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Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed


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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."

Afghan Diplomat

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.
I don't grow a beard and I'm a -- and I'm a perfect Muslim here in the sense that, you know, I practice and I have my own convictions. So it's not a big thing."


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 manhoodTo 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.

It seems to me that the closest of these three views is the one that deems shaving beard as Makruh. As the stated reason for growing the beard is to be different from the non-believers, it is similar to the matter of dyeing gray hair in order to be distinct from the Jews and Christians; it is known that some of the Companions of the Prophet did not dye their gray hair, signifying that it was commendable rather than obligatory. Similarly, growing the beard may be regarded as commendable but not obligatory, and, accordingly, shaving it would be classified as Makruh rather than Haram. It is true that none of the Companions was known to have shaved his beard. Perhaps there was no need to shave, and perhaps growing the beard was a custom among them."  

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.


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 tradition...".

Wearing of beards is actually a Judaic tradition, which derives from the notion of avoiding doing anything, which could be possibly result in a transgression of God's commandments to the Jews (of which there are 613). One of those is the prohibition against suicide and self-harm. In that respect religious Jews are precluded from cutting any hair growing around the jawbone in case (in the days of cut-throat razors) they should slip and kill themselves!

In my personal opinion, many of the traditions in modern day Judaism stem from pragmatic rulings to ensure survival in times past. However the tragedy of Judaism today is the seeming inability of any of the orthodox rabbinates to overrule decisions made by their predecessors. After all, I challenge anyone to sever their jugular vein with an electric razor!


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.

Here are some witnesses from the authority of the Church:

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."
The Apostolic Constitutions, AD 390

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."

"For it is not lawful to pluck out the beard, man's natural and noble ornament. "A youth with his first beard: for with this, youth is most graceful." By and by he is anointed, delighting in the beard "on which descended" the prophetic, "ointment" with which Aaron was honoured. And it becomes him who is rightly trained, on whom peace has pitched its tent, to preserve peace also with his hair."

"But the hair on the chin is not to be disturbed, as it gives no trouble, and lends to the face dignity and paternal terror."
St. Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor: Book III, AD 195

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),
says, " I myself don't believe that it is more than Sunnah. As a matter of usul al-fiqh, the action of the Prophet (SAAWS) doesn't mean anything more than you had better to follow it, but you have the option not to do it. The only moment we have obligation is when he gives a commandment. The hadith that says leave the beards is paraphrased through the understanding of some of the companion (RA) like Ibn Umar. There is a difference between a flying logic and a realistic fiqh. If I am mistaken brother, I am rewarded one reward and maybe, Insha Allah, you are rewarded twice. Maybe vice versa. But still, I didn't say what great scholars said, like al-Shartoot and Abu Zahra, who are absolutely great scholars from the 20th century."

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. 

   I. The 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. 
 Innate Guidance: Man has been given certain faculties and abilities (intuition, conscience, instincts, common sense and intellect), which are enough to guide him in deciding the right course of action.

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 Guidance. 
    II. In both these spheres of Innate Guidance and Divine Guidance, deeds and actions do not merely belong to the two categories of the prohibited and the allowed, but have various other categories as well. For example, a thing may be desirable which means that if a person adopts it, he will be rewarded and if he does not, he will not be held liable to it. 
    III. As far as Ahadith are concerned, they are not an independent source of Islam. They must have some basis in either or both of the two aforementioned categories: Innate Guidance or Divine Guidance. Consequently, if some Ahadith do not have such a basis they cannot be accepted. 
    Now, in the light of these principles, it is evident: 
    1. The issue of keeping a beard is not discussed anywhere in the category of Divine Guidance. In other words, the Qur’an and Sunnah are devoid of any such ruling. 
    2. As far as the category of Innate Guidance is concerned, some scholars place this directive in it and I (Shehzad Saleem) would tend to agree with them. Of course, someone may differ.
    3. Several Ahadith and some historical reports however, clearly mention that men should keep beards. Consequently, if this directive is to be classified as a religious one, these Ahadith must have a basis either in the first category (Innate Guidance) or in the second category (Divine Guidance). 

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. 
    Firstly, in all these narratives the directive of growing a beard occurs in tandem with the directive of clipping the moustache. This paired mention adds a certain stress to the whole directive. It has not been said: ‘Grow a beard’, in which case the directive would mean that as against the followers of these religious denominations, (who do not have beards) Muslims must grow beards; on the contrary, the addition of the second clause ‘clip the moustache’ adds the stress that if something is to be clipped it is the moustache and not the beard and if something is to be lengthened it is the beard and not the moustache. 
    Secondly, none of these narratives explicitly and unconditionally give these directives. Rather each of them begins with a negative note: ‘Do not follow idolaters, Majus (Magians), People of the Book…’ The addition of this note changes an explicit directive to a conditional one.

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. 
     The third possibility is that this directive has a moral basis. There was something morally wrong in the practice of the followers of other religions. Obviously, keeping big moustaches and shaven beards makes one look arrogant and haughty which is clearly forbidden by both categories of guidance. So these Ahadith are describing to the Muslims the proper way of growing a beard and a moustache. Instead of having large moustaches and shaven beards, the appearance should be the other way round. In other words, the Ahadith are not directing Muslims to grow beards and moustaches; what they are saying is that if they want to grow both, then the proper way is to lengthen the beard instead of the moustache and clip the moustache instead of the beard. 
    Consequently, the outcome of all these three possibilities is that none of the Ahadith of the third category is asking Muslims to keep beards. This leaves us with the first and second category of Ahadith and as pointed out before these narratives classify the keeping of beard and as such place it the category of Innate Guidance present in a person. While being in this category, there can be two opinions about the nature of this directive. Someone can say that keeping a beard is obligatory in nature like some other directives of this category for example telling the truth or being honest. However, in my opinion, it does not belong to the class of obligatory directives. Rather it is a desirable thing, which will not hold a person liable if he does not follow it. 


1.Osama Abdullah: Is Growing Beard Mandatory in Islam?


3. Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi

4. Excerpted, with slight modifications, from:

5. Ian Posner,  Director  of  MindQuest Solutions Ltd,  London, UK













12. Shehzad Saleem: The Question of Keeping a Beard. Renaissance - a Monthly Islamic Journal from Pakistan, Vol. 10, No. 5, May 2000.             


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