Is It Permissible to Have Tattoos Removed?

Shafi'i Fiqh

Answered by Shaykh Irshaad Sedick

Question

Is it permissible for someone born a Muslim to remove a tattoo they got when they were young? Also, will Allah Most High forgive them if it is removed? And must they make up any prayers they prayed while having it.

Answer

Tattoos

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate

May Allah alleviate our difficulties and guide us to that which is pleasing to Him.

It is permissible to remove tattoos. Allah forgives all sins, and having had tattoos is no exception. They need not re-perform prayers, and Allah knows best.

Tattooing is impermissible. Ibn ‘Umar (Allah be pleased with him) relates that “The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) cursed both the one who gets tattooed and the tattooer.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

This applies, however, to the act of getting tattooed.

After the fact, when one realizes one’s past mistake:

  1. One must repent and seek forgiveness, and
  2. Remove the tattoo if it is possible without hardship or excessive pain, especially if it has impermissible images because it is a sign of un-Islamic ways. Otherwise, it is permitted to leave the tattoo, though one should keep it covered as much as possible.

The Legal Reasoning

Please see the following answer by Shaykh Amjad Rasheed as translated by Shaykh Hamza Karamali.

Scholars mention three legal reasons for the unlawfulness of tattooing:

  1. the unnecessary infliction of pain caused by the needle that penetrates the skin,
  2. the being affected by filth caused by the mixing of the dye with the blood that exits after the needle’s penetration, and
  3. the altering of Allah’s creation without necessity. These three reasons suffice to independently make tattooing unlawful, even if the other reasons are not present.

The great late Egyptian Shafi’i scholar Ahmad al-Halwani al-Khaliji said by way of explaining the reason for the unlawfulness of tattooing,

“The legal reason [for the unlawfulness of tattooing] is … that tattooing comprises infliction of pain, filthification, and it and the matters that are mentioned alongside it [h: in the hadiths that prohibit tattooing] comprise altering of Allah’s magnificent creation. [h: This last legal reason is derived from the fact that when prohibiting tattooing, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) described the tattooing women as] “those who alter Allah’s creation,” which is a hint to the Quranic verse, “… and I will surely command them, and they will then surely alter the creation of Allah.” [al-Wasm fi al-Washm, 25]

The Altering of Allah’s Creation

The great Shafi‘i hadith scholar, Munawi also mentioned in his book, Fayd al-Qadir, that the reason for the prohibition of tattooing is that it involves altering Allah’s creation.

If the first two legal causes for the prohibition of tattooing are no longer found in modern tattooing methods, then the last legal reason remains. It, therefore, seems to this needy soul—after contemplating the words of the scholars of Sacred Law and after consulting our teacher, Shaykh Muhammad al-Khatib (may Allah preserve him)—that tattooing is unconditionally unlawful regardless of the method that is employed because it involves altering Allah’s creation without necessity, even if it no longer comprises the infliction of pain or the filthification of the skin. This is implied by the words of Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari in his book, Sharh al-Rawd, and also by the words of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in the hadith related by Bukhari and Muslim, “Allah curses women who tattoo themselves or have themselves tattooed, those who remove their facial hair, and those who part their teeth, [all] for the sake of beautification, altering Allah’s creation.”

I pray this is of benefit and that Allah guides us all.

[Shaykh] Irshaad Sedick
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Irshaad Sedick was raised in South Africa in a traditional Muslim family. He graduated from Dar al-Ulum al-Arabiyyah al-Islamiyyah in Strand, Western Cape, under the guidance of the late world-renowned scholar, Shaykh Taha Karaan. 

Shaykh Irshaad received Ijaza from many luminaries of the Islamic world, including Shaykh Taha Karaan, Mawlana Yusuf Karaan, and Mawlana Abdul Hafeez Makki, among others.

He is the author of the text “The Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal: A Hujjah or not?” He has served as the Director of the Discover Islam Centre and Al Jeem Foundation. For the last five years till present, he has served as the Khatib of Masjid Ar-Rashideen, Mowbray, Cape Town.

Shaykh Irshaad has thirteen years of teaching experience at some of the leading Islamic institutes in Cape Town). He is currently building an Islamic online learning and media platform called ‘Isnad Academy’ and pursuing his Master’s degree in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg. He has a keen interest in healthy living and fitness.