This is a weekly post by Nidhal Guessoum (see his earlier posts here). Nidhal is an astrophysicist and Professor of Physics at American University of Sharjah
Readers of this blog probably will all know that “halal” means “lawful” or “permitted” in Islam, and that it’s a very general term; its opposite is “haram” (religiously forbidden or unlawful). But if you ask people who live in the west, including some Muslims perhaps, they will say “it means meat from slaughtered animals”. So now we have “halal” restaurants from China to the US, including non-Muslim fast-food chains that have opened “halal” branches. (In a previous piece, I had discussed the “religion, science, and politics” of “halal”.)
Many readers, including probably many non-Muslims, will also be familiar with “Sharia-compliant products”, an expression which entered our cultural landscape in the past decade or two regarding financial transactions and other related matters, e.g. loans, sales of certain kinds, real estate markets, capitalization, etc. Many western banks (including Citibank, HSBC, and others) now propose “Sharia-compliant” money schemes for Muslims who have various transactions and needs.
But the idea of “Sharia-compliance” has now become so attractive (think of the purchasing power of Muslims in the west, in the Gulf, and in other places) that every company of every kind is now looking to take advantage of the “Muslim market”.
And so now we have at least two companies proposing “halal makeup”. What, you may ask (as I did when I came across this), makes a makeup product halal or haram? In the article titled “Redefining beauty care products for Muslims”, one learns that the company OnePure now offers “a range of beauty cosmetics and skin care products that are certified Halal”, which is defined as “using no haram products or alcohol”. When I read that, I jumped, talking to the article: “you mean the cologne I put on in the morning (or evenings) is haram??” After all, it’s loaded with alcohol! But I thought that alcohol was haram only for drinking… And I know for certain that even when it’s part of a medicine, it is not considered haram to swallow it! The article, however, goes on to explain that even the fluids used to clean the equipment in the manufacturing process must not contain alcohol or pork or animal bi-products! Indeed, the article further explains that this is important for Muslims, who “must be clean and pure before [praying]…” If “haram ingredients are in your body”, we are told, “your prayers will not be accepted”! Ooh, I better go check all the shampoos, conditioners, and whatever my wife puts in the bathroom (and I don’t even want to get to the products she buys for herself) and make sure they are “clean and pure”…
The creator of OnePure (a woman) tells us that her company’s products are not just halal; they are “third-party certified halal”! She is “proud for setting a new standard in Halal certified beauty”, with thirteen products, and “many more to come, focusing on whitening and anti-aging…” These products are now sold not just on Saudi Airlines, which one would expect, but in the famous Parisian chic megastore Galleries Lafayette! We are thus warned that “the consumer now has a choice whether or not they want to risk using Haram ingredients on their bodies.”
Now, if this were a lone case, I wouldn’t worry too much, although once something like this reaches the Galleries Lafayette, it is certainly an international social phenomenon. Unfortunately, this kind of “pure, halal beauty” commerce is fast multiplying: the brand “Pure Make up” has now appeared in the UK, certified by the Halal Certification Authority in Australia. We are told that its products “are not only popular with Muslim women [not men??] but also with vegans and vegetarians belonging to other faiths.”And if this halal business trend doesn’t disturb you too much, perhaps I should mention (just briefly) that there are now “Shariah-approved sex aids” for Muslims, a website based in Holland…