LEBANON: Ayatollah says nail polish permitted under Islam


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Religious edicts are generally not fodder for beauty salon gossip, but as soon as Shiite cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Fadlallah issued a fatwa allowing women to pray wearing nail polish, word spread through Beirut faster than knockoff Prada bags.

“All the girls in the Dahiyeh are talking about it,” said 29-year-old Nadine Dirani, a veiled mother of two living in the Dahiyeh, Beirut’s heavily Shiite southern suburbs.


“I think it’s an important step, and why not?’ she said. ‘It makes our lives easier.”

Fadlallah, the cleric accused by the U.S. of ordering a series of terrorist attacks in the 1980s, is known for issuing unconventional fatwas, some of which have provoked criticism from conservative corners.

He recently ruled that women are allowed to strike their husbands in self defense, and that all seafood is halal, or permitted, a first for a Shiite cleric.

The nail polish fatwa came in response to a question from a female supporter and was later posted on Fadlallah’s official website.

The logic behind the previous ban was not tied to modesty so much as nail polish was considered a barrier to the skin that prevents proper ritual ablution before prayers.

The wording of the new fatwa makes it clear that the thick, removable barriers such as “dough, henna grease and the like,’ which invalidate the ‘wudou’, or ablution before prayers, do not include “the thin barrier that tightly sticks to the body.”

Therefore, small amounts of substances such as “paint and glue” are permissible, it said.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: A pair of students at American University of Beirut show off their nail polish. A leading ayatollah recently said Muslim women could pray without having to remove their nail polish. Credit: Meris Lutz / Babylon & Beyond