Beauty in the Muslim Blogosphere


http://www.flickr.com/photos/kayaker1204/4925045492/

“I personally refuse to hold someone’s idealistic image against them as long as they have achieved it via healthy means. If a woman is naturally slender with attractive proportions I will not loath her as long as she is gracious with her beauty and at rest with it. As I read in the book Captivating, beauty needs to be at rest and inviting. When a woman is forcing herself to obtain beauty she creates much anxiety associated with her image; I find her anxiety contagious. Others around her may begin to feel uncomfortable, threatened or competitive. I believe that women need to invite others to be comfortable with themselves rather than bring tension to others.” — Lauren Arno

I came across this quote in a discussion about body image in the blogosphere. What I think really got me thinking was what she said about being gracious with beauty. That phrase embodied one of the meanings that is meant to be reflected in wearing the hijab.

I had to immediately ask myself: How, if at all, is the Muslim female blogging community different? Is the focus on looking cute and posting photos of ourselves? Is it on sharing recipes or grooming tips?

None of these things are inherently wrong per se, but like everything there’s a proper manner for going about it. What started as a tide of bloggers trying to get images of hijab-wearing women looking trendy and fashionable into the mainstream has turned into a full-time job for some.

At first it was about showing that we’re still individuals: Muslim women don’t wear all black and don’t all cover their faces, we have distinct styles and trends, and are actually just as attractive as our non-hijab wearing counterparts. The last part about being equally attractive shows that we’ve now started weighing our value on the wrong terms. The definition of beauty has shifted to the external one being used by the consumerist culture we’re immersed in.

The cooking and grooming is less so much an issue as it is a distraction. How big is the mind of a woman who’s only preoccupied with making good food and keeping herself in good condition? With Google giving us access to anything we need to know in a matter of seconds, recipes and grooming tips included, how can the Muslim female bloggers of the world give something unique to their readers and followers?

That’s the question. It’s not about criticism; it’s about the best use of skills and talents for something with a bigger purpose and meaning. Why does it matter what everyone is writing about?

Because it’s an indication of what the productive minds are occupied with. Bloggers are writers, producers, artists and creatives, they represent the cultural and literary products of our community. So when you look at the entire Muslim blogosphere and their collective body of work, how does it look? Unfortunately, not as good as it could. Instead of working on fixing the problems facing our community from the inside or externally, we’re preoccupied with fashion tips, hijab wrapping styles and shoes.

We’ve imitated the fashion bloggers in every way, down to the stomach crunched poses with pouty lips, hunched shoulders, and protruding elbows. Just look at Facebook: we’re slowly turning into superficial, self-obsessed, narcissistic, mindless, individuals that base our value on the number of likes, comments, re-tweets, shares and re-blogs we get.

Some of the finest minds of our generation are wasting their time on things that hardly bring any benefit and could be causing harm.

Look at it like this: if you started feeling dizzy an hour from now, and felt shortness of breath and fell down on the ground, gasping for air, and realized these might be your last moments, tell me: Would you feel proud of what you left behind? What’s your legacy? Are people going to re-tweet and re-blog your beautiful outfit photos after you’re gone? Will they remember how pretty you were?

Think about it. Our time is so limited—it’s something I struggle with everyday. Using my time wisely is a constant struggle, and I ask Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) to bless my efforts and help me to be sincere and productive in doing something that benefits the world when I’m gone.

Allah (swt) clearly puts this to us in Surat Al-Mulk’s verse 2: “[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving –” (Qur’an 67:2)

Not only is He reminding us to compete, in the time we have, to do good, but He ends the verse with reminding us of His forgiveness. It’s as though He is reassuring us, because our next thought would be for us to worry about how we spent our time in the past, and He’s letting us know it’s okay.

There’s still time. Allah Kareem (God is Generous).

Any thoughts?

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25 Comments

  1. latifah says:

    Very nice article.

  2. Yasmin says:

    Jazakallah khair for sharing your thoughts on this very important topic! I do agree that there are some Muslim bloggrs who focus too much on beauty in a superficial manner but there are also many great Muslim blogs, one of which is this wonderful blog, suhaibwebb.com

  3. Kendriana says:

    “Just look at Facebook: we’re slowly turning into superficial, self-obsessed, narcissistic, mindless, individuals that base our value on the number of likes, comments, re-tweets, shares and re-blogs we get.”

    Girl, I’m gona have to let you speak for yourself on that one…

    “Some of the finest minds of our generation are wasting their time on things that hardly bring any benefit and could be causing harm.”

    I don’t think that’s true, but yes across the board blogging is a pretty self-centered type of thing, it’s like a diary…If you opened up someone’s diary everything would be about them and from their point of view because it’s written by them. Blogging is not news, it’s not a primary source, if you’re looking to brush up on current events go to CNN or Al-Jazeera. Just as this is a blog post and the views you’ve written are yours, it doesn’t mean you wrote them with poor intention. As far as I’ve seen these fashion bloggers also use that platform to do some really cool things in the community and talk about serious issues as well.

    I noticed that you kept referencing women, but men are also into the social media scene, so lets not shame women for wanting to feel and look beautiful, it’s a natural thing, humans naturally seek certain energies, sounds and proportions and these parts of beauty are in the eye of the beholder. We live in a patriarchal society so we are quick to emphasize the actions of women in a negative way. I say, don’t be so critical on the “ego bloggers”, there just needs to be a balance but it won’t be achieved through creating a dichotomy, whether a woman is into fashion or posing or whatever doesn’t make “better or worse” than anyone else.

    You can’t say what they are doing is wrong or causing harm, you can say it’s different than what you do or what you like, or that you have other priorities but you can’t say it’s wrong, and this is coming from someone who thinks ego blogging is on the annoying side…

    I personally feel the Muslim community puts way too much emphasis on female appearance on both ends of the spectrum. It’s a catch-22, you’re either too conservative and unattractive, or too liberal and attractive. Let’s just get off the clothes and start focusing on the knowledge already. This topic is a dead horse, in and out of the Muslim community.

  4. zebram zee says:

    This is exactly 100% correct. I think we forget that our intentions are just as important as our outward actions. And we can’t just technically meet our obligations if its done with wrong intent. If we’re posing in hijab in a way to seem ‘cute’ or wearing muscle shirts to get girls to look at us, even if we have technically met the requirements, we’re actually doing something wrong.

    And we can’t just automatically convert the way people think and talk about to an ‘Islamic’ way. For example, unfortunately I’ve seen people talk about their husband or wife in a vulgar way on so called ‘islamic’ blogs, like one guy said in a post that he “b-nged” his wife, and people justified it, that ‘they’re married and its all halal and wonderful mashallah, blah blah blah’. We can’t just can’t talk about people of the opposite gender like that, it doesn’t become halal and wonderful just because you’re married to the person.

  5. sisterS says:

    Salaam alaikum! Masha Allah! Good job sister! This IS truly an issue that hasnt been spoken much about.

    We should be grateful for some awesome muslim blogs we have, like muslimmatters.com, and suhaibwebb.com. Also missionmuslim.com.

    However i too have come across some blogs that do not present a very islamic image as well.

    May Allah subhanahu wata’la help us all spend time more productively and allow us to leave a wonderful legacy behind! Actually that reminds me of a lecture i listened by BR.Omar suleiman. It motivated me greatly! :) Jazakillah khair for your efforts!

  6. This is a great article and I hope more Muslim bloggers, like myself, take heed to the advice given. Inshallah, we can all benefit from the mistakes and the successes of these online Muslim quasi-celebrities.

  7. ubah says:

    Subhaan Allah!

    I got goosebumps reading this article!

    I cannot explain how much I relate to it! As a Muslim female blogger, I’ve realized just how much my own personal image (e.g. a photo) could undermine the work that I do (which is one of the reasons why I have chosen not to disclose my physical identity online). For instance, how could I be sure that the “likes” or “shares” that my work receives is actually due to the content of my material as opposed to my image? It seems that to get far in the world of online blogging, many sisters have fallen into the trap of directly/indirectly using their features to draw attention to their work. Not to judge them, as their affair is with Allah (SWT) and He knows what’s in their hearts, but speaking for myself, I can say that it has meant a lot for me to know that my work can stand on it’s own two feet without needing to be accompanied by a smiling picture of myself. Jazakillahu khair, Sumayah, for having the confidence to discuss this touchy subject! Feel free to contact me on my blog if you’re ever interested (www.seekingtobetter.blogspot.com) :)

  8. Amena says:

    Although the opening quote is on point, I find the rest of this article rather ironically itself fixated upon the issue of the physical appearance of the Muslim woman. Even moreso, this article managed to present the very image of the Muslim woman that the media propagates, namely that we are one dimensional creatures, exempt of a well rounded life and devoid of a personality outside of what is perceived in those first few surface impressions that you gain (in this case) via blogs. What you view online is a creative outlet for some, a business for others, a bonding experience for some and a hobby or portfolio for others; it’s presumptuous to assume a woman is defined by the small slice of her life that you somehow decide to extrapolate into a waste of a ‘productive mind’. Muslim women constantly face chastisement and scapegoating and I’m disappointed that I find this article published on a website representing an Imam who has a lot of tact and usually inspires others to “fix the problems of the community” rather than to reduce a generation of female Muslim bloggers into a “superficial, self-obsessed, narcissistic, mindless, individuals that base our value on the number of likes, comments, re-tweets, shares and re-blogs”. Expressing a fashion-based online presence and a “problem solving” attitude are not mutually exclusive and I would have thought that a fellow Muslim woman, of all people, would support that notion and write an article that does indeed focus on those precise problems and possible solutions that she finds to be missing from the Muslim blogosphere.

    • Maryam says:

      It’s important to note that the views of each and every individual author or guest author at suhaibwebb.com does not necessarily reflect the views of Imam Suhaib Webb himself.

      As mentioned in the disclaimer below:
      “The views posted are the opinions of the individual author of each posting…”

  9. Aziza says:

    As a fellow Muslimah blogger, I too enjoyed reading this article. It feels amazing to share your love for Allah with others and to know that (hopefully) we are all coming together out of a genuine love for Him and not based on our physical appearance. It can be difficult to keep your intentions straight…but I pray that Allah will help us and forgive us our shortcomings, Ameen.

    • SlaveofAllah says:

      Very inspiring thoughts of yours. Jazak Allah Khairan sister. This made me think of how we all have an individual relationship with Allah. We need to put more effort into working on our self image to please Allah. All of these hours wasted— on folding our hijab a certain way, creating that perfect makeup look, matching our accessories with our outfits, having that perfect pair of back-breaking, ankle-killing stilletos, don’t forget those camelhump-like hijab styles (which are completely prohibited by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw), and the list goes on…—will be accounted for by Allah. I’m not saying that being fashionable is haram, but there is a certain limit and proper way to do it in a reasonable amount of time so you can spend more time worshipping Allah, reading the Quran, learning about the Seerah of our Prophet, helping others such as the poor and sick, etc. When Allah is pleased with our good deeds, this natural beauty surrounds the Muslim which is called Noor, that can only come from Allah(swt).

  10. MsDieynaba says:

    Salam,

    As a Muslim beauty blogger, I was anxious to read the article.

    Unfortunately, I have to say though that it made me feel a little uncomfortable. I find that Muslim bloggers are portrayed as shallow and superficial beings, whose only concerns are the latest abaya sleeve trend and how many folds can you add to your hijab.

    Here’s my take on the matter:
    - As Amena pointed out earlier, the bloggers’ lives don’t necessarily revolve around their blogs. Most of them have lives outside the blogosphere, with family, kids, work, studies, etc.
    - Blogging, just like Twitter, Facebook, chess, or karate can be a hobby, a way of sharing things & communicating with people
    - Why are we assuming that bloggers can’t carry out their duties towards Allah SWT just because they own a blog?
    - People like to have a good appearance, wear things that are pleasing to them. Why couldn’t they share it with others?

    I understand the writer’s take on this, and I agree with her to a certain extent. I also think we should trust that our fellow Muslims do things out of a good intention, and are balanced in their choices.

    I really hope this won’t come off as rude or insensitive – especially to the author. May Allah SWT help us all grow & evolve in the right ways, inshaAllah :)

  11. nabiela says:

    Maany muslim sisters facebook n twitter accounts aren’t based on fashion etc. But on important matters pertaining 2 our deen..but on the other hand those who are focused,I would just like to mk 1 comment, beautifying ourselves and dressing up in the latest fashions by all means do so-within the confines of your home, or in a ladies only gathering , but dnt make hijaab into some fashion parade it defeats the purpose. Allah Ta’ala says in Surah Noor و لا يبدين زينتهن and they (the believing woman)should not reveal their adornment..(Except to their husbands,their fathers…..till the end. Of the Aaayah…Aayah 31..) So as muslim woman we shouldn’t get caught up in trying to prove to the west that we can make hijaab fashionable when it it goes agaainst Allah’s command…we wear Hijaab to please Allah

  12. M says:

    Completely agree with this line: “Just look at Facebook: we’re slowly turning into superficial, self-obsessed, narcissistic, mindless, individuals that base our value on the number of likes, comments, re-tweets, shares and re-blogs we get.”

    There is a lot of good that can be done with social media and a lot of people are using it for good Alhamdulilah. But wow, the amount of bad as well.. Allah alMust`aan

  13. Gluuma says:

    Ok, for the sake of driving the point of this article home, I REAAALLLLY feel the need of posting links to the blogs that would exemplify what this author means. But for the sake of not hurting anyone’s feelings, I will simply say just search the terms Hijab Blog in google and see what you get. Then read the article again.

  14. Dinda says:

    Masha Allah. such a great reminder! Jazakillah khayr, sis Sumayah :D

  15. Muslim says:

    I completely agree with this article. Unfortunately, for some hijab has become a fashion item instead of an act of obedience to our Creator. We should b focusing on purifying our souls but instead, some are more worried about what style to put their hijabs in.

  16. ZAI says:

    I think we should be careful not to be too zealous here.
    In this modern age, especially in Western countries, where there is SO much emphasis on looks, fashion, etc. I don’t think we should be too harsh on the sisters writing these blogs or even out in the “real” world…

    There is tremendous pressure on the young, even moreso on young women, in this society and they are constantly bombarded with images, articles, catalogues of this and that…If they are writing these blogs and appreciating fashion and beauty within boundaries acceptable to Islam..then I think we should back off with high falootin’ ideological/philosophical condemnations. Better some halaal indulgence than for them to feel that Islam is a contrictive ideological prison and leave the religion all together.

    We have to get out of these utopian paradigms. I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about higher ethics, but should be done carefully and without being condemning. Not everyone is at that level of development, infact few of us are, and again I rather these kids/young adults stay within Islam and indulge in some of their interests( as long they’re halaal) rather than leaving ’cause they couldn’t reach the HIGHEST ideal and got criticized for it…

  17. izzy says:

    salam sis, really loved the article got me really motivated :)

  18. Kendriana says:

    This is related so I thought the author might find this interesting. Woman keeps her beard for the sake of her belief, but what really get’s me is her response to criticism when someone took a picture of her at the airport and posted it on reddit for laughs. Pretty thought provoking when I think about the excuses I’ve made for the sake of beauty perception.

    http://feministing.com/2012/09/27/a-sikh-woman-does-not-apologize-for-her-appearance-and-everyone-learns-something/

  19. Gina says:

    A muslim female blog I recently discovered (thought i’d share): http://unicornsandbutterflies.wordpress.com/2012/10/13/blessings/

  20. Em says:

    Lovely article. Interesting comments.

  21. blog follower says:

    all these muslim fashion bloggers have perfect lives – great style, handsome husband, cute children, perfect marriage, and access to beautiful things whilst demonstrating to their muslim ummah how to look beautiful and modest. that’s how the “modest street style” project came about too, which is photographed by a male muslim. i use these images as examples to compare with what i am wearing so as to silence these “negative comments” from disapproving elders, as a way to justify my style (ie. see, muslim blogger wears tights with long top, and she has the perfect life, so what’s wrong with me dressing like her?) as long as these blogs are used for good intentions, then they are definitely most welcomed.

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