Monday, February 28, 2000
Note: The henna patterns
on this page were created by Catherine Cartwright Jones. Ms.
Jones is an expert on the history and traditions of henna back
to 7000 BCE, and is working on "The Encyclopedia of Henna",
a 900 page, 1000 illustration book on the subject. More of her
work can be seen at http://www.mehandi.com/
I'm wondering about a henna/mehindi party which is from the
Pakistani tradition for my wedding. Does this have anything to
do with Hindu customs? Is this bid'ah, innovation in religion?
I'd like your opinion on this.
First, let us study the subject of bid'ah
briefly. The following is an excerpt from the book, "Bidah,
Innovation in Light of the Perfection of the Sharee'ah"
by Shaik M. bin Saalih al-Uthaimeen:
Imaam Bukhaaree (may Allah have
mercy on him) said:
"I met more than a thousand
people of knowledge from the people of al-Hijaaz, al-Mecca, al-Madinah,
al-Koofah, al-Basrah, Waasit, Baghdad, Shaam and Misr...and I
never saw a single one of them differ with respect to the following
...And they used to forbid and
prevent (people) from innovations - those that the Messenger
and his Companions were not upon, due to His (Allah's) saying:
'And hold fast, all of you together,
to the Rope of Allah (i.e. this Qur'an), and be not divided among
and due to His saying:
'If you obey him (the Messenger),
you shall be on the right guidance' (24:54)"
In these words of Imam Bukhaaree
is a clear indication that Muslim unity is to be attained by
removing the innovations - and that is the unanimous understanding
of the greatest of scholars of the noble ayah in question. Since
it is the newly-invented matters (in the issues of BELIEF, ACTION
and METHODOLOGY) that have divided the hearts of the Muslims
and set them against each other. Thus, in order for the hearts
of the Muslims to unite and consequently, to be unified in their
words and ranks, it is necessary for them to purify their beliefs,
actions and methodologies from everything that was never taught
by the Messenger and which was never acted upon by the Noble
Someone may say: "There are
innovated things which the Muslims have accepted and have acted
upon yet these things were not known during the time of the Messenger
(peace be upon him) such as schools, composition of books and
whatever resembles that. These are innovations which the Muslims
have considered to be good, acted upon them and see them as being
from the best of actions. How then can you reconcile between
this which is almost unanimously agreed upon by the Muslims and
between the speech of the leader of the Muslims, the Prophet
of the Muslims and the Messenger of the Lord of all the worlds:
"Every innovation is misguidance."
The answer: We say that this in reality
is not an innovation. Rather it is a means to something which
has been legislated in the Sharee'ah (Muslim Law). The means
differ from place to place and time to time. It is from the established
principles (in the Sharee'ah) that the means have rulings related
to their intent or purpose. Therefore, ways and means for achieving
something legislated are also legislated and permissible.
So, as you can see, Bidah is a very
serious and well-defined matter within Sharee'ah. It has to do
more specifically with issues of belief, actions of worship and
Islamic methodology. Innovated things which fall outside the
realm of worship therefore are not bid'ah. Henna parties, even
though of a particular culture in origin do not tread on these
issues of religion and are generally accepted as allowable.
However, if henna parties become so
prevalent in a culture that one's wedding is considered incomplete
without one, then it becomes bid'ah, because the requirements
for marriage are a religious issue, and by making something mandatory
which was not mandated by Allah or His Messenger (saws), people
are encroaching upon Allah's rights and are innovating matters
in the deen. Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what
Lastly, the origin and use of henna
are unclear. There is some historical evidence that mehndi (the
application of henna to the body) as a ceremonial art form was
originated in ancient India. But others believe the Moguls (the
Muslims) introduced the use of henna to India in the 12th Century.
It has been used for at least 5000 years as a cosmetic and for
its supposed natural healing properties. There is documentation
from archeologists that in ancient Egypt that henna was used
to stain the fingers and toes of Pharaohs prior to mummification.
It is still widely practiced in India, Pakistan, all the Arab
world, and Africa. So it's an open issue, and we cannot conclude
that it originated with the Hindus.
Another issue to keep in mind, however,
is the fact that a Muslim woman is not supposed to adorn herself
in a manner to call attention to herself and show off her beauty.
The Qur'an says: "Say
to the believing man that they should lower their gaze and guard
their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and
Allah is well acquainted with all that they do.
"And say to the believing women
that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and
that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except
what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their
veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to
their husbands..." (Qur'an
Therefore, if the hennaed parts of the
body are being displayed publicly in front of men, one could
easily argue that this would be haram.