“Allah does not look at your outward appearance and your goods. He looks only at your hearts and your deeds.” (Hadith: Muslim)
In the current society we live in, everyone, particularly young people are subject to beauty standards and degraded simply to the way in which they look. Fatphobia and diet culture have become so ingrained and normalised in society, that we don’t even think to question common conceptions that ‘fat’ is an insult and to lose weight, a compliment.
Research shows that culturally and religiously marginalised groups are at a unique risk of developing eating disorders, and poor body image. For young people of colour, western beauty standards can be alienating and cause shame and dissatisfaction with one’s body.
In my own Arab culture, I see a troubling double standard. My family enjoy cooking food as a way of expressing love and celebration, encouraging me to eat food, while also perpetuating harsh beauty standards. I find them complimenting each other when they lose weight and lecturing me about healthy eating.
In almost the same breath of air, they will tell me I need to be skinnier, so that I’m suitable for marriage and then feel insulted that I’m not eating their baklawa.
Although in many cultures, this body negativity is common, it is not something that is evident in the true Islamic tradition, and is rather challenged and condemned by Allah. People of all colours and shapes are loved by God and can be equally pious and successful in our religion.
Islam stresses the need for self-care and body-positivity, seen in the hadith where the Prophet Muhammad (s) said, “Your body has rights over you,” which highlights the importance of supplying our body with nutrients, rewarding it and caring for it.
It is also said that our bodies are an ‘Amanah’ or ‘trust’ from Allah and it is therefore our responsibility to treat ourselves well.
As a young Muslim woman who chooses to wear the hijab, I see the hijab as a way of defying the objectification of women and the degradation of human beings to how we look.
As Islam teaches us, Allah created our bodies for so much more than how they look. In our religion, what we believe and our actions, will always outweigh our appearance.
It is our social and our Islamic duty to be accepting people who are promoters of body positivity. Remember that Islam is a religion centred around what is in our hearts, not what size we are, how we look or what we eat. Our body is a gift from Allah, one that we should love and be kind towards.