Does Islam frown on nose jobs? Chemical peels? How about breast implants?
One of the clerics with the answers is Sheik Mohammed al-Nujaimi, and Saudi women flock to him for guidance about going under the knife. The results may not see much light of day in a kingdom where women cover up from head to toe, yet cosmetic surgery is booming.
Religion covers every facet of life in Saudi Arabia, including plastic surgery. Al-Nujaimi draws his guidelines from the consensus that was reached three years ago when clergymen and plastic surgeons met in Riyadh to determine whether cosmetic procedures violate the Islamic tenet against tampering God's creation.
The verdict was that it’s halal (sanctioned) to augment unusually small breasts, fix features that are causing a person grief, or reverse damage from an accident. But undergoing an unsafe procedure or changing the shape of a “perfect nose” just to resemble a singer or actress is haram (forbidden).
“I get calls from many, many women asking about cosmetic procedures,” said al-Nujaimi.
In recent years, plastic surgery centers with gleaming facades have sprung up on streets in Riyadh, the capital. Their front-page newspaper ads promise laser treatments, hair implants and liposuction.
From rarities only 10 years ago, the centers now number 35 and are “saturating the Saudi market,” Ahmed al-Otaibi, a Saudi skin specialist, was quoted as saying in the Al-Hayat newspaper.
Al-Otaibi cited a study according to which liposuction, breast augmentations and nose jobs are the most popular among women, while men go for hair implants and nose jobs.
Saudi women see nothing unusual about undergoing plastic surgery and then covering it up in robes and veils.
“We attend a lot of private occasions, and we also travel,” said Sarah, who declined to give her full name to protect her privacy. She said she is contemplating having 22 surgeries, including a breast lift, padding her rear and reversing her down-turned lips into a smile.
Ayman al-Sheikh, a Saudi doctor who spent almost 14 years in the US, said demand in Saudi Arabia is in line with increased global demand.