Boreal

Perfume, Makeup and the Prophet

When I first met Sohrab he always needed money, mostly for cigarettes and sometimes for food. It was twenty, forty dollars or more at a time. I had no money. When he asked me for money, it was not my money that I gave him, but my wife's (I did not have any to give) and I told him that.

After I told her about him, she was happy to help as long as he was trying to get his life back together. And he did. And when he did, he paid her back.

To thank her, he gave her a small Persian carpet. He wanted to give her a much larger silk rug, but she would have none of it. She had not helped him out expecting to get paid back, or rewarded.

Sohrab and my wife became good friends. Whenever we talk over the phone he always asks “How is L…?” or “How is my sister?”

Sohrab loved perfumes. I could never bring myself to tell him that sometimes he put on a bit much. It was not a problem for L… She liked Sohrab, not only because of what he had been through, but because he was still a gentleman, in every sense of the word.

He needed to be told, and being told by a friend was better than a stranger. It was early one morning when Sohrab came to see me when the fragrance he wore was particular overpowering and my wife had yet to have her morning coffee. Still in her bathrobe, she shouted to Sohrab from the top of the stairs that he smelled like a woman. It's not the words I would have used. Sohrab the gentleman took it stride, and they both laughed.

Sohrab has, often unwittingly, been the source of much knowledge about the idiosyncrasies of being a believer. He may no longer believe in much, who can blame him, but the Prophet still has a hold on him. God's Messenger loved perfuming himself and expected his male followers to follow his example.

Three women approached the Prophet one day. One of them said, “O Prophet! My husband has shunned the company of his wife.”

The second said, “My husband has stopped eating meat!”

The third said, “My husband has stopped using perfume!”

Hearing the women, the Prophet was upset. He saw that misguided ideas were beginning to take root amongst his followers.

Although it was not the time for any mandatory prayer, he proceeded to the mosque. He went in such a great hurry that even his cloak was not properly placed on his shoulder and one end of it was touching the ground. He ordered the people to assemble in the mosque. People rushed there leaving aside their tasks.

The Prophet ascended the pulpit and said,” I have heard that my companions are getting wrong ideas.” He added, “I am Allah’s Messenger, I eat meat and delicious food! I wear good clothes! I wear perfumes and keep the company of my wives and have conjugal relations with them! Whosoever opposes my ways is not my follower!”

The Prophet has repeated this sentence on several occasions: "One who does not adopt my ways is not a Muslim". Wasa'il

Perfume was one of the three things the Prophet loved the most:

The Holy Prophet said: "From the things of the world, I regard women and perfume highly, but prayer is the light of my eyes." Al-Khisal

You might call it an obsession:

The Most Noble Messenger was so fond of applying perfume that he would skip his supper so as to procure his needed perfume. If perfume was not at his disposal, he would soak the perfumed scarf of his wife and rub his face with it so as to be perfumed. Likewise, before going out he would always look at himself in the mirror or water, and groom himself to such an extent as to always be an embodiment of adornment and dressing well. He would apply so much perfume that his beard had turned white as a result. An-Nisa’i

Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, author of Marriage and Morals in Islam writes that “it is mustahab (recommended) to use perfume, in that the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) used to love it, and that a salat (prayer) with perfume is equal to seventy salats."

For men yes, for women perfume may have the opposite effect:

God will not accept the prayers of any woman who puts on perfume for a man other than her husband until she bathes from her (having applied) perfume just as she bathes after intercourse. Makarim al-Akhlaq

Women are not expected to wear any fragrances when going out in public, only men. The Prophet held that perfume worn by a woman was incitement to lust and we would not want to have that, especially during prayer.

The Prophet of Islam stated: “Any woman who perfumes herself and leaves the house, is deprived from the blessings of the Almighty Allah until she returns home”. Bihar al-Anwar


The Prophet Muhammad was also very much into makeup. He liked to colour his beard using a bright orange natural dye called henna.

God's Messenger recommended using henna for more than hair colouring:

Whenever somebody came to Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh*) with complaints of headache, he directed him to undergo cupping and whosoever complained of pain in legs, was advised to apply Henna. Bukhari, Abu Dawood

For eye makeup (and perhaps protection from the sun) he usually used khol an ancient eye cosmetic made by grinding galena (lead sulfide) and other ingredients such as animal fat. Some believers will have khol circles around their eyes and orange strands in their beard as a sign of affinity with the Prophet’s grooming habits.

Bernard Payeur, October 9, 2011