Brazilian Hair Treatment

Shafi'i Fiqh
Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick 

Question Summary

I’m from a small city, and recently one of the muftis said that if a woman has permanent hair straightening, rebonding, or keratin treatment, her prayer won’t be valid, as it prevents water from reaching the hair. Some humectant emollient is also used in this treatment, which coats the hair and gives a smooth feel. It also partially prevents water from reaching the hair. It’s similar to a conditioner. Some of my friends and I have done this hair rebonding, and it’s permanent. What should we do now?

Question Answer

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

May Allah guide us to what pleases Him.

My late teacher, Mufti Taha Ibn Yusuf Karaan (may Allah have mercy on them), a renowned mufti of the Shafi’i School, wrote the following legal ruling (fatwa) about the ‘Brazilian Hair Treatment’ in question:

After studying the question around the effect of Brazilian hair treatment upon the validity of ṭahāra, we conclude the following:

1. It is undeniable that this treatment causes the formation of a layer around the hair shaft.

2. Layers formed on areas that must be reached by water during ṭahārah are of two types: permeable and impermeable to water. The permeable layer does not hinder the validity of wuḍū and ghusl; it is only the impermeable layer that causes an obstruction in this regard.

3. The impermeable layer may be further divided into two sub-categories:

3.1 a layer that has a body (jirm), perceptibly distinct and separate from the skin, and removable from the skin through acts such as scraping or peeling.

3.2  a layer that has been worked into the skin to such an extent that it is no longer has a perceptibly distinct and separable body, although some of its traces remain perceptible.

4. The layer described in 3.2 does NOT hinder the validity of wuḍū and ghusl.

قال النووي في المجموع شرح المهذب 1/492 (تحقيق المطيعي، طبعة دار إحياء التراث 1422/2001):

إذا كان على بعض أعضائه شمع أو عجين أو حناء وأشباه ذلك فمنع وصول الماء إلى شيء من العضو، لم تصح طهارته، سواء أكثر ذلك أم قل. ولو بقي على اليد وغيرها أثر الحناء ولونه دون عينه، أو أثر دهن مائع بحيث يمس الماء بشرة العضو ويجري عليها لكن لا يثبت، صحت طهارته

وقال فيه 1/456:

قال أصحابنا: فلو أذاب في شقوق رجليه شحما أو شمعا أو عجينا، أو خضبها بحناء وبقي جرمه، لزمه إزالة عينه لأنه يمنع وصول الماء إلى البشرة. فلو بقي لون الحناء دون عينه لم يضره، ويصح وضوؤه. ولو كان على أعضائه أثر دهن مائع فتوضأ وأمسَّ بالماء البشرة وجرى عليها ولم يثبت، صح وضوؤه، لأن ثبوت الماء ليس بشرط. صرح به المتولي وصاحبا العُدَّة والبحر وغيرهم.

5. Although impermeable to water, the coating formed on the hair by the Brazilian treatment is, in the first place, not of the type that has a visually perceptible body, although its effects are noticeable.

6. Furthermore, this coating forms at the molecular level. Although acknowledged to exist, things at this level do not of necessity have an effect on the aḥkām of the Sharīʿah.

وقال إمام الحرمين في نهاية المطلب 1/9:

وإن اعترض متكلف من أهل الكلام على فصل الفقهاء بين المجاورة والمخالطة، فزعم أن الزعفرانَ ملاقاتَه مجاورةٌ أيضا، فإن تداخُل الأجرام محال؛ قيل له: مدارك الأحكام التكليفية لا تؤخذ من هذا المأخذ، بل تؤخذ مما يتناوله أفهام الناس، لا سيما ما يبنى الأمر فيه على معنى اللفظ. ولا شك أن أرباب اللسان لغةً وشرعًا قسموا التغير إلى ما يقع بسبب المجاورة، وإلى ما يقع بسبب المخالطة، وإن كان ما يسمى مخالطة في الإطلاق مجاورة في الحقيقة. فالنظر إلى تصرف اللسان. (ونقله النووي في شرح المهذب 1/153 عن النهاية ببعض تصرف)

7. Oil applied to hair forms a layer as well. Its effects are visible in the shine, smoothness, and slickness that it imparts to the hair. When worked into the hair to the extent that it no longer constitutes a jirm distinct and separate from the hair, it presents no obstacle to the validity of ṭahārah.

8. From the exclusive perspective of obstructing water from reaching the hair, it is our considered view that the Brazilian hair treatment does NOT hinder the validity of ṭahārah.


9. This fatwā focuses on the obstruction angle exclusively. Further factors that might impact upon the Sharʿī status of hair treatment, such as the origin and purity of the ingredients of substances used, have not been considered for the present moment.

10. In no way should the approval of this treatment in terms of obstructing water, permissibility of origin, and purity, be construed to mean that its use in a manner that violates the Sharīʿah is condoned.

والله تعالى أعلم
Mufti Taha Karaan

29 Ramaḍān 1437

5 July 2016