Understanding Islam

Sunday, Feb 07th

Last update03:39:08 PM GMT

You are here: Q & A Social Issues Why Are Men Allowed to Wear Perfume But Not Women?

Why Are Men Allowed to Wear Perfume But Not Women?

Salam aleykoum,
I have a question about perfume using by women in the light of below hadiths as excamples:

If a woman uses perfume and passes the people so that they may get its odour, she is so-and-so, meaning severe remarks.

Narrated Imran ibn Husayn: The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: I do not ride on purple, or wear a garment dyed with saffron, or wear shirt hemmed with silk. Pointing to the collar of his shirt al-Hasan (al-Basri) said: The perfume used by men should have an odour but no colour, and the perfume used by women should have a colour but no odour. Sa'id said: I think he said: They interpreted his tradition about perfume used by women as applying when she comes out. But when she is with her husband, she may use any perfume she wishes.

Narrated AbuHurayrah: A woman met him and he found the odour of perfume in her. Her clothes were fluttering in the air. He said: O maid-servant of the Almighty, are you coming from the mosque? She replied: Yes. He said: For it did you use perfume? She replied: Yes. He said: I heard my beloved AbulQasim (peace_be_upon_him) say: The prayer of a woman who uses perfume for this mosque is not accepted until she returns and takes a bath like that of sexual defilement (perfectly).

Narrated AbuHurayrah: The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: If a woman fumigates herself with perfume, she must not attend the night prayer with us. Ibn Nufayl said: Isha' means night prayer.

As I understood from above hadiths woman is not allowed to use perfume to mosque or anywhere else if outside house,is it correct?
Also there are hadiths that for man using perfumes is permissible no matter if he goes to mosque or anywhere else. But i wonder why it is like this? Because for me,as for woman, when I smell a well perfumed man, also i may feel strange,and i may have different thoughts,and maybe even i will pay attention to this man, not mentioning about mosque where odour of man's perfumes don't allow me to concentrate on my prayer.

I would like to know more about those hadiths and others which I havent mentioned here. Why Prophet (sws) allowed perfumes for men to smell them outside but not women?What is the social and historical context of those hadiths?

By the way,I have heard an opinion also,that woman may use perfume even to mosque under condition if she goes into the mosque thru the door for women only and if she is sure that any man will be able to smell odour of her perfume.

Thank you for anserwing.

Question from Poland
If we understand the principle behind such directives then we will be able to appreciate the directives and their implication and where necessary adaptation in different situations.
The principle behind the directives like the one you mentioned about using perfume is "to protect ourselves and those we are interacting with from impurity that can cause by evil thoughts or deeds".
It is because of the above principle that in the Qur'an (24:30, 31) men and women (who are strangers to each other) are advised to guard their gazes when they are in presence of each other. It is also because of this principle that women are advised no to reveal their ornaments except those that are normally revealed.
If we understand the above principle then we can easily appreciate what are the things related to our dress, style and attitude that we need to avoid when we are out in the society or with strangers.
The directives narrated from the Prophet (pbuh) are nothing but application of the same principle and in fact the extension of the directive of the Qur'an "women no to reveal ornaments except those that are normally revealed".
Appreciating the principle we can easily understand that use of perfume by women at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) could cause evil results in the society. We can also understand that this was not the case for men using perfume. We know that normally and generally men give in to sexual thoughts and desires easier than women and in that sense are weaker.
If we are living in a society where using perfume by women is so normal that it generally does not create any ill thoughts in men then, appreciating the reason behind these directives, we can say that at this particular society wearing perfume for women when they are going out is not a problem. Whether you are really living in such society is something that only you can understand after considering the norms of the moderate members of this society.
Likewise if there are perfumes made for men that are particularly considered attractive for women (like some perfumes that are specifically made for this reason and are even advertised to that effect) then based on the same principle wearing that perfume for men when they are going out will not be allowed.
I however like to emphasise on two points:
  1. It is the norm of the society (in particular among the moderate members of the society) that needs to be looked at in the above examples and not the feelings of a few individuals.
  2. Inline with the spirit of modesty (Haya) and fearing God (Taqwa) as promoted in Islam, it is always advisable for a religious Muslim (man or woman) to be as modest and as cautious as possible when it comes to things that can affect his/her purity of heart or can affect (in a negative way) those who are interacting with him/her.

Answer published by Abdullah Rahim

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 March 2011 00:08