Is applying kohl permissible in Islam?

The Details of the Question
Is applying kohl permissible in Islam?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

It is stated in hadith narrations that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) applied kohl and that he said applying kohl was useful.

From this point of view, there is no drawback to applying kohl for men or women. We have no doubt that the benefits of applying kohl to the eyes will be known in parallel with scientific developments. 

The prophet stated the following about kohl: "The best of your kohl is ithmid; it improves the eyesight and makes the eyelashes grow " (Abu Dawud, Libas 13, Tib 14; Tirmidhi, Libas 22,23; Ibn Majah, Tib 25). According to a hadith with a weak transmission, the Prophet would apply kohl three times to his eyes before he went to bed. (Baghawi, Sarhu`s-Sunna, XII, 117-119).

As it can be understood, both of them are in the form of medical advice. That is, they are regarded as sunnah zawaid (habit). Therefore, if someone abandons it without trifling with it, he is not regarded to have committed a sin. A person who applies it just because the medical benefits of it, he will benefit from it. As a matter of fact, modern medicine has determined the benefits of the kohl made of ithmid for the eyes and the benefits of the olive oil for feeding the hair cells and the skin. Those who apply them thinking that they are sunnah will make use of both their medical benefits and the reward of sunnah.   

The kohl that is sold as a cosmetic material at drugstores and perfume shops today is not made of ithmid and it is harmful rather than useful for the eyes and the skin; so we cannot say the same thing about it. It is only a cosmetic material. If it is harmful to the health, it is makruh (abominable) to use it. If it is not harmful, it depends on the reason why the woman uses it. If she uses it for her husband, it is mustahab (recommended)   

In fact, kohl is a means of ornament that dates back to previous ages. Arab women used to apply the kohl kept in bottles called “mikhala” to the eyes of their children.

When the widow Arabs mourned their husbands’ death, they gave up adorning themselves; and they started to adorn themselves again when they wanted to show that they wanted to marry. Applying kohl was an indication of being ready for marriage. According to a hadith reported by Muslim, Ibn Atiyya said, "We were prohibited from mourning for more than three days except for our husbands; the period of mourning for the husband was four months and ten days. We did not apply kohl, wear perfume or colorful dresses then." (Muslim, Talaq, 66, 67). Darimi says, according to a hadith, those who perform fasting are asked to apply kohl at night not during the day (Darimi, Sawm, 28), but he adds that he does not think it is objectionable.  

Aban b. Uthman advises that “sabir” (a kind of bitter medicine) be used instead of kohl while one is in ihram (Muslim, Hajj, 90; Ahmad b. Hanbal, I, 60, 65), but scholars does not find it objectionable to apply odorless kohl. (Muslim, A. Davudoğlu Ter. Şerhi, VI, 369)

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