Some notes on hair care in early Islam
Hair is a social construction of culture, thus its meanings are familiar and acceptable for consumers and observers. Jurisprudence in medieval Islam discusses almost every aspect of human life, including hair care as a part of personal care and hygiene. Hair care is believers’ obligatory duty, fulfilling god’s will regarding appropriate appearance, side by side with a reflection of the human wish for adornment as a means to achieving attention and status. Thus, it was the jurists’ duty and responsibility to produce a compromise, or in other words to function as mediators between the desired norms, people’s wishes and daily local practices and fashions.
Muslim jurists ruled that both men and women must cultivate their appearances, but for different reasons. Women, who were born imperfect, must improve their looks, particularly as they have the clear sexual mission of satisfying men’s sexual needs and bearing offspring. Men, on the other hand, are ordered to cultivate their appearance as testimony of god’s greatness and fulfillment of his wishes and benevolence in all areas of life, including cultivation of one’s looks, in addition to legitimizing care for the purpose of realizing their social and sexual needs. The sources present the reader with two different voices dwelling side by side – on the one hand god’s benevolence must be seen in public through physical care as well as other means, and on the other dealing with one’s outward appearance and over-cultivation of it are perceived as over-boasting, as the true meaning of a god-fearing person is following the laws and observing the values of morality and modesty, including one’s outward appearance. Despite the fact that these are conflicting perceptions, legal sources show that both existed and were acceptable, and a compro ...