Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalamu-alaykum, I am a nonmarried woman and I love beauty, and its a big part of who I am. I don’t wear makeup to provoke the lust of men. I wear light natural-looking makeup, it makes me feel better and more confident. Is it permissible?
Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,
Using makeup is not intrinsically impermissible. But the permissibility of the extent of its usage depends on the circumstance at hand.
Makeup: Limits and Guidelines
In private settings, such as when a lady, married or otherwise, is in the company of the same gender or members of her unmarriageable kin (mahram), it is permitted for her to wear makeup as she likes provided the environment is safe from improper gazes. Similarly, it would be praiseworthy for a married lady to adorn and beautify herself with makeup or otherwise for her spouse whilst in the privacy of her home or the like.
In public settings, makeup usage needs to be restrained, unassuming, and restricted, if required, to what maintains reasonable presentability alone, such as covering up blemishes and the like. What this means is that it should not be plain and obvious that you are wearing makeup. Usually, the sign of an amount of makeup that is not impermissible is that which would not normally attract the undue attention of the opposite gender. But if it is more than the minimum required amount, it would appear to enter into the realm of impropriety and offensiveness (karaha), depending on the amount used.
Note that what counts is the reality of how you are perceived by the opposite gender, even if your intention is not to attract such attention. Of course, things are not easy and times are difficult, particularly given the constant barrage of idealism pumped out by the fashion and cosmetic industries, but the reward of obedience is in accordance with the difficulty borne by each person. Ask Allah for steadfastness and do your best.
The Centrality of Modesty
The Blessed Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Modesty is from faith.” (Bukhari) Believers should strive to be colored by their modesty, namely, an inward trait of reserve which drives one to leave that which is ugly and unbecoming, such as disobedience and wrong. This subsequently manifests on the limbs and outer body in dignified, gracious comportment and uprightness in following the Sacred Law (shari‘a). Both genders are called upon to uphold such modesty, seeking thereby Allah Most High’s eternal grace and bounty in this world before the next.
Finally, it’s important to be aware that some may resort to makeup as a blanket to cover insecurities in confidence, appearance or otherwise. This is unhelpful and can be damaging to a person’s self-esteem and general emotional health in the long term, so it is wise to be honest with oneself and seek some counsel, even professionally, if needed. It may also be helpful to keep the company of a religious group of sisters in such circumstances because you can sometimes do in a group what you cannot do alone. As a community, we need to work on having strong faith, recognizing and appreciating our worth, as we are, before our Ever-Loving Lord, and having a principled outlook in living life governed by religious values and ethics.
(Tahtawi, Hashiyat al-Tahtawi ‘ala Maraqi al-Falah, quoting Ibn al-Humam (1.154); Jurdani, al-Jawahir al-Lu’lu’iyya Sharh al-Arba‘in al-Nawawiyya)
And Allah Most High knows best.
[Ustadh] Tabraze Azam
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Tabraze Azam holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Leicester, where he also served as the President of the Islamic Society. He memorized the entire Qur’an in his hometown of Ipswich at the tender age of sixteen and has since studied the Islamic Sciences in traditional settings in the UK, Jordan, and Turkey. He is currently pursuing advanced studies in Jordan, where he is presently based on his family.