Are tattoos and piercings permitted in Islam or are they haram? It is a recurrent question, and it is a very simple one to answer.
Before we get a verdict in view of the Quran alone, and since God’s system does not change (33:62, 35:43, 48:23), let us first look at what the Bible says regarding tattoos:
Leviticus 19:28: Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
The tattoo prohibition in the Bible is absolutely clear. Some people disagree and claim that the word “tattoo” does not appear literally in the Biblical text, but they are simply lying to themselves. A more literal translation reads:
Leviticus 19:28: Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.
King James 21 translation.
So, does the Bible prohibit tattoos? The answer is a resounding yes.
While hadiths condemn tattoos based on the fact that tattooing involves changing God’s creation (Al-Bukhari, al-Libas, 5587; Muslim, al-Libas, 5538), this website advocates Islam based on the Quran alone and since hadiths are condemned by name by the Quran (7:185, 12:111, 31:6, 39:23, 45:6, 77:50), the only place we shall rely on to enlighten ourselves on this subject is the Word of God itself. I read that some Muslims claim that the Quran does not prohibit tattoos. Is this true? The answer can be found for example in the two following verses:
وَلَأُضِلَّنَّهُمْ وَلَأُمَنِّيَنَّهُمْ وَلَءَامُرَنَّهُمْ فَلَيُبَتِّكُنَّ ءَاذَانَ
ٱلْأَنْعَٰمِ وَلَءَامُرَنَّهُمْ فَلَيُغَيِّرُنَّ خَلْقَ ٱللَّهِ وَمَن يَتَّخِذِ
ٱلشَّيْطَٰنَ وَلِيًّا مِّن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ فَقَدْ خَسِرَ خُسْرَانًا مُّبِينًا
(4:119) “I (satan) will surely mislead them (humans); I will surely entice them; I will surely command them to cut/extract [samples] from the ears of livestock, and I will command them to distort the creation of God.” Anyone who accepts the devil as an ally instead of God, has most certainly incurred a profound loss.
فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا فِطْرَتَ ٱللَّهِ ٱلَّتِى فَطَرَ ٱلنَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا
لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ ٱللَّهِ ذَٰلِكَ ٱلدِّينُ ٱلْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ ٱلنَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
(30:30) Therefore, you shall devote your face to the true monotheistic religion: The natural instinct instilled by God in the human race. There shall be no change in God’s creation. This is the correct religion, but most people do not know.
The Quran not only prohibits changing God’s creation in any way (30:30), 4:119 goes even further by enlightening us that doing so is directly inspired by satan. Changing God’s creation takes different forms. It involves for instance any genetic manipulation of God’s creation (Genetically Modified Organism, i.e. GMOs), transgenderism (which is a form of body mutilation that involves removing healthy parts of your body such as breasts, etc…), adding non natural parts to your body for other than medical needs (such as antennas, horns, etc…), but are tattoos a form of “changing God’s creation” as the Quran puts it? Pictures often speak volumes, so I will ask you to answer if the person in the picture below changed God’s creation:
Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com
The answer, just like the fact that tattoos are forbidden per Leviticus 19:28, is again a resounding yes: It is a fact that God did not create that person as he is today after severely altering his appearance with tattoos, and any tattoo small or large, obvious or hidden, will affect the appearance of your body compared to what God designed it to be.
So, are tattoos haram? Yes, unquestionably, they are haram.
And what if you already have tattoos? What should you do? If you can safely remove them (with laser surgery by licensed or certified healthcare provider who specializes in tattoo removal), make things better rather than worse (some tatoo removal, if not done properly, can affect your health), it is definitely something to consider. Otherwise, and most importantly, my advice is to learn from your mistakes and never do it again. Focus instead on following the Quran as a guide in your life in order to please God and accomplish as many good deeds as possible. In any case, God is the Most Gracious, The Most Merciful, and He can forgive all sins, including much greater ones.
Another thing to bear in mind is that tattoos can cause numerous health issues because our bodies were not created nor designed to bear such unnatural marks. We will name here a few examples (the followjng is quoted from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_effects_of_tattoos):
– Infections that can theoretically be transmitted by the use of unsterilised tattoo equipment or contaminated ink include surface infections of the skin such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, tuberculosis, HIV, stapth/MRSA infections, etc…
– Possible allergies to tattoo inks and metals.
– Some tattoo inks Tattoos that are exposed to the sun may result in an allergic reaction.
– A few cases of burns on tattoos caused by MRI scans have been documented.
– The most common dermal reactions to tattoo pigments are granulomas and various lichenous licensed diseases. Other conditions noted have been cement dermatitis, collagen deposits, discoid lupus, ererythematosus, eczamatous eruptions, hyperkeratosis, parakeratosis, and keloids.
– Hypersensitive reactions to tattoos are known to lay latent for significant periods of time before exhibiting symptoms. Delayed abrupt chronic reactions, such as eczematous dermatitis, are known to manifest themselves from months to as many as twenty years after the patient received their most recent tattoo.
– Other documented conditions caused by tattoo pigments have been carcinoma, hyperplasia, tumours, and vasculitis. Keratoacanthoma may also occur, which makes excision of the affected area mandatory.
(end of quote).
According to newsmedical.net, “the ink pigment is regarded as a foreign body, which elicits an immune response in an attempt to clear it.”
So, why such a long list of possible tattoo side effects? Very simply, it shows that God did not design our bodies to receive tattoos. It it is interfering with His perfect creation and whether the negative effects are obvious or hidden, it will affect the human health in some ways, possibly even in the long term.
When it comes to piercings, it is another gratuitous form of altering God’s creation by interfering with the physical integrity of the human body that also can also have a wide range of side effects:
– The first and most obvious risk is that a piercing, like most tattoos by the way, always involves pain, sometimes very intense.
– A piercing can cause damage to the underlying blood vessels and nerves.
– Infection at the site of the piercing is always a risk. For instance, tongue piercing will cause difficulty speaking and eating, and tongue swelling can even affect breathing. An infection that begins at a piercing site may become bloodborne and systemic, spreading throughout the body, possibly resulting in death.
– Infection of the nipple (nipple piercing): This can cause scar tissue which can complicate breastfeeding for women.
– Tissue swelling (oedema) also often occurs after a piercing, especially tongue piercing, which can result in complications.
– Any splitting or tearing of the skin can cause scarring. It is impossible to know in advance if a piercing will cause scarring or not. Sometimes, keloids (excessive, thick scarring) may develop at the piercing site.
– Allergic reactions: Piercings typically involve inserting a foreign metallic object through your skin, which can cause a contact dermatitis, especially with nickel.
Just like tattoos, piercings are a gratuitous mistreatment of your God given body: They are always painful, unnatural, potentially dangerous and vulgar.
3. Tattoos and piercings: My body, my choice?
A lot of people say that they have the right to do tattoos and piercings because it is their bodies, therefore it is their choice.
From an Islamic perspective, it could not be further away from the truth. We have to consider that tattoos and piercings cause pain and take a toll on the human body and skin whether we realize it or not, and God warns us that people who mistreat their bodies will have their own organs and skins testify against themselves on Judgment Day:
حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا مَا جَآءُوهَا شَهِدَ عَلَيْهِمْ سَمْعُهُمْ
وَأَبْصَٰرُهُمْ وَجُلُودُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ
(41:20) Once they get to it, their hearing, their eyes, and their skins will bear witness against them regarding what they used to do.
This verse teaches us that our organs are independent living entities that must be respected or we could be punished on the Day of Judgment if we mistreat them because they will bear witness against sinners. If you watch pornography, your eyes will bear witness against you, if you say the wrong things, your ears will testify against you, if you mistreat your skin, whether it be a tattoo, piercing, or other gratuitous physical mistreatment, it also will bear witness against you on Judgment Day, and it will be up to God to decide if we should be forgiven or not looking at the big picture of our lives.
So, if you believe that because it’s your body, it’s therefore your choice, you are dead wrong: Our body belongs to God, it is a temple designed for us to serve and worship Him alone, it is a living entity to be respected and cherished, and not a personal belonging we are free to abuse if we wish.
Muslim women will no doubt ask if piercing your ear to wear earrings is desirable. The answer is that it all depends on the level of purity you want to achieve.
God created us in the best of molds:
لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنْسَانَ فِي أَحْسَنِ تَقْوِيمٍ
(95:4) Indeed, We created mankind in the best of molds.
God created us “in the best of molds”. He created us to His liking, in a perfect way. Why in the world would we want to change the beautiful skin color that He chose for us or abuse our bodies by piercing it?
We shall treat our bodies as God’s temple and submit to God who commanded us not to change His creation (30:30) because it is exposed by the Quran as a satanic plot (4:119). Tattoos and piercings are forms of altering God’s creation. They represent an unnecessary mistreatment of our bodies that alters His creation and cause physical pain. They can cause minor to major health issues in the short or long term, whether we are aware of it or not. Our skin, like other organs, will testify against us on Judgment Day if we mistreat it (41:20) in any way. God created mankind in the best of mold (95:4), and that perfect mold shall be respected and cherished. Nothing in our body shall be changed unless there is some valid medical reason such as a malformation, an accident or an illness.
We shall be ourselves, what God created us to be, and not let ourselves be influenced by harmful social contagions inspired by satan (4:119) such as tattoos and piercings, because it is exactly what they are. Why poison yourself with ink and pigment materials that our body automatically recognizes as foreign? Why would you want to pierce your body thus inflicting gratuitous pain to yourself and change your natural physical appearance? Show some real personality: Be yourself, what God created you to be. As Muslims, we shall aspire to purity, and tattoos and piercings are not a path of purity.