Ask a Muslim Scholar Volume 6

Q: I understand that women are allowed to remove facial hair if it makes them look like a male in any way, but are they allowed to remove hair from their arms and legs? If they are allowed to remove hair form arms and legs are they allowed to use a blade?  

A: Islam generally encourages Muslims to appear neat, tidy and well groomed; this applies equally to males and females. Greater emphasis in this matter, however, has been placed on married couples more than others; the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) set the perfect role model for all married couples when he said, “I prepare myself for my spouse, and she prepares herself for me!” The reason for this is not hard to comprehend, as such appearance may go a long away in contributing towards marital stability and fulfillment as the spouses are supposed to serve as garments of protection for one another.

In keeping with the above spirit, we find the Islamic sources laying greater stress in recommending wives to appear attractive before their spouses. The only limitation applicable here is resorting to practices that may amount to direct altering and tampering with Allah’s creation, for such practices are considered as clearly forbidden in Islam. Such forbidden practices include face-lift, breast enlargement, changing the natural color of the hair, bleaching, (plucking the eyebrows), etc.
All other forms of beautification, however, are considered permissible for females, especially married women. Such is the case with shaving their arms and legs, facial hair, and underarms, et cetera. Since there is nothing in the sources to prohibit such practices, they are considered permissible. In fact, shaving the armpits and pubic hair is considered highly recommended, while shaving other parts is permissible. When asked about such beautification by a married woman, `A’ishah, the Mother of the Faithful, replied, “Do whatever you can to appear attractive to your spouse!”

One must, however, add a word of caution here: `A’ishah was referring only to permissible forms of beautification that do not involve tampering with Allah’s creation.”

Q: Why do some scholars say that polygamy is the exception and that the rule is one wife and other scholars say that the rule is up to four wives where polygamy is not necessarily an exception? Which one is it?

A: The Ideal is one wife and the permission to marry more than one is a an exception as can be inferred from the following verse:

Allah says, “ And if you have reason to fear that you might not act equitably towards orphans, then marry from among [other] women such as are lawful to you – [even] two, or three, or four: but if you have reason to fear that you might not be able to treat them with equal fairness, then [only] one – or [from among] those whom you rightfully possess. This will make it more likely that you will not deviate from the right course.” (Qur’an: 4:3)

Thus if there is a reasonable ground to suspect that he may not be able to do justice, then he is allowed to marry only one. It does not take much imagination to see that the stressful living conditions in the modern industrialized societies are not conducive to a plurality of wives; it is a fact that the vast majority of men are struggling even with one wife and children as they are unable to find enough time to give them the necessary, emotional and spiritual care that is essential for their development as responsible Muslims. In other words, life in the modern world has become so fast paced that it is next to impossible to do justice. This is why most scholars insist that we should keep to the ideal.

Moreover, we are also bound by the terms of our marriage contracts. In a milieu like ours where monogamy is the norm, one needs to get the permission of his first wife to marry another; for she had married him with the tacit understanding that she would be the only wife he will be having. So unless such an option had already been stipulated in the contract, he is not justified in marrying a second wife without her permission.

 Q: Please answer this question. I extremely want to get this controversy out of the way. I play guitar, but it is all clean music, with no one dancing or anything… like classical pieces or Mexican… Is this haraam?

A: The question of music has been discussed in this column earlier in some detail; please refer to it. I will, however, provide a brief answer to your specific question.

Many of the scholars of Islam, both ancient and modern, consider all forms of musical instruments except duff (tambourines) as forbidden; but, there are other scholars, who consider music and musical instruments as forbidden only if and when they are used for themes or messages that are declared as forbidden or undesirable. Based on the second view, as long as you stay clear off undesirable themes, and messages, then what you are doing can be considered as permissible. You must, however, remember that this permission is conditional on the fact that you are resorting to music as an occasional outlet only; for there is no doubt whatsoever that if your indulgence in music in any way interferes with your performance of your worship or other obligatory duties, then it shall be considered as strictly forbidden.

So, use it only as an occasional outlet. The Prophet, peace be upon him, has permitted us to have occasional outlets in order to help us to recuperate and refresh ourselves. Resorting to such occasional outlets may in fact be beneficial for our enhanced productivity/creativity. May Allah help us to maintain proper balance in our life, avoiding all forms of extremes—Aameen.

Q: It is stated that it is Fard ayn (an obligatory duty) to listen to parents as it is obligatory on us to read namaz (Prayer) but it is only a Sunnah to get married and thus many parents force children to get married by using this principle. Please clarify this because I am in a similar predicament.

A: It is fard ayn for you to obey your parents in matters which properly belong or fall under their authority; but your marriage does not fall under this category, for, according to the teachings of Islam, marriage is ultimately left to your own personal choice. Parents can at best only offer you advise or suggestions based on their own personal experience or preferences. You are either free to accept them or reject them. Rejecting their advice in this matter does not amount to disobeying them. But still you should consider whether there is anything of value or significance in their suggestion or advise, for most of the time, parents have only the best interests of their children in their minds.

We must further add that parents have no right in Islam to force their children to marry someone they don’t wish to. The Prophet, peace be upon him, has categorically stated, “A woman who is never married before cannot be given in marriage without her consent; while a woman who is married before cannot be given in marriage without her order!”

Once, a girl approached the Prophet complaining that her father had given her away in marriage without her consent. The Prophet asked the father if it had been the case, when he was told it was so, he ordered for the annulment of the marriage, but then the girl stepped forward and said, “I have accepted my father’s choice, but I wished to let the women know that they cannot be given away in marriage without their consent!”

In light of the above, let me state: While you are obliged to obey your matters in matters that belong to their rights, they have no right to force you to marry someone you don’t like to marry. For marriage is a life-long- partnership, and, therefore, you have the right to choose your partner. Imam Ibn Taymiyyah has rightly said, “Just as parents cannot force their (grown up) children to eat foods they do not wish to, they have no right to force them to marry someone they don’t like.”

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