This was the sermon I gave in Friday prayer services today:
In the seventh verse of the eighteenth chapter of the Quran, it states:
Behold, We have willed that all beauty on earth be a means by which we put humanity to a test, [showing] which of them are best in conduct.
Thus, everything that is beautiful on this earth is test for us, to see how we respond to this thing of beauty. If that thing of beauty is another human being, that is a test for us: do we respond to that beautiful person - man or woman - in the proper way? Do we lower our gaze when he or she walks by? Or, do we gawk and objectify said person?
If we want to pursue a relationship with that person, do we go about that in the proper manner? Do we pursue the path of marriage? Or, do we simply satisfy our lust with that person in a manner that the Lord does not want?
If that thing of beauty is a natural resource: a river, an ocean, a tree, a mountain, a stream, or a rain forest; do we do our utmost to protect said natural beauty? Do we respect the earth and try to preserve her as much as we can for all of posterity? Or, do we exploit without end and care less for those who come after us?
Indeed, the Lord says:
[And remember that] it is God who has created the heavens and the earth, and who sends down water from the sky and thereby brings forth [all manner] of fruits for your sustenance; and who has made ships subservient to. you, so that they may sail through the sea at His behest; and has made the rivers subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you; and has made the sun and the moon, both of them constant upon their courses, subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you; and has made the night and the day subservient [to His laws, so that they be of use] to you. (14:32-33)
Yet, we must learn how to benefit from the earth as much as we can, all the while protecting it from willful harm and neglect.
If that thing of beauty is a spouse, do we treat that spouse with love, mercy, and respect? Do we honor God by honoring that spouse? Or, do we abuse and neglect him or her? Do we cheat on that spouse, not caring about the damage such an action would cause? Do we see that spouse as a gift from God that should be cherished? Or, do we see that spouse as a slave to be worked for our benefit?
The Lord has answered such questions:
And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind so that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think! (30:21)
Our spouses are "wonders" from God, and in them we find tranquility and peace, love and mercy. Treat them with kindness we must.
If that thing of beauty is a child, do we honor that child with a good home? A good upbringing? Or, do we neglect that child and abuse him or her? Do we love that child with all our hearts? Care for the child? Protect that child from harm and evil? Or, do we look the other when evil strikes? Indeed, there are few things that are more beautiful than a child, and if we are blessed to have one, then we must do our best to show our gratitude to the Lord by raising our children to be upright citizens of the world, who are both good to God and good to His people.
If that thing of beauty is family, or friends, or neighbors, do we treat them with kindness and respect? Or do we mistreat and abuse them? Do we help them in their times of need? Do we support them when they need us, even if it is helping them put away their groceries? Do we treat them as we would treat ourselves? Indeed, we must.
Yet, as with everything on this earth, these things of beauty will not be here forever. The Lord says in the next verse:
And, verily, [in time] We shall reduce all that is on [the earth] to barren dust! (18:8)
What is the implication of this? Should our response be, "Why bother, if all will become 'dust in the wind'"? No. Since our time is limited, we must do the best we can to make the best of all the things of beauty with which we are blessed. We should try to spend every day to the fullest in doing good on earth: doing good by our family, our friends, our neighbors, our spouses, our children, and our planet.
And you know what the best thing is? When we do these things, we are necessarily doing good by the Lord, Who is the Most Beautiful of all that is beautiful in the heavens and the earth. The only difference is: this Thing of Beauty will endure and never go away. And that can only be a beautiful thing.