According to God, the only source of religious law we are to follow is stated in the Quran.
[6:114] Shall I seek other than GOD as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully detailed? Those who received the scripture recognize that it has been revealed from your Lord, truthfully. You shall not harbor any doubt. [6:115] The word of your Lord is complete, in truth and justice. Nothing shall abrogate His words. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.
Regarding prohibitions in the Quran, a simple rule is that anything that is not prohibited in the Quran is by default permissible.
[6:150] Say, “Bring your witnesses who would testify that GOD has prohibited this or that.” If they testify, do not testify with them. Nor shall you follow the opinions of those who reject our revelations, and those who disbelieve in the Hereafter, and those who stray away from their Lord.
Some people abuse this principle to insinuate that many of the sins that are not specifically mentioned in the Quran are therefore permissible since they are not mentioned by name in the Quran. This argument is void, because God doesn’t need to mention every kind of sin by name in order to encompass them, but rather by condemning the general category it will constitute all derivatives of that sin.
For instance, according to 5:90, God informs us that intoxicants, gambling, and the altars of idols are abominations of the devil, and that we should avoid these things.
[5:90] O you who believe, intoxicants, and gambling, and the altars of idols, and the games of chance are abominations of the devil; you shall avoid them, that you may succeed.
Notice that by making such a statement it prohibits all forms of intoxicants, gambling and altars of idols. This does not mean that only certain kinds of intoxicants, gambling, or altars of idols are prohibited, but rather anything that can fall into one of these categories would be prohibited. By doing this, God didn’t need to specify all the multitude of things that would constitute one of these categories, and thus simplifying the religion for us.
In the following two verses, God informs us that His words are infinite, yet out of His mercy he reduced what is necessary for our salvation to these 114 Suras of the Quran.
[31:27] If all the trees on earth were made into pens, and the ocean supplied the ink, augmented by seven more oceans, the words of GOD would not run out. GOD is Almighty, Most Wise.
[18:109] Say, “If the ocean were ink for the words of my Lord, the ocean would run out, before the words of my Lord run out, even if we double the ink supply.”
So when it comes to tattoos there is no verse where the act is specifically prohibited, but I can think of two arguments that people can make attempting to prohibit the action.
Argument #1 – Best Design
In the following verse God informs us that He created the human being in the best design.
[95:4] We created man in the best design.
Some can argue that because of this verse, tattoos would be going against the intended design of man when one modifies their skin to something unnatural. If someone was to have such a hard stance based on this verse, then they would also have to prohibit many other things e.g. piercings, makeup, haircuts, or eyebrow grooming. Because of this I do not see this verse apply to tattoos.
Argument #2 – Distortion
The second argument is based on a claim that Satan made when getting kicked out of the High Society when he stated:
[4:119] “I will mislead them, I will entice them, I will command them to (forbid the eating of certain meats by) marking the ears of livestock, and I will command them to distort the creation of GOD.” Anyone who accepts the devil as a lord, instead of GOD, has incurred a profound loss.
Some have argued that tattoos fall under the distorting of the creation of God. I personally have trouble with this as again this can lead to a slippery slope of prohibitions. If one was to prohibit tattoos because they believe is distorts God’s creation, then they would also have to prohibit hair coloring, plastic surgery, botox, piercings, etc. as well.
Personally I do not see tattoos as prohibited and do not find either of these arguments convincing. That said, it is worth differentiating between something being prohibited and someone having a preference.
When we say something is prohibited we are insinuating that God commanded us not to conduct such acts and if one does they will be committing a sin. A preference on the other hand, does not mean one is committing a sin by choosing not to do an act. For instance, someone can choose not to eat fish, not because they think it is prohibited but because they don’t like the taste. That is fine, but if they are saying that if someone eats fish they will be committing a sin then they would be attributing lies to God.
There are many things we can choose not to do because of personal preferences, but once we say that the action is prohibited then we are saying that God commanded us not to partake in that act and if we do we will be earning sins against our souls.
[29:68] Who is more evil than one who fabricates lies and attributes them to GOD, or rejects the truth when it comes to him? Is Hell not a just retribution for the disbelievers?