Attar and Perfume Oils in Islam

Attar in Islam

Think back to a time when you were a child and visiting the local mosque to perform your Friday prayers. An elder passes by you in the doorway, he pulls out a small bottle from his pocket and applies a tiny bit of an intense yet pleasant fragrance to his hand. He then offers everyone around you a bit and then its your turn. Your stick out your hand balled up into a fist like those around you. He applies some oil to your hand. You look around and see everyone applying the scent all over their clothes, you follow suit. The smell is warm, intense and woody. You find it pleasant, and it is a smell that sticks with you for years and makes you immediately think of the old man and his smile.

This anecdotal story or a similar version of it is true for many Muslims today. The truth is that the application of perfume oils is something that goes back to the time of the Holy Prophet S.A.W. Over hundreds of years these oils have been developed and utilized across the Muslim world. You will find distinct versions of them depending on where you are in the globe, each culture adding its own natural ingredients subtly changing the tone. The use of scents is something which is encouraged and rewarded within the Islamic religion and is a teaching found within many Hadeeth, the sayings and actions of the Prophet S.A.W.  

Below are a few hadeeth recorded regarding the Prophet Muhammad’s (S.A.W) love and encouragement of perfumes and scents:

“The Prophet (PBUH) would not refuse perfume.” (Bukhari)

“The best scent is the perfume of musk.” (Tirmidhi)

“Anyone who takes a bath on Friday and cleans himself as much as he can and puts oil (on his hair) or scents himself; and then proceeds for the prayer … all his sins in between the present and the last Friday will be forgiven.” (Bukhari)

These are just a few of the stronger narrations regarding the Prophet’s love for perfumed scents and especially that of musk and oils. In a similar context throughout the Quran the imagery regarding Jannah is filled with allusion to the scents and its comparison to oud and musk (Quran: 83: 25-26). The elements of paradise are often illustrated using their scent and comparison to the musk which was common practice by the people of that time (Bukhari: 3327; Book. 60; Eng vol. 4; Book. 55; Hadees. 544).

It is only natural that a believer in this world would like to surround themselves with reminders of the blessed eternal hereafter and this heavily includes the use of scented oils. The use of perfume oils is still prevalent within the Muslim world but is beginning to be diminished due to the uses of perfumes and colognes.

The main issue with many mainstream perfumes and colognes is the use of alcohol which the Prophet strongly discouraged even being near or associated with (Tirmidhi). The consumption is outright forbidden within the Quran however a further analysis of the prophetic teachings reveals that one should attempt to avoid alcohol in any shape or manner to be closer to Allah, his messenger and his religion.

The benefits of smelling good and the utilization of perfume oils are thus beyond beneficiary in just this world. One who wishes to walk on the righteous path will also be amongst those keeping this important Sunnah alive and will utilize the favorite scents of the Prophet out of love and appreciation.



Bukhārī, Muḥammad I. Sahih Bukhari. Karachi: Muhammad Sarid, 1966.

Tirmidhī, Muḥammad I. Jami' Al-Tirmidhi. Karachi: Karkhana Tijarat Kutab, 1900. Print.

The Qur'an. Trans. by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, Oxford UP, 2005

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