Plastic surgery used for treating and correcting defects and deformities of a human being and for a considerable cause in Shari`ah is permissible since medication is legally prescribed and urged by Islam. However, cosmetic surgery used to change a person’s natural appearance for the purpose of beautification only is impermissible, since it is considered altering one’s physical features as Almighty Allah created them. The Qur’an considers such alterations as inspired by Satan, who(…will command them (his devotees) to change what Allah has created…)(An-Nisaa’ 4: 119)
Dr. Rajab AbuMleeh, Ph. D. in Shari`ah and a consultant at Islamonline.net website, stated:
Plastic surgery has become one of the calamities of this time. The madness that haunts us regarding the culture of beautification and beauty treatments is undoubtedly imported and is not at all compatible with our traditions and values. The amount of money spent on such operations all over the world may well exceed the budgets of several developing countries, in which people die of hunger and are unable to sustain life.
Even if this is admissible for haughty capitalist systems that know no mercy, it is impermissible for Muslims; as our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stated, “He has not affirmed faith in me (i.e., he is not a true follower) who eats to his satisfaction and sleeps comfortably at night while his neighbour goes hungry – and he knows about him.” (At-Tabarani)
There are two main kinds of plastic surgery, and they are as follows: The first kind is used for treating a deformity, whether it is present from birth or caused by an accident. This may include procedures like removing extra fingers or treating deformities of the face or other parts of the body, where these deformities may cause social embarrassment, psychological trauma or physical pain. Hence, this kind of plastic surgery is legally prescribed and urged by Islam.
The second kind is the product of media obsession with sex and the exploitation of women. Almighty Allah honoured women, and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) urged us to be merciful towards them and feel compassion for them. However, we have turned them into a cheap commodity to be bought and sold, as though we are still in the time of slavery.
A husband may ask his wife to change her appearance to be more appealing to him. For example, he may want her to be thinner and, thus, she subjects herself to a series of painful operations such as liposuction. Surgeons use their lancets and tools on her delicate body and she remains anesthetized for many hours, after which she – or her husband – pays a huge amount of money. After a while her husband may become bored with her new look and again he may ask her to change her appearance! He is like a child who becomes bored with a new toy and wants to change it quickly. On the contrary, if she is thin, he wants her to be fat; thus, she repeats the experience and once again and subjects herself – willingly or unwillingly – to another operation to return to her original appearance.
Societies that call for women’s rights and move heaven and earth to prevent circumcision–which is the removal of a small part – even if it is made by a specialized doctor who observes all health precautions and rules, do not utter a word but turn a blind eye to this flagrant attack on women’s bodies! Many women resort to such operations in order to lure others, preoccupy people with falsehood, render them insensible to the dangers around, spread adultery and destroy families through divorce. Some men want their wives to look like another woman, who may herself have spent thousands of dollars to change the Creation of Allah. Moreover, she may even divest herself of maternity if she does not want to give birth or breastfeed a baby; as this will inevitably affect the graceful elegance of her waist, the charming brilliance of her face and the attractive beauty of her body. Such women have no other target or aim in their hearts and minds but to seek beautification in order to seduce others. If this is the case, then it makes it impossible for women, who perform household tasks night and day, educate their children, give birth, breastfeed and work outside to help their husbands meet family expenses, to compete with them!
All contemporary scholars have unanimously agreed on the permissibility of the first kind of plastic surgery and the impermissibility of the second.
Hereinafter is the resolution of the International Islamic Fiqh Academy on this issue: The International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA), affiliated to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, held its 18th session in Putrajaya, Malaysia, from Jumada Al-Akhirah 24 – 29, 1428 A.H., corresponding to July 9 – 14, 2007 A.C.
After examining the studies sent to the IIFA concerning ‘plastic surgery and its rules’, and after listening to extensive discussions concerning this issue, the following decision was reached:
First: Definition of plastic surgery
Plastic surgery is any surgical procedure performed for the sake of beautification (modifying a person’s appearance) of one or more parts of the external human body or restoring its function, if significant impairment has occurred.
Second: General regulations and conditions for undergoing plastic surgery
1. Surgery should achieve a recognized benefit in Shari`ah, such as restoring function, correcting a defect or returning the form to a normal state.
2. Surgery should not result in harm exceeding the anticipated benefit, and this matter should be decided by trustworthy specialists.
3. A qualified, specialized physician should perform the surgery; and if not, the consequences will be his/her responsibility.
4. The surgical operation should be performed with the permission of the patient (who has requested the surgery).
5. The specialized plastic surgeon should make the patient (who will undergo the operation) fully aware of the risks and complications, both expected and potential, of undergoing the operation.
6. There is no other form of treatment that will be less harmful and invasive for the body than surgery.
7. There should be no violation of textual evidence in Shari`ah, such as the Prophet’s saying (peace and blessings be upon him) in the hadith that was narrated by`Abdullah ibnMas`ud, “Allah has cursed women who tattoo or have themselves tattooed, who pluck eyebrows or have them plucked, and women who separate their front teeth for beauty, altering what Allah has created.” (Al-Bukhari) And, the hadith that was narrated by Ibn `Abbas, “The woman who supplies false hair and the one who asks for it, the woman who pluck eyebrows or have them plucked, the woman who tattoos and the one who has it done where there is no disease to justify it have been cursed.” (Abu Dawud) In addition there are the hadiths in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) forbade women from imitating men, and men from imitating women as well as the texts, which prohibit the imitation of other non-Muslim peoples or those known for immoral and sinful behaviour.
8. The rules for seeking medical treatment should be maintained, i.e. the rules of avoiding seclusion of a man and a woman (khulwah), the rules concerned with exposing the parts of the body that are not meant to be exposed to others (`awrah), except in cases of exigency or real, compelling need.
Third: Legal (Shar`i) rules
1. It is permissible in Islamic law to undergo emergency or necessary plastic surgery for the following purposes:
a) Restoring the form of a part of the body to its original condition, in which human beings are created. This is due to the saying of Almighty Allah, ( Verily, We created man of the best stature. ) (At-Tin 95: 4)
b) Restoring the normal function to a part of the body.
c) Correcting a congenital defect, such as cleft palate, severely deviated septum, birthmarks, extra fingers and teeth, and conjoined fingers, if their presence will lead to significant material or moral harm.
d) Correcting acquired defects from the effects of burns, accidents, and illness, such as skin transplants and grafts, full reconstructive breast surgery following mastectomy, or partial, if either large or small breast size leads to a serious medical problem, and hair transplants in case of hair loss, especially for women.
e) Removing a severely misshapen feature that is causing the person psychological or physical harm.
2. It is impermissible to undergo cosmetic surgery (aesthetic plastic surgery), which does not fall into the category of medical treatment, the aim of which is to change a person’s natural appearance, following whims and the desire to imitate others. For example, operations that change the appearance of the face in order to look a particular way or for the purpose of deception and obstructing justice, changing the shape of the nose, enlarging or decreasing the size of the lips, changing the shape of the eyes and filling out the cheeks.
3. It is permissible to promote weight loss through reliable scientific methods, including liposuction, if excess weight is considered a medical condition and there is no other solution besides surgery, on the condition that it will be [reasonably] risk-free.
4. It is impermissible to remove wrinkles through surgery or injection as long as this is not a medical condition, but even in such a case [treatment] would have to be [reasonably] risk-free.
5. It is permissible to repair a hymen, which has been broken due to accident, rape or compulsion. However, it is impermissible to repair a hymen broken as a result of immoral acts, in order to block the means to immorality and deception. It is preferable for that procedure to be handled by female doctors.
6. The specialized physician should abide by the rules of Shari`ah concerning medical procedures and advise those seeking cosmetic surgery; as the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Religion is advice.”
The following is recommended:
1. Hospitals, private clinics and doctors should fear Almighty Allah and not perform any form of prohibited operations.
2. Doctors and surgeons must further their knowledge of the rules concerning medical practice, especially that which is related to plastic surgery. Moreover, they should not be drawn into these surgeries merely for the sake of financial gain without investigating the Islamic ruling on the matter. Moreover, they should not resort to any kind of marketing campaigns that violate known [Islamic] facts.