There are a number of Ahādīth about prohibition of dyeing hair black; however, there are basically two Ahādīth from which most scholars have concluded that it is not allowable to use black dye. This article aims to briefly study and analyze these two Ahādīth and their implications.
حدثنا أبو توبة ثنا عبيد الله (هو بن عمرو بن عبد الكريم) عن عبد الكريم الجزري عن سعيد بن جبير عن ابن عباس قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ثم يكون قوم يخضبون في آخر الزمان بالسواد كحواصل الحمام لا يريحون رائحة الجنة
Narrated ‘Abdullāh Ibn Abbās from the Messenger of Allah (sws): “At the end of time there will be people who will use this black dye like the flocks of crows who will not experience the fragrance of Paradise.”1
عن ابن جابر بن عبدالله رضي الله عنهما قال : أتي بأبي قحافة رضي الله عنه يوم فتح مكة ورأسه ولحيته كالثغامة بياضاً فقال رسول الله صلی الله عليه وسلم غيروا هذا بشيء واجتنبوا السواد
Ibn Jābir Ibn Abdullah says “Abī Qahāfah was brought on the day of the conquest of Makkah, and his head and beard were white like the al-thaghāmah (a plant with white fruit). The Messenger of Allah (sws) said: ‘Change this (colour) to something else, and avoid black.”2
It should be noted that in some of the versions of this Hadīth (also narrated in Muslim) the last part of the sentence “and avoid black” is not mentioned.
Discussion of the two Hadīth and the Opinion of Scholars
There are some concerns about the degree of reliability of the first Hadīth (narrated from Ibn ‘Abbās). All of the slightly different chains of narrators in different sources are routed from ‘Ubaydullāh Ibn Amr al-Riqqī who narrates from a person who is called ‘Abdul Karīm. In ‘Awn al-Ma‘būd, it is quoted from al-Mundhirī that he says: “some say this ‘Abdul Karīm is Ibn Abī al-Makhareq who is not trusted in Hadīth and because of this, they say that this hadīth is also weak. Meanwhile, others say that this is ‘Abdul Karīm Ibn Mālik al-Jazari, who is trustworthy. Bukhārī and Muslim both rely on his Āhādīth and this is a stronger view.3
As for ‘Abdul Karīm Ibn Mālik al-Jazarī, as quoted above from al-Mundhirī, there is a view that he is trustworthy. al-Dhahabī in Man Tukullima Fīhi (those for whom concerns have been raised) mentions him and says he is trustworthy but IbnHibbān had concerns about him because of some of the manākir (disliked Ahādīth) that were narrated from him.4
Most of the scholars, based on the above Ahādīth, have considered dyeing black to be forbidden or disliked unless when going to war (which can make the enemy believe that the soldiers are all young).
However, there are some scholars who disagree with that view. Their opinion of the first Hadīth is that it only gives information about a particular people who will not go to heaven and one of their signs is that they dye their hair black. In other words, they say that the reason these people do not go to heaven is something else but one of their signs is that they use black dye. They say that this does not mean that all people who dye black will not go to heaven.
It is of course possible to counter argue the above argument (as the rest of the scholars do) by pointing to the expression of the Hadīth, whereby emphasis is on dyeing black. According to this opinion, looking at the way the Hadīth is expressed, the element of dyeing black is certainly referred to as a disliked element, even if it is not the only reason for being deprived from heaven.
As for the second Hadīth, the scholars who do not consider dyeing black to be forbidden say that the last part of the Hadīth where it says “avoid black” is not, in fact, the statement of the Prophet (sws) but is an additional recommendation by one of the narrators. This might be true since (as mentioned above) in some sources (including Muslim itself) this part is not included in some of the versions of the Hadīth.
They also argue that even if this part is what was narrated from the Prophet (sws), still it is not necessarily a general statement, rather it is a statement specific to Abū Qahāfah.
Other helpful Evidence
There are reports that say that a group of the companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to dye black.5
Shawkānī reports that some of the companions such as Sa`d Ibn Abī Waqqās, ‘Uqbah Ibn ‘Āmir, al-Hasan, al-Husayn, Jarīr and others permitted the use of black dye.6
‘Abū al-‘Alā, the author of Tuhfah al-Ahwadhī, names Muhammad Ibn Ishāq, the author of al-Maghāzi, Hajjāj Ibn Artāt, al-Hāfiz Ibn Abī ‘Āsim and Ibn Jawzī as some of the scholars who used to dye their hair black. The latter two also authored articles about permissibility of dyeing black.7
There are some reports from the companions of the Prophet (sws) that could be used in order to find what might have been the reason for the possible issue with dyeing black:
‘Abū al-A‘lā in Tuhfah al-Ahwadhī reports from Daylamī (in Musnad Firdaws) a hadīth narrated from ‘Ā’ishah (rta) that says:
إذا خطب أحدكم المرأة وهو يخضب بالسواد فليعلم ما أنه يخضب
When one of you is going to marry a woman and has used black dye he should make it known that he has dyed.8
In Futūh al-Misr wa Akhbaruhā,9 Abū al-Qāsim al-Qurashī narrates a report that once ‘Amr Ibn al-‘Ās visited ‘Umar (rta) while he (i.e. ‘Amr) had dyed his hair and beard black. ‘Umar (rta) asked him who he was and he said he was ‘Amr. Then ‘Umar (rta) said “you pledged to me (as Caliph) when you were old and now you are young. I want you to wash yourself.”
Also it is reported that during the caliphate of ‘Umar (rta), he penalized a man who had deceived a woman into marriage by using black dye (pretending to be younger than his real age).
In Fath al-Bārī10, we read Ibn Shahāb saying: “we used to dye black when our face was young but when our face and teeth started getting damaged because of being old, we stopped doing it.” This is in line with the above reports, showing that there were concerns about using black dye in old age as it could be seen as an act of deception.11
Looking at all the above, firstly, it is obvious that we cannot say that the Sunnah prevents us from dyeing hair black. If this was the case then the prohibition of black hair dye should have been well established among the companions and consequently there would have been no doubts about it among the scholars. We therefore cannot say that the sharī‘ah has made the use of black dye harām.
On the other hand, after studying the above Ahādīth and reports, it can be concluded that the main reason behind the dislike of black dye (as reported from the Prophet) was the fact that it was deceptive in some cases and (not only different but) opposed to the rules of nature for human beings. Obviously, when a person dyes his hair with colours other than black, there will be no element of “pretending to be young”. It seems like it is this “pretending to be young” that has been a matter of concern.
One of the merits of the believers is that they appreciate and respect the laws of nature, among them, aging. While there is no harm to use colouring facilities to make the appearance nicer (according to the norms and perception of the society where we live). It is not religiously appreciated for a man or woman who is advanced in age (i.e. being seen as an old person) to try to reverse the natural effects of aging by tools like dyeing black, which in turn might cause trouble because of intentionally or unintentionally deceiving others about their age.
1. Ibn Dā’ūd (No. 4212) (other sources that have narrated this hadīth include Sunan Nisā’i, Musnad Ahmad, al-Mu‘jam al-Kabīr, al-Sunan al-Kubra, Musnad Abī Ya‘la).
2. Muslim (No. 1663) (other sources that have narrated this Hadīth include: Ibn Dā’ūd, Sunan Nisā’ī, Ibn Hibbān, Bayhaqī al-Kubrā, Musnad Abī Ya‘lā).
3. Muhammad Shams ul-Haq, ‘Awn al-Ma‘būd, 2nd ed, vol. 11 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1994), 179.
4.al-Dhahabī, Man Tukullima Fīhi, vol. 1 (al-Zarqa: Maktaba al-Manār, 1986), 123.
5. Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqh al-Sunnah, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-‘Arabī, 1971) 28.
6. Shawkānī, Nayl al-Awtar, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dār al-Jīl, 1973), 149.
7. ‘Abū al-A‘lā Mubārakpurī, Tuhfah al-Ahwadhi, vol. 5 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1990), 358.
8. Ibid, 5:357. Abū al-A‘lā adds that those scholars who are opposed to dyeing black argue that this Hadīth is weak because of ‘Īsa Ibn Maymūn.
9. Abū al-Qāsim al-Qurashī, Futūh al-Misr wa Akhbaruhā (Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, 1996), 307.
10. Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bārī, vol. 10 (, Beirut: Dār al-Ma‘rifah, 1959), 355.
11. It should be noted that there is a Hadīth in the Sahīh of Ibn Mājah where it appears that the Prophet (sws) encourages dyeing black; however, some of the narrators of this Hadīth are weak, and therefore it was not worth mentioning here.
Author: Abdullah Rahim
Date: 19 Jan 2011
Thanks: Abdullah Rahim