Religious perspectives on tattooing

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Some religions have perspectives on tattooing.

Christianity[edit]

Man with a full back Christian tattoo. Michael and the Dragon. Adapted from Die Bibel in Bildern (Revelation) engraving. Enlightenment motto "Sapere aude" is tattooed in the upper back.
A Christian couple with matching cross symbol tattoos to associate with their faith

Some Christians take issue with tattooing, upholding the Hebrew prohibition (see below). The Hebrew prohibition is based on interpreting Leviticus 19:28—"Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you"—so as to prohibit tattoos, and perhaps even makeup.

Interpretations of the passage vary, however. Some believe that it refers specifically to, and exclusively prohibits, an ancient form of self-mutilation during mourning (as discussed in the Judaism section). Under this interpretation, tattooing is permitted to Jews and Christians.

Others hold that the prohibition of Leviticus 19:28, regardless of its interpretation, is not binding upon Christians—just as prohibitions like "nor shall there come upon you a garment of cloth made of two kinds of stuff" (Lev. 19:19) are not binding—because it is part of the Jewish ceremonial law, binding only upon the Jewish people (see: New Covenant#Christian view).[1]

Some Christian groups, such as the Knights of St. John of Malta, sported tattoos to show their allegiance. A decline often occurred in other cultures following European efforts to convert aboriginal and indigenous people to Western religious and cultural practices that held tribal tattooing to be a "pagan" or "heathen" activity. Within some traditional indigenous cultures, tattooing takes place within the context of a rite of passage between adolescence and adulthood (without any explicit religious subtext).

Christian Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina started tattooing, especially of children, for perceived protection against forced conversion to Islam and enslavement during the Ottoman occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (see Christian tattooing in Bosnia and Herzegovina). This form of tattooing continued long past its original motivation. Tattooing was performed during springtime or during special religious celebrations such as the Feast of St. Joseph, and consisted mostly of Christian crosses on hands, fingers, forearms, and below the neck and on the chest.[2][3][4]

Orthodox Coptic Christians who live in Egypt commonly tattoo themselves with the symbols of Coptic crosses on their right wrists, the history of this custom is similar to that of the Christian Croat tattoos.

Among Mormons getting a tattoo is not considered sinful, but it is discouraged as it is altering the creation of God.[citation needed]

Christian related tattoos are highly common in Military Veterans and born-again Christians (people that lived difficult lives and rediscovered spirituality).

Many Christians with tattoos will have a Psalm or verse from the Bible tattooed on their body although some people will still have tattoos from the Bible despite not being Christian. Popular verses include, John 3:16, Philippians 4:13, and Psalms 23.[5]

Islam[edit]

Woman applying a henna temporary tattoo in Morocco.

Saif Ataya, an Arabic and cultural professor, stated in 2015 that “there is no real answer whether images, tattoo, and pictures are allowed or not in Islam based on the Qur'an and Hadith.”[6]

There is no direct mention of "al-washm" or "tattooing" in the Qur'an.[7] Scholars who claim that tattooing is a sin support their view by pointing to hadiths such as one in Sahih al-Bukhari narrated by Abu Juhayfah that declares "The Prophet cursed the one who does tattoos and the one who has a tattoo done." These scholars generally do not hold the view that non-permanent tattoos such as henna are sinful; nor do they claim that converts to Islam who had tattoos prior to conversion need to get those tattoos removed.[8] Turkish professor of religious studies Remzi Kuscular states that tattoos are sinful but that they do not violate a Muslim's wuḍūʾ.[9] Canadian Islamic scholar Sheikh Ahmad Kutty states that tattooing prohibitions exist in Islam to protect Muslims from HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and other diseases that can be transferred to people through tattoos.[10]

History[edit]

Göran Larsson, a Swedish professor in religious studies, states that there are "both historical and contemporary examples indicating that, at different times and in different places, [tattooing] was practiced by certain Islamic groups." Al-Tabari mentions in History of the Prophets and Kings that the hands of Asma bint Umais were tattooed.[11] Muslims in Africa, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and West Pakistan have used tattoos for beautification, prophylaxis, and the prevention of diseases.[12]

Edward William Lane described the tattooing customs of Egyptian Muslim women in his 1836 book, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians.[13] In a 1909 trip to Persia, Percy Sykes observed Shia Muslim women had "birds, owers, or gazelles tattooed, but occasionally verses from the Koran" and that victorious male wrestlers and gymnasts were honored with the tattooing of a lion on the arm.[14] In a 1965 article published in the journal Man: A Record of Anthropological Science, author John Carswell documented that Sunni and Shia Muslims in Lebanon would get tattoos of the swords of Abu Bakr and Ali, respectively, to distinguish themselves from one another.[15]

According to historians Shoshana-Rose Marzel and Guy Stiebel, face tattoos were common among Muslim women until the 1950s but have since fallen out of fashion.[16] Traditional Tunisian tattoos include eagles, the sun, the moon, and stars.[17] Tattoos were also used in the Ottoman Empire due to the influx of Algerian sailors in the 17th century.[18] Bedouin and Kurdish women have a long tradition of tattooed bodies.[19][20]

Margo DeMello, a cultural anthropologist and professor at Canisius College, notes that tattoos are still common in some parts of the Muslim world such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, and Egypt. Underground tattoos have also been gaining popularity among Iranian youth.[17] Some Turkish youth get tattoos as a form of resistance, fashion, or as part of a counterculture.[18][21] Tattoos are also gaining popularity among young Muslims in the West.[22][23][24][25]

Sunni Islam[edit]

Some Sunni Muslim scholars believe tattooing is a sin, because it involves changing the natural creation of God, inflicting unnecessary pain in the process.[24] Some Shafi'i scholars such as Amjad Rasheed argue that tattooing causes impurity and that tattoos were prohibited by the Prophet Muhammad. They also claim that those who are decorated with tattoos are contaminated with najas,[26] due to potential mixture of blood and coloured pigment that remains upon the surface of the skin.[27] However, in the present day, it is possible to get a tattoo without mixing dye with blood after it exits onto the outer surface of the body, leaving a possibility for a Muslim to wear a tattoo and perform a valid prayer.[28] Scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi states that tattoos are sinful because they are an expression of vanity and they alter the physical creation of God.[29] According to the online South African Deobandi fatwa service called Ask-the-Imam, Muslims should remove any tattoos they have if possible or cover them in some way.[30]

Shia Islam[edit]

Shia scholars such as Ayatollahs Ali al-Sistani and Ali Khamenei believe there are no authoritative Shia prohibitions on tattoos.[31]

Grand Ayatollah Sadiq Hussaini Shirazi ruled: "Tattoos are considered Makruh (disliked and discouraged). However, it is not permissible to have Quranic verses, names of Ahlulbayt (a.s), drawings of Imams (a.s), Hadiths, unislamic and inappropriate images or the likes tattooed onto the body. And if the ink was the type that remains above the skin, then it would be considered prohibited. However, if it was of the type to go beneath the skin, it would be considered permissible but Makruh."[32]

Judaism[edit]

Famous Jewish American NFL player Igor Olshansky has many tattoos, including two Stars of David on his neck.[33] He is regularly featured in Jewish news publications.[34][35]

Tattoos are generally forbidden in Judaism[36] based on the Torah (Leviticus 19:28): "You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord." The prohibition is explained by contemporary rabbis as part of a general prohibition on body modification (with the exception of circumcision) that does not serve a medical purpose (such as to correct a deformity). Maimonides, a leading 12th-century scholar of Jewish law and thought, explains the prohibition against tattoos as a Jewish response to paganism.

Orthodox Jews, in application of Halakha (Jewish Law), reveal Leviticus 19:28 prohibits getting tattoos: "Do not make gashes in your skin for the dead. Do not make any marks on your skin. I am God." One reading of Leviticus is to apply it only to the specific ancient practice of rubbing the ashes of the dead into wounds; but modern tattooing is included in other religious interpretations. Orthodox/Traditional Jews also point to Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 180:1, that elucidates the biblical passage above as a prohibition against markings beyond the ancient practice, including tattoos. Maimonides concluded that regardless of intent, the act of tattooing is prohibited (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry 12:11).

Conservative Jews point to the next verse of the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 180:2): "If it [the tattoo] was done in the flesh of another, the one to whom it was done is blameless" – this is used by them to say that tattooing yourself is different from obtaining a tattoo, and that the latter may be acceptable. Orthodox Jews disagree, and read the text as referring to forced tattooing—as was done during the Holocaust—which is not considered a violation of Jewish Law on the part of the victim. In another vein, cutting into the skin to perform surgery and temporary tattooing used for surgical purposes (e.g.: to mark the lines of an incision) are permitted in the Shulhan Arukh 180:3.

In most sectors of the religious Jewish community, having a tattoo does not prohibit participation, and one may be buried in a Jewish cemetery and participate fully in all synagogue ritual.

Reform Jews and Reconstructionist Jews neither condemn nor condone tattooing.

In modern times, the association of tattoos with Nazi concentration camps and the Holocaust has added another level of revulsion to the practice of tattooing, even among many otherwise fairly secular Jews.[citation needed] It is a common misconception that anyone bearing a tattoo is not permitted to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.[37]

Neopagan[edit]

Neopagans can use the process and the outcome of tattooing as an expression or representation of their beliefs.[38] Many tattooists' websites offer pagan images as examples of the kinds of provided artwork. At least one Wiccan Tradition uses a tattoo as a mark of Initiation, although it is an entitlement, not a requirement.

Hinduism[edit]

It is not clear if tattoos are allowed culturally or religiously.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "What does the Church Teach about Tattoos?". catholic.com. 
  2. ^ Darko Zubrinic (1995), Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zagreb 
  3. ^ Darko Zubrinic. "Croats in BiH". Croatianhistory.net. Retrieved August 3, 2012. 
  4. ^ Customs and folkways of Jewish life, Theodor Herzl Gaster
  5. ^ "25 Nobel Bible Verses Tattoos". 
  6. ^ Ataya, Saif (2015). Islam: Peace & Terrorism, Brief History, Principles and Beliefs. Lulu.com. p. 132. ISBN 9781312964211. 
  7. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 240
  8. ^ Dodge, Christine Huda (7 August 2017). "A Muslim's Guide to Tattoos". ThoughtCo. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  9. ^ Kuscular, Remzi (2008). Cleanliness In Islam. Tughra Books. p. 43. ISBN 9781597846080. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  10. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 249
  11. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 237
  12. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 238
  13. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 244
  14. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 246
  15. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 245-246
  16. ^ Marzel, Shoshana-Rose; Stiebel, Guy D. (2014). Dress and Ideology: Fashioning Identity from Antiquity to the Present. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 102. ISBN 9781472558091. 
  17. ^ a b DeMello, Margo (2007). Encyclopedia of Body Adornment. ABC-CLIO. p. 163. ISBN 9780313336959. 
  18. ^ a b Joseph, Suad; Naǧmābādī, Afsāna (2003). Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Family, Body, Sexuality And Health. BRILL. p. 46. ISBN 9004128190. 
  19. ^ Asquith, Mark (9 November 2017). "Tattooed women of Kobani". The National. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  20. ^ Jaafari, Shirin (9 February 2015). "These Kurdish refugee women are proud owners of facial tattoos". Public Radio International. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  21. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 239
  22. ^ Nasir, Kamaludeen Mohamed (2015). Globalized Muslim Youth in the Asia Pacific: Popular Culture in Singapore and Sydney. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 135. ISBN 9781137542595. 
  23. ^ Preston, Devon (18 May 2017). "Tattoos and Islam with Kendyl Noor Aurora". Inked. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  24. ^ a b Ahmed, Khadija (26 October 2016). "Confidently tattooed and unapologetically Muslim". Huck. Retrieved 15 October 2017. 
  25. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 239
  26. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 241
  27. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 243
  28. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 244
  29. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 248
  30. ^ Larsson 2014, p. 250-251
  31. ^ Bryan S. Turner (March 31, 2011). Religion and Modern Society: Citizenship, Secularisation and the State. Cambridge University Press. p. 94. ISBN 9781139496803. 
  32. ^ Al-Shirazi, Sayid Sadiq. "FAQ Topics: Tattoos". Ayatollah Sayid Sadiq Al-Shirazi. Retrieved 16 October 2017. 
  33. ^ "San Francisco 49Eers Select Jewish Safety Taylor Mays". San Francisco Sentinel. April 30, 2010. Retrieved May 13, 2010
  34. ^ Berkwits, Jeff (July 1, 2004). "Sampson of the gridiron". San Diego Jewish Journal 
  35. ^ Josh Whisler (August 2, 2009). "Cowboys add muscle on defense with Olshanksy". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved September 21, 2011. 
  36. ^ "Tattooing in Jewish Law". Myjewishlearning.com. Retrieved April 5, 2012. 
  37. ^ "Burial with tattoos - Ask the Rabbi". Oztorah.com. Retrieved April 5, 2012. 
  38. ^ "Earthtides Pagan Network News, Spring 2010" (PDF). Retrieved April 5, 2012. 

Sources[edit]