Islamic rulings on makeup- Is there such a thing as modest makeup?

Rulings on makeup are not like the rulings on alcohol, on meat, or on the headscarf. There isn’t a clear yes/no ruling on the matter. Unfortunately this vagueness has punctured our united front as Muslim women around the world.

When it comes to covering our hair, it is clear that no hair on our heads should be visible to the non-Mahrams. But when it comes to makeup, we all have very different perspectives.

Before I analyse the topic further, have a look at the following pictures:


What is your opinion? Is it OK to have this much makeup on?

Personally, I think the makeup on the top-left picture is acceptable and looks modest. The bottom picture, is maybe on the limit. I would only have this much makeup when I am out on a date night with my man. However, the top right is not modest at all. I would not appear in front of any non-Mahram, wearing this much makeup. On second thought, I wouldn’t wear this much makeup even in front of my dad/uncle/brother who are Mahram to me.  Therefore, the Mahram/non-Mahram argument doesn’t apply here.

Is our judgement on what is modest and not modest a good measure to go by? Can we decide on how much makeup is allowed? Surely Allah has not left us without any clues on the matter.

When it comes to the topic of makeup, there are many different views by different scholars. These are some of the different views:

  1. It is permissible to cover facial scars with a light powder.
  2. It is permissible to use Kohl around the eyes as it is good for the eyes.
  3. It is permissible to wear mascara and rings provided that she is safe from falling into forbidden activities and does not intend by it to excite non-Mahram men
  4. If she applies the surma/Kohl in such a way that even old women or elderly women use it, then even if it is for beautification, it is not necessary to cover it from non-Mahram men.
  5. Everything that the general public regards as beautification, and people refer to it as such is forbidden.
  6. ….

The list is long and I am not going to go through all of the different views out there. But the question remains, how much can we push the limits when it comes to makeup? Or better yet what is the limit?

From my research, I can conclude that there maybe different in the details of the different views of scholars on the matter of beautification, but two aspects are almost default in all of those Fatwas and views:

  1. The intention of the act must be NOT to beautify oneself.
  2. If the general public regards the act as beautification then you must refrain from it.

I, myself, have a big problem to completely put aside makeup in front of the non-Mahrams. You may ask why?

In today’s world, specially in the West, your husband goes out there, and sees. He sees women in beautiful high heeled shoes, short skirts, tops that not only show the silhouettes of their bodies, but show a shimmer of their skin too, hair that is lusciously curled up to their chests, and here I am, leaving the house looking pale, with clothes that don’t emphasize my curves, and my hair all covered up.

Will he not think for a moment: “what if my wife was as beautiful?

You may feel that over a long period of time, when he sees how you leave the house and how other women around him look like at the workplace, he may start to be less attracted to you. You may feel that his mind is now filled with the illusions of these women and he is only with you out of the constraints of religion. This is the moment that as a woman, you would like to use your benefit-of-the-doubt attitude and say: “at least makeup is allowed as long as it doesn’t attract other men.”

We are lying to ourselves. For the most part, we know that we are beautifying ourselves. But what is our reason, our intention? Is it to attract other men, or keeping our own men away from sinning? So is it really all our fault? or can we blame part of it on our men who do not lower their gazes? Can we say this is a shared sin among men and women of Islam? Maybe one can argue that it is the unfortunate circumstances that creates this situation, and in a perfect world where all men and women were modest, this would not be the case. These are the dilemmas of the modern Muslim men and women.

This surely is not the end of our discussion about the matter of beautification. To be continued in my future posts…

And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons or their sisters’ sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers, turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss. (Qur’an 24:31).

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