Islam House

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Womens Arabian perfume

Womens Arabian Perfume
Islamic cultures contributed significantly in the development of western perfumery in both perfecting the extraction of fragrances through steam distillation and introducing new, raw ingredients. Both of the raw ingredients and distillation technology significantly influenced western perfumery and scientific developments, specifically Chemistry.

As traders, Islamic cultures such as the Arabs and Persians had wider access to different spices, herbals, and other frangrance material. In addition to trading them, many of these exotic materials were cultivated by the muslims such that they can be successfully grown outside of their native climates. Two examples of this include jasmine, which is native to South and Southeast Asia, and various citrus, which are native to East Asia. Both of these ingrediants are still highly important in modern perfumery.

In Islamic culture, Womens Arabian perfume usage has been documented as far back as the 6th century and its usage is considered a religious duty. The Prophet Muhammad said, "The taking of a bath on Friday is compulsory for every male Muslim who has attained the age of puberty and (also) the cleaning of his teeth with Miswaak (type of twig used as a toothbrush), and the using of perfume if it is available." (Recorded in Sahih Bukhari). Such rituals gave incentives to scholars to search and develop a cheaper way to produce incenses and in mass production. Thanks to the hard work of two talented chemists: Jabir ibn Hayyan (born 722, Iraq), and al-Kindi (born 801, Iraq) who established the perfume industry. Jabir developed many techniques, including distillation, evaporation and filtration, which enabled the collection of the odour of plants into a vapour that could be collected in the form of water or oil.

Al-Kindi, however, was the real founder of perfume industry as he carried out extensive research and experiments in combining various plants and other sources to produce a variety of scent products. He elaborated a vast number of �recipes� for a wide range of womens' perfumes, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. His work in the laboratory is reported by a witness who said `I received the following description, or recipe, from Abu Yusuf Ya'qub b. Ishaq al-Kindi, and I saw him making it and giving it an addition in my presence.' The writer goes on in the same section to speak of the preparation of a womens' perfume called ghaliya, which contained musk, amber and other ingredients; too long to quote here, but which reveals a long list of technical names of drugs and apparatus.

Musk and floral womens' perfumes were brought to Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries from Arabia, through trade with the Islamic world and with the returning Crusaders. Those who traded for these were most often also involved in trade for spices and dyestuffs. There are records of the Pepperers Guild of London, going back to 1179 CE; which show them trading with Muslims in spices, perfume ingredients and dyes.

Sources: Martin Levey (1973), �Early Arabic Pharmacology�, EJ Brill, Leiden. Dunlop, D.M. (1975), �Arab Civilization�, Librairie du Liban.


Knowledge of perfumery came to Europe as early as the 14th century due partially to muslim influences as well as knowledge from the Ancient Romans. During the Renaissance period, Womens Arabian perfumes were used primarily by royalty and the wealthy to mask bodily odors resulting from the sanitary practices of the day. Partly due to this patronage, the western perfumery industry was created. By the 18th century, aromatic plants were being grown in the Grasse region of France to provide the growing perfume industry with raw materials. Even today, France remains the centre of the European perfume design and trade.

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