Halal meat for Muslims has been a common part of everyday life in the UK for some time, but now a Muslim businesswoman has gone a step further by launching a range of halal make-up, which is free from alcohol and animal products, in the UK, the BBC reported on Friday.
The cosmetics – a full range, including lipstick, eyeliner and blusher – are made in strict accordance with Islamic law, using plant extracts and minerals instead of animal products and alcohol. Samina Akhter set up the Samina Pure make-up line from her home in Birmingham after questioning what she was putting on her skin and feeling uneasy praying whilst wearing make-up. Akhter has said that:
‘I didn’t feel comfortable praying with make-up on not knowing what was in there. When I researched [what was in my] make-up, I found there were a lot of animal products included. I was shocked to find that some products contained alcohol and even pig placenta. Many Muslim women like me have been frustrated by wanting to look good and follow their faith. I’ve had women say ‘Thank you. Now I can use products and pray without having to my make-up off.’
Akhter started importing the make-up from Australia around six months ago. The products are certified by the independent Halal Certification Authority Australia, and Samina Pure is the first company in the UK to sell Halal-certified make-up. The company now has over 500 customers in the UK and business continues to grow.
However in light of this week’s reports on the success of Samina Pure, there has been advice given and concerns raised by some Muslim leaders who claim other businesses may be cashing in on the halal cosmetic products market, and that Muslim women need to be careful in their choices of products. There is clearly a difference of opinion amongst Muslim scholars as to whether make-up from a regular high-street or supermarket brand is allowed to be used by Muslim women. Sheikh Haitham Al-Haddad states that there are two schools of thought:
‘If the product contains dead flesh or meat, any pig or haram (unlawful) animals like dogs, or any alcohol, then generally it is impermissible. But a more moderate approach is that if the product contains a very small amount of animal or alcohol, then some scholars say it is permissible. Also, if the disallowed ingredient changes into another substance through the chemical process, then some scholars say this is allowed.’
Sheikh Haitham encourages Muslim women to take the safe option and stay away from ‘doubtful matters.’ He has said that Muslims need to conduct research and be aware that some businesses could be using the halal to boost their sales. He told the BBC that ‘Sometimes people misuse or abuse this word and put halal on any product. I’ve seen the word halal stamped on fish and this is ridiculous.’
The Samina Pure range of make-up, however, is respected by Muslim elders as the only brand available in the UK that is genuinely halal. The business continues to go from strength to strength in the UK and Ms Akhter says that she hopes her range will show Muslim women in the UK and overseas that they have a choice, saying that:
‘I’m not saying [that] such and such product is haram [unlawful] and we are halal [so] you have to use us. Women have their own choices but at least they’ve [now] got the option to do that.’
I have mixed feelings about this story – on the one hand I think it is great that Samina Akhter is a woman forging a successful business career with her make-up range. I also think it’s fantastic that her products offer Muslim women more choice in how they dress and present themselves, and which brands they choose to hand over their money to.
On the other hand, the concept of wearing make-up at all seems to clash with Islamic teachings for women that eschew vanity, and there is also something that grates with me about Sheikh Haitham’s comments regarding Muslim women wearing make-up – women, no matter what their spiritual beliefs or who their God, are able to think for themselves and make their own choices without a male leader telling them what they can and cannot do. That said, I’m not a Muslim and I’m sure that I probably don’t appreciate the finer points of Islam well enough to make a balanced judgement on this story.
What do you guys think? Any Muslim readers out there who have experienced problems in finding halal cosmetics? Thoughts on this story?