Moderation in food and drink
The Muslim woman takes good care of her body, promoting its good health and strength. She is active, not flabby or overweight. So she does not eat to excess; she eats just enough to maintain her health and energy. This is in accordance with the guidance of Allah (Subhanahu wa ta’ala) in the Qur'an:
( . . . Eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.) (Qur'an 7:31)
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also advised moderation in food and drink:
“There is no worse vessel for the son of Adam to fill than his stomach, but if he must fill it, the let him allow one-third for food, one-third for drink, and one-third for air.”
She exercises regularly
The Muslim woman does not forget to maintain her physical fitness and energy by following the healthy practices recommended by Islam. But she is not content only with the natural, healthy diet referred to above: she also follows an organized exercise program, appropriate to her physical condition, weight, age and social status. These exercises give her body agility, beauty, good health, strength and immunity to disease; this will make her more able to carry out her duties, and more fit to fulfill her role in life, whether it be as a wife or mother, young girl or old woman.
Her body and clothes are clean
The Muslim woman who truly follows the teachings of Islam keeps her body and clothes very clean. She bathes frequently, in accordance with the teachings of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) who advised Muslims to take baths, especially on Fridays: “Have a bath on Fridays and wash your heads, even if you are not in a state of janabah (impurity, e.g. following marital relations), and wear perfume.”4
“Whoever attends Friday prayer, man or woman, should take a bath (ghusl).”5
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) placed such a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing that some of the Imams considered performing ghusl before Friday prayer to be obligatory (wajib).
Abu Hurayrah (radhiallahu anhu) reported that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
“It is the duty of every Muslim to take a bath (at least) once every seven days, and to wash his head and body.”
Cleanliness is one of the most essential requirements of people, especially women, and one of the clearest indicators of a sound and likeable character. Cleanliness makes a woman more likeable not only to her husband, but also to other women and her relatives.
Imam Ahmad and al-Nisa'i report that Jabir (radhiallahu anhu) said:
“The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) came to visit us, and saw a man who was wearing dirty clothes. He said, ‘Could this person not find anything with which to wash his clothes?”
She takes care of her mouth and teeth
The intelligent Muslim woman takes care of her mouth, for no-one should ever have to smell an unpleasant odor coming from it. She does this by cleaning her teeth with a siwak, toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash after every meal. She checks her teeth and visits the dentist at least once a year, even if she does not feel any pain, in order to keep her teeth healthy and strong. She consults otolaryngologists (“ear, nose and throat” doctors) if necessary, so that her breath will remain clean and fresh. This is undoubtedly more befitting for a woman.
‘A'ishah (radhiallahu anha) used to be very diligent in taking care of her teeth: she never neglected to clean them with a siwak, as Bukhari and Muslim reported from a number of the Sahabah (radhiallahu anha).
Bukhari reported from ‘Urwah (radhiallahu anha) via ‘Ata':
“We heard ‘A'ishah the Mother of the Believers cleaning her teeth in the room . . .”8
Muslim also reported from ‘Urwah (radhiallahu anha) through ‘Ata':
“We heard her using the siwak . . .”9
‘A'ishah (radhiallahu anha) said:
“The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) never woke from sleeping at any time of day or night without cleaning his teeth with a siwak before performing wudu'“10
The Prophet’s concern for oral hygiene was so great that he said:
“If it were not for the fact that I did not want to overburden my ummah, I would have ordered them to use the siwak before every prayer.”11
‘A'ishah (radhiallahu anha) was asked what the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) used to do first when he came home. She said, “Use siwak.”12
It is very strange to see that some Muslim women neglect these matters, which are among the most important elements of a woman’s character, besides being at the very heart of Islam.
They are among the most important elements of a woman’s gentle nature, and they reveal her feminine elegance and beauty. They are also at the heart of Islam because the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) urged cleanliness on many occasions, and he detested unpleasant odors and an ugly appearance. He said:
“Whoever eats onions, garlic or leeks should not approach our mosque, because whatever offends the sons of Adam may offend the angels.”13
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) banned those who had eaten these pungent vegetables from coming anywhere near the mosque, lest the people and the angels be offended by their bad breath, but these smells pale into insignificance beside the stench of dirty clothes, filthy socks, unwashed bodies and unclean mouths that emanates from some careless and unkempt individuals who offend others in gatherings.
She takes care of her hair
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) also taught Muslims to take care of their hair, and to make it look attractive and beautiful, within the limits of Islamic rulings.
This is reported in the hadith quoted by Abu Dawud from Abu Hurayrah (radhiallahu anhu), who said:
“The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: ‘Whoever has hair, let him look after it properly.'“14
Looking after one’s hair, according to Islamic teaching, involves keeping it clean, combing it, perfuming it, and styling it nicely.
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) did not like people to leave their hair uncombed and unkempt, so that they looked like wild monsters; he likened such ugliness to the appearance of the Shaytan. In al-Muwatta', Imam Malik reports a hadith with a mursal isnad from ‘Ata' ibn Yassar, who said:
“The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was in the mosque, when a man with unkempt hair and an untidy beard came in. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) pointed to him, as if indicating to him that he should tidy up his hair and beard. The man went and did so, then returned. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, ‘Is this not better than that any one of you should come with unkempt hair, looking like the Shaytan?'“15
The Prophet’s likening a man with untidy hair to the Shaytan clearly shows how concerned Islam is with a neat and pleasant appearance, and how opposed it is to scruffiness and ugliness.
The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) always took note of people’s appearance, and he never saw a scruffily-dressed man with untidy hair but he criticized him for his self-neglect. Imam Ahmad and al-Nisa'i report that Jabir (radhiallahu anhu) said:
“The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) came to visit us, and he saw an unkempt man whose hair was goin in all directions, so he said, ‘Could he not find anything with which to calm his head?'“
If this is how he Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) taught men to take care of themselves, then how much more applicable are his teachings to women, for whom beauty and elegance are more befitting, as they are the ones to whom men draw close and seek comfort, tranquility and happiness in their company! It is obvious to the sensitive Muslim woman that the hair is one of the most important features of a woman’s beauty and attractiveness.
It is no surprise that the Muslim woman is concerned with her clothes and appearance, without going to extremes or making a wanton display of herself. She presents a pleasing appearance to her husband, children, mahram relatives and other Muslim women, and people feel comfortable with her. She does not put them off with an ugly or untidy appearance and she always checks herself and takes care of herself, in accordance with the teachings of Islam, which asks its followers to look good in ways that are permitted. In a commentary on the ayah:
( Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful [gifts] of Allah, which He has produced for His servants, and the things, cleans and pure, [which He has provided] for sustenance? . . .) (Qur'an 7:32)
The Muslim does all of this in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes of either exaggeration or negligence:
( Those who, when they spend, are not extravagant and not niggardly, but hold a just [balance] between those [extremes].) (Qur'an 25:67)
She does not go to extremes of beautification or make a wanton display of herself
Paying attention to one’s appearance should not make a Muslim woman fall into the trap of wanton display (tabarruj) and showing her beauty to anyone other than her husband and mahram relatives. She should not upset the balance which is the basis of all Islamic teaching, for the Muslim woman always aims at moderation in all things, and is on the alert to prevent any one aspect of her life from taking over at the expense of another.
She never forgets that Islam, which encourages her to look attractive within the permitted limits, is also the religion that warns her against going to such extremes that she becomes a slave to her appearance, as the hadith says:
“Wretched is the slave of the dinar, dirham and fancy clothes of velvet and silk! If he is given, he is pleased, and if he is not given, he is displeased
No doubt the Muslim woman who has surrounded herself with the teachings of this great religion is spared and protected from such foolish errors, because she has adopted its principles of moderation.