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Islamic Ink; a Perspective on Tattoos

Posted on Feb 7, 2016 by in Articles, Society | 41 comments

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Tattoos are a very taboo subject in many Muslim cultures around the world. They were looked down upon in the west for many years as well. Even 20 years ago, the public perception of tattoos were that only criminals, gangsters, prisoners, and punks got tattoos. But, this has changed dramatically in the west. 14 percent (45 million) of the people in the United States have tattoos, while 40 percent of Americans aged 26-40 have a tattoo. There are 21,000 tattoo parlours in the states where 1.65 billion dollars is spent annually.

Although there are no statistics about tattoos in Muslim communities, one can clearly see that the numbers of youth getting tattoos are rising. Many youth are asking scholars about the permission to get tattoos and many youth have already inked themselves up. For instance, these pictures came up out of the thousands pictured after doing a quick google search:

64712 Islam InmateTattoo shia-islam-tattoos-aren-haram-you-43190

Here is a video about what it looks like getting a tattoo:

It is important to see what the religious authorities have said about tattoos. Some have criticised tattoos stating that they are changing the body that Allah gave you, prevent one from performing wudu or ghusl correctly, or are disrespectful and the actions of non-Muslims. Here is what the scholars said:

Regarding permissibility:

Sayyid Khamenei, in Practical Laws of Islam, ruling 1220 answered a question about the permissibility of tattoos and said: “Tattooing is not haram.”

Sayyid Sistani answers a question about a woman tattooing her eyebrows and states that “tattooing them is permissible.”

Regarding the issue of wudu and ghusl:

Sayyid Khamenei, in Practical Laws of Islam, ruling 143 answers a question about tattoos in regards to wudu. He said: “If the tattoos are merely color or it is under the skin and there is nothing on the skin to prevent water from reaching it, then the wudu and ghusl are valid.” He continued in ruling 1220: “The mark it [tattoos] leaves under the skin does not form a barrier to water reaching the skin. Thus, ghusl and wudu, with a tattoo on any part of the body, are valid.”

Sayyid Sistani has a different ruling regarding tattoos and wudu or ghusl. He states that “if a verse of the Holy Quran or Name of the Almighty Allah is written or tattooed on the body of a person then such a person while doing wudu or ghusl, will be required to pour water on that part without touching the writing.”

That being said, if the tattoos are considered to be disrespectful towards Islam or the Ahl al-Bayt (a) then they would definitely be prohibited. Furthermore, over 30 percent of people who get tattoos regret it in the future. These numbers must be higher amongst religious people. Think twice before you ink up!

By: Shaykh Hamid Waqar

Portugese Translation

41 Comments

  1. Can I have proof plz that khamenei said it’s hallal

    • Salaams, in his book Practical Laws of Islam (which is found on his website: http://www.leader.ir) read ruling numbers 143 and 1220. These verdicts are quoted in the article as well.

      • please tell me if someone have a tattoo on his neck and its visible and he is ready to go for hajj. is someone in Saudi authouites will give him any problem performing hajj

        • He can go to Hajj, but I can’t promise what the reaction of the Saudi government would be.

        • Its better if you dont have tattoos visible after putting clothes on cause one you can hide it from anybody just not Saudi authorities. But its better if you keep tattoos away from their sight, they might create problems for you

  2. Salaam, What are the practical issues when tattoos are visible whilst dressed in Ihram? Is it likely to be a problem for the religious police in the Holy sites or other pilgrims. Gunah-ye-man.

    • Maybe someone with tattoos who went to Hajj can give their experiences.

  3. Salaam,

    Could we have proof that Syed Sistani has said that it is permissible to have a tattoo please.

    Thanks

    Br Kamil

    • Salaams brother Kamil, nice to hear from you. Click on the hyperlinks in the article and it will take you to Sayyid Sistani’s website where the verdicts mentioned in the article are provided.

  4. Assalamu aleykum.
    Thanks shaykh for addressing the issue. Could you also please specify if the same rules apply for females, i.e. to have a tatoo is not haram provided that it is not visible when fully dressed? Moreover, does a female need the permission of the guardian (father/brother/husband) if she wants to make a tatoo?
    Thanks.
    Fi aman Allah

    • Salaams, the same ruling would apply to females as well. Regarding permission, I haven’t seen that addressed, would like to see it posed to our maraja’. But, the permission of the brother would not be necessary.

  5. Salam Alaykum,

    Are you clear on what sort of art is permissible to get inked, e.g. such as a bird or a horse? and what about hadeeths or sayings by the Imams that do not mention The Names of Allah (swt) or any of the Prophets or Imaams? and does it matter if its in English or Arabic text?

    Thank you for the article and your time.

    JazakAllah

    • Salaams brother Haidar,

      I have not come across traditions about what type of artwork is permissible to have tattooed one your body. The maraja’ have issued statements about the general permissibility, which is mentioned in the article. Tattooing the verses of Quran, names of Allah, and names of the Infallibles (a) is an interesting topic. If it is considered disrespectful then it would not be permitted. Otherwise, there is no clear prohibition. But, some of the maraja’ have rulings regarding the wudu and ghusl of one with these tattoos which is also mentioned in the article.

  6. Salam
    I was considering doing a tatoo of the sword of Zulfikar with the Arabic phrase there is no conquerer like Ali nor sword like the Zulfikar. However after speaking to a friend I was advised of the times the body is impure and requires ghusal to be purified as such having Islamic wording or manes of the ahlubayt would on a impure body would not seem befitting. However still considering the symbol of the Zulfikar without wording will sleep on it !!!

    • Salaams, that is a good point. Tattoos are below the skin, so they would not become najis (as najasat is outside of the body, otherwise our bodies are filled with najis substances, e.g. blood, urine, etc). But, if it is considered disrespectful to the Ahl al-Bayt (a) than it would be impermissible to do. The society determines what is and is not disrespectful to these holy beings.

      • Salams Sheikh,
        Such an interesting and hot topic at the moment. In regards to tattoos having been inked before one became a Muslim, what should one do if the symbols of these tattoos are not considered appropriate in Islam? They are covered and not visible, but there none the less?

        • Under the assumption that they are Islamically inappropriate, one should have them removed if possible.

  7. Can you please help me understand the message of the second tattoo on the man chest? i found this symbol at the entrance of a castle from 1600 and i don `t understand the meaning. Thank you

    • Anyone?

      • I believe it says or means Bismillah

  8. What are the historical background about tattoos? And is there any historical event in tattooing during prophethood time?

    • If there is I’m unaware of it.

  9. Salam,

    I was wondering about a tattoo that I would like to get on my forearm, and would only be seen when I wear a t-shirt in summer.
    The tattoo in itself is just the name of a close friend that has passed away and I like the idea of remembering her like that. Her name was Ferdaous which I’m told means paradise (or am I mistaken?) but I’m worried that it may offend people. The size wouldn’t be a problem either.

    Would it be haram or would it be acceptable?
    Thank you for your advice

    • In and of itself it wouldn’t be haram.

      • I want to get inked. Please advise if one can get an animal such as a butterfly or a dragon or a horse or bird printed on??
        please advise soonest. Some people say animals are not allowed or anything that has a face. in that case wat if a butterfly is drawn without the eyes etc?

        • There are some ulema who advise against such artwork. They do state though if it is not the entire animal it is fine.

  10. is this for real? but in the Holy Quran Kareem already saids it is Haraam…

    • Salaams, where in the Quran does it say its haram?

  11. Salam, I want to get a tattoo of my children’s faces running down my arm. Is that tattoo ok?

    • Salaams, in and of itself it is not haraam.

  12. Salam sheikh.

    Firstly thank you for addressing this issue as I think most people of knowledge would be wary regarding answering questions about this current subject, it is very much important that topics like this are addressed by somebody with a Islam as their best interest with no consideration to the biased of community culture.

    i would like to cover a provocative tattoo with something of a greater meaning, pattern that would symbolise goodness bur being careful to not have something that could be Taken for shirk (A false idols or biding purpose to ou A false idols or biding purpose to Allah) with a quote Islamic or just with good moral content.

    One thing that would be nice is something that represents me As a Muslim but I am worried that having Islamic scripture or indeed Allahs name could be on entering a bathroom could this be seen as disrespectful to Allah as I believe that it is not allowed to utter the name of Allah in the bathroom, could you please give me any advice, and without being rude or showing any ignorance can you tell me on what authority you speak ? And which methheb or school of thought you follow, no offence or jugment intended as I have been Muslim for 10 years and follow no specific school of thought and respect all views, thank you

    • Salaams, insha’Allah all is well. The views I presented in this article are from Sayyid Khamenei and Sayyid Sistani who are both Shia.

  13. I wrote an email to Ayatullah Sistani through the website but never received a reply. I have always wished to get my own name tattooed on my wrist but always heard from different sources that it is not permissible, as it would hinder my ghusul and wudu. After reading that, I may get one soon.

    P.S. I am under the Taqleed of Agha Sistani.

    • Salaams, in and of itself, it would not be haraam and would not create a barrier for wudu or ghusl.

      • Salam. Thank you for the response. I finally received a similar response from Sistani.org as well.

  14. Excellent article and reasoning why tattoos are permissible since this is a highly debated topic. I never had any prejudice against tattoos as long as they don’t include anything offensive to Islam and as a tattooed Muslim myself, I love the idea of having religious tattoos.

  15. Astaghfirullah

  16. Got a couple of questions I want to ask.
    are numbers halal? 313 is becoming popular among people my age.
    I see alot of people with a tattoo of the imams showing their face is this halal? My friend got one but his doesnt show facial feautures instead its like a light. Also final question is the sword of imam ali (zulfiqar) halal?

    • If it is not considered disrespectful to the Ahl al-Bayt (a) there is no problem. The faces, if they are considered to be accurate renderings of the Imam, would be problematic.

  17. what about the hadith that says “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.”
    is it sahih??

    • Please provide a reference.

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