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The Sunnah of Using Kuhl




In his classic book of hadeeth The Virtues and Noble Character of The Prophet Muhammad saw23X22.gif, Imaam Abi 'Eesaa Muhammad bin 'Eesah bin Sorah At-Tirmidhi R.A.(209-279A.H.) lists 5 ahadeeth.


The English translation and commentary by Shaykhul-Hadith Maulana Muhammad Zakariyya Muhajir Madni (R.A.) are copied below while the Arabic text is available here.



Chapter on the kuhl of Rasulullahsaw23X22.gif


To apply (surmah, antimony, collyrium) in the eyes is mustahab. One should use kuhl with the intention of ajr (thawaab, reward). It benefits the eye and one receives ajr for following the sunnah also. Imaam Tirmidhi mentions five ahaadith in this chapter.


(48) Hadith Number 1

Ibn 'Abbaas Radiyallahu 'Anhu says:"Rasulullah Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam said: 'Use kuhl made of ithmid on the eye; it brightens the eyesight, and strengthens and increases the growth of the eye lashes'. (Sayyidina Ibn'Abbaas Radiyallahu'Anhu also used to say) 'Rasulullah Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam had a small container for keeping kohl, from which he applied kohl in each eye three times every night"'.



Ithmid is a special type of kohl which is reddish black in colour. It is obtained in the Eastern countries. Some of the learned say it is the Isfahaani kuhl, and other say it is the Totiya. Some 'ulama say, it means those who have good eyesight and it should be used by those with whose eyesight it agrees, otherwise a sick person's eyes will pain more by its use. It is more beneficial to apply kohl at the time of sleeping as it will remain longer in the eyes, and will penetrate more into the pores. There are different narrations on the number of times it should be applied in each eye. In a few it is stated that it should be applied three times in each eye, as mentioned above.


In other narrations it is stated that it should be put three times in the right eye and two times in the left eye. It is supposed that the variations are because of the different times of the narrations. At a certain time, Sayyidina Rasulullah Sallallahu alayhi Wasallam applied it in one manner and at another time in the other manner. Haafiz Ibn Hajar, Mulla 'Ali Qaari and other 'ulama have preferred the first method (as given in the hadith under discussion). the first method has been narrated many times from Sayyidina Rasulullah Sallallahu' Alayhi Wasallam, as will be seen in the narration that follow.


(49) Hadith Number 2

Ibn 'Abbaas Radiyallahu 'Anhu reports: "Rasulullah Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam applied kuhl of ithmid three times in each eye before sleeping'. In a narration also from Ibn 'Abbaas Radiyallahu 'Anhu, it is reported: "Rasuluilah Sallallahu'Alayhi Wasallam had a small container for keeping kuhl, from which he applied in each eye kuhl three times before sleeping'.


(50) Hadith Number 3

Jaabir bin 'Abdullah Radiyallahu 'Anhu says: "Rasulullah Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallam said: 'Use the kuhl made from ithmid for the eyes. It brightens the vision and strengthens the growth of the eye lashes'.


(51) Hadith Number 4

Ibn 'Abbaas Radiyallahu 'Anhu says: "Rasulullah Sallallah 'Alayhi Wasallam has said: 'The best from among all the kuhl used by you is the one made from ithmid. It brightens the eyesight and strengthens the growth of the eye lashes"'.



One of the narrators in the chain of this hadith is Bishr bin Mufaddal RA. The 'ulama wrote that he performed four hundred rak'ahs nafl daily, and it was his permanent practice to fast every alternate day.


(52) Hadith Number 5

'Abdullah bin 'Umar Radiyallahu 'Anhu related the same hadith from Rasulullah Sallallahu 'Alayhi Wasallarn that: "Verily use the kuhl made from ithmid. It brightens the vision and strengthens the growth of the eye lashes".



In all the above narrations the use of kuhl made from ithmid has be stressed. Only those eyes are meant, that agree with the use of it, otherwise, because of certain eye conditions kuhl does not agree with some people, as was mentioned previously. The 'ulama have written that due to these commands and practices it is sunnah to use kuhl, and it is better to use the one made from ithmid. If one uses kuhl made from any other substance it will be regarded as sunnah, but the virtue is obtained by using kuhl made of ithmid.




The following fataawa also help expound the sunnah of applying ithmid:



1) Is the use of surma for the eyes a sunnat. 2) If it is a sunnat, what is the sunnat times to put surma. 3) What is the sunnat way of putting surma in the eyes. 4) What are the bennifits of putting surma.



In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

Assalaamu `alaykum waRahmatullahi Wabarakatoh


1)    It was the Sunnah of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) to apply Surmah every night in both eyes.


2)    Nabi [sallallaahu Alayhi wasallam] used to apply Surma into each eye three times every night before sleeping. He used the Surma called, Ithmid.


3)    Imran Ibn Abi Anas has related that the Holy Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) used to apply antimony (surmah) thrice in the right and twice in the left.


4)    Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) advised, ‘Use Ismid (antimony) as that grows the eyelashes and improves the sight.’ (Bukhari)


[Radhiallaahu anhu] narrates that Nabi [sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] said, ‘Apply the Surma called ‘Ithmid’ to the eye, for verily, it removes unclearness from the eyes and causes the eyebrows to grow.’


Ibn Abbas (ra) has related that the Holy Prophet [sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam] said, “Apply antimony regularly, as it clears the sight, makes the hair grow and is the best of things beautifying the eyes.” (Shamail-Tirmizi-Ibn Sa’d)


And Allah knows best




A Female Iftaa Student


Checked and Approved by:

Mufti Ebrahim Desai


Darul Iftaa, Madrassah In’aamiyyah




Is there a sunnat way of putting the surma on?




Al-jawab billahi at-taufeeq (the answer with Allah’s guidance)

1) To apply Surma, Kohl (collyrium) to the eyes is Mustahab (peferable). Besides the benefit to the eyes, one would also get recompense (Thawab) for following the prophetic practice.


It is reported from Ibn Abbas (Radhiallahu Anhu) that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) used to apply the collyriyum of Ithmid (a mineral product) thrice to each eye every night before retiring to bed.”


Hafiz Ibn Hajar and Mulla Ali Qari have preferred those traditions which indicate that the kohl-rod was applied to each eyes thrice.

Jabir (Radhiallahu Anhu) reports that the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) has advised to apply the collyrium of Ithmid to the eyes as it increases the light of the eyes and helps grow the eye-lashes.” (Shamaa’il)


There is no fixed time in applying Surma but applying it before retiring to bed is beneficial. (Ahsanul Fataawa Vol. 9 Pg. 74)


And Only Allah Ta’ala Knows Best.

Moulana Qamruz Zaman 
London, UK




It is permissible to apply antimony in the day ?

It because Hadrat Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) has related that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) had a collyrium container out of which he applied collyrium every night, in each eyes three times.



It is permissible.


And Allah Ta`ala Knows Best


Was salaam


Mufti Ebrahim Desai 



I want to know that is it sunnah to keep 7 things beside bed namely comb itching stick oil shurma mirror miswak & scissors?...



(Fatwa: 1431/1109/B=1431)

Hadhrat Anas (رضى الله عنه) narrates that water, miswak and comb used to be placed beside the holy Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) when he went to sleep. Hadhrat Ayisha (رضى الله عنها) narrates that I used to arrange oil, comb, mirror, scissors, kohl-pot and miswak for the holy Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) when he was in journey. While in another hadith, Hadhrat Ayisha (رضى الله عنها) narrated the following items: mirror, kohl-pot, comb, Scraping stick and miswak. It is mentioned in another hadith that the holy Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) always carried these things in journey and at home. We could not get the details of other things near bed except water, miswak, comb and antimony container.


Allah (Subhana Wa Ta’ala) knows Best


Darul Ifta,

Darul Uloom Deoband



...can we apply surma or kaajal on the eyes of the newly born? wht is the difference between kajal & surma?...



...Kajal is generally used for children as surma burns their eyes. Kajal is eye-pencil while surma is antimony...


Ml. Husain Kadodia
STUDENT: Darul Ifta

CHECKED & APPROVED: Mufti Ebrahim Desai





(1) Is it from the sunna for guys to use kohl/antimony (in urdu “kajul”)? Is it true it makes the eyes clean or something?

(2) I understand there are two types of sunnah, one sunnah  is that which is strongly emphasized to be practiced and one that is merely optional and usually when practiced by someone, it practiced out of love for Prophet Sal-Allah-Alaihi-Wassalam. If using coal/mascara is as sunnah, which type?



[Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan]


Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states.


(1) Yes it is from the sunna to use kohl/antimony (in Arabic, ithmid), and it does help with vision according to the hadith.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The best type of antimony for you is ithmid, for it makes vision clear and causes hair to grow.” [Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud]


(2) As you mention, there are two types of sunna:


(a) Emphasized sunnas of guidance (sunan al-huda), the leaving of which entails wrongdoing and is disliked [unless one has a valid excuse].


Such sunnas are considered to be among the symbols (sha’air) of the religion itself. If a person/community habitually abandons such a sunna, they are deemed to be astray, as abandoning these entails not taking the religion seriously. Examples are praying in congregation, and making the call to prayer (adhan) and the commencement of prayer (iqama).


(b) Non-emphasized sunnas that are of additional blessing (sunan al-zawa’id), the leaving of which does not entail wrongdoing and is not disliked.


These sunnas are things that the Prophet regularly did, yet they are not symbolic of the religion itself and hence are “of additional blessing” (zawa’id). Examples are the way the Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) dressed, stood and sat.

[ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]


Applying kohl/antimony would fall under the second category.


And Allah knows best.




Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

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Having referenced hadeeth and scholarly sources, now lets try to pin-point a definition (or some definitions) for the following:


kuhl, kehal, kohl, kol, kohal, or kahal

surma, surme, surmah or sirma

kajal, kajjal, gajal

tozali or kwalli


I am deliberately leaving Ithmid out for now since, Insha'Allah, I hope to cover it later as it refers to a specific source of stone or mineral.




Simply put, the Arabic noun كحل (kuhl) refers to any cosmetic used to colour or darken the edges of the eyelids (1) (2). The fact that we are advised to use 'khul made of ithmid' implies that there are (and were) other types of non-ithmid khul available.


Surma (and its various transliterations) is the Persian word for the Arabic kuhl.

Kajal (and its various transliterations) is the South Asian word for the Arabic kuhl.

tozali and kwalli are the West African words for the Arabic kuhl.




Now, since we are dealing with words that have been translated into the English language and since there are other uses in the English language, this is where it starts to get a bit tricky and, in some cases, perhaps some words get misused.


Watch as the confusion unfolds in words:


* the English word kohl is synonymous with stibnite.


* another English word derived from 'khul' - alcohol - originally referred to the powder of antimony and made its way into English via Middle Latin and French.


* the Russian word for antimony is transliterated as sirma (loaned from the Persian word sorme)


* the Greek word for antimony is transliterated as stibium


* the Latin word for stibnite is stibium


or, I suppose we could write the confusion out another way:


kohl = sorme

sorme = sirma

kohl = stibnite

alcohol (old use of word) = antimony

antimony = sirma

antimony = stibium

stibnite = stibium


Eh... say what?


So, why is all this confusing? Well, because antimony and stibnite are not necessarily the same thing. Insha'Allah, in the next post I will try to reference how the two are related yet different.


The confusion is compounded by the finding that ithmid (at least that which is known as ithmid today) is not stibnite nor antimony, but rather galena. More on this later insha'Allah.

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Stibnite (formula: Sb2S3) is a sulfide mineral, antimony sulfide - a grey mineral that is the main ore of antimony (element: Sb). It is synonymous with antimonite.


It seems stibnite (or antimony sulfide or antimonite) was one mineral that was used in ancient times as kuhl.




What are antimony and stibnite and how are they related?






Antimony is a semimetallic chemical element which can exist in two forms: the metallic form is bright, silvery, hard and brittle; the non metallic form is a grey powder. Antimony is a poor conductor of heat and electricity, it is stable in dry air and is not attacked by dilute acids or alkalis. Antimony and some of its alloys expand on cooling.


Antimony has been known since ancient times. It is sometimes found free in nature, but is usually obtained from the ores stibnite (Sb2S3) and valentinite (Sb2O3). Nicolas Lémery, a French chemist, was the first person to scientifically study antimony and its compounds. He published his findings in 1707. Antimony makes up about 0.00002% of the earth's crust.



Very pure antimony is used to make certain types of semiconductor devices, such as diodes and infrared detectors. Antimony is alloyed with lead to increase lead's durability. Antimony alloys are also used in batteries, low friction metals, type metal and cable sheathing, among other products. Antimony compounds are used to make flame-proofing materials, paints, ceramic enamels, glass and pottery. The ancient Egyptians used antimony, in the form of stibnite, for black eye make-up.


Antimony in the environment

Antimony occurs naturally in the environment. But it also enters the environment through several applications by humans. Antimony is an important metal in the world economy. Annual production is about 50.000 tonnes per year, with virgin materials coming mainly from china, Russia, Bolivia and South Africa. World reserves exceed 5 million tonnes. In Finland there is a deposit of elemental antimony.


Health effects of antimony

Especially people that work with antimony can suffer the effects of exposure by breathing in antimony dusts. Human exposure to antimony can take place by breathing air, drinking water and eating foods that contain it, but also by skin contact with soil, water and other substances that contain it. Breathing in antimony that is bond to hydrogen in the gaseous phase, is what mainly causes the health effects.


Exposure to relatively high concentrations of antimony (9 mg/m3 of air) for a longer period of time can cause irritation of the eyes, skin and lungs.


As the exposure continues more serious health effects may occur, such as lung diseases, heart problems, diarrhea, severe vomiting and stomach ulcers.


It is not known whether antimony can cause cancer or reproductive failure.


Antimony is used as a medicine for parasital infections, but people who have had too much of the medicine or were sensitive to it have experienced health effects in the past. These health effects have made us more aware of the dangers of exposure to antimony.


Effects of antimony on the environment

Antimony can be found in soils, waters and air in very small amounts. Antimony will mainly pollute soils. Through groundwater it can travel great distances towards other locations and surface waters.


Laboratory tests with rats, rabbits and guinea pigs have shown us that relatively high levels of antimony may kill small animals. Rats may experience lung, heart, liver and kidney damage prior to death.


Animals that breathe in low levels of antimony for a long time may experience eye irritation, hair loss and lung damage. Dogs may experience heart problems even when they are exposed to low levels of antimony. Animals that breathed in low levels of antimony for a couple of months may also experience fertility problems.


Whether antimony can cause cancer has not been fully specified yet.


(Source: http://www.lenntech.com/periodic/elements/sb.htm#ixzz36cXPBEe4)








Stibnite, sometimes called antimonite, is a sulfide mineral with the formula Sb2S3. This soft grey material crystallizes in an orthorhombic space group. It is the most important source for the metalloid antimony. The name is from the Greek stibi through the Latin stibium as the old name for the mineral and the element antimony. As an antimony sulfide, it is potentially toxic and should be handled with care.



Stibnite has a structure similar to that of arsenic trisulfide, As2S3. The Sb(III) centers, which are pyramidal and three-coordinate, are linked via bent two-coordinate sulfide ions. It is grey when fresh, but can turn superficially black due to oxidation in air.



Pastes of Sb2S3 powder in fat or in other materials have been used since ca. 3000 BC as eye cosmetics in the Middle East and farther afield; in this use, Sb2S3 is called kohl. It was used to darken the brows and lashes, or to draw a line around the perimeter of the eye.


Antimony trisulfide finds use in pyrotechnic compositions, namely in the glitter and fountain mixtures. Needle-like crystals, "Chinese Needle", are used in glitter compositions and white pyrotechnic stars. The "Dark Pyro" version is used in flash powders to increase their sensitivity and sharpen their report. It is also a component of modern safety matches. It was formerly used in flash compositions, but its use was abandoned due to toxicity and sensitivity to static electricity.


The natural sulfide of antimony, stibnite, was known and used ever since protodynastic Ancient Egypt as a medication and a cosmetic. The Sunan Abi Dawood reports, “prophet Muhammad said: 'Among the best types of collyrium is antimony (ithmid) for it clears the vision and makes the hair sprout.'”


The 17th century alchemist Eirenaeus Philalethes, also known as George Starkey, describes stibnite in his alchemical commentary An Exposition upon Sir George Ripley's Epistle. Starkey used stibnite as a precursor to philosophical mercury, which was itself a hypothetical precursor to the Philosopher's stone.



Stibnite occurs in hydrothermal deposits and is associated with realgar, orpiment, cinnabar, galena, pyrite, marcasite, arsenopyrite, cervantite, stibiconite, calcite, ankerite, barite and chalcedony.


Small deposits of stibnite are common, but large deposits are rare. It occurs in Canada, Mexico, Peru, Japan, China, Germany, Romania, Italy, France, England,Algeria, and Kalimantan, Borneo. In the United States it is found in Arkansas, Idaho, Nevada, California, and Alaska.


As of May 2007, the largest specimen on public display (1000 pounds) is at the American Museum of Natural History. The largest documented single crystals of stibnite measured ~60×5×5 cm and originated from different locations including Japan, France and Germany.


(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stibnite)

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So far, we’ve mainly encountered antimony and stibnite as possible sources of kuhl. 


Having demonstrated how the terminology used (i.e. antimony and stibnite) may not always be accurate, insha’Allah we should now turn to additional references for clues on what the ithmid Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallem) used and recommended was or may have been (emphasis added to certain parts in red):



Historians believe the use of Arab kohl dates back the early B.C. years and was worn by both men and women in cultures all across the Middle East and North Africa. Traditionally the ithmid stone, a rock found in the region, is crushed using a mortar into a fine powder and then kept in copper containers.  It is applied to the eyes using a “miel,” or a thin copper wand and quickly spread between the lower and upper lid while the eye is closed.  (source)




Antimony sulphate (Ithmid, or Isfahan Collyrium) is a silvery dark grey stone, which is crushed into a very fine powder and used to darken the eyes. The best kind is found in Morocco, and it has a cold, dry temperament. Antimony strengthens the optic nerve and is considered the best kohl when mixed with musk powder for elderly people with poor vision weakened by old age.


Ibn Al Qayyim (rahimullah) suggests that then used as a kohl, Ithmid, also helps reduce skin flap growing on the eyelid, mange of the eyelids and it relaxes eyestrain. It helps detoxify eye moisture and eases congestion in tear ducts. It helps natural cleansing of the eyes and helps to protect the eyes from dust particles floating in the air, and brightens one’s sight. When Ithmid is mixed with honey diluted in water and applied on the edge of the eyelid, it can help reduce headaches.


Applying it before going to sleep is healthier than using it during the day, especially for women, and it helps the growing of eyelashes, making them thicker and longer in sha'Allah. 


Abdullah Ibn Abbas (radhi Allahu anhu) narrated that the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said: "Wear your white garments, for they are among your best garments, and shroud your dead in them. Among the best types of collyrium you use is antimony (ithmid): it clears the vision and makes the hair [eyelashes] sprout." [sunan Abi Dawood Book 28, Hadith 3869] Classed as Sahih by Al Albani.


The kohl most widely available is normally produced in India and Pakistan (called ‘Surma’). It is jet black and has a different chemical composition to true Ithmid. It can be made up of many ingredients, some of which include lead sulphide, the soot of sandalwood oil lamps and charcoal (Wiki). Lead sulphide is extremely toxic.


The best Ithmid to buy is from Morocco or from Medinah, Saudia Arabia.




Studies on the chemical composition of kohl stone by X-ray diffractometer



Use of Kohl (Surma) creates toxicity or protects eye, is one of the most controversial topic of modern medicines. However, modern researches show that kohl forms a thin film on the eye lens thus avoiding the direct contract of harmful UV radiation and glare of sun with lens. Black and shining particles of galena in kohl shield the eyes from glare and reflection of sun and thus protect them from harmful effect of UV radiation emerging from the sun. Based on these findings and other properties of kohl, it was decided to undertake this study to ascertain it's chemical composition and to correlate these properties scientifically. In the present study, kohl stone obtained from Madina (Saudi Arabia) was analyzed to ascertain it's chemical composition. The chemical analysis and X-ray diffractometer results obtained, showed that the main component of kohl stone is galena (PbS).




Kohl (surma): retrospect and prospect



Kohl, since antiquity has always been given a prime importance in ophthalmology for the protection and treatment of various eye ailments. However, for decades various conflicting reports in the literature have been published relating to Kohl application to eyes being responsible for causing higher blood lead concentration, which may cause lead poisoning. While at the same time, a number of research studies and reports have also been published negating any such links with increased blood lead level upon Kohl (surma) application. In view of the above mentioned facts, this review article is written with the objective to highlight various data from past and present research studies and reports about Kohl, so as to provide valuable information to both the users and the research workers about it's scientific background and effects when applied into eyes. A large number of items and topics (such as Kohl, surma, eye cosmetic, traditional eye preparations, environmental lead pollution, galena, lead sulphide etc.) have been taken into consideration while compiling this review article. In conclusion, the authors of this review article feel that the relation between Kohl and toxicity or increased blood lead concentration upon it's application to eyes as reported elsewhere is likely to be more of theoretical nature rather than a practical health hazard.




Arabic Kohl

1) It is made of is made of galena mineral. There are a lot of misunderstanding about Arab Kohl or Kohl Ithmid. Ithmid is not Antimony Sulphide as many Muslims thought. It was wrongly translated by the Greeks during the ancient Egyptian Rule. In ancient Egyptian language, galena (lead Sulphide) was called Mestem or Stimmi. The word is identical to Greek word Stim or Stibi or Stibium meaning Antimony.

According to “The Encyclopedia of Islam (Bosworth et al., 1986) and in “Medieval Islamic Civilization – An Encyclopedia (Meri, 2006) Kohl Ithmid was in fact only galena or lead sulphide.

Until today, the kohl found in Middle East, North Africa and Iran are made from lead sulphide or ithmid.

2) When applied on the skin kohl should be difficult to be washed off and does not smudge easily. Kohl should feel like it sticks on the skin firmly.

3) Kohl Ithmid is grey colour.



1) It contains almost no galena.It is made from herbs, pearl, zinc oxide and other ingredients. . Surma or kajal usually contains almost no ithmid (or lead sulphide). So if you are looking to practice the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad pbuh, kohl ithmid is what you are looking for.


2) Surma feels light on the skin


3) Surma is black colour





Next, insha’Allah a little more detail on galena

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Galena [formula: PbS], also called lead glance, is the natural mineral form of lead(II) sulfide. It is the most important ore of lead and an important source of silver.


Galena is one of the most abundant and widely distributed sulfide minerals. It crystallizes in the cubic crystal system often showing octahedral forms. It is often associated with the minerals sphalerite, calcite and fluorite.


Lead ore deposits

Galena is the main ore of lead, used since ancient times. Because of its somewhat low melting point, it was easy to liberate by smelting.


In some areas galena contains about 1-2 percent silver. In these areas the silver byproduct far outweighs the main lead ore in revenue. Galena deposits often also contain significant amounts of silver as included silver sulfide mineral phases or as limited solid solution within the galena structure. These argentiferous galenas have long been the most important ore of silver.


Galena deposits are found worldwide in various environments...  


Crystal structure

Galena belongs to the octahedral sulfide group of minerals with metal ions in octahedral positions, like members pyrrhotite and niccolite. The galena group is named after its most common member, with other isometric members that include manganese bearing alabandite and niningerite.


Divalent lead (Pb) cations and sulfur (S) anions form a close packed cubic unit cell much like the mineral halite of the halide mineral group. Zinc, cadmium, iron, copper, antimony, arsenic, bismuth, and selenium also occur in variable amounts in galena. Selenium substitutes for sulfur in the structure constituting a solid solution series. The lead telluride mineral altaite has the same crystal structure as galena.



Within the weathering or oxidation zone galena alters to anglesite (lead sulfate) or cerussite (lead carbonate). Galena exposed to acid mine drainage can be oxidized to anglesite by naturally occurring bacteria and archaea, in a process similar to bioleaching.


Galena uses

One of the oldest uses of galena was as kohl, which, in Ancient Egypt, was applied around the eyes to reduce the glare of the desert sun and to repel flies, which were a potential source of disease.


Galena is the primary ore of lead which is mainly used in making lead-acid batteries; however, significant amounts are also used to make lead sheets and shot. Galena is often mined for its silver content (e.g. the Galena Mine in northern Idaho).


Also known as "potters ore", galena is used in a green glaze applied to pottery.


Galena is a semiconductor with a small bandgap of about 0.4 eV which found use in early wireless communication systems. For example, it was used as the crystal in crystal radio sets, in which it was used as a point-contact diode to detect the radio signals. The galena crystal was used with a safety pin or similar sharp wire, which was known as a "cat's whisker". Making such wireless sets was a popular home hobby in Britain and other European countries during the 1930s.


Scientists that were linked to this application are Karl Ferdinand Braun and Sir Jagdish Bose. In modern wireless communication systems, galena detectors have been replaced by more reliable semiconductor devices.


Health issues

Galena contains lead, a toxic element. While bound to crystal structure, the lead content of galena is of minor concern and the mineral is safe to handle. However, prolonged exposure to the pulverized dust in the form of inhalation or ingestion is hazardous to one's health.



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Regardless of the source (antimony, stibnite, galena, etc.), kuhl containing lead and other heavy metals such as antimony has been banned in some countries for health reasons (e.g. United States).


The following is taken from the FDA (United States) website:



Kohl, Kajal, Al-Kahal, or Surma: By Any Name, Beware of Lead Poisoning


Many people may be unaware of the lead poisoning risk, in adults and children, from an easily avoidable source: the traditional eye cosmetic known as kohl, kajal, al-kahl, or surma.The following information is intended to answer questions people may ask about kohl and its dangers:


What is kohl made of?

Samples tested often contain significant amounts of lead. Lead sometimes accounts for more than half the weight of a sample of kohl, usually in the form of lead sulfide. Kohl may also contain a variety of other materials, such as aluminum, antimony, carbon, iron, and zinc compounds, as well as camphor and menthol.


What are the effects of lead poisoning?

The risks associated with exposure to lead are especially serious for children, who are particularly susceptible to absorbing lead from the environment. Among the effects associated with high levels of exposure are anemia, kidney problems, and neurological damage that may include seizures, coma and death. Even at relatively low levels, chronic exposure to lead may lead to learning and behavior problems (see Dangers of Lead Still Linger,"FDA Consumer, January-February 1998).


Is kohl directly linked to increased levels of lead in children?

Yes. FDA has learned of recent instances of kohl-related lead poisoning in children in the U.S. A number of studies have shown that children exposed to kohl have increased levels of lead in their blood. This exposure puts them at increased risk for the serious consequences of lead poisoning.


How are children exposed to kohl?

In some cultures, it is common for parents to apply kohl to the eyes of infants and children. Infants of mothers who use kohl sometimes have elevated levels of lead in their blood. Also, some people traditionally paint a newborn's umbilical stump with kohl, supposedly for medicinal reasons. Unlike some sources of exposure to lead, this one is easily avoidable by not using kohl on your children or yourself, and keeping it out of your home.


If someone in my family has been exposed to kohl, what should I do?

Stop all use of kohl immediately and be especially careful to protect children from further exposure. Place unused kohl in a sealable container or plastic bag and contact your local sanitation or waste department regarding appropriate methods for disposal. Thoroughly wash hands and any other body parts that may have come in contact with kohl. Wash exposed household surfaces with soap and hot water. Ask a health care provider to test children as well as pregnant or nursing women for lead poisoning if they have used kohl.


Is kohl legal in the United States?

No. Kohl is a color additive as that term is defined in the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), and there is no regulation permitting its use in a cosmetic or in any other FDA-regulated product. Color additives (other than coal-tar hair dyes) that are not permitted by regulation are considered unsafe under the law. (For more information on color additives and the law, see the FD&C Act, sections 201(t) and 721 as well as FDA's Color Additives website.) FDA has an Import Alert in effect for cosmetics containing kohl, not only because it is an unsafe color additive, but also because of labeling violations. For example, some samples have been labeled with the false statement, "FDA Approved." Such products are subject to detention and refusal of admission at U.S. ports of entry.NOTE: Some manufacturers may label eye cosmetics with the term "kohl" simply to indicate the shade, not because the product actually contains kohl. If the product is properly labeled, consumers can check the ingredient declaration to determine whether it contains only color additives that are approved for cosmetic use in the area of the eye. If no color additives are declared, it would be wise to stay on the safe side and assume that the product is, in fact, kohl.


Where does kohl come from?

Popular in much of the world since ancient times, particularly in parts of Africa, the Middle East, Iran, Pakistan, and India, kohl now sometimes appears in Europe and North America, especially in some Middle Eastern and Asian specialty markets. Despite its illegal status in the United States, it may be imported surreptitiously, for example, in personal luggage. It also has been advertised for mail order on some websites.


The following is also from the FDA and lists antimony as one of the possible ingredients in kohl that is banned:


Keep away from kohl -- and keep kohl away from kids!

One color additive of particular concern is kohl. Also known as al-kahl, kajal, or surma, kohl is used in some parts of the world to enhance the appearance of the eyes, but is unapproved for cosmetic use in the United States. Kohl consists of salts of heavy metals, such as antimony and lead. It may be tempting to think that because kohl has been used traditionally as an eye cosmetic in some parts of the world, it must be safe. However, there have been reports linking the use of kohl to lead poisoning in children.*


An FDA Import Alert cites three main reasons for detaining imports of kohl:

1. For containing an unsafe color additive, which makes the product adulterated.

2. or labeling that describes the product falsely as "FDA Approved."

3. For lack of an ingredient declaration.


Some eye cosmetics may be labeled with the word "kohl" only to indicate the shade, not because they contain true kohl. If the product is properly labeled, you can check to see whether the color additives declared on the label are in FDA's list of color additives approved for use in cosmetics, then make sure they are listed as approved for use in the area of the eye.

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The Government of Canada has also taken steps to prevent the use of 'traditional' kuhl containing lead and antimony:



Health concerns about lead in traditional kohl

Kohl (also known as: kajal, surma, al-kahl/al-kohl) is a traditional eye cosmetic of Middle Eastern, Asian and North African societies. It is also used in ways similar to a natural health product for general eye health, treatments to cuts, and is regarded as a general antibacterial substance.


Alerted by Direction de santé publique de Montréal, Health Canada issued a public advisory in September 2005 informing consumers about the potential exposure to lead through traditional kohl. Health Canada has taken action to remove known lead-containing kohl from the market, however it is suspected that there may be more kohl products currently being sold in Canada which contain lead.


Note: Traditional kohl should not be confused with modern eyeliner. Usually, kohl is in powder form, and is put on with an applicator stick. It can be purchased at various ethnic markets and gift shops in Canada. Modern eyeliner (sometimes labelled as "kohl"), is most often in pencil form, and is sold at national retailers across the country. These eyeliners undergo more stringent product controls and have not been found to contain lead.




Traditional kohl (unlabelled)

Modern Eyeliner


Why is lead a problem?

Lead is a metal which accumulates in the body and is therefore toxic even at low levels of exposure. Lead poisoning is not always easy to recognize. Symptoms of lead poisoning can include: headaches, irritability, abdominal pain, vomiting, general weakness, paleness, weight loss, poor attention span, noticeable learning difficulty, slowed speech development and hyperactivity.


Lead is especially harmful to children. Exposure to even small amounts of lead in the womb, during infancy or early childhood can result in lower birth weight, behavioural problems, learning disabilities and reduced intelligence. Lead can increase the risk of miscarriages, stillbirths and premature deliveries in pregnant women, and can also affect male fertility.


What can I do?


* As a precaution, Health Canada advises Canadians to not use the above products or any other unlabelled kohl products.

* If you have doubts about kohl in your possession, stop using it and dispose of it immediately. This can be done through normal household trash, being careful to wrap or encase the product to prevent access by children.


If you suspect that you or your child have been exposed to lead through the use of traditional kohl, consult a physician. Other questions and concerns about kohl can be addressed to your nearest Product Safety Office at 1-866-662-0666 or by email at [email protected].



What is Health Canada doing about lead in traditional kohl?

Health Canada sampled 14 kohl products across Canada for the presence of lead. The following products were found to contain high levels of lead:


* Hashmi Kohl Aswad from Pakistan;

* Khojati from India; and

* unlabelled kohl from Morocco.


Although lead-containing kohl has been removed from the market and measures have been taken to prevent further importation into Canada, there may be other kohl products in Canada which contain lead that are unknown to Health Canada.



The Canadian Government also provides Guidance on Heavy Metal Impurities in Cosmetics, listing heavy metals such as lead and antimony, safe levels etc.

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The ithmid used by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallem) was either:

(1) galena (the mineral form of lead sulfide) and not antimony/stibnite, as is often noted in translations, or

(2) a mixture of galena and antimony/stibnite, or

(3) antimony/sitbnite.

Allahu alam what the original ithmid was composed of.

The ithmid that is available now is mostly made with galena. Though, we can't really be sure about this either. There are conflicting reviews about various products and perhaps the differences are due to the fact that they are produced from different minerals (some with galena and some with stibnite)?

Due to health concerns particularly in relation to children, cosmetics containing heavy metals such as lead and antimony (including kuhl) are banned in some countries. As Muslims, we need to follow the laws of the land as much as possible and so

where ithmid is banned, and especially in relation to children, we should avoid its use.


...The 'ulama have written that due to these commands and practices it is sunnah to use kuhl, and it is better to use the one made from ithmid. If one uses kuhl made from any other substance it will be regarded as sunnah, but the virtue is obtained by using kuhl made of ithmid.

(see OP for full details)


Alhamdulillah, for the sunnah - we have options! If lead and antimony based kuhl is banned in our country or we are not able to use it but we wish to follow the sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallem) and gain reward for doing so, then insha'Allah, as ulema have written, we can obtain the reward for following the sunnah of applying kuhl by using kuhl made from other materials. We may not gain the narrated eye health benefits associated with the use of ithmid but insha'Allah we can gain reward for following sunnah.


Insha'Allah, in later posts I will write a little more on using commercially available kuhl and the need to be pay particular attention to the ingredients. Also, insha'Allah, I will post instructions and links for homemade plant based kuhl.

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Some brands of what might be considered ithmid available today include:

* the one available through Health Means Wealth in the UK seems to be made with antimony (or perhaps stibnite). It has been tested for, and does not seem to contain, lead

* Ithmid from Morocco made specifically as noted here (the page is in German so you might need Google to translate it for you) is made with stibnite

* Hashmi Surma from Pakistan may be made with galena since it is implicated as containing lead

* Rani Kajal from Saudi Arabia may also be made with galena since it too is implicated as containing lead


Some brands of kajal claim to be 100% natural and herbal... so, these would not be considered ithmid (remember, ithmid refers to a specific stone or mineral).

An example of herbal kajal is the Himalaya brand from India.


Aside from commercially available kajal (as noted above), there are instructions available online on how to make home-made herbal kajal. Since I don't know the implications of putting soot in the eyes (especially for children - as has been the practice in some cultures for hundreds if not thousands of years), I must admit that I am a reluctant to include instructions here. Suffice it to say that it is practiced by many cultures and has been for many years.


If purchasing any other form of surma or kajal, be sure to pay attention to ingredients for anything that may be considered haram such as carmine (which is obtained from an insect). Oriflame from Switzerland seems to have a kajal that does not contain any carmine though I can not say much about the rest of the ingredients.


For those of us who choose to or must use non-ithmid kuhl, please, please, please bear in mind the intention for doing so (to follow the sunnah of Rasulullah sallallahu alayhi wa sallem).

Also, for sisters: please be mindful of the reasons for using kuhl and do not use it as make-up to show-up your eyes outside the home. There are additional fataawa about not applying kuhl outside the home and while in iddah and insha'Allah we can link to those here as well; but for now, please do not mistake this thread as providing instructions on make-up. The intention here is strictly in relation to the sunnah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallem).

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