The use of henna (also known as lawsonia inermis) for decoration and cosmetic purposes goes back to the time when the Berbers first migrated to the area of North Africa. However, as henna spread, it’s varied usages spread as well. Other sources date Henna’s routes as having first come into use in Egypt for beautification purposes; colouring fingertips and finger nails, palms of hands, and soles of feet.
One of the earliest documented uses of henna is found in the archeological evidence of Egyptian tombs in the valley of Nile. Ancient Egyptians applied it to the fingers and toes of the pharaohs before mummification.
Today, large quantities of Henna are grown in Sudan and India. By the time of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyi wassallam) people were using henna, not only for decoration, but for hair dyeing and healing purposes as well.
One tradition of the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyi wassallam) records Umm Salamah (radiAllahu anha) as commenting; “The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyi wassallam) never suffered from a wound or a thorn without putting Henna on it” [Tirmidhi]
Another records: “Whenever somebody came to Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyi wassallam) with complaints of headache, he directed him to undergo cupping and whosoever complained of pain in the legs, was advised to apply Henna.” [Sahih al-Bukhari, Abu Dawud]
Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyi wassallam) informed us of the beneficial elements contained in Henna over 1400 years ago. Indeed, he (sallallahu alaiyi wassallam) used to dye his own hair with Henna.
Jahzma (radiAllahu anha), the wife of Bashir Bin Khasasia (radiAllahu anhu) narrates; “I saw Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyi wassallam) coming out of the house. He was coming after taking bath, therefore, he was shaking his hairs. The colour of Henna was visible on his head.” [Tirmidhi]
Following the example of the blessed Prophet (sallallahu alaiyi wassallam) many of the Sahaba also used Henna on themselves. Abu Bakr (radiAllahu anhu) dyed his hair with it; Umar and Abu Ubayda (RadiAllahu anhum) used to bath in it. Abu Hanifa (rahmatullahi alaiyh) and Ibn Sirin (rahmatullahi alaiyh) are also recorded as using Henna to wash with.
For centuries, a dye that is made from the leaves of this plant has been used to colour nails, hands, arms and feet, as well as other items such as cloth and leather goods. Today, perhaps with the heightened awareness of ‘natural products’ and an awareness of its benefits; henna is also a marketable ingredient in women’s shampoo.
Lets remember that the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyi wassallam) commented on henna improving the hair’s condition many many years before.
Henna contains natural ingredients, which are vital for hair nourishment. It has a bond with the hair structure as it serves to penetrate, cleanse and thicken the hair shafts; thus improving its quality. Henna is also famously known as the mother of hair dyes. Depending on where it is grown, the effect and colour given by Henna varies. The darkest colour given (and most
expensive) is that which is grown in Iran, whilst the lightest colour given is grown in Morocco.
Traditionally, Henna was also used to heal various ailments, including jaundice, leprosy, smallpox and other afflictions of the skin and body.
Modern scientists have many beneficial properties in Henna. In fact, the actual Henna plant is sometimes called the “Magic Plant” because it has great healing effects. It contains ingredients to be antibacterial, anti-fungal , and anti-hemorrhagic. Henna is useful is healing athlete’s foot, fungal skin infections, headaches, burning of the soles and palms, and local inflammation. The leaves and seeds of the plant possess medicinal properties. They both act as cooling agents for the head and body.
Imam Jalaluddin as-Suyuti, in his book ‘Medicine of the Prophet’ suggests using Henna for mouth ulcers, inflammation, Stomitis burns, and some infections on the skin.
It is related that whenever the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyi wassallam) had a sudden headache, he would dye his hair with Henna. [Ibn Maja]
Henna is in many houses, religiously applied on joyous occasions, such as a wedding, or Eid. The designs can include floral patterns, small lines, and geometrical designs and vary from country to country. However, the Islamic tradition of applying Henna on days of festivities will always be found in different parts of the world, Alhamdulilah.
Females generally stay up till the depths of the night, applying the greenish Henna paste to each other’s hands, waiting for it to dry, and washing it off to reveal beautiful orange-brown designs; ready to celebrate the blessed day of Eid.
The actual Henna plant – the lawsonia inermis grows in clusters of small, intensely fragrant flowers. Sometimes the flowers are pink or red, but usually they are white. The Perfume made from henna flowers is very sweet and strong.
Anas (RadiAllahu anhu) also relates that the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) loved sweet-smelling blossoms, especially that of Henna.
There are many names given around the world to this plant – Henna, Hinna, Mehandi, Mendee, Al-Khanna, Al- henna, khidab, Jamaica Mignonette, Egyptian Privet, Smooth Lawsonia, and others. However, whatever name it is given, it most surely deserves to be called “The Prince of Dyes”, as the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyi wassallam) advised it’s usage.