The art of henna, or mehndi, has been a widely practiced Islamic tradition in parts of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East for over 5,000 years. While we are accustomed to see henna designs on brides, it actually has great Islamic significance. Additionally, both men and women can use henna because of its health advantages.
I spoke to a freelance henna artist, Samina, who has been running SK henna in Essex, UK for over ten years. Read ahead as she tells us all there is to know about henna.
Samina began doing henna because for her it’s a form of art, and like many other artists, she finds it therapeutic.
“While I was at school, I was always doodling patterns on paper and drawing on my friend’s hands with black pens. Drawing from one pattern to the next, I found it therapeutic, like I could go on forever. Eventually, I became the family henna artist and after receiving some encouragement from my family and friends. I started my journey as a henna artist,” she says.
Samina adds, “Islamically speaking, women would traditionally wear henna on their hands and palms to enhance their beauty.”
In fact, our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used henna to dye his hair. Today, henna is an Islamic tradition with health benefits including balancing the ratio of acid-alkaline in hair, reducing grey hairs, preventing headaches, and treating dandruff. It’s also common practice among Muslim women to have henna designs done to celebrate Eid.
Henna designs are not only a wedding tradition, but they act as a symbol too, explains Samina.
She says, “I find myself the busiest during wedding season, which runs through spring and summer time. Brides usually have henna designs applied to their hands two or three days prior to their weddings.”
Samina goes on to explain, “They say that the henna stain indicates the love between the two individuals, be it husband and wife or mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. It usually varies from culture to culture.”
“What makes henna unique, is its healing ability. Due to its calming and soothing factor, it helps cancer and alopecia patients relax,” says Samina.
She offers free service to cancer and alopecia patients who have lost their hair, and in the henna industry, they call it the “Henna Crowns of Courage.”
When asked to expand, Samina said, “I design and create a beautiful crown on each individual, specifically designed for them, in hopes to bring them courage and make them smile.”
After speaking with this artist, it is clear that henna is more than just an aesthetic design. Whether it’s for your hands and hair, or simply for creative expression, henna is an integral tradition in Islamic culture.