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Egypt: Fatwa Permits Females to Have Permanent Tattoos

(Oct. 18, 2017) On October 9, 2017, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt (the main, official religious scholar), Sheik Ali Gomaa, issued a new fatwa (religious decree) allowing women to have permanent inked tattoos on their bodies. However, the same religious decree bans males from getting permanent tattoos. (Getting Tattoo Permissible for Girls, Sin for Boys: Egypt’s Former Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, AL MASRY AL YOUM (Oct. 9, 2017).)

Background

Such a fatwa is unique, because many Sunni Islamic scholars support banning Muslim men and women from tattooing their bodies. Sunni Islamic scholars justify the prohibition of inked tattoos by arguing that tattooing the body mutilates it and changes God’s creation, inflicts unnecessary pain, and introduces the possibility of infection. (Amal Al-Sibai, Health Dangers of Tattoos and Its Prohibition in Islam, ISLAMIC INFORMATION PATROL (Feb. 16, 2013).)

The religious decrees against tattooing supported by those scholars are based on a speech by the Prophet Mohammed. According to the book Sahih Al-Bukhari, a major collection of of sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, the speech on the subject of tattoos that the Prophet had made reads: the Prophet (ï·º) cursed the women who practice tattooing and those who seek to be tattooed, the women who remove hair from their faces seeking beautification by changing the creation of Allah (God).” (5 SAHIH AL-BUKHARI, Book 41, Hadith 2782, SUNNAH.COM.)

The New Decree

The new fatwa challenges the current view of traditional Islamic scholars. Sheik Ali Gomma stated in the decree that inked permanent tattoos are permissible under Islamic law if they meet certain conditions. For instance, drawing or removal of the tattoo must not spill blood or inflict unnecessary pain, and a tattoo must be a means of female decoration and adornment. (Getting Tattoo Permissible for Girls, Sin for Boys: Egypt’s Former Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, supra.)

By contrast, the same fatwa bans males from having tattoos. Sheik Gomaa argues that men having tattoos are imitating women and is akin to a man putting on lipstick or nail polish, which the Sheik says is completely forbidden in Islam. (Id.)

The Basis for the New Fatwa

Ali Gomma founded his fatwa on a previous religious decree that was issued by the Egyptian Dar al Ifta (the government body that is the religious institution in Egypt in charge of issuing religious decrees). That decree allows women to have tattoos as long as they are easily removed. The decree requires that the procedure of drawing or removing tattoos does not cause unnecessary pain, bodily harm, or spillage of blood. (Men Getting Tattoos, DAR AL-IFTA (last visited Oct. 16, 2017).) Moreover, the decree claimes that God described women in the Quran as naturally loving adornment. “A creature who is brought up in adornments (wearing silk and gold ornaments, i.e. women)… (Quran 43: 18).”  (Id.)  Consequently, the Dar al Ifta decree concludes that removable tattoos used by women are permissible under Islamic law. (Id.)