In no other religion does the concept of beauty play such a crucial role as in Islam. The concept of aesthetic beauty or the beauty of the form begins with the Revelation itself and the belief that the Qur’an is the word of God Himself, transmitted to the world by His unlettered Messenger, Muhammad. The unique beauty of the language and literary style of its text are believed to be the compelling evidence of its divine essence. The language of the Qur’an is described as a miracle (iʿjāz) which no human being is capable of achieving or imitating. Because the language is quintessential to the revelation, the translation of the Qur’an is not acknowledged as equivalent to the Arabic text. Early texts report of conversion through aesthetic experience, of converts being mesmerised by sound and expression of the recited Qur’an, revealing the divinity of its source. The persuasive power of beauty is a leitmotif in the Islamic aesthetic discourse.
The words ḥusn and jamāl and other derivatives of the same roots mean beauty. Several other terms are used in the Qur’an to refer to beauty and perfection in connection with God’s creation of the world such as zukhruf, ṭayyib, bahīj, zīna and their derivatives. The derivatives of ḥusn are used in the Qur’an in the sense of goodness, virtue as well as excellence and perfection, as in aḥsana kulla shay’in khalaqahu (32:7), fa-aḥsana ṣuwarakum (40:64; 64:3). The stem ḥusn appears as an attribute of the names of God, al-asmā’ al-ḥusnā (59:24), commonly understood as the ‘beautiful’ names although it should be perhaps interpreted in the sense of ‘good’ and ‘best’. In classical Arabic, ḥusn means ‘beauty’ and is synonymous with jamāl. Ḥusn and jamāl with their derivatives encompass aesthetic as well as moral beauty – in other words, the beautiful and the good.