Is there a market for (physical ) appearance in paradise? If so, how should it be apprehended?

Details of the Question
It is said that there will be a market where appearances (face, body) are sold and people will go there and buy whichever appearance they want. If it is true, does it mean then all the people in paradise are to look identical, like copies of each other?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We should state that in reality there are two different hadiths from two different sources on the issue of “market for appearances” According to the hadith in Tirmidhi reported by Imam Ali, Prophet Muhammad ( pbuh) said: ' In Paradise, there is a market, wherein there will be no buying or selling, but will consist of appearances of men and women. If a man desires one of those appearances, he will have that appearance.' (Tirmidhi, Paradise 15)

In Muslim, Anas b. Malik reported that Allah's Messenger (pbuh) said: In Paradise, there is a street to which the people of Paradise go every Friday. The north wind will blow and scatter fragrance on their faces and on their clothes and add to their beauty and loveliness, and then they will go back to their family after having an added luster to their beauty and loveliness, and their family will say to them: By Allah, you have been increased in beauty and loveliness after leaving us, and they will say: By Allah, you have also increased in beauty and loveliness after us. (Muslim, Kitab al-jannah 13).

One of the most obvious facts of the universe that we live in is the quality of relativity of facts. This universe is not a place for absolute, precise and sharp distinctions such as either black or white, beautiful or ugly, good or bad, dark of light. On the contrary, there are grades of black and white, beauty and ugliness, the good and the bad, the light and the darkness.

There is a common answer by sound hearts and truthful minds to the question of why this universe was created in this way: This is because the purpose of creation of the universe comes into reality with such grading. This universe was created by an Excellency of Great Power who wants to see and show His own beauty, His absolute and infinite names and attributes; and man that He created to make this secrecy come into existence can only do this in a world of relativity and grading. Because man, as a creature, has his limits as a result of his creation: his knowledge, perception, conception, his will and power are limited. So, he cannot surround and cover the Excellency who created him and the universe with his absolute knowledge, will and power. He cannot recognize and define the reality when he comes across with it in an absolute and limitless form. In this case, in spite of seeing the reality in a definite form, he becomes exposed to blindness out of a dazzling as if our capacity of sight does not increase but our eyes go blind when we look directly at the sun. This is because of this secrecy that The Excellency of Great Power who created the universe and the man, carried out this creation by ‘hiding in the intensity of His manifestation and concealing in the magnificence of His grandeur’, and displayed His names and attributes in a relative and graded form.

This is the very reason why the universe contains these contrasts. The One who created this universe, created it with an extreme variety of mixture of contrasts like good - bad, beautiful - ugly, useful - harmful, perfect - imperfect, dark – light, etc. ; and provided us with the opportunity to get to know His definite names and attributes by means of this relativity.

Man’s categorization and grading of the things that exist in the universe as for example “very beautiful – beautiful – average – ugly – very ugly” in terms of beauty is owing to this reason. Certainly, even in things that man does not regard as beautiful from one step away, he sees a nice feature that helps him to make the beauty in beautiful things be noticed as a criterion of comparison.

When we look at the world of human beings, we can see the different reflections of the grading that surrounds the whole universe among people as well. Humans are not equal to each other in terms of intelligence or emotion, or in terms of morals or beauty. Between opposites like strong and weak, good and bad, sensitive and insensitive, beautiful and ugly, man displays different oscillations. There are people who serve the whole world as good examples of high ethics, there are also people whose low ethics the whole world avoids. There are people whose power is deemed legendary whereas there are ones who are too weak even to move a single finger. Just as there have been ones whose beauty has been widely-spoken, so too have there been people whose ugliness is well-known.

No disapproval does man show for the eye-catching beauty side of the picture of this grading manifestations. In contrast, even if his mind accepts this wisdom of relativity, his conscience keeps asking questions about the “negative” side of this picture. Since being a wise, good and even stronger person depends on his using his ability and capability well and to some extent depends on his will, it can be comparatively easy for him to answer the question of conscience to this point. However, since especially beauty is not something that can be obtained, then there remains the question “What sin did the ugly people commit?” Moreover, although people are able to better their intelligence, knowledge, manners and their morals by endeavor, beauty is not something that they can obtain by hard work and that they can improve. Plus, surgical operations with esthetic purposes, even epilating eyebrow hairs is not accepted by Allah and His Prophet ( pbuh).

By looking at the history of humankind, even the time in which a person lives, he can find examples of a range of realities which might help them ease the weight of the burden of this question that is disturbing their conscience. For instance, any person can find people whose beauties have turned out to be a catastrophe for them or people whose lesser beauty have become a source of happiness. The number of people who look very good but unhappy is not less than the number of people who are happy with their less good-looking appearance. Likewise, numerous people lacking sufficient development of their some other humanly abilities and skills due to the excessive emphasis on their beauty by their own selves and by people around them. Anyone can encounter people who are defined as beautiful but bad-tempered, beautiful but spoiled, capricious, difficult to get along and many more “buts”; there must be such a great number of people who do not care to improve their mental skills as a result of the emphasis on beauty and self-confidence that beauty grants them that there is an example of expression “dumb blonde” which is widely-renowned. Even though “beautiful” people especially good-looking blondes are not actually lower-leveled in their mental skills and intelligence, it is naturally meaningful that this expression is renowned.

On the other side of the picture where the ones with lesser beauty and even the “ugly” ones are, it is possible to come across with very opposite sights to this. A fact that we are familiar as much as the ones who lose with their beauty is the presence of the ones who benefit from their “lesser beauty”. The ones with “average” beauty, and even the ones who some regard as “ugly” are more worthy of being preferred compared to many good-looking people, based on either their high ethics or good manners. The number of friends that a “not good-looking” person with high ethics has is definitely more than the number of a good-looking but bad-tempered person’s friends. The number of he people whose lack of beauty led them to advance more in science, in art, in spiritualism cannot be underestimated or ignored. In the same way, there must be as many people who are content with the appearance Allah created, and are thankful of not being very beautiful.

In short, neither beauty alone is sufficient for people, nor being of lesser beauty. On the contrary, the life progress of people from good to bad is shaped according to their evaluation of the way Allah created them.

Nevertheless, this fact does not completely remove the question out of a person’s conscience even if it diminishes much of its severity. Firstly and foremost, the presence of people with good looks, intelligence and with high ethics makes this question linger from the point of view of people who have average beauty and who can be considered “ugly” as well.

A less reputed hadith which has been hidden from our eyes (we do not know why) about the life in the hereafter from our Prophet (may peace be upon him) who has been the best example to humanity in terms of both beauty and mind and morals in this world, provides us a permanent answer to this question. According to what we have learnt from this hadith, ' In Paradise, there is a market for the ones who are content with the appearance which Allah created, and who do not rely on their beauty or complain about their ugliness; and for who can find their humanly maturity according to the appearance Allah created in this world and who try to do deeds according to the purpose of their creation will be welcome. There will be no buying or selling. It will consist of appearances of men and women. If a man desires one of those appearances, he will have one of that appearance.

This hadith presents an astounding emotional expansion, relief and profundity to the ones who comprehend the creation of people in different appearances according to the wisdom of gradability in the creation of this world yet envy the appearance of the ones who are better-looking than them, or who regard themselves as good-looking and feel sorry for those who are not.

As this hadith on “market for appearance” sets us to think, in this mortal world, it all comes down to the fact that we should depend neither solely on beauty nor on insufficient beauty. What is essential in this world where we are tested is about beautifying our essence and doing good deeds in order to win Allah’s contentment, the Lord Who created us and this universe.

Once we can agree with Him and make him content with us, He will welcome us to His paradise where the “market for appearances” is and provide His men and women with the beauty which He did not bestow in this world due to many reasons.
How joyful are the ones who do not take their beauties as an excuse for forgetting or who do not complain about their ugliness and who render their spirituality with good deeds and deserve to be customers of the market for appearances.

Metin Karabaşoğlu

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