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Grooming within the Shari’ah

Kanika Aggarwal explains the Shari’ah rulings on a variety of issues surrounding women’s grooming, beautification and adornment.

In much of the modern Muslim world, women are taught that everything that falls under the category of beautification and adornment is prohibited by the Shari’ah. On the contrary, when it comes to worldly matters, the maxim goes, “Everything is allowed unless specified.” The Shari’ah does not prohibit a woman from beautifying herself. Women are asked to do so within the guidelines of Islam in order to protect themselves from any potential harm.


Since by default everything is allowed, listed below are some matters that come with certain Islamic guidelines.


Cutting hair
Muslim women are encouraged to take care of their hair. Abu Hurayrah (RA) reported the Prophet (SAW) as saying: “Whoever has hair should honour it” (Abu Dawud). A Muslim woman should treat her hair with appropriate products such as shampoo, conditioner, serums and oils.


She is allowed to lengthen or shorten her hair, depending on her own liking. However, she is not allowed to imitate the haircut of the opposite gender or shave it off completely.


Wearing a wig/hair extensions
Our Shari’ah does not allow a woman to wear a wig or add hair extensions, even to please her husband, because of the prohibition against adding artificial hair to original hair. Abu Hurayrah (RA) reported that the Prophet (SAW) said: “Allah has cursed the woman who adds false hair and the woman who has this done, and the woman who tattoos and the women who has this done.” (Bukhari)


However, Shaykh al ‘Uthaymeen released a fatwa expressing that if a woman doesn’t have any hair on her head due to sickness, e.g. if she is bald or has patchiness, then it is allowed for her to use a wig. This is because in her case, it is to remove blemishes. He based his fatwa on the example of the Prophet (SAW) who allowed a man who had his nose cut off during a battle to wear a fake nose of gold.


Plastic surgery
Continuing from above, in Islam, beautification is not the same as removing a blemish. Plastic surgery is allowed if the matter is that of removing a blemish, such as a crooked nose or the removal of a birth mark. Then the scholars consider no harm in it.


Shortening eyebrows and removing facial hair
This is a widely discussed matter in our Shari’ah. Muslim women are not allowed to remove or pluck eyebrow hairs. “The Messenger of Allah (SAW) cursed the women who plucked hair and those who were employed to pluck the eyebrows.” (Abu Dawud)


However, there is a difference of opinion amongst scholars on trimming or clipping these hairs. Scholars say that it is best to avoid this act. However, if a woman has some obtrusive hairs near her eyebrows, such as stray hairs or linked eyebrows, which are a problem and embarrassment for her, she may remove them. This is based on the example of ‘A’isha (RA), when she was approached by the young wife of Abu Ishaq who wished to remove her facial hairs in order to look beautiful for her husband. She advised her to do so (At-Tabarani).


Exception is also granted in the case of hair that is uncommon or unusual for women to have, such as what grows on a part of the face wherein women usually do not have hair growth. This includes moustaches or cheek hair; there is no harm in removing that type of hair. By extension, it is also allowed for a woman to remove hairs from other parts of her body such as her thighs, arms and legs. There is no prohibition regarding these acts.


Nail polish and letting the fingernails grow
There is no prohibition on using nail polish. However, it must be removed before ablution because it prevents water from reaching the nails. Thus, I always encourage women to wear nail polish during their menstruation or postpartum days, when ablution is not an issue.


Letting the fingernails grow is against the fitrah (natural instinct) and the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW). He said: “From the acts of nature are five: circumcision, removing pubic hairs, trimming the moustache, cutting the nails and plucking the hair from under the armpits” (Bukhari and Muslim). Additionally, it is not allowed to leave them for more than forty nights. This is based on the hadith of Anas (RA): “The Messenger of Allah (SAW) set a time limit for us for trimming the moustache, trimming nails, removing armpit hairs and removing pubic hairs. They cannot be left for more than forty nights” (Muslim).


Using perfume outside of the house
Lastly, it is recommended for a woman to wear perfume for pleasing her husband. However, women are not allowed to use perfume when they go out. This is because the Prophet (SAW) prohibited women from using any kind of incense when leaving their house: “‘If a woman puts on perfume and passes by people so that they can smell her fragrance, then she is such and such,’ and he spoke sternly – meaning an adulteress” (Abu Dawud).


Remember dear sisters, everything that falls under the category of beautification and adornment is allowed except for the matters mentioned above. Also, remember that these guidelines have been placed by your Creator, your Rabb – Allah (SWT), in order to protect you from the evils of the society, not to impinge on your freedom. Please consult your local scholars if you have any doubts regarding these matters. Happy beautifying!