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Prohibition of tattooing, cutting the teeth, and undergoing surgery for beautification

Among such excesses are tattooing and shortening the teeth. The Messenger of Allah (saw) cursed the tattooer and the one who is tattooed, the shortener of teeth and the one whose teeth are shortened (Muslim).

As far as tattooing is concerned, it permanently disfigures the face and other parts of the body with blue pigment and repulsive designs. Some Arabs, especially women, were in the habit of tattooing large portions of their bodies, while people of certain religious sects tattooed pictures of their deities or religious rituals on their hands and chests. To all these abominations is added the pain and agony which the person being tattooed must undergo from the pricking of the needles. Because all of this, both tattooer and the one who is tattooed have been cursed.

As for cutting or shortening the teeth, the Prophet (saw) cursed both the men and the women who do it and the women who request it. If a man does it, he merits an even greater curse.

We also know the ruling of the Islamic Shari’ah concerning plastic surgery. Surgeries for beautification are in vague today as the result of the materialistic outlook of Western civilization, a civilization stressing the body and its desires. Men and women spend hundreds and thousands of dollars to reshape their noses or breasts, or whatever they consider misshapen. This behavior most certainly belongs in the category of excessive beautification, unnecessarily changing what Allah has created, and it merits the curse of Allah and His Prophet (saw). It likewise involves torture, pain, and waste of money merely for the sake of one’s appearance; it is, moreover, an expression of an individual’s preoccupation with form rather than substance, with body rather than with spirit.

“It may happen that a person has an unusual physical defect which attracts the attention of others to the point of inflicting physical and psychological pain every time he meets people. In this case, he may treat the defect and thus alleviate the embarrassment which made his life miserable. Allah the Most Merciful has imposed no hardship on us in religion.” (Al-Bahee al-Khooly) 

Plucking the eyebrows

Among the extremes of beautification prohibited by Islam is al-nams, which denotes removing the hair of the eyebrows by plucking in order to thin or shape them. The Prophet (saw) cursed both the women who do the plucking and those who seek to have it done. This practice is particularly frowned upon because it is customarily done by prostitutes.

According to some Hanbali scholars, if the husband approves it, the removal of facial hair (other than that of the eyebrows) and the use of powder, creams, and other beauty aids are permitted to women, as this is part of feminine adornment. Al-Nawawi is somewhat more strict, considering the removal of facial hair to be al-nams and hence forbidden. In contrast to his opinion, we may however, mention Abu Daud’s statement in his Sunan that “al-nams is plucking the eyebrows in order to thin them,” from which we may conclude that al-nams does not include the removal of facial hair.

At-Tabari reports a narrative concerning the wife of Abu Ishaq, who loved to beautify herself. Once she visited Aisha and asked, “What if a woman removes the hair from her forehead to please her husband?” Aisha replied: “Remove what is harmful from yourselves whenever possible.”

Wigs and hairpieces

In the category of female adornment, the addition of any other hair, real or artificial, to one’s own hair – that is, the wearing of wigs and hairpieces - is also prohibited. It is reported by Al-Bukhari on the authority of Aisha, her sister Asma, Ibnu Mas’ud, Ibn umar, and Abu hurairah that: “The Messenger of Allah (saw) cursed al-wasilah and al-mustawsilah.” Wasilah denoting a woman whose profession is making wigs and hairpieces, and mustawsilah a woman who uses them.

Men are prohibited such things to an even greater degree, whether they are wasil (coiffeur or hairdresser) or a mustawsil, like today’s effeminate, long-haired young men of the “hippie” mould.

The Prophet (saw) was very strict in combating such deceptions, so much so that if a woman lost her hair due to some illness, he did not permit her to add other hair to that on her head, even if she were soon to be married.

 (To be continued)

by Prof. Dr. Yusuf Al-Qardhawi