Owing to the fact that Henna fades with time, Muslims who patronise this form of body painting are finding it burdensome going for re-decoration. Now, they

are opting for permanent body decorations in total disregard of Islam’s position. " Had I prior knowledge that tattoos are religiously outlawed, I would not have gotten one. Now, I wish I would have it removed but…it’s permanent.” This is a remorseful Halima Hassan and like many Muslims reeling under the influence of Westernisation and peer pressure, it is not strange nowadays to encounter them donning some kind of body art in full contradiction or ignorance of Islamic teachings on it. For Halima she was innocently aping what her elder sisters were doing. “I saw my sisters adorned in tattoos and I thought it was cool to have one too,” says Halima. She regrets having the tattoo and blames it on her upbringing. “My sisters and I were raised by a single parent and never had the opportunity to gain Islamic knowledge by attending madrassa,” adds Halima. Now, Halima and her sisters know better. A tattoo is a form of body modification, made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. It’s so popular, such that many influential personalities don’s one and young people are lining up to imitate them.

Currently, donning a tattoo seems to be in-thing and a fashion-statement of some kind among the young and old alike irrespective of religious background. According to investigations carried out by Marhaba Life and Style, tattooing in Nairobi is done according to complexity or simplicity of the whatever drawing one wishes to be engraved on their body and may range from Ksh1000 to Ksh16,000 and above for the permanent one. A temporary tattoo lasting for a period of 1- 3 months is charged between KSh500 to KSh1000. Thus, going by the surge in tattoo parlours offering these services, it is evident that it is brisk business. Incidentally, some Muslims despite being fully aware of that it is religiously outlawed-consider tattoos as the ‘in-thing’ are also being caught in this web. Take for instance, Yasmin Juma a hairdresser from Majengo, Nairobi who thinks that people by nature love new, fresh and trendy things and tattoos are no exception. “Tattoos come in a variety of ‘exciting’ colours and ‘unlimited’  patterns/ designs that will make your skin stand out. Creativity is also ‘limitless’ from a simple rose to complex drawing of animals among others,” she observes. For Fadhili Musa a student at Jamia Training Institute in Nairobi, he is of the opinion that tattoos are a way to expressing oneself. “The permanent tattoos are a way of self-expression,” he says.

Self-expression or a fashion statement, tattooing is slowly edging out the traditional use of henna as the Islamically preferred way of adornment for Muslim  women to achieve the same effect. Having been practiced for over 5000 years in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East, henna was popular among the poor who could not afford jewelry and thus used it to decorate themselves. Locally, the use of henna in the Muslim community is more so evident during wedding ceremonies, where the bride is heavily decorated. However, owing to its ‘short life span’, henna fades with time and certainly losing its popularity among the likes of Pamoja FM’s reporter, Malasen Abdullahi. “Henna fades with time and the process of going back and forth for ‘redecoration’ is tiring-if not boring,” notes Malasen. Ali Mukhsin, a matatu driver is of the opinion that henna is outdated and in need of an ‘upgrade’. “It is an old practice and tattoos are ‘an upgraded version of henna’,” he says. But where does the illegality of tattoo come in according to Islamic teachings? It was narrated by Abu Juhayfah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Prophet (SAW) cursed the one who does tattoos and the one who has a tattoo done.” Various Muslim scholars have  also outlined several possibilities and arguments against tattooing as follows:

(1) Tattooing is considered ‘mutilating’ the body, or changing Allah’s (SWT) creation;
(2) It inflicts unnecessary pain and with possibility of infection;
(3) It covers the natural body and therefore it is a form of ‘deception’;
(4) Non-believers often adorn themselves this way and so it is like imitating them;
(5) Non-permanent tattoos such as henna stains and stick-on tattoos are universally permitted by scholars, provided they do not contain inappropriate images and;
(6) All actions prior to Islam are forgiven upon a person embracing Islam. Therefore if one had a tattoo before becoming a Muslim, it is not necessary to have it removed.

On the contentious issue of whether a permanent tattoo invalidates one’s wudu (ablution) since the tattoo is under the skin and does not prevent water from reaching it, Sheikh Ali Ausat - religious scholar from Nairobi differs on this point and says that it is important for the water when performing ablution to get under the skin. Therefore, a tattoo makes this difficult- meaning that your salah (prayer) will not be valid. But what is the religious verdict for those involved in tattooing? Ustadh Arafat Mubiin-a member of The Lotus Welfare Association says that tattooing is haram and even though people regard them as decoration. “Thus, the tattoo artist together with the one tattoo is being applied on- are each committing a sin.”

In Riyadh al-Saheehayn it is narrated that ‘Abdallaah ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “May Allah curse the women who do tattoos and those for whom tattoos are done, those who pluck their eyebrows and those who file their teeth for the purpose of beautification and alter the creation of Allah.” Apparently, since most tattoo artists are male, it means, in this case a female client exposing herself to a non-mahram leading to temptations or zina. According to Ustadh Mohammed Abdallah the Mudir of madrassatul Hudaa in Nairobi’s California Estate, he is also categorical that tattoos are haram, he vouches for Muslim women to opt for the traditional henna or peacock decorations and further stresses that it should be done by fellow women. “Men are easily tempted even by the mere sight of a woman’s skin.” Since tattoos are permanent. Once done, removing it requires a complex surgical procedure of skin grafting. Such a person does not need to go through this in order to remove the tattoo. What he/she is required to do is to genuinely towbah (repentance). On the issue of non-permanent (stickon) tattoos, various Sheikhs are of the opinion that they are ‘allowable’ so long as one plucks them off the skin as at the time of performing wudu (ablution) in readiness for salah (Prayer). Further, they should not represent animate beings such humans and animals. Even as Allah has permitted women to adorn themselves by using henna, there are limits. So long as the drawings do not represent animate beings such as humans or animals, and that she does not show-off this adornment (s) before non-mahram men.

Marhaba Life and Style has also learnt that the body art- mentioned in this topic is not only limited to tattooing; body piercing is also taking Muslims by storm. Though Muslim scholars are all in consensus that is okay for women to pierce their ears to don jewelry, any excess in terms of the piercing is deemed as haram. Thus, it is common knowledge by now that body piercing has certainly gone out of hand as unmentioned of parts of the human anatomy are now target of this body piercing craze. “Damaging the body permanently for a vain reason is considered haram.” For Muslim men who are into body piercing, Islam forbids men to imitate women and women to imitate men, and in fact it emphatically forbids that, to such an extent that the Prophet (SAW) cursed those who go against the human nature with which Allah created them. It was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbas (may
Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (SAW) cursed men who imitate women and women who imitate men, and he said: “Throw them out of your houses.” as narrated by al-Bukhari. As much as Marhaba Life and Style does not vouch for these forms of body art, it is worthwhile to point of the lurking health risks for those visiting tattoo and body piercing parlours. Take again for instance, Halima Hassan, she confides to Marhaba Life and
Style of the severe pain on her breast where she was tattooed. “For a duration of 3 months, I was in excruciating pain.” Further, the health risk of sharing unsterilised equipment is high as this is a fertile ground for transmission of diseases such as hepatitis and HIV among others.

Incidentally, parents and guardians also need to be on the look-out when kids start demanding certain sweet wrappers with temporary stick-on tattoos. “When kids start at an early age to put on temporary tattoos, they begin thinking that it is Islamically okay, and just a matter of time before they yearn for the ‘real thing’,” says Mwanaharusi Hadija a parent from Eastleigh, Nairobi.


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