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The Beauty Balance – Every Woman’s Dilemma

The Beauty Balance – Every Woman’s Dilemma

Makeup and hijab.”  Type those keywords into a YouTube search, and you will encounter dozens of tutorials that feature young, headscarf-wearing women demonstrating the techniques and products they use to achieve a flawless look for Eid, weddings, or every day.

Contoured faces, embellished lips, and enhanced eyes have become the new norm for many Muslim women –a demographic that spends billions of dollars every year on cosmetics.

An article in Fashionista.com cites a report that values the global halal cosmetics market — products specifically targeted to Muslim consumers– at $16.32 billion in 2015.  It is expected to reach $52.02 billion by 2025.

Interspersed with those instructional YouTube videos are a handful of lectures from Muslim men claiming that makeup is haraam.  These brothers, along with many others — whether standing in front of a minbar delivering a Friday khutba, or expounding passionately on social media — insist that their sisters in Islam eschew cosmetics and other forms of beautification.  Sometimes they even insult women they consider to be too glamorous, comparing them to prostitutes or calling them derogatory names like “hojabi.”

One brother, whose video is entitled “Why you can’t wear hijab & MakeUp,” claims that wearing cosmetics in public is not only forbidden but also “opposes what the female companions used to do.”

Comparing the behavior of modern day women to that of the sahabiyaat is a common practice, since those remarkable women of the past are indeed role models.  The noble early believers were blessed to live alongside the Prophet (PBUH), learn from him, and ask him questions pertaining to issues that were crucial to women.  Many of the sahabiyaat displayed superior Islamic adaab (etiquette) and were uniquely knowledgeable about the deen.

Interestingly, many of the female companions were not as unadorned as most people imagine.  In an informative lecture, “Fiqh of Women’s Attire and Beauty,” Safiya Ravat, Graduate of Fiqh and Usul al Fiqh at the International Islamic University, explains that many of the female companions of the Prophet (PBUH) regularly wore a natural-looking cosmetic the color of saffron (similar to foundation) on their faces, as well as kohl on their eyes, henna on their hands, and rings and bangles on their fingers and wrists.

According to one hadith, explains Ravat, a Companion named Zainab Bint Abi Salama had been mourning the death of her brother for three days.  Faithfully following the dictum of the Prophet (PBUH), she had not beautified herself during that period.  When the three days were complete, however, she purposely reapplied the saffron-colored cosmetic to her face in order to signify that her mourning period was over.  Thus, we see that believers at the time of the Prophet (PBUH) did indeed use some natural-looking cosmetics to enhance their eyes and brighten or refine their face — not just at home, but also in public.

So, who is right?  The YouTubers with their colorful makeup palettes, or the well-meaning (though oftentimes sanctimonious) brothers who declaim makeup as categorically haraam?


About Laura El Alam

For the past decade, Laura El Alam has been a regular contributor to numerous Islamic publications. Her articles have been published in SISTERS Magazine, Al Jumuah, About Islam, and Muslim Matters. Her Facebook Page,  The Common Sense Convert, offers advice, support, and education for Muslim women, particularly new converts.

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