“God don’t like ugly.” –common American phrase, particularly in the Southern United States
“He made everything that He created beautiful.” –The Quran (32:7)
I took a nature walk today. It was cold and rainy, which meant no one was out (except me). Beauty, beauty everywhere!
What is beauty of mind? What is beauty of heart? What is beauty of soul? What is beauty of emotion? How are these the same? How are they different? Are they enacted, or expressed similarly, or differently? How does one discern the nuances of difference between beauty of mind-heart-soul-emotion? Is there a difference, or does all unite in Beauty, as it does in Love or Oneness?
Today I am thinking again about how beauty is reflected in actions. The two quotes at the top come to mind.
To get a feel for the quote, “God don’t like ugly”, I recommend watching the movie 10 Days in a Madhouse, for a character study. The nurses and doctors were the epitome of “ugly”. They used power as a justification for cruelty, goading patients into confrontation, then beating them (for example), and telling the patients, “you brought this on yourself”. They took advantage, and were just plain mean. U-G-L-Y. I’ve known a few people like that.
Contrast this, with the Islamic concept of abad, which means
courtesy, manners, correct comportment and upbringing, culture and literature. To possess adab is to be truly cultured in a manner that embraces not only the mind but also the body and soul. Adab means being polite before elders; recognizing the innate hierarchy in human values; knowing when to speak and when to remain silent, how to sit or stand politely, how to eat properly, and how to act correctly in all situations. (Islamic Spirituality. Edited by Sayyed Hossein Nasr. p. 218).
From my limited understanding, in Islamic spirituality, abad is the respect given to every action, in recognition of God creating everything beautiful. It is the physical acknowledgement of the beauty of God in everything; if any action is not beautiful, it dishonors the beauty that God created.
To me, it feels complex and full of rules, and often is so: “usually each Sufi center possesses elaborate rules for the adepts in their dealing with the master, other disciples, and the world outside. The aim of these rules is to train the soul and bestow upon it the habits necessary for progress upon the spiritual path.” (ibid).
But at the same time, the rules are designed for fallible humans, as a guide for right behavior. Beyond the rules, there is a feeling of how to be and act beautifully in the world. It would seem to me that as with any learning curve, some people need the structure, the rules, the framework, because they have not yet developed enough of an independent understanding, enough of a feeling of being able to apply the concept in a variety of situations. Then there are people who seem to understand innately, almost naturally how to apply the rules, and thus do not need the rules.
As for me, I was not raised with a concept of abad, but I was raised with the notion of common courtesy and respect. Add to that the Kantian ideal of inherent human dignity and value, and I have a pretty good framework for treating others as I would want to be treated (polite, respectful, honor the dignity of every person).
It is the “beyond the rules” aspect of abad that I am curious about. On the one hand, abad completely embodies the idea that I am seeking: how to bring beauty into every action, how to live a beautiful life. Yet there is more than this, more than the form of beauty.
I want to master the action of beauty in form and content, in mind, action, heart and soul.