Beauty in the Quran

Peace, one and all…


Sachiko Murata and William Chittick’s The Vision of Islam is one of the best books ever written explaining the feel of Islam.  Most introductions to Islam do exactly what they say they will do – introduce you to key terms, rituals, history, concepts and so on.  This book does far more.  It takes you beyond externalised descriptions into the very heart of Islam itself.

I often dip into this book when I’ve got a spare few moments, and have always found it useful and inspiring.  I was reading through its exploration of the concept of ihsan and was struck by the forceful way that Murata and Chittick have translated words deriving from hasana (‘good, beautiful’).  It really brought it home to me.  So, I wanted to share a few with you.

Enjoy and may Allah help us all do what is beautiful in His sight.

‘It is God who made the earth a fixed place for you, and heaven a building, and He formed you, made your forms beautiful, and provided you with pleasant things’ (40:64)

‘He created the heavens and earth with Truth, formed you and made your forms beautiful and to Him is the homecoming’ (64:3)

‘Worship none but God, and do what is beautiful towards parents’ (2:83)

‘God is with those who are god-wary, and those who do what is beautiful’ (16:128)

‘Do what is beautiful.  God loves those who do what is beautiful’ (2:195)

‘Pardon them and forgive; God loves those who do what is beautiful’ (5:13)

‘Have patience.  God will not leave to waste the wage of those who do what is beautiful’ (11:115)

‘Those who struggle for Us – We shall guide them on Our paths, and God is with those who do what is beautiful’ (29:69)

‘The mercy of God is near to those who do what is beautiful’ (7:56)

‘To God belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, so that He may recompense those who do the ugly for what they have done, and recompense those who do what is beautiful with the most beautiful’ (53:31)

The Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) is reported to have said:

‘When the servant submits and his submission is beautiful, God will acquit him of every ugly thing he approached…’

Some earlier reflections on beauty

Ma’as salama,
Abdur Rahman

23 thoughts on “Beauty in the Quran

  1. I read “Tao of Islam” by Murata years ago and was enthralled – this sounds like a good read as well. Let the Ramadan reading list begin!

  2. Salaams,

    Masha’Allah! I agree 100%! The Vision of Islam is a great book! One of the best Introduction to Islam books that I have come across… even we born Muslims have a great deal to learn from it…

    A wonderful reminder from that book that i keep in my phone:

    “All the positive qualities of human nature appear through remembrance, and all the negative qualities arise as a result of forgetfulness and denial.” p150


  3. Salaams Shiraz,

    Yes, kind of, although it’s not the usual kind: you know, 5 pillars, prayers at these times and so on. I guess you could call it more theological/philosophical?

    Abdur Rahman

  4. Salaams Gulnaz,

    All that is lovely comes from the Beloved. Only the uglinesses are mine.

    Thank you for your kind thoughts. They are very much appreciated. 🙂

    Ma’as salama,
    Abdur Rahman

  5. Salaams and Jumma Mubarak!

    This introduction to Islam for Western readers explores the fundamental religious beliefs held by Muslims for nearly 1400 years. It covers the four dimensions of Islam – practice, faith, spirituality and the Islamic view of history, as outlined in the Hadith of Gabriel. Interweaving teachings from the Koran, the sayings of the Prophet, and the great authorities of the tradition, the book introduces the essentials of each dimension. It then goes on to describe how each has been manifest in Islamic institutions throughout the course of history.”


    Vision of Islam (8 audio CD boxed set) Shaykh Hamza Yusuf


  6. Interesting. I’m really a fan of any book that takes a literary-critical-historical look at religion. I feel that the more you understand the history of revelation and religion, the better you understand the moral message behind it. I quite enjoyed Reza Aslan’s No god but God for this reason. I’ll have to add The Vision of Islam to my long wishlist!

  7. Salaams Shiraz,

    Al hamdu lillah, it’s a very beautifully written book. I’ve not read Reza Aslan’s work, though I’ve heard it’s good.

    What else have you been reading of late?

    Abdur Rahman

  8. Sadly, I’ve not read much lately. Too busy with work. (Oh boy, I’ve turned into one of “those” people.) I’m supposed to finish Progressive Muslims by Omid Safi one of these days. I’m hoping that either 1984 or Snow Crash will be my next novel, though I have some other stuff to go through before then. Oy vey, too many books! I like to read about 1 book per month (not much, I know) but lately I’ve been lagging behind. Maybe I’ll be able to get some reading done during my lunch breaks in Ramadan, since I won’t have much else to do 😉

  9. Salaams Shiraz,

    I know what you mean about being busy. Allah! 🙂

    I’ve seen Progressive Muslims, but never read it. Most of my current reading is connected with work – I’m preparing to teach a course on Shi`a Islam. A particular favourite within this area is the history of the Ismaili school of thought.

    More broadly, I’ve been reading sociological works on charisma, Max Weber in particular. A colleague at work has written an exploration of Weberian ideas with regards to Buddhist Tantra (not a subject I know much about at all) and I’ve got a copy sitting in front of me. Heavy going, but interesting.

    I’ve been going through a collection of essays called The Intimate Other: Divine Love in Indic Religions. It’s got some great articles in it. I love poetry, and I’ve been wanting to explore Hindu bhakti poetry for a while now.
    I’ve not been reading many novels of late.

    Ma’as salama

    Abdur Rahman

  10. Wow, a lot of really interesting sounding work you’re reading now! The one school course that probably blew my mind more than any other was the first sociology course I took at the age of 20 or so. I’d love to read some thoughts of yours on those intersections of sociology, religion, charisma, etc. etc. in a future post.

  11. Salaams Shiraz,

    I must confess that, in the past, sociology never really buttered my muffin, so to speak. Mostly, this was because I associated it with a certain kind of dry approach.

    I really enjoyed reading Weber’s ideas on charisma. My initial response was that he does make some very interesting points, especially when he looks at the nature of charisma and its passage through time.

    In some ways, it really does fit with Islamic history. That is, it does have some explanatory power. That said, though, he has some very strange, unreconstructed ideas about Islam in general (but it was written in the early 20th century I suppose). I think it’s a useful first reading in the topic.

    I have a copy of Hamid Dabashi’s Authority in Islam, which is a sociological exploration of very early Islamic history using a Weberian approach. I’m sure you’d like it. 🙂

    I enjoyed reading it, but found its ‘meta-language’ style off-putting.

    Abdur Rahman

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