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A Ruling Concerning the Removal of Facial Hair

A Translation of a Fatwa by Shaykh Abdul Karim Zaydan


Taken from al-Mufassal fi Ahkaam al-Mar’a wa bayt al-Muslimi1

al-Naamisah and al-Mutanaamisah.

It has been mentioned in al-Nihaayah of Ibn Atheer:

“al-Naamisah is the woman who plucks hair from her face, while the mutanaamisah is
she who requests one to do it for her.”2

Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani has commented thus:

“The mutanaamisah is the one who has requested the plucking. The naamisah is the one
who carries it out. While an-Namis is the removal of facial hair by tweezers.”3

Abu Dawud has said, “The Naamisah is she who shapes the eyebrows until they are thin.
I.e. that she plucks her eyebrows until they are thin”.4

Curse of the one who Plucks her hair and the one who has carried out plucking on another

Imam Muslim reports in his Sahih that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas said, “Allah curses the
tattoo artists and those seeking to be tattooed, and the one who plucks and the one
seeking to be plucked, and the one seeking to create a gap between her teeth for the
purpose of beautification, and the ones who change the creation of Allah”5

Imam Bukhari narrates the same hadith with the exclusion of the word, “al-naamisaat”,
the ones who pluck the eyebrow, but has the addition at the end of the hadith from the
narrator, “it is not for me not to curse one that the Messenger of God (p.b.u.h) cursed, and
who is cursed in the Book of God”6

The Verdict on Plucking: Prohibition

The act of plucking is haraam, prohibited, as has been said by Imam al-Nawawi and
others from amongst the scholars7 because both the one who carries out the act and the
one who requests it are cursed due to the fact that the action of plucking is itself
prohibited. This is because damnation does not occur upon an action which is
permissible.

1
Translated by Sofia Abdur Rehman. Published by Mu’assasat al-Risalah, 3rd Ed. 2000, Vol.3, p.381-388
2
Ibn Athir, “Al Nihayah “ Vol. 5 p.119
3
Sahih al Bukhari bi Sharh Al ‘Asqalani Vol.10 p.377
4
‘Awn al-Ma‘bud Sharh Sunan Abu Dawud.
5
Sahih Muslim bi sharh al Nawawi Vol.14 p.105-106
6
Sahih Bukhari bi Sharh al ‘Asqalani Vol.10 p.378
7
Sahih Muslim Sharh al-Nawawi, Al-Mahla by Ibn Hazm and Nayl al-Awtar
The Opinion of Ibn Jawzi and his Sheikh

Ibn Jawzi stated, “…removal of hair from the face to beautify oneself for their husband is
permissible. The hadith of the one who plucks is attributed to either of the two
aforementioned”8

In addition ibn al-Jawzi stated, “our sheikh, Abdul Wahhab ibn al-Mubarak al-Anmati
said, ‘if a woman removes hair from her face for her husband after he has seen her (i.e
once he has seen her before the marriage contract is completed, in the time of the
proposal) then there is no blame by it. However if she does so before he sees her then
this is blameworthy as there is deception in such an act’”9

The Opinion of Some Hanbali Scholars regarding Plucking

The following is narrated from Fath al-Bari Sharh al-Bukhari by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani,
“Some of the Hanbali Scholars have said, ‘If the plucking of hair is a widespread
characteristic among the immoral then it is prohibited, forbidden. If this is not the case
then it is free from prohibition, but of the category makruh tanzih (i.e a disliked act
whose undertaking is not punished).

Another narration from these scholars is, “Plucking is permissible by the permission of
the husband as long as there is no deception thereby, otherwise it is prohibited.”10

The Opinion of Imam al ’Ayni (Hanafi Jurist)

Imam al ’Ayni has stated in his ’Umdat al-Qari Sharh Sahih Bukhari, “Medication which
removes discomfort or nuisances and beautifies the face for the husband is not prohibited,
and so removal of hair is from this.”11

The Opinion of the Zaydis (Shi’a Sect)

The Zaydis have said, “The apparent opinion on these things; plucking and tattooing, are
forbidden because the hadith mentioning them states, “(that which) changes the creation
of Allah”. It has been mentioned in al-Intisaar, (a Zaydi book) that this is attributed to
women of doubtful character, and they are those charged with immorality, who do it for
other than their husbands. As for those who have husbands, then these things are
permissible for them.12

8
Ibn Al Jawzi Al Hanbali, “ahkam al-Nisa’” p.342. His saying “The hadith of the one who plucks is
attributed to either of the two aforementioned”is what he said in his explanation of the hadith on p.341:
“either this (plucking) is the characteristic of immoral women (in the hadith mentioning the curse of the
ones who pluck) or it is the plucking which is done to deceive a man.” i.e the curse is in reference to the
women of immorality or the act of deception, not the actual act of plucking itself.
9
Ibn al-Jawzi‘, Ahkam al-Nisa
10
Sahih Bukhari bi Sharh al ‘Asqalani Vol.10 p.378
11
Imam al ‘Ayni, ‘Umdat al Qari Sharh Sahih Bukhari Vol.2 p.193
12
Ibn Miftah, Sharh al Azhar Vol.4, p.116-117
The Preferable Verdict Regarding Plucking

The weightier opinion according to me with regards a verdict on plucking is that it is


forbidden. This is the presumption and the apparent meaning of the noble hadith in
which the one who plucks and the one who requests the action are both cursed. Therefore
it is prohibited for an unmarried woman to pluck, especially if a man has proposed to her,
because such an action in this situation would amount to deception in addition to its being
haraam.

As for one who is married, if her husband desires or requests this from her then it is
permissible for her because this is from the sphere of adorning and beautifying herself for
her husband. This is an action desirable in Shari’ah, sacred law, for its establishing
desire and love between the husband and wife, and for its being free of deception in this
state.

As for the one who does so without her husband requesting it to be done , but having
sought his permission, then it appears to me that it is also permissible because his giving
permission is equal to his having requested this. It also appears to me, for such married
women the ruling of the mutanaamisah, who is cursed, does not fall upon her as the
beautification of the wife which increases the husband’s love for her is permissible.

Exceptions to the Prohibition of Plucking

We stated that the verdict on one who plucks is that it is forbidden, except for those
mentioned by ibn al-Jawzi and his sheikh, Imam al ‘Ayni, some of the Hanbali scholars
and the Zaydis within restrictions aforementioned. That which is absolutely excluded
from prohibition is the removal of a beard or moustache on the face of a woman. In such
circumstances plucking of the hair from the face of a woman is permissible just as
trimming it is. It has been stated by the Shafi’is “If a beard were to grow on a woman
then it is recommended (Istihaab) for her to pluck or trim it, because for her it is a
mutilation which is her right to remove, unlike men13. Likewise it is recommended for
her to pluck or trim the moustache.14

The Opinion of ibn Jarir al Tabari on this Exception

Ibn Jarir al Tabari stated, “It is not permissible for a woman to change a single thing from
her natural physique which Allah has created by increase or decrease seeking
beautification for the husband or other than him. So the one who has joined eyebrows
and removes what is between them has misconstrued happiness and it’s opposite.
Likewise is the one who has a beard or moustache and removes it by plucking. All of this
falls within that which is prohibited from changing the creation of Allah.15

13
For men it is at the very least recommended to keep the beard and moustache in accordance to the
Prophetic way, and it is also not from that which is unusual for a man thus it is not considered a mutilation
in the case of men.
14
Al Majmoo’ (Shafi’I book of jurisprudence) Vol.1 p.349-422
15
Sahih Bukhari bi Sharh al ‘Asqalani Vol.10 p.377
The Preference is Acting in accordance with the Exception

The preference is not only to act in accordance with the exception but it is also
recommended as has been clarified the Shafi’is. Thus if a woman has a beard grow then
it is recommended for her to trim or pluck it, and likewise if she has a moustache
growing, because, as stated by the Shafi’is it is a mutilation which is her right to remove.
It is also because it is forbidden for a woman to resemble a man and thus the retaining of
a beard of moustache would cause a woman to outwardly appear similar to a man and this
is prohibited. So the removal of this similarity is desired, and this is not possible except
by way of trimming or plucking the beard or moustache. And in this is not the changing
of the creation of Allah, but rather it affirms the gender differences in the creation of
Allah, because Allah did create womankind without a beard or moustache in contrast to
men. Thus if anything appears on the face of a woman from that which we have
mentioned then it is inconsistent and contradictory to that which has proceeded by way of
Allah’s norm and volition, in that the being of a woman, her shape and form is in contrast
to that of a man, thus the removal of anything that contradicts these differences and
creates similarities between the sexes does not constitute the changing of the creation of
Allah but rather a return to the norm in the creation of Allah.

Is it Permissible to Shave the Face of a Woman?

We have stated that plucking is forbidden and it is defined as the removal of a woman’s
facial hair by plucking i.e by tweezers.

The Hanbalis have made permissible (Ibaaha) the removal of a woman’s facial hair by
shaving (al-Haf). It has been stated in al Mughni by ibn Qudamah al Hanbali, “As for
shaving the face, then Mahna said, ‘I asked Abu ‘Abdullah (Imam Ahmad) about
shaving. He said, ‘there is no blame in it for women, and it is disliked for men.’ Shaving
is removal of hair by a blade.

Is it Permissible to trim the face of a woman?

Trimming of a woman’s facial hair is the same as shaving it according to the Hanbalis,
which is permissible with them and so likewise is trimming. It has been stated in al-
Mughni in the jurisprudence of the Hanbalis, “the naamisah is the one who plucks hair
from the face, while the mutanaamisah is the one whose hair is plucked upon her request,
and this plucking is not permissible due to the report.16 As for trimming, then there is no
blame in it as the report (i.e the tradition cursing the one who plucks and requests
plucking) mentions plucking. This was documented by Ahmad.17

It is clear that the Hanbalis distinguish between removal of facial hair by plucking, which
is usually done by tweezers, and by shaving or trimming, which is usually done with a
blade. Thus they forbid plucking and permit shaving and trimming. This is considering
that plucking removes hair by its root and by doing so pain and harm may be inflicted on
a woman’s face, or it may leave a mark. Whereas shaving or trimming do not remove
hair from its roots and nor do they cause pain nor harm, and neither do they leave a mark.
16
C.f earlier cited statement of the Noble Prophet SAW
17
Al Mughni Vol.1 p.94 and Mukhtasar al Insaf wa Sharh al Kabir p.19
Additionally, shaving and trimming beautifies the woman for her husband without pain
being inflicted on her. Thus in light of all this the Hanbalis forbid plucking and permit
shaving and trimming and because the tradition forbids plucking and not shaving or
trimming.

The Preference regarding shaving and trimming

As for the position of the Hanbalis then this is what I incline towards regarding the
married woman. As for the unmarried woman then I do not see it’s permissibility as it is
a beautification and she does not have a husband. In addition it harbours deception just
as plucking does, with regards to a potential suitor.

Report of Aisha regarding trimming

It is stated in Fath al Bari bi Sharh Sahih Bukhari, by Ibn Hajr al Asqalani, “It has been
reported by al Tabari by way of Abu Ishaq from his wife that she entered upon Aisha
mother of the believers and she (the wife of Abu Ishaq) was a young girl fascinated by
beauty, and she said, “can the woman shave her eyebrows for her husband?”. Aisha said,
“Remove blemishes from yourself as much as possible.”18 This report from Aisha,
mother of the Believers, gives support to the view of the Hanbalis, and it is what we have
preferred, in the permissibility of shaving for a woman.

Removal from the Eyebrows

Is it permissible for a woman to remove anything from the eyebrows if they become
long?

Imam ibn Jarir al Tabari said, “It is not permissible for a woman to change a single thing
from her natural physique which Allah has created by increase or decrease seeking
beautification for the husband or other than him. So the one who has joined eyebrows
and removes what is between them has misconstrued happiness and it’s opposite.”19

And in the Majmoo’ of Shafi’i jurisprudence it said, “As for removal of hair from the
eyebrows which have lengthened, then I do not see anything (regarding this) from our
companions, so it is should be disliked as it changes the creation of Allah and there is
nothing authentic regarding it, and thus it is disliked. Some companions of Ahmad have
said there is nothing wrong with it and that in fact Ahmad himself would do it. This has
also been narrated from Hasan al Basri.20

The Preferred Verdict on Removal from the Eyebrows

In my opinion, it is permissible to remove from the eyebrows if they become very long.
Thus a woman may trim from the eyebrows until they are in a natural and normal shape
from the point of thickness and length of the eyebrows. The evidence for this is as
follows:

18
Fath al Bari Sharh Sahih Bukhari Vol.10 p.378
19
Ibid.
20
Al Majmoo’ (Shafi’I book of jurisprudence) Vol.1 p.349
1. Plucking is the removal of hair from the face of the woman as has been
explained. And the definition of “removal” is the removal of the hair such that
nothing at all remains of it, whereas in trimming of what is excessive from the
eyebrows, still leaves behind hair from the rest of the eyebrow. Therefore
“trimming” is not as “removal” in that trimming leaves behind natural eyebrows,
whereas removal would leave behind nothing at all of the eyebrows.

2. Abu Dawud explained “al-namas” as removal of hair from the eyebrows. In his
Sunan he states, “The naamisah is she who shapes the eyebrows until they are
thin21, and the mutanaamisah is she who it is carried out upon.”22

3. It is possible that our preferred verdict be arrived at by building an analogy upon


the opinion of the Hanbalis, making shaving or trimming from the face of a
woman permissible.

4. Our preferred verdict enters into the points of understanding regarding the
permissible acts of beautification of a woman for her husband, as long as the
eyebrows are returned to a normal, natural shape.

5. Trimming eyebrow hair that is overgrown does not constitute changing the
creation of Allah. Had trimming of hair been considered changing the creation of
Allah, then it would not have been permissible for a man to trim his hair, nor for a
woman when coming out of the state of pilgrimage (a- tahalal) during Hajj or
‘Umrah. Nor would it have been permissible for a man to trim his hair generally
as changing the creation of Allah is not permissible for men nor women. In
addition it has been reported that Imam Ahmad would remove hair from his
eyebrows as has been stated in the Majmoo’ of Shafi’I jurisprudence. All of this
indicates that removal from the eyebrows does not constitute changing the
creation of Allah.

As for plucking the eyebrows to make them thin or removal of hairs between the
eyebrows then this is not permitted as they are included in the prohibition.

21
i.e the eyebrows are plucked until they are not in a natural shape. Thus they are neither natural nor
normal in thickness or length.
22
Sunan Abu Dawud Vo.11, p.228