The Challenge of Beauty: Striving for Perfection in an Imperfect World

“God is beautiful and loves beauty.” -Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

One of the great mysteries of life is its inextricable beauty. Mankind is surrounded by a wondrous universe. From the depths of the night sky upon the vastness of the seas to hearing a bird’s song while tasting a pear plucked from the tree, beauty surrounds us at every turn of our lives. And yet, beauty is not so superficial that it’s limited to our sensory perceptions. We find beauty in the smile of a grandmother, wrinkled as she may be. We find beauty in the pages of a book, nerve-racking as the plot may be. We find beauty in the footwork of the athlete, grueling as the sport may be. We find beauty in the pitter patter of raindrops, scary as the storm may be. What is it about these disparate things that cause us such admiration?

Some may argue that the world is not so beautiful after all. Pain. Arrogance. Anger. Jealousy. Hatred. Greed. However, isn’t it true that each comes with its own antidote? Joy. Humility. Compassion. Generosity. Love. Sacrifice. For those who are adamant, beauty can be found or created in every situation, amidst every challenge, through every difficulty, and even within every ugliness, where the only place we find beauty may be in the hope that things get better.

Arabic has a word for beauty generally: jamal, as in the quote, “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” Arabic also has a word for beauty that people can attain through action: ihsan, beauty that emanates from the perfection of good deeds. Written in the Quran is a command: “...and do ihsan. God loves the doers of ihsan” (Quran 2:195). Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, defined the term thus: “Ihsan is to be aware of God as if you see Him, knowing that if you do not see Him, He sees you” (Bukhari, Muslim). Taken together, when someone strives to constantly be aware of their purpose and live up to their highest ideals as much as possible, even if they falter at times, that’s beautiful. As Rumi famously said, “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”

Beauty has many other dimensions to explore. There is beauty in social harmony. As Dr. Cornel West recently said, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” There is the portrayal of beauty in popular culture, which leads to issues dealing with body image and self-esteem against impossible expectations. There is beauty in diversity amidst the disease of racism. There is beauty in “a word of truth spoken to an unjust ruler.” The list goes on...

How do you define beauty? How do you think we can we make our world more beautiful? How can we make our nation “a more perfect union?” How can we make our homes and communities more loving spaces? How can we sculpt ourselves and our characters to emanate more beauty? Finally, how do we reconcile our struggle for perfection with our human limitations and frailties? 

We challenge you to take a deeper look and analyze the various concepts surrounding this theme. You have a chance to explore these concepts and more in the competitions and workshops of MIST this year, at both the Regional and National levels. Remember, competitive submissions with the most creativity and insight earn the greatest points.

#MISTMonologues: Perfect

by: Rabbia Sandhu


      Often times I find myself asking, what makes me happy? Some people might answer money, clothes, or even food (because why not?), but happiness is not restricted to materialistic things. When asked about happiness, I can confidently say that my happiness does not rely on the worldly money-oriented items, rather my happiness comes from within. The thought that I am doing what I want makes me happy, and the fact that I can be who I want, makes me happy. All around the world, we see people being judged for who they are, we see people changing their looks, their way of thinking and the way they perceive the world to become the perfect example of happy. It’s commonly misunderstood that happiness can only be achieved if you are perfect, but happiness is not limited to only one kind of perfect.

     Being perfect means making no mistakes and being the same boring person everyone wants you to be, but in the end we are all human. We all make mistakes and perfect does not have to have one meaning, because perfect is defined differently by each person. I make mistakes and I am not the same definition perfect others want me to be, but there is one thing I always keep in mind, a statement that is often heard, but never focused on: ‘be yourself’. It is harder than it sounds and I know it for sure. Though we do not realize it, every day is a new challenge. One day we might feel like we’re on top of the world, but the next day we might feel like everything is closing in on us. And that is when it all changes. We begin to change ourselves, because when people hit rock bottom, they will do just about anything to get back up. But don’t be that person who changes their life style to match those of others. You might think that hitting rock bottom is the worst thing ever, but you also have to see the positive side, because once you hit rock bottom, there is nowhere else to go but up.

    Saying that, I’d just like to send a message to all my fellow MIST competitors that you don’t have to change for anyone. If you want to change, do it for yourself. Be happy with who you are because there is no one in the world like you and you are special. Do what you want for you and no one else. I’d like to freely share my answer with the world. What is my happiness? My happiness is my freedom; my freedom to think, my freedom to live, and my freedom to be who I am because being unique is better than being ‘perfect’.