GROWING BEARD: IS IT MANDATORY IN ISLAM?
Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462
A modern Muslim scholar is of the opinion that growing beards might be encouraged, but it is not mandatory in Islam. He argues 1 " that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had reasons for his time only, 1400 years ago, to address his companions to grow beards and this doesn't mean that these reasons have to exist today. Islam is a rational religion. Growing beards can actually cause trouble to some of the Muslims who live in the West today. If growing beards was mandatory in the Noble Quran, then we would have nothing to argue about. But since it was mentioned in the Sayings of our beloved Prophet peace be upon him, then it is important to know whether this law should apply to all times and all places or not. Some of our Prophet's Sayings and laws were made only to solve situations that occurred 1400 years ago. These few Sayings don't necessarily have to be applied today. Only the Noble Qur'an's laws are all 100% applicable for all times and all places. Prophet Muhammad's Sayings, yet most of them should be applied for all times and all places, but few of them shouldn't."
Haron Amin, a one-time anti-Soviet
and anti-Taliban fighter in Afghanistan, who is now his country's top diplomat
in Washington, said to CNN News " Well, I think -- remember that growing a beard
in Islam is not dictated in the Holy Koran. It's a tradition by the Prophet. In
other words, it's not one those mandatory things that one must do.
SHAVED HEADS AND BEARDS 2
In Egypt, many centuries before Christ, barbers were prosperous and highly respected. The ancient monuments and papyrus show that the Egyptians shaved their beards and their heads. The Egyptian priests even went so far as to shave the entire body every third day. The Bible tells us that when Joseph was summoned to appear before Pharaoh, a barber was sent for to shave Joseph, so that Pharaoh's sight would not be offended by a dirty face.
In Greece, barbers came into prominence as early as the fifth century, BC. These wise men of Athens rivaled each other in the excellence of their beards. Beard trimming became an art and barbers became leading citizens. Statesmen, poets and philosophers, who came to have their hair cut or their beards trimmed or curled and scented with costly essences, frequented their shops. And, incidentally, they came to discuss the news of the day, because the barber shops of ancient Greece were the headquarters for social, political, and sporting news. The importance of the tonsorial art in Greece may be gathered from the fact that a certain prominent Greek was defeated for office because his opponent had a more neatly trimmed beard.
In the third century, BC, the Macedonians under Alexander the Great began their conquest of Asia and lost several battles to the Persians who grabbed the Macedonians by their beards, pulled them to the ground and speared them. This resulted in a general order by Alexander that all soldiers be clean-shaven. The civilians followed the example of the soldiers and beards lost their vogue. Barbers were unknown in Rome until 296 BC, when Ticinius Mena came to Rome from Sicily and introduced shaving. Shaving soon became the fashion and the barber shop became the gathering place for the Roman dandies. No people were better patrons of the barbers than the Romans. They often devoted several hours each day to tonsorial operations, which included shaving, hair cutting, hairdressing, massaging, manicuring and the application of rare ointments and cosmetics of unknown formulas. The great ladies of Rome always had a hairdresser among their slaves and the rich nobles had private tonsors, as they were then called. Barbers were so highly prized that a statue was erected to the memory of the first barber of Rome.
When Hadrian became emperor, beards became the fashion again -- and for a very good reason. Hadrian had a face covered with warts and scars. He allowed his beard to grow to cover these blemishes. The people of Rome imitated the emperor and grew beards whether they needed them or not.
The fashion changed again to clean-shaven faces. We know that Caesar was clean-shaven. As we will see repeated in history many times, the leaders of the state were the leaders of fashion and the people were always ready to follow the prevailing styles. There are many passages in the Bible referring to the barber profession. Moses commanded that all who recovered from leprosy should be shaved. This was done as a health precaution, because throughout history the Jews have honored the beard as a badge of manhood. To this day, the orthodox Jews have little respect for clean-shaven men. During periods of mourning, the ancient Jews allowed their beards to go untrimmed, but ordinarily their beards were trimmed regularly. The prophet Ezekiel refers to an ancient custom in these words: "Take thou a barber's razor and cause it to pass upon thy head and upon thy beard." The razors of those days were made of flint and oyster shells.
Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi 3
"We see that there are three views
on shaving the beard. First, shaving beard is prohibited. This is the view of
Ibn Taimyiah. Second: it is Makruh (reprehensible), that is `Iyad’s view.
The Third view is that there is no problem in shaving the beard. This view is
held by many contemporary scholars.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty 4
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and an Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, who states: "no Muslim should take the issue of the beard lightly. At the same time, we must also state categorically that one should not conclude from what has been said earlier that growing a beard in Islam has the same religious significance as that of the other prescribed rituals. This is definitely not the case. Thus it is important for us to recognize that we are not allowed to ostracize men who do not have beards nor are we to question their basic faith.
Since beard is undoubtedly a great Sunnah, every Muslim male should try to practice this Sunnah according to the best of his ability. Allah does not take us to task for what is beyond our power or ability. We are told to fear Allah as best as we can." Shaving the beard is a way of imitating the disbelievers, and the Prophet of Allah has commanded us in numerous hadiths to contradict the people of the book (Jews and Christians) and to contradict the pagans and Magus. So since shaving the beard is a tradition practiced by non-Muslims, it makes it mandatory for the Muslims to contradict them by growing it. Let us see the Jewish perspective.
JEWISH PERSPECTIVE 5
Ian Posner says,
"Muslims wear beards to emulate the practices of Mohammed, it does not explain
where Mohammed got the idea of wearing a beard from. A clue is given in the
clause relating to Islam being "...a continuation of the prophetic
CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE 6
It is better for a man to
have a beard than to not have one. He who has a beard should not think less of
him who does not, and vice-versa. It is mandatory for a Christian presbyter to
have a beard.
1.Ye shall not round the corners of your heads; neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. Leviticus 19:27
2.Wherefore Hanun took David's servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away. When they told it unto David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed: and the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return. 2 Samuel 10:4-5
3.And although it is written, "Ye shall not mar the figure of your beard," he plucks out his beard, and dresses his hair; and does he now study to please any one who displeases God? St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatise III: On The Lapsed, AD 250
4."Men may not destroy the
hair of their beards and unnaturally change the form of a man. For the Law says,
"You shall not mar your beards." For God the Creator has made this decent for
women, but has determined that it is unsuitable for men."
5."How womanly it is for one
who is a man to comb himself and shave himself for the sake of fine effect, and
to arrange his hair at a mirror, shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and
smooth them! For God wished women to be smooth and to rejoice in their locks
alone, growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane. But He has adorned man,
like the lions, with a beard, a sign of strength and rule."
6."The beard signifies the courageous; the beard distinguishes the grown men, the earnest, the active, and the vigorous. So that when we describe such, we say, he is a bearded man." St. Augustine, Commentary on Psalm CXXXIII (133), 4th Century
7."When a stripling Theodoret was blessed by the right hand of Aphraates the monk, of whom he relates an anecdote in his Ecclesiastical History, and when his beard was just beginning to grow was also blessed by the ascetic Zeno. At this period he was already a lector and was therefore probably past the age of eighteen." Prolegomena to the Life of St. Theodoret of Cyrrhus, 5th Century
8.Metropolitan Gabriel (Petrov) of Petersburg and Novgorod was once going to a service, where the Archpriest Andrew Samborsky, whose beard was shaved off, was supposed to serve together with him. Seeing Samborsky, the Metropolitan said: "What kind of man are you? Our Church does not accept those who shave the beard. Get out!" Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. 3, St. Herman. Pages 71-72
9."You, young men, honor those with beards. And if there is a man of thirty with a beard and one of fifty, or sixty, or a hundred who shaves, place the one with the beard above the one who shaves, in Church as well as at the table. On the other hand, I don't say that a beard will get you to heaven, but good works will. And your dress should be modest, as well as your food and your drink. Your whole conduct should be Christian so that you will be a good example for others" St. Kosmas Aitolos, 1700's AD
Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi 7
To a question with regard to the permissibility of shaving the beard, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi wrote " The Prophet -peace be upon him- never shaved his beard. He not only kept a full beard, but he also told his companions to grow the beards. Not only the Prophet -peace be upon him- had beard, but also all his companions and almost all Muslim Imams, 'Ulama always had beards. The growing of beard is not just a custom or cultural practice among Muslims, it is a Sunnah of the Prophet -peace be upon him. According to some jurists, it is a Sunnah Mu'akkadah, i.e. an emphasized Sunnah; and it is a sin to neglect it.
According to some others it is a Sunnah 'Adiyah, i.e., a general Sunnah which should be done, but its negligence is not a sin. Muslims should grow beards, urge others to follow this and other Sunnis of the Prophet -peace be upon him. We, however, should not abuse or defame those of our brothers who neglect this Sunnah."
Sheikh Muhammad Ali Al-Hanooti 8
With regard to growing beard or
cutting short the beard, Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Ali Al-Hanooti (He is a
member of the North American Fiqh Council. Current Position: Mufti and Fiqh
Scholar, Islam Online),
However, leaving the beard to grow is not a condition for the correctness of the Salaah. Whoever shaves off his beard and prays, then his prayer is not void 9.
To a question whether growing a beard is highly recommended sunnah in which it is not mandatory but recommend or is it a Fard, Sheikh Muhammad Ali Al-Hanooti 10 (He is a member of the North American Fiqh Council. Current Position: Mufti and Fiqh Scholar, Islam Online) says, "I would say growing a beard is Sunnah. Those who say it is Fard, have a different opinion." Al-Muqnei Book of Fiqh Vol 1 says, "it is recommended to grow the beard."
Shaykh Hisham 11
Shaykh Hisham says "The question is sometimes asked: "In what circumstances is it allowable for a male Muslim to shave his beard off or not to grow one at all? Is military service a valid excuse?" To which we say: al-darurat tubihu al-mahzurat -- Necessities make prohibited things permitted. The question is to define necessity in this case. Protection of one's life, safety, livelihood, and religion all qualify as such, and in some countries military service is unavoidable except at unbearably high personal cost. Indeed in some countries the beard was made either illegal by law under threat of major punishment, such as in Republican Turkey, or a cause for harassment and persecution by the authorities as in other secular-oriented states. And Allah knows best."
Shehzad Saleem 12
When a question was asked if it is compulsory in Islam for men to keep beards, the learned scholar, Shehzad Saleem who is the Director of Al-Mawrid, Institute of Islamic Sciences (51-K, Model Town, Lahore, Pakistan) says, "Keeping a beard is a desirable act for men. The Prophets of Allah kept beards and expressed their liking for it since this is from among the norms of human nature. It is an expression of manliness and as such a sign, which distinguishes men from women. However, the Prophet (sws) did not regard keeping beards as part of the Islamic Shari‘ah. Also, it is not compulsory for men to keep a beard and if a person shaves his beard he may be deprived of some reward, but he is unlikely to be punished on this. This view also conforms to the Shafite jurists (See Dr Wahbah al-Zahili, Fiqhu’l-Islami wa Adillatuhu, vol. 1, p. 308.) and to many scholars of Hadith including Qadi ‘Ayad "( See Nawawi, Sharah Sahih Muslim, 2nd ed., vol. 3, [Beirut: Daru’l-Ahya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, 1972], p. 151) who regard shaving the beard as makruh (undesirable). (While defining makruh Abu Zuhrah says: The jurists say that the perpetrator of makruh is not to be condemned while a person who desists from it is praiseworthy. (Abu Zuhrah, Usulu’l-Fiqh, 1st ed., [Cairo: Daru’l-Fikr al-‘Arabi, 1958], p. 41).
There are three important principles of understanding the Shari‘ah.
Almighty has blessed man with guidance in two ways. One of them can be termed as
Innate Guidance and the other one as Divine Guidance.
The second sphere of
guidance, Divine Guidance, generally pertains to areas where human beings
are unable to decide the right course by themselves. So in order to complement
and supplement the sphere of Innate Guidance, the Almighty has divinely
guided man through His Prophets. The Qur’an and Sunnah (the
established practice of the Prophet (sws)) are the primary sources of Divine
There are Ahadith,
which say that men must grow beards and clip their moustaches. However, an
analysis of the context of these Ahadith reveals two important things.
Abu ‘Umamah reports: The Prophet (sws) once came to some old men of the tribe of Ansar. These men had extremely white beards. Seeing them, the Prophet remarked: ‘O People of Ansar dye your beards in red or golden colors and do not follow these People of the Book’. They declared: ‘O Prophet these People of the Book do not wear shalwars and loin cloths’. At this, the Prophet said: ‘Wear shalwars and loin cloths and do not follow these People of the Book’. They declared: ‘O Prophet these People of the Book neither wear shoes nor socks [while praying] ((Abu Da‘ud, Kitabu’l-Salah). At this, the Prophet said: ‘Wear shoes and socks and do not follow these People of the Book’. They said: ‘O Prophet these People of the Book lengthen their moustaches and shave their beards’. At this, the Prophet said: ‘Clip your moustaches and lengthen your beards and do not follow these People of the Book’. (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hambal, vol. 5 p. 264)
It is evident
from the words of this Hadith that some Muslims of the Ansar were
following the People of the Book in some of their practices thinking that they
were obligatory. Besides other things, they thought that it was necessary to
lengthen the moustache and shave off the beard. The Prophet (sws) told them that
this was no religious directive. On the contrary, this was a religious
innovation; so if they wanted, they could lengthen their beards and clip their
moustache instead. Similarly, refraining from dyeing one’s hair was no religious
requirement. If they wanted they could dye their hair as well. In other
words, this Hadith is not asking men to grow beards; it is merely
saying that keeping beards and clipping moustaches is not a condemned religious
practice as certain people are contending. It is perfectly allowed in Islam. So,
just as dyeing hair, wearing socks and shoes while praying have not become
necessary directives as per this Hadith, keeping a beard as an obligatory
directive cannot be deduced from it as well.
1.Osama Abdullah: Is Growing Beard Mandatory in Islam? http://www.answering-christianity.com/growing_beards.htm
3. Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi http://www.islamonline.net/fatwa/english/FatwaDisplay.asp?hFatwaID=65268
4. Excerpted, with slight modifications, from: www.muslims.ca
5. Ian Posner, Director of MindQuest Solutions Ltd, London, UK http://ecademy.com/node.php?id=26320
12. Shehzad Saleem: The Question of Keeping a Beard. Renaissance - a Monthly Islamic Journal from Pakistan, Vol. 10, No. 5, May 2000. http://www.renaissance.com.pk/
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