Can I trim the hair on my eyebrows? Can I pluck, wax, shave, or thread them? Can I bleach them? Can I laminate or tint them with semi-permanent dye?

Short Answer

Yes, you can trim, pluck out, or dye hairs from your eyebrows if people are not deceived into thinking that is your natural look and it is not done in a way to seduce other men (besides your husband).

Reason for Asking the Question

There is a statement of the Prophet where he forbade plucking the eyebrows. Shaping the eyebrows through trimming, plucking, bleaching, or dying is a very common beautification practice, mainly among women. The questioner wants to know which methods fall within the prohibition by the Prophet and which do not.

What the Prophet Said

Abdullah (ibn Mas’ud) cursed women who practice tattooing (al-wāmishāt), have (facial) hair plucked (al-mutanammișāt), or create gaps between their (front) teeth (al-mutafallijāt) (artificially) to look beautiful, thus changing the creation of Allah. Umm Ya’qub said (to him), “Why are you saying that?” Abdullah said, “Why should I not curse those whom the Messenger of Allah cursed and are referred to in the Book of Allah.” She said, “I swear by Allah, I have read (the Qur’an] from cover to cover but have not found such a thing.” He responded, “I swear by Allah, if you had read it (carefully), you would have found it: “Whatever the Messenger gives you, accept it; and whatever he forbids you from, abstain from it.”(al-Bukhari 5939, Muslim 2125)

What the Scholars Said

The Hanafī school: It is fine for a woman to remove hair from her face or eyebrows if done for her husband. The prohibition only applies to women who do this for strangers.

The Malikī school: It is fine for a woman to remove hair from her face or eyebrows. The prohibition only applies to a woman whose husband has recently passed away so she should not beautify herself.

The Shāfi’ī school: It is fine for a woman to remove hair from her face or eyebrows if done for her husband. The prohibition was to prevent prospective spouses being deceived. If there is no deception, then it is not prohibited. Imam an-Nawawī has, however, taken a much stricter stance and stated that removing eyebrow hair is forbidden in general.

The Hanbali school: It is unlawful to pluck facial hair for women, but shaving or trimming it is fine. Imam Ibn ul-Jawzī, however, took a more lenient view and said it is allowed to pluck and that the prohibition is due to either deception or imitating immodest women.  

Other schools: Imam at-Tabari considered the prohibition to be absolute, so even if a woman grew a beard or moustache, she cannot remove it, even for her husband. This is a very rare and strange position that no other scholar took. (Fath ul-Bārī 10:463)

The wife of Abu Ishāq, who loved to beautify herself, once visited Āishah and asked, “What if a woman removes the hair from her forehead to please her husband?” She replied, “Remove what is unattractive from you as much as possible.” (Fath ul-Bārī 10:463)

Imam Ibn Abidin (Hanafi): “It is possible that the prohibition mentioned (in the hadith) is when it is done for the sake of beautifying herself for strangers. Otherwise, if she has facial hair which causes her husband to dislike her appearance, then the prohibition of removing such hair seems far-fetched. This is because beautification for women is recommended to look good (for her husband), unless the hadith is interpreted to mean when it is done without a need, since there is harm in ‘plucking’ hair…(for males) there is no objection in removing hairs from the eyebrows and face if it does not cause one to look effeminate…” (Radd ul-Muhtar5:239)

Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya (Hanafi): “(for men) there is nothing wrong with removing the hair of eyebrows and face as long as you do not look effeminate…” (Al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya4:23)

Imam Nafrawi (Maliki): At-Tanmis (which is prohibited in the hadith) is to pluck the eyebrow hairs so that it becomes fine and beautiful. However, the permissibility of removing hair from the eyebrows and face has been narrated from Āishah and it conforms to what was mentioned previously that the relied upon opinion (in the Maliki School) is the permissibility of a woman removing all her hair with the exception of the hair of her head. As such, the (prohibition) in this hadith will be understood to be for a woman who has been prohibited from adorning herself, such as a woman whose husband has passed away (and she is in her waiting period) and a woman whose husband is lost…This (view) cannot be countered (by those who disagree) by claiming that it results in changing the creation of Allah (meaning the way Allah created you), since not every form of change is prohibited. Do you not consider that the characteristics of natural disposition (khisal al-fitrah) such as circumcision, clipping nails, cutting hair, and other similar actions like castrating lawful animals and others besides these are permitted?” (Al-Fawakih al-Dawani 2:411)

Imam Ibn Qudamah (Hanbali): “(plucking facial hair)is not permissible due to the hadith. If [however] she shaves off the hair, there is nothing wrong with that; since the hadith is in reference to plucking (only). Imam Ahmad clearly mentioned this.” (Al-Mughni 1:77)

Advice

Almost no scholar throughout history took the hadith of Ibn Mas’ud literally. Like Āishah, they allowed removing eyebrow hair for women, with some conditions, and did not consider it to literally be “changing the creation of Allah” as the apparent wording of the hadith might indicate. Therefore, people who are so strict on this issue and do not let women remove even a few hairs from their eyebrows probably have not read more than a few paragraphs of actual text on this topic and never encountered, or ignored, all the ink spilled by expert Muslim scholars throughout history and how they interpreted the hadith. Some hadiths must not be taken so literally, like this one, because that is not what the Prophet meant.

Version 0.75

Shaykh Mustafa Umar