Cosmetic Surgery in Imami Jurisprudence | Part 2

This is the second of five short lessons delivered by Ustādh Rafī’pūr – a teacher of khārij – in the city of Mashad, in Madrassah Ayatullah Khūi, on the topic of cosmetic surgery.

In the first lesson, we said our subject of discussion is cosmetic surgery, not surgical procedures to correct injuries or other deficiencies. We divided cosmetic procedures into four scenarios:

i) Beautification done by adding something to the body.

ii) Beautification by removing something from the body.

iii) Beautification by things that remain on the body.

iv) Beautification by surgically reconstructing a body part.

The majority of the Ahl al-Sunnah generally consider the fourth scenario prohibited, while the Shi’a jurists generally consider it permissible. In our last lesson, we will also mention a few religious verdicts by jurists who considered it prohibited, such as Ayatullah Alawī Gurgānī (d. 2022).

As for the first scenario, that is also not problematic in and of itself. For example, if a woman attaches nail extensions, it is permissible, although there are some secondary discussions on the status of the person’s wuḍū’ and ghusl.

There is also a Prophetic tradition in al-Bukhārī and al-Muslim, as well as in some Shi’i books where the Prophet (p) cursed a woman who fixes hair extensions to another woman (wāṣilah), and the woman who has them fixed for her (mustawṣilah). This narration has been used to argue for the impermissibility for the first scenario, but most jurists will say this narration is very weak and cannot be used as evidence.

We say, it is not fair to just ignore this report because it does exist in Shi’i literature too and if our approach to accepting reports is wuthūq (attaining conviction), then we would have to look at the different chains of transmitters and see whether we have any external contextual indicators that would push to accept this report. We say, it is possible to attain wuthūq in this narration, however, we can critique the intended meaning of this report. Shaykh Ṣadūq in Ma‘ānī al-Akhbār cites a report where an alternative meaning for a wāṣila and mustawṣilah:

حَدَّثَنَا الْحُسَيْنُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ بْنِ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ هِشَامٍ الْمُكَتِّبُ قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ أَبِي عُمَيْرٍ عَنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ بْنِ زِيَادٍ الْكَرْخِيِّ قَالَ سَمِعْتُ أَبَا عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع يَقُولُ‏ لَعَنَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص الْوَاصِلَةَ وَ الْمُسْتَوْصِلَةَ يَعْنِي الزَّانِيَةَ وَ الْقَوَّادَةَ.

Ibrāhīm b. Ziyād al-Karkhī says, he heard Imam Ṣādiq (a) say: The Messenger of Allah cursed the wāṣilah and mustawṣilah; meaning a fornicator and a procurer (i.e. pimp).1

This narration is reliable and it takes the report outside of the scope of our discussion on beautification or cosmetics.

As for the second scenario, when we look at verse [4:119], it is very clear that it is not inclusive of scenario two, such as hair removal. In fact, hair removal is a well-established practice and existed in the time of the Prophet (p) and Imams (a), and the infallibles themselves would practice it.



  1. Pg. 250.