It seems like we can’t open a magazine or turn on the TV without being bombarded with images of perfection, or the products that can get us tone step closer to it! And when we finally get the strength to turn away, we’re confronted with billboards and life-size ads on the sides of buses to remind us: ‘You’re not perfect but you could be!’ It’s no secret that the media plays a dominant role in selling the pursuit of perfection. We’ve all seen the TV commercials for hair products or mascara with the small print at the bottom of the screen that says ‘styled with natural hair extensions’ or ‘lash inserts used.’
Now, what I want to know is, if the models in the pictures don’t really look like the models in the pictures, then why are we as women encouraged to aspire to something that doesn’t even exist? The sad truth is many of the beauty empires that reign over us today thrive off our insecurities. Think about it. If we all had a positive self-image with the ability to look in the mirror and truly be satisfied with what Allah (SWT) has blessed us with, do you really think we’d need a product to tell us that ‘we’re worth it’? Don’t get me a wrong, I love L’Oreal as much as the next girl! But when the images that we’re being sold are a fake reality, a line needs to be drawn.
It’s no secret that we are a society that craves physical perfection but we now live in an era where we have placed such importance on physical appearance that women are now willing to go under the knife for it. The increasing number of people turning to cosmetic surgery seems to reflect this. According to the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (www.baaps.org.uk), 36,482 surgical procedures were carried out in the UK last year alone, which totals a 6.7% increase from 2008.
All it takes is flicking through Maxim’s ‘Top 100 Most Beautiful People’ to see that the media has been feeding us the same carbon-copy images for so long it’s no wonder that we are all beginning to aspire to one single vision of beauty! And the spread of globalisation means goods that we need are more accessible than ever before so, essentially, what we want, we get! This has been revolutionary for the beauty industry: you can be whoever you want be. Blue eyes? Not a problem: coloured contacts will do the trick! Longer hair? You can buy the finest Brazilian or Indian! Indeed, we can now totally remodel ourselves in the pursuit of perfection but, once we achieve it, will it truly be enough?
Every day we see Hollywood starlets placed on pedestals where they’re praised for their style, beauty and grace, only to be torn down for the very imperfections that make us human. Now, you don’t need a degree in psychology to realise that the more of these images we take in, be it consciously or not, the more susceptible we become to buying a one-way ticket to an unattainable dream.
Islam teaches us that perfection belongs to Allah (SWT) and Allah (SWT) alone and that our level of piety and goodness of character is what separates us from one another. Although being young, hot and fabulous is a great feeling, we must remember that nothing lasts forever. Beauty fades but a beautiful soul that is eternal. Happiness cannot be equated with the size of your waist or whether your abaya is lined with Swarovski crystals or a £10 bargain from your local market. True happiness is achieved through pleasing Allah, not our nafs.
We have been truly honoured by our deen and have been protected as the pearls of Islam, preserved for those who truly appreciate Allah’s creation. We have been freed from the shackles of media control and many of the pressures facing the 21st Century women.
So the next time you look in the mirror, recite our beloved Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) du’a: “O Allah, You perfectly created me, so perfect my character.” [Ahmad]
Thank Allah for the beauty He Has blessed you with, for the imperfections that make you unique, for the very form that you take for granted. Look after it, preserve it, and take pride in it because, after all, you are a wonderful, beautiful creation of Allah (SWT).