by Shaykh Abdurrahman ibn Yusuf Mangera
The issue of removing hair from around the eyebrows has become a very popular issue and one which many people seem to be very confused about. What makes it more difficult is that in vogue today [especially in non-Muslim circles] is one of thinning the eyebrows and shaping them. Hence, this poses a great fitnah for many of our Muslim sisters.
Even those who have perfectly formed eyebrows sometimes feel that they are out of shape and look upon themselves as being ugly. Then they begin the exercise of shaping, bleaching, and thinning them out.
The Prophet Salallahu alayhi wasalam said:
Allah has cursed those women who modify their eyebrows or ask others to do it for them (Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim).
As we can see the warning from the Prophet Salallahu alayhi wasalam is a very strong one. This is why great scholars like Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Tabari, Nawawi, among others have actually prohibited any kind of modification to the eyebrows, even removing hair from in between linked eye-brows. Tabari has considered it to be changing the creation of Allah.
However, they have permitted the removal of hair for women from the chin and above the upper lip (if a beard or a moustache develops), since this is to avoid resembling men.
We learn from this that it is not permissible for women to remove any hair from the eyebrows for the sake of just beautifying themselves. However, it would be permissible for a women to remove the hair from above the nose (if the eyebrows have become linked) as this is considered not-normal. It may also be considered permitted to clip off one or two stray hairs from around the eyebrows or for very bushy eyebrows to be reduced to normal size and moderation. This type of concession (i.e. to remove hair for the sake of eliminating a defective appearance) can be found in the following:
Ibn ‘Abidin al-Shami writes in his commentary on the al-Durr al-Mukhtar concerning the prohibition of plucking hair from the face:
It is possible that the prohibition mentioned [in the hadeeth] is if this is done for the sake of beautifying oneself for the sake of strangers, otherwise, if she has some hair on her face which causes abhorrence in her husband, then the prohibition of removing such hair seems to be far-fetched. This is because [self-] beautification for women is recommended for the sake of chastity.…
It states in the Tabyin al-Maharim that removing facial hair is unlawful, unless a beard or moustache grows on a women, in which case it will not be unlawful to remove it, but would actually be recommended.
It is related in the Tatarkhaniyya from al-Mudmarat that there is no objection in removing the hair from eyebrows and face so long as it does not cause one to resemble a effeminate. The same is mentioned in the Mujtaba (Radd al-Muhtar 5:239).
There is also the following from the Fatawa Hindiyya:
And there is no objection to take the hair of eyebrows and face so long as it is not effeminate (Fatawa Hindiyya pg 23/4).
Also, one of the great jurists of the twenty first century Mufti Rashid Ahmad Ludhyanwi issued the following fatwa:
[…] however, if the eyebrows have become so dense that it is unseemly for a woman and incites abhorrence in her husband, it is permissible to trim it to a more appropriate and normal size (Ahsan al-Fatawa Vol.8 pg.76; Zakariyya Book Depot).
Taking the hadeeth and the various statements of the Hanafi jurists into consideration the following could be concluded:
1. It would be permitted for a women to remove a beard or a moustache that appears on her face. Even though it is facial hair, but since it is to stop women from resembling men, it is permitted. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars, in fact they have said it is recommended, not just permitted. The same will be to bleach this hair instead.
2. If the eyebrows are linked in between, it would be permissible to remove the excess hair from in between to separate them [i.e. the hair above the nose]. The reason for this is that linked eyebrows are looked upon as a defect, hence it would be permissible to remove it.
3. A ‘few’ stray hairs around the eyebrows would be permissible to remove by clipping them off, if it looks defective, or for married women creates abhorrence in their husband. This does not mean it is permitted to remove a whole line or two of fine hair from around the eyebrows [as is the nowadays].
4. Dense bushy eyebrows may be trimmed down to a more normal size. However, one must exercise great caution in this regard, since one does not want it to fall under the warning of the hadeeth. If one is not sure how to determine the normal size they should not act on the benefit of the doubt, but rather follow the more cautionary approach and trim less. What so called ‘regular’ [especially non-Muslim] people consider nowadays as the norm i.e. eyebrows that are shaped in particular unnaturals or reduced to thin lines can not be considered as acceptable in Islamic law due to the severity of the hadeeth.
5. Great caution has to be exercised in this regard, since the hadeeth is very strict and there are some Hanafi scholars who have taken more strict position. For instance, Mullah Ali al-Qari (R.A) comments [relating from Imam Nawawi] that plucking of the facial hair is haram (unlawful) for a woman with the exception of moustache or beard hairs (Mirqat al-Mafatih 8:218). The concessions mentioned above are for the removal of a defective appearance and not for purely beautification purpose, hence, caution in this matters is the way.