The obsession with light skin (and the beauty in all of Allah’s creation)

There seems to be an endless global obsession with light skin. The idea that ‘fair’ skin denotes beauty and darker skin is undesirable plagues our media, our family relations and sadly too, the Muslim community.

I’ve often heard stories of brothers only seeking light skinned sisters for marriage, to the point where they would reject a brown skinned sister even though her Islamic practice was on point and her lineage and status were reputable too!

waiting..Similarly, in a lot of cases, the families of sisters will not accept a proposal from a brown or black brother because he is exactly that; black or brown. The detriment of these marital ‘preferences’ and straight out racism is that the one yearning for marriage to a good Muslim looses out. In many instances brothers and sisters are growing old and grey waiting for the ‘right’ spouse and the woman’s biological clock is well and truly ticking!

If a Muslim is fortunate enough, by Allah, to marry a spouse shades darker than them (and of their choosing) they may encounter agro from their families which, leads to broken ties, backbiting and isolation towards the new ‘black sheep’ of the family. It can sometimes take years, if not decades for that individual to be accepted.

Although, it’s fair to say that light skin is glorified in most cultures, the black and Asian community seem to suffer from this fitnah the most, wallahu allem. Lighter skinned kids are sometimes favoured to their darker siblings whilst the darker skinned child tends to grow up with an inferiority complex about their (beautiful) skin tone.

As if this wasn’t sad enough, for decades, many black and Asians have resorted to the dangerous use of skin lightening creams and end up looking a fright rather than what appears to be beautiful. The tell tale signs are many; often, you find these ‘bleachers’ with dark knuckles and lighter, yet unnatural looking fingers; a washed out face and a darker looking neck or brown and red sore spots just to name a few!

bleach creamMany Arab women are also known to be ‘bleachers’ and it’s not uncommon to find a variety of lightening creams in their chemists and beauty stores. Although, some are notorious users of whitening foundations, that are literally used to ‘whiten’ the face. This look is equally ridiculous because Allah wills to show their ‘true colours’.

Having browner skin has become the fashion too. Now, there are pills available to darken the skin and the tanning industry is booming, not to mention the market for tanning creams. People have begun to realise that darker skin is also beautiful and now brown skin denotes health and exoticism.

However, what remains, not only in the Muslim community, but our society too, is the dissatisfaction with our looks, let alone our skin tone. This is a sad state of affairs, because in effect, it shows our ingratitude to our Lord who created us as He willed with encompassing knowledge and wisdom.

Allah says:

“We have certainly created man in the best of stature” (Qur’an 95;4).

We should be mindful of being ungrateful for what Allah has bestowed on us by resulting to the use of lightening creams, darkening pills and the like; because this is a means of changing the creation of Allah.

The Companion, Ibn Mas’ud (ra) once said (quoting what he had heard the Prophet sallallahu alahi wa sallam say,)

“Allah has cursed the tattoers and those who have themselves tattooed, and those women who have their teeth filed for beauty and those who have their (facial) hair plucked and thus alter Allah’s creation”. A woman remarked, “What’s all this?”. So Ibn Mas’ud (R) said: “Should I not curse one whom Allah’s Messenger cursed? And it is in the Book of Allah?!” She said”I have read the Qur’an from cover to cover, but I did not find that in it. He replied: “If you had read it thoroughly you would have found it. (Sahih Muslim) Allah says: “Whatever the Messenger gives you, take it and whatever he has forbidden, refrain from it.” (Suratul Hashr 59:7)”.

The prohibitions aren’t limited to the cosmetic procedures outlined in this hadeeth, because Allah tells us in more general terms not to alter his creation.

“So set your face truly to the faith, Allah’s handiwork according to the pattern on which He has made mankind; (Let there be) no change in the creation of Allah. ” (Qur’an 30:30)

No matter how much we alter our physical and outward form this will not fill the void in our hearts that is only for Allah. At the end of the day, beauty fades and our perception of it is often false because real beauty is in ones deen, (Islamic way of life) actions and character. This is what Allah and the people are pleased with most and it is these characteristics that will give us truly satisfying relationships, as well as a closer bond with Allah in this life and the hereafter.

The Prophet (pbuh) warned us that we should have no time for racism and therefore, white people have no superiority over black people and vice versa. He treated his black brethrens just as he did his lighter skinned ones and he admonished us to do the same in his final sermon, saying:

 “All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; white has no superiority over black, nor does a black have any superiority over white; [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.”

Perhaps we forget that the Prophet (saw) did not condone racism or injustice towards others. He was an advocate of equality between children too and advised us to treat them fairly. This is cited in the following hadeeth:

Al-Nu`mân b. Bashîr once addressed the people from the pulpit and told them about what took place between the Prophet and his father, saying:

 “My father gave him a gift. Then my mother, `Amrah bint Rawâhah, said: “I will not be satisfied until Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) is a witness to it.”

So my father went to Allah’s Messenger and said:

“I gave a gift to my son from `Amrah bint Rawâhah, and she told me to have you be a witness to it, O Messenger of Allah.”

The Prophet (pbuh) asked:

“Did you give your other children something similar?” He replied that he had not. So the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Fear Allah, and be just between your children.” (Sahih Bukhari and Muslim)

Naturally, we may prefer light skin over dark skin and vice versa, so long as others are not treated unfairly as a result of our preferences. The Prophet (saw) favoured Aisha (ra) out of his companions, after her father Abu Bakr, but he treated his wives equally and made them all feel special.

Considering skin colour bares no significance in Islam, it shouldn’t be of any magnitude in our lives either. It is obligatory for us to accept the creation of Allah as it is, but more importantly, it is also obligatory for us to believe that all of Allah’s creation is beautiful, because Allah, the Khaaliq (Creator), creates all things with beauty and perfection. He tells us,

“You can see no fault in the creation of ar-Rahman. Then look again: can you see any rifts? Then look again and yet again, your sight will return to you in a state of humiliation and worn out.” (Qur’an 67:3)

The above verse should be a sign for those of us with understanding. May Allah make our ummah one who truly appreciate his creation and may He grant us the ability to see past skin colour in all situations, ameen.



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