Just like we take care of our outward appearance, wear nice clothes, and worry about public tastes in our manner of grooming, we should also take care to beautify our inner selves. Just as we would hate to go out in public in a disheveled state, we should also be aware that the corruption of the inner being is far more odious.
A poet once said:
Tasteful attire will never endear
a man to one he’s wronged
Any more than corpses love
the finery of burial clothes.
A beautiful funeral dressing is of no benefit to the deceased. Likewise, a person who possesses an evil, envious, hateful nature does not get any benefit from his good outward gestures. Such is the lot of the hypocrite.
A poet writes:
O servant of the flesh! How wretched
you grow from your service.
How you have whittle yourself
away in fruitless labors.
Turn your industry to your soul
and labor to perfect its virtues,
For you are by your soul,
not your flesh, a man.
A person does not become true and noble by virtue of physical strength and stature. If this were the case, then many a beast of burden or carnivore would attain the highest nobility and most sublime humanity. This is why the bodies of men and women are not the measure of their worth.
Inspired by this fact, a poet writes:
You see and scorn an emaciated man,
Though his rags clothe the epithet of a lion.
Surely, the well-dressed man impresses
but then you test his mettle,
Only to be disillusioned by
The camel is of grand stature,
but with a head bereft of wisdom,
So all his great bulk
ultimately avails you naught.
The puniest of sparrows
hatches a flock of chicks,
While the she falcon scarcely
rears any chicks at all.
Size and quantity are not all that matters, nor is a good outward show. What matters most is the heart. If the heart is pure, the body follows, but if the heart is rotten, the whole body is corrupted. The most pious Muslim, Abu Bakr, was a lightweight, slender man, but in spite of that, if his faith were weighed against the combined faith of all the Muslims, his faith would weigh more.
Then there was `Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud who was one of the dearest people to the Allah. The Companion Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman said:
“Those among the Companions whose knowledge is not easily prone to error all knew that Ibn Mas`ud was the closest and dearest of them to Allah.” (Sahih al-Bukhari (3762). Sunan al-Tirmidhi (3806)
Now, Ibn Mas`ûd was extremely slight of build – he was actually quite puny – and his shins were very skinny. He was so small that the wind would cause him to sway to and fro.
The Companion Zur ibn Hubaysh relates that Ibn Mas`ûd was harvesting branches from an arâk tree when the wind came up and caused his whole body to turn. People began to laugh at him, and Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) asked:
“What are you laughing at?”
They replied that they were laughing at his skinny legs.
To this the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“I swear by the One who possesses my soul! Those two legs are weightier in the Balance of the Hereafter than Mount Uhud.” (Musnad Ahmad (3991), Sunan Abî Ya`la (5310), and Mu`jam al-Tabarani (8452))