One of the main indicators of a society’s level of development and well-being is without doubt its level of art, beauty and quality. Islam attaches great importance to art. The exceedingly fine examples of Islamic art that have left many traces in such fields as architecture and literature are one of the clearest indicators of this.
Although the first things that come to mind when art is mentioned are branches such as painting and music, believers are not limited to these and apply art and beauty in all areas of their lives, to the very greatest extent possible. High quality manifests itself in the lives of believers when cleanliness, one of the most important characteristics of Qur’anic morality, is combined with art and beauty.
Beauty and Art in Clothing and External Appearance
Believers are people who strive to represent God’s faith at every moment and in all respects. They therefore pay great attention to external appearance.
Some people make the mistake of interpreting taking care of one’s clothes and external appearance as tending toward the life of this world or seeking the approval of other people. Yet through the quality, cleanliness and attention they take over their external appearance, as with their behavior, believers actually invite people to the beauty and nobility of Islamic moral values. Our Prophet (saas) also says in hadiths that there is no pride involved in dressing well:
"God is beautiful and loves beauty; dressing well is not pride, pride lies in rejecting the truth and in despising people." (Kütüb-i Sitte, [The Six Books] Translation and Commentary by Dr. Ibrahim Canan, vol. 7, Akçağ Press, Ankara, p. 208)
Our Prophet Muhammed (saas) always wore the best and most elegant clothes possible under all circumstances, and always recommended this to the Companions. Hazrat Hassan (pbuh), the grandson of the Prophet (saas), described the Messenger of God’s (saas) view regarding dress as follows:
"Our Prophet (saas) commanded us to wear the best clothes we had and to use the finest scents we could find." (Bukhari, at-Tarih al-Kabir, I, 382, no:1222)
Taking care over one’s clothing is an explicit command of God’s in the Qur’an. Surat al-Muddaththir says:
Purify your clothes. Shun all filth. (Surat al-Muddaththir, 4-5)
The faith requires that clothing be clean and well-maintained. Since our Prophet (saas) attached great importance to cleanliness, he also regarded maintaining the hair and beard, one’s external appearance, as very important. Some sources report that he used to carry combs, mirrors, a mishwak, toothpicks, scissors and kohl. (Ali al-Qari, Jam'ul-Wasail fi Sharh ash- Shamail, Istanbul, p. 96-97)
Art and Beauty in Living Quarters
Believers seek the maximum of God’s approval at all times. They strive with all their might to raise their moral values to those of paradise, of people beloved of God. They also try to keep their living quarters as close as possible to the descriptions of paradise. Believers make their homes attractive by keeping them clean and light and not overfilled with unnecessary objects. They try to choose harmonious accessories, to decorate their homes with flowers or pictures, and even if they cannot renew their household possessions, they at least move them around from time to time to give an impression of variety.
It is a grave error to imagine that there is no need to bother with home maintenance, or that it is a waste of time. The fact that the Qur’an discusses the beauty of the Prophet Solomon’s (pbuh) palace is a sign of the importance of the subject. The beauty of the palace and the effective nature of the message it conveyed to the queen of Sheba are described as follows in Surat al-Naml:
She was told: ‘Enter the courtyard,’ but when she saw it she supposed it to be a pool and bared her legs. He said, ‘It is a courtyard paved with glass.’ She said, ‘My Lord, I have wronged myself but I have submitted with Solomon to the Lord of all the worlds.’ (Surat an-Naml, 44)
The Atrophication in Societies Devoid of Art
Societies devoid of art and beauty, with lives deprived of quality, have great deficiencies. The members of such societies lack wide horizons and are always backward in all areas. Some examples of the atrophication caused by living without art are as follows:
They lose the ability to be considerate
Living devoid of art and beauty kills all the delicacy of the human soul. The lack of care such a person takes in his daily life and personal grooming can also be seen in his speech and behavior. The crude and inappropriate language that such people use toward their families, friends and even while shopping, etc. immediately attracts notice.
This behavior, the exact opposite of the conception of quality in Islam, may also have a damaging effect on people’s hearts warming to Islam. Allah reveals in the Qur’an that shaytan seeks to divide believers and commands them to take great care over their speech. Surat al-Isra’ says:
Say to My slaves that they should only say the best. Satan wants to stir up trouble between them. Shaytan is an outright enemy to man. (Surat al-Isra’, 53)
As a result of the pains they take over their external appearance and their living spaces, believers acquire the ability to think very considerately. Paying attention to details and being careful over such matters makes it easier for believers to see the details in all subjects and to think considerately. In this way, they do not choose their words carelessly when they speak, but take great pains with the language they use. As cited in the verse above, this is a very important matter that strengthens the bonds of brotherhood between believers.
They are unable to witness the art and beauty in nature
The sensitivity toward artistic structures around them to a large extent atrophies in people who do not strive to ensure that art predominates in their lives. One negative consequence of this is that a child, a lovely flower or a cute kitten produces no pleasant effect in the souls of such people. They are unable to feel in their souls the excitement of seeing the artistry of God manifested in such entities.
Yet someone who takes care over his clothing, who notes that a flower is created to be elegant, who notes the beauty of hair, who sees that a cat’s fur is always shiny and who decorates his own home well, will doubtlessly better appreciate the harmony of color in a sunset he witnesses, because he is more sensitive to the sensations caused by such delights. Believers know that every beautiful thing they see is a manifestation of the beauty of God and that beauty gives them a sense of ease in their hearts. Better appreciation of beauty leads them to remember God and give thanks to Him more.
They do not take proper care over religious observances
Art and beauty are of great importance in services made for the faith. The main aim of a Muslim is to struggle against atheism. As everyone knows, atheism assumed a supposed scientific guise with the theory of evolution; it is therefore very important for Muslims to be punctilious and take pains over all details in their struggles against atheism because the basic aim in such activities is to show the fact of creation to people who have been misled by the scientific-seeming lies of Darwinism. The attractive and esthetic appearance of and careful labor in any work (be it a web site, a book or a documentary), will increase people’s desire to examine it closer and thus, by God’s leave, enhance its impact.
In contrast, it is immediately apparent that a piece of work done in a careless, slapdash manner could lead to undesired consequences, such as destroying the potential impact of the work in question.
It is obvious that people who have lived far removed from art and beauty in their daily lives will also be weak when it comes to doing affective work on behalf of the faith. These people, who are careless even over their own personal appearance, will inevitably miss many important details in those activities they undertake. Some people even fail to see how the real danger against which Muslims need to direct their attentions is the Darwinist-materialist system. While aware of the danger of atheism, they may fall into the error of merely criticizing other Muslims rather than working effectively against that threat themselves.
Muslims, however, are people who strive to render as much service as possible - and at all times - to God’s religion and who seek to earn the greatest extent of His approval. They are careful to avoid being the kind of people described in the words "Among the people there is one who worships God right on the edge" (Surat al-Hajj, 11) from Surat al-Hajj. The Qur’an reveals how Muslims compete with one another on the path of God:
They have faith in God and the Last Day, and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and compete in doing good. They are among the righteous. (Surat al-‘Imran, 114)
They cause a dislike in hearts of those people who are unacquainted with Islam
Islam is a faith that harbors all that is beautiful, noble and high quality. A Muslim is the most honest, virtuous and high quality person you can imagine. The true Islam revealed in the Qur’an is something to be envied by everyone.
However, a lifestyle devoid of art and beauty, an arid lifestyle supposedly representing Islam leads to a false prejudice as to the nature of Islam in the hearts of those who are unacquainted with it. This is one of the main reasons why many people today tend toward atheism. This will no doubt rebound on the heads of those who do not strive to achieve the quality required by Islam, and who live in an ill-kempt fashion and devoid of cleanliness, misinterpreting the faith in a shallow manner. (Allah knows the truth.)
As described in the story of the Prophet Solomon (pbuh) in the Qur’an, Muslims must adopt art and beauty as an effective means of preaching the word. Fully complying with the Qur’an on this matter will be instrumental in Islam spreading rapidly across the world.
In preaching the word to the queen of Sheba, the Prophet Solomon (pbuh) had her own throne brought in and he welcomed her in his palace. The artwork and decoration in the palace had a huge impact on the queen of Sheba and was instrumental in her coming to have faith. The considerate behavior and the use he made of art can be seen at every stage while he communicated the word. This method of preaching revealed in the Qur’an is one that all Muslims should apply.
Everything said here shows what damage an arid lifestyle devoid of art does to Muslims. All Muslims must strive to achieve a high level of art, beauty and quality, things which occupy such an important place in Islam.
Hazrat Mahdi (pbuh) whose coming in the End Times - the final age before the Day of Judgment - is foretold in the hadiths, will rejuvenate Islam with his conception of art and quality and, by God’s will, will cause it to reign across the world. Every Muslim who sincerely and passionately loves Hazrat Mahdi (pbuh) and sincerely wishes to be his follower must work to improve himself in this important sphere.