Women cutting and colouring their hair.

Q. Is it permisible for women to cut their hair in steps and to colour their hair in different colours at the same time, eg. some parts in brown and some other parts in yellow?

A. With respect to the issue of Hair Cutting for women, the great Jurists of the early centuries of Islam and thereafter have mentioned that it is not permissible for women to cut their hair except it be for medical / health reasons or any other valid and sound reason. This is the opinion and fatawa of the jurists of the Hanafi, Shafi, Maliki and Hambali mazhabs.

Although some comtempory scholars have allowed it on the conditions that it should not be done for fashion and styles and that it must not resemble that of males, the great body of Jurists from the early centuries of Islam of the four mazhabs including that of Imam Shafi have written against the act of a woman cutting her hair and have given such allowance only for medical and sound reasons. Even in this case, the allowance will be limited to that which is necessary.

With respect to the colouring of the hair for males / females, it is evident in the classical books of fiqh as well as Ahaadith that colouring the hair with a colour other than black is permissible.

Applying black dye, black henna or any other chemically made black colour will not be permissible for both males and females. This is also the view of Imam Shafi. Under this prohibition, the early jurists of Islam have exempted two cases on the basis of necessity where applying black dye, henna or black colour to the hair will be allowed. These two situations are:

1) A Muslim warrior who fights in Jihad and has grey or white hair. Allowance has been given to him to colour his hair in black so that it may instill fear in the hearts of the enemies.

2) A young boy/girl who wishes to marry but due to the fact that the hair has turned grey or white at an early age is unable to marry. Allowance has been given to them to colour their hair in black for this purpose only. This allowance is not given to an elderly person who wishes to marry and his/her hair has turned grey or white due to his/her old age.

While on this topic of colouring the hair, an advice is hereby given to our Muslim sisters that they must not use the allowances given in Islam in order to imitate or follow the practices of the unbelievers. In other words, if a Muslim woman wishes to colour her hair (with the permissible colours) she can do so, since it is allowed in Islaam. However she must not do it in order to follow a fashion of the modern day women to resemble or liken herself to them. She must remember that her action is based on her intention, and reward / punishment is connected to what she intends.

The Messenger of Allah (S.A) has also warned strictly against following the practices of others, as he said, “Whoever likens himself to another people, he shall be from amongst them”.

Based on this, a Muslim woman must understand that she can beautify herself to the extent which Islam has allowed her, however, she must not do it in order to follow modern styles and trends adopted by the unbelievers.

Another important issue is that of covering the hair. It has become a custom of some Muslim women to use the allowance (of Islam) to colour their hair, but do not cover it while they are in front of strangers. That is, they do not practice the law of Hijaab and covering and consequently expose their hair to everyone just like the non-muslim women. This is a grave sin which is committed and must be stopped.

While a woman is allowed to colour her hair, she must also be aware of the fact that it is compulsory upon her to cover her hair while in front of non-blood relatives (i.e. any male who is of a marriageable status to her). It is totally Haram (unlawful) for her to allow the hair to be visible to such people.

Note well, that this law is connected to ‘the hair’ of a woman and has no relation to the hair being ‘coloured or not’. As such, the Quraanic injunction of Hijaab and covering the hair is applicable to all hair, whether it is coloured or not. However, since it has become a trend in some Muslim women to adopt the fashion of western styles by colouring their hair and exposing it to others (i.e. non-blood relatives), it is essential for them to understand that they are committing a grave sin which has a severe penalty.

And Allah knows best.

Mufti Waseem Khan