The Quran uses two different words in Arabic regarding a women’s beauty and a third word that is used in connection with a women’s beauty. Each of these words has a slightly different meaning that, God willing, we will review in this article.


The first use is the word l-ḥil’yati ( ٱلْحِلْيَةِ ), and this is used towards a women’s beauty in the following verse.

[43:18] (They say,) “What is good about an offspring that is brought up to be beautiful, and cannot help in war?”

(١٨) أَوَمَن يُنَشَّؤُا۟ فِى ٱلْحِلْيَةِ وَهُوَ فِى ٱلْخِصَامِ غَيْرُ مُبِينٍ

1awamanأَوَمَن(They think,) “(What good) is (one) whoم ن
2yunasha-uيُنَشَّؤُا۟it is brought up / produced / raisedن ش ا
3فِىforف ي
4l-ḥil’yatiٱلْحِلْيَةِthe ornaments / adorning (beauty)ح ل ي

The root of this word l-ḥil’yati ( ٱلْحِلْيَةِ ) is ( ح ل ي ) and it is found nine times in the Quran.

ḥuliyyihimحُلِيِّهِمْtheir ornaments / jewelry7:148:7
ḥil’yatinحِلْيَةٍornaments / jewelry13:17:18
ḥil’yatanحِلْيَةًornaments / jewelry16:14:11
yuḥallawnaيُحَلَّوْنَThey adorned18:31:9
yuḥallawnaيُحَلَّوْنَThey will be adorned22:23:13
ḥil’yatanحِلْيَةًornaments / jewelry35:12:18
yuḥallawnaيُحَلَّوْنَThey will be adorned35:33:4
l-ḥil’yatiٱلْحِلْيَةِthe ornaments / adorning (beauty)43:18:4
waḥullūوَحُلُّوٓا۟And they will be adorned76:21:6

If we look at these nine other occurrences, we see that this is a kind of beauty that serves no other purpose besides being beautiful. The use of this root in 7:148 is about the jewelry the Children of Israel used to make a calf. While seven other references are regarding adorning jewelry, most notably in the form of bracelets. Both bracelets and jewelry serve no other function besides making something look nice, and this understanding is reinforced in the last occurrence in 13:17.

[13:17] He sends down water from the sky, causing the valleys to overflow, then the rapids produce abundant foam. Similarly, when they use fire to refine metals for their jewelry or equipment, foam is produced. GOD thus cites analogies for the truth and falsehood. As for the foam, it goes to waste, while that which benefits the people stays close to the ground. GOD thus cites the analogies.

 أَنزَلَ مِنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ مَآءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌۢ بِقَدَرِهَا فَٱحْتَمَلَ ٱلسَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَّابِيًا وَمِمَّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِى ٱلنَّارِ ٱبْتِغَآءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَـٰعٍ زَبَدٌ مِّثْلُهُۥ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلْحَقَّ وَٱلْبَـٰطِلَ فَأَمَّا ٱلزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَآءً وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ ٱلنَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلْأَمْثَالَ

The above verse contrasts ḥil’yatin ( حِلْيَةٍ ) with matāʿin ( مَتَـٰعٍ ). The word matāʿin ( مَتَـٰعٍ ) infers a provision that has utility, while ḥil’yatin ( حِلْيَةٍ ) does not but is nevertheless desirable. This is also aligned with the sentiment made by the bigotry of people in the original verse, where they thought that this was the only value of women.


Another word used in reference to a women’s beauty can be found in the following verse, which uses the term ḥus’nuhunna ( حُسْنُهُنَّ ).

[33:52] Beyond the categories described to you, you are enjoined from marrying any other women, nor can you substitute a new wife (from the prohibited categories), no matter how much you admire their beauty. You must be content with those already made lawful to you. GOD is watchful over all things.

(٥٢) لَّا يَحِلُّ لَكَ ٱلنِّسَآءُ مِنۢ بَعْدُ وَلَآ أَن تَبَدَّلَ بِهِنَّ مِنْ أَزْوَٰجٍ وَلَوْ أَعْجَبَكَ حُسْنُهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا مَلَكَتْ يَمِينُكَ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ رَّقِيبًا

13walawوَلَوْeven ifل و
14aʿjabakaأَعْجَبَكَ[it] pleased / impressed youع ج ب
15ḥus’nuhunnaحُسْنُهُنَّtheir beauty,ح س ن

The word comes from the root ( ح س ن ), and this root is used 194 times in the Quran. The root of this word is associated with being good, righteous, kind, pious, as well as beautiful. This kind of beauty is more than just physical; but is a more all-encompassing beauty through and through. Several times in the Quran, this root is used towards the names of God when it states that to God belongs the best and most beautiful names.

[7:180] To GOD belongs the most beautiful names; call upon Him therewith, and disregard those who distort His names. They will be requited for their sins.

(١٨٠) وَلِلَّهِ ٱلْأَسْمَآءُ ٱلْحُسْنَىٰ فَٱدْعُوهُ بِهَا وَذَرُوا۟ ٱلَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِىٓ أَسْمَـٰٓئِهِۦ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ

1walillahiوَلِلَّهِAnd for God (are)ا ل ه
2l-asmāuٱلْأَسْمَآءُthe names –س م و
3l-ḥus’nāٱلْحُسْنَىٰmost beautiful,ح س ن

[59:24] He is the One GOD; the Creator, the Initiator, the Designer. To Him belong the most beautiful names. Glorifying Him is everything in the heavens and the earth. He is the Almighty, Most Wise.

(٢٤) هُوَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلْخَـٰلِقُ ٱلْبَارِئُ ٱلْمُصَوِّرُ لَهُ ٱلْأَسْمَآءُ ٱلْحُسْنَىٰ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُۥ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ وَهُوَ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْحَكِيمُ

6lahuلَهُFor Him (are)ل
7l-asmāuٱلْأَسْمَآءُthe namesس م و
8l-ḥus’nāٱلْحُسْنَىٰmost beautiful.ح س ن

[17:110] Say, “Call Him GOD, or call Him Most Gracious; whichever name you use, to Him belongs the best names.” You shall not utter your Contact Prayers (Salat) too loudly, nor secretly; use a moderate tone.

(١١٠) قُلِ ٱدْعُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ أَوِ ٱدْعُوا۟ ٱلرَّحْمَـٰنَ أَيًّا مَّا تَدْعُوا۟ فَلَهُ ٱلْأَسْمَآءُ ٱلْحُسْنَىٰ وَلَا تَجْهَرْ بِصَلَاتِكَ وَلَا تُخَافِتْ بِهَا وَٱبْتَغِ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ سَبِيلًا

10falahuفَلَهُthen to Him (belongs)ل
11l-asmāuٱلْأَسْمَآءُthe namesس م و
12l-ḥus’nāٱلْحُسْنَىٰthe best.ح س ن


This third word zīna ( زِينَ ), is actually not used in regards to a women’s direct beauty, but it is used in connection with a women’s beauty. This is because zīna ( زِينَ ) is that which beautifies or, put another way, enhances or amplifies beauty. This is best depicted in the following verse, in which the word zīna ( زِينَ ) is used three times in the context of a women’s dress code.

[24:31] And tell the believing women to subdue their eyes, and maintain their chastity. They shall not reveal their zīna, except that which is necessary. They shall cover their chests, and shall not reveal their zīna to other than their husbands, their fathers, the fathers of their husbands, their sons, the sons of their husbands, their brothers, the sons of their brothers, the sons of their sisters, other women, the male servants or employees whose sexual drive has been nullified, or the children who have not reached puberty. They shall not strike their feet when they walk in order to shake and reveal their zīna. All of you shall repent to GOD, O you believers, that you may succeed.

 وَقُل لِّلْمُؤْمِنَـٰتِ يَغْضُضْنَ مِنْ أَبْصَـٰرِهِنَّ وَيَحْفَظْنَ فُرُوجَهُنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ وَلَا يُبْدِينَ زِينَتَهُنَّ إِلَّا لِبُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ ءَابَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ أَبْنَآءِ بُعُولَتِهِنَّ أَوْ إِخْوَٰنِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِىٓ إِخْوَٰنِهِنَّ أَوْ بَنِىٓ أَخَوَٰتِهِنَّ أَوْ نِسَآئِهِنَّ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُهُنَّ أَوِ ٱلتَّـٰبِعِينَ غَيْرِ أُو۟لِى ٱلْإِرْبَةِ مِنَ ٱلرِّجَالِ أَوِ ٱلطِّفْلِ ٱلَّذِينَ لَمْ يَظْهَرُوا۟ عَلَىٰ عَوْرَٰتِ ٱلنِّسَآءِ وَلَا يَضْرِبْنَ بِأَرْجُلِهِنَّ لِيُعْلَمَ مَا يُخْفِينَ مِن زِينَتِهِنَّ وَتُوبُوٓا۟ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ جَمِيعًا أَيُّهَ ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ

1waqulوَقُلAnd sayق و ل
2lil’mu’minātiلِّلْمُؤْمِنَـٰتِto the believing womenا م ن
3yaghḍuḍ’naيَغْضُضْنَthey to subdue / lowerغ ض ض
4minمِنْ[of]م ن
5abṣārihinnaأَبْصَـٰرِهِنَّtheir eyesب ص ر
6wayaḥfaẓnaوَيَحْفَظْنَand they (shall) guard / maintainح ف ظ
7furūjahunnaفُرُوجَهُنَّtheir chastity,ف ر ج
8walāوَلَاand notل ا
9yub’dīnaيُبْدِينَthey to falunt / disclose / revealب د و
10zīnatahunnaزِينَتَهُنَّtheir beauty / adornments ز ي ن
11illāإِلَّاexceptا ل ل ا
12مَاwhatم ا
13ẓaharaظَهَرَit was apparent / obvious / necessaryظ ه ر
14min’hāمِنْهَاof it.م ن
15walyaḍrib’naوَلْيَضْرِبْنَAnd let them set forth / putض ر ب
16bikhumurihinnaبِخُمُرِهِنَّwith their coverخ م ر
17ʿalāعَلَىٰoverع ل ي
18juyūbihinnaجُيُوبِهِنَّtheir breasts / cleavage,ج ي ب
19walāوَلَاand notل ا
20yub’dīnaيُبْدِينَthey (shall) flaunt / disclose / revealب د و
21zīnatahunnaزِينَتَهُنَّtheir beauty / adornmentsز ي ن
22illāإِلَّاexceptا ل ل ا
23libuʿūlatihinnaلِبُعُولَتِهِنَّto their husbands,ب ع ل
24awأَوْorا و
25ābāihinnaءَابَآئِهِنَّtheir fathersا ب و
26awأَوْorا و
27ābāiءَابَآءِfathers (of)ا ب و
28buʿūlatihinnaبُعُولَتِهِنَّtheir husbandsب ع ل
29awأَوْorا و
30abnāihinnaأَبْنَآئِهِنَّtheir sonsب ن و
31awأَوْorا و
32abnāiأَبْنَآءِsons (of)ب ن و
33buʿūlatihinnaبُعُولَتِهِنَّtheir husbandsب ع ل
34awأَوْorا و
35ikh’wānihinnaإِخْوَٰنِهِنَّtheir brothersا خ و
36awأَوْorا و
37banīبَنِىٓsons (of)ب ن و
38ikh’wānihinnaإِخْوَٰنِهِنَّtheir brothersا خ و
39awأَوْorا و
40banīبَنِىٓsons (of)ب ن و
41akhawātihinnaأَخَوَٰتِهِنَّtheir sisters,ا خ و
42awأَوْorا و
43nisāihinnaنِسَآئِهِنَّtheir womenن س و
44awأَوْorا و
45مَاwhatم ا
46malakatمَلَكَتْ[it] possessed / owned / controlled*م ل ك
47aymānuhunnaأَيْمَـٰنُهُنَّtheir right hands / oaths (*their servants)ي م ن
48awiأَوِorا و
49l-tābiʿīnaٱلتَّـٰبِعِينَthe attendants / servants / employeesت ب ع
50ghayriغَيْرِwithoutغ ي ر
51ulīأُو۟لِىpossessors ofا و ل
52l-ir’batiٱلْإِرْبَةِthe sexual desireا ر ب
53minaمِنَamongم ن
54l-rijāliٱلرِّجَالِ[the] menر ج ل
55awiأَوِorا و
56l-ṭif’liٱلطِّفْلِ[the] childrenط ف ل
57alladhīnaٱلَّذِينَthose who*ا ل ل ذ
58lamلَمْ(are) not*ل م
59yaẓharūيَظْهَرُوا۟[they] aware*ظ ه ر
60ʿalāعَلَىٰof*ع ل ي
61ʿawrātiعَوْرَٰتِprivate aspects (of)*ع و ر
62l-nisāiٱلنِّسَآءِthe women (*children who have not reached puberty).ن س و
63walāوَلَاAnd notل ا
64yaḍrib’naيَضْرِبْنَthey to strikeض ر ب
65bi-arjulihinnaبِأَرْجُلِهِنَّwith their feetر ج ل
66liyuʿ’lamaلِيُعْلَمَthat it may draw attention / make knownع ل م
67مَاwhatم ا
68yukh’fīnaيُخْفِينَthey concealخ ف ي
69minمِنofم ن
70zīnatihinnaزِينَتِهِنَّtheir beauty / adornments.ز ي ن
71watūbūوَتُوبُوٓا۟And repent [you all]ت و ب
72ilāإِلَىtoا ل ي
73l-lahiٱللَّهِGodا ل ه
74jamīʿanجَمِيعًاaltogetherج م ع
75ayyuhaأَيُّهَOا ي ي
76l-mu’minūnaٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ[the] believers!ا م ن
77laʿallakumلَعَلَّكُمْso that you [all] mayل ع ل ل
78tuf’liḥūnaتُفْلِحُونَ[you all] succeed.ف ل ح

So based on this verse, the word zīna ( زِينَ ) in the context of this verse is something that amplifies a women’s beauty to make her more adorning. What is interesting is that it states in the following verse that when we go to the masjid, we are to bring our zīna ( زِينَ ).

[7:31] O children of Adam, you shall be clean and dress nicely when you go to the masjid. And eat and drink moderately. Surely, He does not love the gluttons.

(٣١) يَـٰبَنِىٓ ءَادَمَ خُذُوا۟ زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ وَكُلُوا۟ وَٱشْرَبُوا۟ وَلَا تُسْرِفُوٓا۟ إِنَّهُۥ لَا يُحِبُّ ٱلْمُسْرِفِينَ

1yābanīيَـٰبَنِىٓO Children (of)ب ن و
2ādamaءَادَمَAdam!ا د م
3khudhūخُذُوا۟Take* [you all]ا خ ذ
4zīnatakumزِينَتَكُمْyour adornments (*be clean and dress nicely)ز ي ن
5ʿindaعِندَatع ن د
6kulliكُلِّeveryك ل ل
7masjidinمَسْجِدٍmasjid,س ج د

This shows that zīna ( زِينَ ) is something one does to increase attractiveness and, therefore, not about one’s natural beauty. This shows that according to these verses and others, when a woman is out in public, she should be modest in her attire, but when going to the masjid, she should be dressed more nicely.

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