In the United States and the Western world in general aesthetic surgery has become very popular. While in Western cultures aesthetic surgery has become the norm, it has also become a topic of controversy in many Islamic communities. Aesthetic surgery is widely, but not completely, rejected within Islam because Shari’a Law does not permit one to alter Allah’s creation for reasons of beautification based on the assumption that human definitions of beauty differ from Allah’s definition.
Altering the human body brings two major theological issues to mind. To Muslims the first dilemma is that altering the human body in any way, imparts that Allah’s creation is not sufficient. Allah created the human body and gave it to man as a gift, “and changing the nature created by Allah is a sin inspired by Satan” (Atiyeh). According to many Muslims, changing what Allah has blessed and individual with is an act inspired by Satan because he is the being that tempts man to stray from Allah’s ways. Satan is the one that places the feeling of insufficiency into man’s head, and according to Muslims, Allah does not.
The second dilemma is to decide “whether human beings, with or without the interference of surgeons, are permitted to make any changes in the human body which is… a creation of God and which is not fully owned by any human being” (Rispler, 44). Because Allah gave man a body as a gift, it is man’s responsibility to keep it healthy and in its natural condition. Cosmetic surgery is forbidden throughout Islam for reasons of beautification. But there are times when cosmetic surgery is permissible.
Muslim’s not only believe that man was created in the image of Allah but that Allah would want the individual to lead a happy life. For some people the embarrassment of a deformity reduces their quality of life and causes them to be unhappy. Because Allah cares for His children and their happiness, it has “been ruled that beautification used to reshape a deformed part of the body is generally recommended… as long as it is used for a valid reason” (Atiyeh).
Cosmetic surgery, when done simply because the individual is unhappy with how Allah created them, is forbidden. On the other hand cosmetic surgery, when done to either restore an individual or repair a deformity, is allowed because it is not intended to change Allah’s creation. This argument is one that continues to change with the increasing influence of Western society. As for the present day, cosmetic surgery is widely forbidden in Islamic culture. But someday this may change.
- Atiyeh, Bishara S., Mohamed Kadry, Shady N. Hayek, and Ramzi S. Musharafield. “Aesthetic Surgery and Religion: Islamic Law Perspective”.Aesthetic Plastic Surgery(2007).30 Oct. 2007. 20 Apr. 2009.www.springerlink.com.
- Rispler-Chaim, Vardit. Islamic Medical Ethics in the Twentieth Century. Leiden:E.J. Brill,1993.