore, his patience was a beautiful one, accompanied by thankfulness. 2
How Is Patience an Instance of Beauty in the Quran?
Patience in the face of difficult events and circumstances is a sign of the greatness of one’s personality and soul; a soul so expansive that it swallows all great happenings within itself, so to speak, and does not tremble or waver.
Sometimes a person is apparently patient but destroys this patience through words that show his ungratefulness and lack of patience. However, people of strong faith and will are those whose patience does not run out in such circumstances and do not utter words that express ingratitude, disbelief, impatience, and resentment. Their patience is “beautiful patience”. 3
Does Crying and Expressing Emotions Contradict Patience?
In other verses of this chapter, we read that Prophet Jacob cried so much at the separation from his son that he lost his eyesight. Is this not contradictory to the beautiful patience being discussed?
The hearts of Godly men are centers of emotions and, therefore, it is not strange that they would cry at being separated from their children. It is, after all, an emotional matter and natural for one to cry. This is not a fault; what is a fault, however, is that they lose control and speak words or perform actions that go against God’s pleasure and satisfaction.
Forgiveness as an Instance of Beauty in the Quran
وَمَا خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ ۗ وَإِنَّ السَّاعَةَ لَآتِيَةٌ ۖ فَاصْفَحِ الصَّفْحَ الْجَمِيلَ ﴿85﴾
We did not create the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them except with consummate wisdom, and indeed the Hour is bound to come. So forbear with a beautiful forbearance. 6
The word ṣafḥ (صفح) in the verse literally means face. Faṣfaḥ al-ṣafḥ means to turn one’s face away – but not in rage; rather, it is to do so in pardon and forbearance. 7 However, ṣafḥ is more eloquent and profound than pardon and this is why both the word for pardon, that is, ʿafw (عفو) and ṣafḥ have been mentioned together in the Quran, like in the following verse:
…فَاعْفُوا وَاصْفَحُوا حَتَّىٰ يَأْتِيَ اللَّـهُ بِأَمْرِهِ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ﴿109﴾
Yet excuse [them] and forbear until Allah issues His edict. Indeed Allah has power over all things. 8
Sometimes a person can forgive but not exercise ṣafḥ. The extra meaning in ṣafḥ is to show a good face to the other person not just simply forgiveness and pardon.
In a narration, Ali b. Abi Talib (peace be on him) explains that safḥun jamīl (صفحٌ جمیل) or beautiful pardon refers to pardon without blame. 9
A Goodly Parting [of One’s Spouse] as an Instance of Beauty in the Quran
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُل لِّأَزْوَاجِكَ إِن كُنتُنَّ تُرِدْنَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا وَزِينَتَهَا فَتَعَالَيْنَ أُمَتِّعْكُنَّ وَأُسَرِّحْكُنَّ سَرَاحًا جَمِيلًا ﴿28﴾
O Prophet! Say to your wives: If you desire this world’s life and its adornment, then come, I will give you a provision and allow you to depart a goodly departing. 10
The verse explains that for one to be the wife of the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household), one’s main purpose must either be the world and its adornments or God, the Holy Prophet, and the Hereafter. Does this mean that the wives of the Prophet must always remain in poverty? No, the question rather is whether the main goal is God or the world?
However, if the wives are unwilling to make God and the Prophet their main goal and purpose, the Prophet tells them that he will provide them with some provisions so that they may live comfortably after divorce and will release them with “a goodly departing”.
Beauty in the Quran: What Does Goodly Parting Mean?
This last part of the verse, that is, sarāhan jamīlā (سراحاً جمیلاً) means to divorce without hostility and dispute. In fact, this is what a goodly or beautiful departing refers to. 11
The same term has also been used when believers divorce their wives before the marriage has been consummated, in which case women do not need to observe a period of waiting or ʿiddah (عدة) and, therefore, do need to stay in their husband’s house. Their release is also referred to as “goodly parting”.
A Becoming Avoidance as an Instance of Beauty in the Quran
وَاصْبِرْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَقُولُونَ وَاهْجُرْهُمْ هَجْرًا جَمِيلً ﴿10﴾
And bear patiently what they say and avoid them with a becoming avoidance. 12
This verse and the verse after are in conjunction with the verse that comes before them. In that verse, the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household) is asked to entrust God with control and authority over his affairs.
The requisite of this is to be patient in encountering the words of others, their persecution through those words, and their insults like calling him a magician, crazy, poet, and calling the Quran he brought to be ancient myths. It also requires the Prophet to break off relations and renounce them with goodness. 13
What Does Becoming Avoidance Mean?
Taking into considering the context of the verse, the words hajran jamīlā (هجراً جمیلاً) at the end of the verse mean to deal with the disbelievers and polytheists who were troubling the Prophet with good conduct. And to invite them towards God with benevolence and not to use the same language they used with him against them. 14
One of the words in the Quran that is related to beauty is the word zīnah (زینة) which means adornment. Some of the verses in this regard will be discussed below.
Adornment for Going to the Mosque as an Instance of Beauty in the Quran
يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُوا زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَكُلُوا وَاشْرَبُوا وَلَا تُسْرِفُوا ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُسْرِفِينَ ﴿31﴾
O Children of Adam! Put on your adornment on every occasion of prayer, and eat and drink, but do not waste; indeed, He does not like the wasteful. 15
According to commentators, ‘put on your adornment on every occasion of prayer’ could refer to both of the following:
- Physical adornment: dressing neatly in ritually pure and clean clothes, combing one’s hair, using perfume, and so on.
- Spiritual adornment: cultivating human attributes, good moral habits, pure intention and sincerity in oneself, and so on. 16
Beauty in the Quran: Adornment of the Earth
إِنَّا جَعَلْنَا مَا عَلَى الْأَرْضِ زِينَةً لَّهَا لِنَبْلُوَهُمْ أَيُّهُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ﴿7﴾
Indeed We have made whatever is on the earth an adornment for it that We may test them [to see] which of them is best in conduct. 17
God has adorned the world with that which is in it so that people can be tested and the good-doers can be recognized. After the testing is over, the adornments will be taken from the world and it will return to their initial state.
If the world had stayed in its initial state, human beings would have no desire for it and would not be tested. However, God’s purpose in adorning the world is the people of good conduct. Those who emerge from the test as evildoers are not God’s independent will and goal.
Since human beings are created free, the result can be nothing but that some would choose to be good-doers and some evildoers. 18
Beauty in the Quran: Satan Adorns Evil Actions
قَالَ رَبِّ بِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لَأُزَيِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَأُغْوِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ ﴿39﴾
He said, ‘My Lord! As You have consigned me to perversity, I will surely glamorize [evil] for them on the earth, and I will surely pervert them all. 19
Due to Satan’s own arrogance, he has been deprived of God’s mercy and of felicity and prosperity. This deprivation is due to the requisite and permanence of God’s damnation of him. Therefore, whenever he infiltrates a heart through his whisperings and temptations and becomes close to it, this closeness results in that heart becoming distanced from God and His mercy.
How does he misguide a person? According to this verse, he adorns, glamorizes, or beautifies falsehood or sins—according to some—in the eyes of a person. As a result, he deceives a person and tries to compel him to perform false and evil actions. 20
Wealth and Children as Adornments and Instances of Beauty in the Quran
الْمَالُ وَالْبَنُونَ زِينَةُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَالْبَاقِيَاتُ الصَّالِحَاتُ خَيْرٌ عِندَ رَبِّكَ ثَوَابًا وَخَيْرٌ أَمَلً ﴿46﴾
Wealth and children are an adornment of the life of the world, but lasting righteous deeds are better with your Lord in reward and better in hope. 21
Even though wealth and children are very beloved to a person, they are the adornments of material and worldly life and will not remain for human beings forever.
The important thing that one must keep in mind regarding them is that they must not distract us or make us neglect the remembrance of God and the Hereafter. 22
The words bāqiyāt al-ṣāleḥāt (باقیات الصالحات) or the enduring good refer to obedience and every good deed since their reward is eternal. Such actions are better for human beings in terms of rewards and attachment than children, wealth, and other adornments and luxuries of the world because a part of their attachments is imaginary and false. However, the attachments and hope of the Hereafter are real because anyone who acts in the hopes and desire for rewards will attain that which he hopes for. 23
Women and Adornments
وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَاتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَارِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا ۖ…
And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof… 24
The verse is talking about the hijab that women must observe. The beauty and adornments of the women that it talks about refer to the place of adornment because showing the adornments like earrings, bracelets, etc. is not prohibited, and therefore, it refers to the part of the body where these adornments would be worn. 25
Some other commentators take to mean the adornments themselves, however, when they are on the body and of course, to show such adornments would also be to show the parts of the body they are on. As a result, women are not allowed to show adornments that are usually hidden even if their body is not exposed. For example, they are not allowed to show special adorned garments that are usually worn under the hijab or covering or normal clothes. 26
Adorning Faith for the Believers
وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ فِيكُمْ رَسُولَ اللَّـهِ ۚ لَوْ يُطِيعُكُمْ فِي كَثِيرٍ مِّنَ الْأَمْرِ لَعَنِتُّمْ وَلَـٰكِنَّ اللَّـهَ حَبَّبَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَزَيَّنَهُ فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ وَكَرَّهَ إِلَيْكُمُ الْكُفْرَ وَالْفُسُوقَ وَالْعِصْيَانَ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الرَّاشِدُونَ ﴿ ﴿7﴾
Know that the Apostle of Allah is among you. Should he comply with you in many matters, you would surely suffer. But Allah has endeared faith to you and made it appealing in your hearts, and He has made hateful to you faithlessness, transgression and disobedience. It is such who are the right-minded— 27
In verse six of surah al-Hujurat, the Quran discusses how we should deal with the news that a corrupt person (فاسق) brings and our responsibility when faced with such a thing.
This verse is reminding and guiding us to the fact that the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household) is amongst us and to look to him for guidance, listen to his call, and turn away from the call of the corrupt person.
If God is asking us to listen to the Prophet’s call and turn away from the call of the corrupt person, He has placed an inclination and hatred within us. This invitation of the Prophet is in accordance with our innate nature or fiṭrah (فطرة). Our innate nature is monotheistic. There is love for God in it, love for the chosen servants of God, and love for faith. And there is hatred for disbelief and sinning and corruption and hatred for the leaders of the transgressors who are the flag bearers who establish this disbelief, sinning, and corruption in the world.
We must value this capital and strive every day to flourish it so that we can accompany the Holy Prophet. 28
Beauty is associated with anything good. In the verses of the Quran, some verses talk particularly about the word beauty and others talk about adornment which is very closely related to it.
However, many more verses talk about goodness and all those would also be considered beauty. However, this article does not have the capacity to discuss them and therefore, only the instances of beauty and adornment have been discussed. Nevertheless, everything that the Quran contains is beautiful because it is the word of God. So, let us reap the most benefit by reciting and understanding it.
- [12: 18]. Shakir (mostly; with the exception of one word changed by the author in translation)
- Tafsir Namuna. Vol. 9, p. 345
- Ibid. p. 351
- Ibid. p. 352
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah Yusuf. Verse 18
- [15: 85]. Qarai (mostly; with the exception of one word changed by the author in translation)
- Tafsir Nur. Commentary of Surah al-Hijr. Verse 85
- [2: 109]. Qarai
- Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 12, pp. 280 & 290
- [33: 28]. Shakir
- Qarashi, A. A. Tafsir Ahsan al-Hadith, 3rd ed. Beʿthat Foundation. Vol. 8, pp. 350-1
- [73: 10]. Shakir
- Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan. Vol. 20, p. 103
- Ibid. pp. 103-4
- [7: 31]. Qarai
- Tafsir Namuna. Vol. 6, p. 148
- [18: 7]. Qarai
- Qarashi, A. A. Tafsir Ahsan al-Hadith. Bethat Foundation. Vol. 6, pp. 176-7
- [15: 39]. Qarai
- Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan [20 vols.]. Vol. 12, pp. 238 & 242
- [18: 46]. Qarai
- Qarashi, A. A. Tafsir Ahsan al-Hadith. Bethat Foundation. Vol. 6, p. 223
- Translation of Tafsir Majmaʿ al-Bayan [27 vols.]. Vol. 15, p. 73
- [24: 31]. Yusufali
- Translation of Tafsir al-Mizan [20 vols.]. Vol 15, p. 156.
- Tafsir Namuna. Vol. 14, p. 439
- [49: 7]. Qarai
- Commentary of surah al-Hujurat by. M. M. Mirbaqeri. Delivered as a series of lectures