Religiously themed tattoos are extremely common these days. From crosses to Buddha’s, we’ve done quite a few religious tattoos in our shop. But what exactly do these religions say about getting inked? Well, not all of them are for it. Here is what various religions say about tattoos.
Christian themed tattoos are incredibly popular. Rosaries, crosses, and Bible verses are inked onto believers every day. But how does the religion really feel about it? Well, it all depends on how you interpret certain Bible verses.
Leviticus 19:28 says, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you”
Some interpret this to refer to tattoos while others believe this is prohibiting the ancient practice of self-mutilation during mourning. This passage is also in the Old Testament of the Bible, which modern Christians do not adherer to as strictly (for example there are rules about stoning adulterers and wearing single fabric clothing).
Tattoos were used at various times as a proud symbol of identifying oneself as Christian. These days most churches are perfectly fine with tattoos, so getting one shouldn’t prohibit you from getting communion.
While tattoos are pretty vague in Christianity, they’re generally forbidden in Judaism. The Torah holds the same Leviticus passage as the Bible about marking oneself. Jews believe this to mean tattoos and forbid it. Some say that the prohibition against tattoos was the Jewish response to paganism.
In most sectors of the Jewish community though, a tattoo does not ban participation in religious activities. Jewish individuals with tattoos can still participate in synagogue rituals and Jewish burials. It’s a common misconception that tattoos prohibit Jewish individuals from being banned in a Jewish cemetery.
Tattoos are sensitive in the Jewish faith though. The Nazi’s would tattoo numbers on Jewish prisoners in concentration camps. This close connection to the Holocaust has added a new layer of revulsion towards tattoos in modern Jews, even secular ones.
Hinduism is very accepting of tattoos. They are allowed both religiously and culturally. Henna tattoos are the most common ones used, but modern permanent tattoos are also fine. In the past, Hindu women would get their husband’s name tattooed on their arm. Hinduism inspires some of the most popular tattoo designs we see in our tattoo shop. Tattooing in Hinduism is actually a vital part of the culture for some groups.
Buddhism does not forbid tattoos. In fact, Buddhist countries in Asia have a long history of tattoos. Thai monks are famous for their special tattooing technique and use them to serve as amulets. While tattooing is fine among Buddhist, be respectful around any religious symbols used, especially by those that are not Buddhist. That symbol of Buddha might seem cool, but if you don’t believe in the practices it probably just comes off as ignorant.
Despite many people believing that tattoos are haram (an act forbidden by Allah), there are actually no clear statements on tattoos in the Qur’an or Hadith. Beliefs on tattoos vary depends on scholars and communities. Some view permanent tattoos as sins but allow temporary ones like henna. Some say it’s okay to convert with tattoos while others believe that those that convert need to get tattoos removed.
While there is a lot of debate around tattoos in Islam, there is strong evidence of historical and contemporary tattoos in Islamic groups. In Lebanon, Sunni and Shia Muslims would get tattoos to distinguish themselves. Face tattoos were common among Muslim women until the 1950s.
Tattoos have also taken on a counterculture in Muslim communities. Underground tattoos are popular among Iranian youth. Turkish Muslims get them as forms of rebellion and resistance. Muslims in the West are also getting them at higher rates now too.
Tattoos played an important role throughout history. Religious attitudes towards them have changed through time and are never set in stone. A religious-themed tattoo is a great way to show off or cement one’s faith. However, we always recommend people be respectful and think carefully before getting a religious symbol tattooed on them. This is especially important for those that don’t follow a certain faith.