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The Question: I would like to ask whether it is okay to pray with nail polish on? I have heard my prayer is not valid if I offer salah with either nail polish on my toenail or fingernail.

There is nothing inherently wrong with nail polish itself, the issue of wearing nail polish for prayer comes from not being able to properly complete wudu:

In the Holy Quran, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says:

“O, you who have believed, when you rise to [perform] prayer, wash your faces and your forearms to the elbows and wipe over your heads and wash your feet to the ankles”.
Al-Ma’idah ayat 6

From this verse, one of the four obligatory fardh actions of Wudu is to wash our hands up until the elbows. What the belief among fiqh jurists is, if nails are polished, wudu will not be valid because applying the nail polish creates a layer which serves as a barrier preventing water from coming into contact with the skin.

As a result wudu has not been properly performed due to the abrogation of the fardh. Water did not cover from hands to the elbow, or in the case of toe nail polish, from the feet to the ankles.

If there was a condition of Janabah, it would be obligatory to wash the whole body in this case. Once again because you have nail polish the ghusl would be incomplete. So in both cases, wudu and ghusl cannot be completed because of the layer of polish.

Knowing this your prayer would be deemed as not valid and you cannot pray the salah. If you were ignorant to this fact in the past your prayer will have been accepted, Allah is merciful, but moving forward you will have intentionally not completed a fardh of the salah which is wrong. 

In the case of henna, if the base of the henna is firmed on the nails of the hands and the feet, then it is mandatory to finish that base first. But the color of the henna is not restricted by the water. It is the only color on the nails of hands and feet etc. and the water reaches to the skin of nails, so it does not hinder the performance of wudu and hence you can pray salah.

The Solution:

There is a category of nail polish which is said to be “breathable” which does not obstruct the flow of water to the skin. Since the water reaches below it, such nail polish will not be prohibited for wudu.

Applying the nail polish after you complete wudu is acceptable. But if something happens in the day that ‘breaks’ your wudu then you would need to remove the polish and complete Wudu again which can be cumbersome. For a devout practicing Muslimah it may be easier to just avoid wearing the nail polish altogether.

It should be noted that if impure materials (material which is Haram in our religion) is used in the nail polish, it would not be permissible to apply it on the nails. But this is minority of cases, the main issue is the nail polish causes a firm layer, that needs to be removed by chemicals, and this prevents water from reaching the skin of nails. For this reason the Salah cannot be performed.

And Allah Knows Best.

Hopefully this article brought some clarity. If you have any further questions or comments please write below and we’ll answer them here. Jazakallah.