Nastiness Diagnosis. Anthropology. Religion. Gender. Justice. A Personal Notepad For the General Public.
1. In traditional Islam, a menstruating woman was c onsidered vulnerable, weakened, and polluted; therefore she could not pray, fast, or have intercourse. Menstrual blood was najis , polluted, haram , very dirty, as were all blood, excrement and reproductive fluids. Islamic tradition emphasizes that Allah values people who are clean and pure, whereas malevolent jinn , predatory evil spirits, are not repulsed by filth, blood and decay, and may even find it attractive. In some Islamic traditions the jinn are believed strongly attracted to menstrual blood. For these believers, anyone who sees or touches menstrual blood is ri tually impure and vulnerable to malevolent spirits, and dire consequences can follow. Running water and a t horough scrub purified a woman at the end of her menstrual cycle or other reproductive blood flow, so she could resume prayer, fasting and intercourse, and dispel malevolent jinn . When she bathed, she also applied henna to her hands, feet and hair. Henna stained her skin and hair dark blood-red, and remained visible for several weeks, showing that she had a purified body, worthy in the eyes of God and her husband, and repellant to malicious jinn.
Islamic sacred texts, the Quran and Hadith, set the beliefs about jinn , menstruation and henna, but the interpretation and practice of these beliefs is always filtered through local tradition. Women throughout the Muslim world used henna, and cleansed after menstruation, because the Prophet Mohammed recommended it. Different sects and tribes had different henna and cleansing techniques, visual symbols, exorcisms, and rituals reflecting local culture. Henna was frequently part of postmenstrual ghusl , the purification bath, applied in patterns and techniques varying according to local taste.
Islam did not create these concepts about re productive blood and henna; Islam adapted pre- existing Semitic traditions. Islamic menstrual ta boos were based on a concept of pollution and vulnerability versus purity and strength. Menstruating women were vulnerable to jinn and the Evil Eye, irresistibly drawn to blood, particul arly reproductive blood. These evil forces caused fitna, or disorder, which manifested as disease, inappropriate conduct, and tragedy. Henna contained baraka , or blessedness, which protected the wearer from misfortune. Women used henna and protective patterns drawn with henna to purify their bodies, to preserve the health of their skin and hair, and to protect their souls and minds from attack by malevolent spirits. Women negotiated their menstrua l and reproductive vulnerability through henna, wearing visible symbols to show that they were pure, strong, in good spiritual standing, as well as in emotional and physical health.
Hamsa (a bit like henna, and functions similar as evil eye)
Western fashion and cosmetics changed henna use patterns in the 20 th century. North African and Middle Eastern now often prefer the convenience an d style of commercial nail polish and lotions to henna. Though there is a thriving henna tradition in Mauritania and Sudan, many contemporary Muslim women prefer to wear hijab and modest clothing to express their purity, and avoid henna because it seems old-fashioned and rural, or too much like tattooing (Messina 1988).
In a rare instance of a non-Western body artist becoming a Western celebrity, Setona (A.K.A. Fatma Ali Adam Uthman), a Sudanese woman living in Egypt, is an internationally acclaimed henna artist whose work adorns popular musicians, singers, and actors. Hassan (1998) discusses Setona, as well as the Iranian-born New York–based artist Shirin Neshat and the Moroccan modernist Farid Belkahia, in relation to issues of cultural appropriation. Henna has become a commodity in contemporary Western body art, but these artists use it to raise issues about gender, globalization, perceptions of the body, and “the culture of sex and desire” (Hassan 1998, p. 127).
Hassan SM. 1998. Henna mania: body painting as a fashion statement, from tradition to Madonna. In The Art of African Fashion, ed. E van der Plas, M Willemsen, pp. 103–28.: Africa World Press