Should Tattoos be Removed after Conversion?

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is taken from “Should Tattoos be Removed after Conversion?” By Shaykh ‘Ali Juma’ah.

“Tattoo” as a term has two meanings.  The first of which is the process of stitching a needle into the skin until blood oozes out and then different kinds of dyes are placed in these opening wounds to penetrate through the body and remain there with no removal.  The second meaning has to do with the result of this process which is the drawn tattoo.

Tattoos are prohibited in Islam according to the authentic traditions in which both the one who does tattoos and the one who draws them are cursed.  Both Imam al-Bukhari (r.a.) and Imam Muslim (r.a.) reported through ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (r.a.) that the Prophet (s.a.w.) cursed the one who does tattoos, and the one who has a tattoo done.

The scholar, Imam ibn Hajr (r.a.) said in his book, Fath al-Bari, that having a tattoo is prohibited because it causes cursing and the tattooed spot of the body is deemed impure because the blood is clotted in it and therefore needs to be removed even if this causes an injury unless there is a fear of ruining or hurting an organ, only then it is permissible to keep the tattoo and repentance would suffice in lifting the sin and both men and women are equal in this issue.

Repentance in this issue suffices because this is one of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Rights which can be Forgiven by the virtue of embracing Islam as Allah’s (s.w.t.) rights are waived by the virtue of embracing Islam.  It was reported by Imam Ahmad (r.a.) through ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aasw (r.a.) that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said, “Embracing Islam waives what was before it”.

Imam al-Qarafi (r.a.) in his book, al-Furuq, differentiated between two kinds of rights.  Rights which Belong to Allah (s.w.t.) and rights which belong to human beings; when it comes to the rights of Allah (s.w.t.), they are lifted by the virtue of embracing Islam because Islam is one of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Rights.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) said that, “Islam covers up for what was done before it”.  Therefore the new Muslim is not obliged to make up for prayers, zakat or any other forms of worship which he missed before becoming a Muslim.  Allah (s.w.t.) is known for His Bounty and Mercy and thus His Mercy Matches His Forgiveness.  As for the rights of humans, it is known that the nature of human beings is weakness and greed and, therefore, they hold tight to their rights whereas Allah (s.w.t.) Waived His Rights out of Compassion and Mercy.

Therefore, if the removal of tattoos will necessitate injuring the body or causing harm to it then it is disapproved to remove it.  Allah (s.w.t.) Says:

Allah doth Wish to Lighten your (difficulties): for man was Created weak (in flesh). (Surah an-Nisa’:28)

… Allah Intends every facility for you, He does not want to put you to difficulties ... (Surah al-Baqarah:185)

And also:

… He has Chosen you and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion … (Surah al-Hajj:78)

On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear.  It gets every good that it earns and it suffers every ill that it earns ... (Surah al-Baqarah:286)

As for praying while having these tattoos on, it is deemed permissible because it goes under forgiven impurity.  Imam an-Nafrawi al-Maliki (r.a.) stated, “If someone has a forbidden tattoo, he is not obliged to remove it with fire and it is, rather, a forgiven impurity and prayers are valid with having it,” and fasting is deemed valid as well because it has nothing to do with having the tattoo on.


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