The Arabic word for beard is lihyah. It derives from lahy (jaw) and lahyan (the two jaws). Thus, a beard is defined as the hair that grows on the cheeks and jaws- [Al-Qamus ul-Muhit by al-Fayruzabadi, and Lisan ul-Arab by Ibn Manzur]. It includes the hair that grows on the temples, underneath the lower lip, the hair of the chin, and the hair that grows on the lower side of the jaws.
Growing the beard is wajib (mandatory) for all males who are capable of doing so. As will be presented below, there is ample evidence for this in the Sunnah, and it is the unanimous opinion of the ‘ulama’ of Islam.
Position of the Scholars
All the ‘ulama’ (scholars) of as-Salaf us-Salih (the Righteous early Muslims), including the Four Imams, agree that shaving the beard is haram (prohibited). They consider shaving it an impermissible mutilation, as has been reported from Umar Bin Abdul Aziz- [At-Tarikh by Ibn Asakir]. They considered the man who shaved his beard effeminate. Many of them would not accept his testimony or allow him to lead the prayers.
According to the Hanafis:
“It is prohibited for a man to cut his beard … as for cutting it shorter than a fist-length – as is done by some people from the west and by the effeminate men – no one permits this. And as for shaving it completely, it is the doing of the Indian Jews and the Persian Magians” [Persian Magians-Followers of an old religion, possibly the same as the “Zoroastrians”] [Ad-Durr ul-Mukhtar].
Ibn-Abidayn said: “It is prohibited for a man to cut his beard.” (Radd ul-Muhtar [2:418])
According to the Malikis: “Shaving the beard is prohibited, as is cutting it if it causes a (clear) mutilation. But if it becomes oversized, and if cutting it would not appear as a mutilation, then it may be cut; but that would be disliked and contrary to that which is better.” [Sharh ur-Risalah by Abu al-Hasan, and the commentary on it by al-Adwi]
Al-`Adwi said: “It has been reported from Malik that he hated shaving anything under the jaws, until he said, ‘It is from the doing of the Magians.’ And it is prohibited to remove the hair of the beard.” [Sharh ur-Risalah by Abu al-Hasan, and the commentary on it by al-Adwi (2:411)]
Ibn Abd al-Barr said: “It is prohibited to shave the beard, and it is not done except by effeminate men.”[At-Tamhid]
As for the Shafi’is, al-Imam ash-Shafi’i has expressed that it is prohibited to shave the beard [al-Umm]. Also, al-Athru’i said, “The correct position is that it is prohibited to totally shave the beard without a (medical) problem with it.” [Sharh ul-Ubab].
The Hanbali’s agree without exception that it is prohibited to shave the beard [Al-Insaf, Sharh ul-Muntaha, etc.].
Ibn Taymiyyah stated: “It is prohibited to shave the beard.” [Al-Ikhtiyarat ul-Ilmiyyah (p.6)]
As-Saffarini said: “It is agreed in our mathhab that it is prohibited to shave the beard.” [Ghitha ul-Albab (1:376)].
Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi said: “All of the scholars agree that shaving the beard is a form of mutilation, and is prohibited.” [Maratib ul-Ijma’ (p.157), and al-Muhalla (2:189)]
Shaykh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said: “Because of the authentic hadiths, it is prohibited to shave the beard, and no one has ever permitted it.”
The great scholars of our time have expressed that it is prohibited to shave the beard or cut it short. Among those are Ali Mahfuz, Muhammad Nasir ud-Din al-Albani, Abd ul-Aziz Bin Baz, al-Kandahlawi, Abu Bakr al-Jaza’iri, Ismail al-Ansari, and many others.
Extent of the Beard
The commands of the Prophet ! clearly indicate that the beard should be completely spared. Furthermore, the Prophet ! and his companions had full and large beards.
There are no authentic reports indicating that the Prophet ! trimmed his beard. However, there are authentic reports from a number of the sahabah – particularly, Ibn-Umar, Abu Hurayrah, and Ibn-Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them all), indicating that they used to cut what extended beyond a fist-length.
There are similar reports as well from a number of the salaf such as Ibrahim an-Nakhi, Malik, and Ahmad. [Several such authentic reports are compiled by al-Albani in ad-Da’ifah (following hadith no. 2355)]
When ‘Abdullah bin Umar (may Allah be pleased with them both), went for Hajj or Umrah, he used to hold his beard with his fist and cut whatever extended beyond his fist. [Al-Bukhari]
Thus, the general command of sparing the beard should be restricted to the understanding and practice of the sahabah, and its length below the chin should not exceed a man’s fist.
WRONGS OF SHAVING THE BEARD
Shaving the beard results in a series of Islamic violations, among which are the following:
1. Disobedience to Allah
Shaving the beard is an act of disobedience to Allah, as is expressed in the words of His Messenger !,
Abu Hurayrah ” reported that the ruler of Yemen, appointed by the Persian emperor Kisra, sent two envoys to the Messenger !. When they came into his presence, he noticed that they had shaved their beards and let their moustaches grow big. Hating their ugly appearance, he turned his face away and said,
“Woe be to you, who told you to do so?” They replied:
“Our lord (Kisra) did!”
The Messenger ! responded: “But my Lord, exalted and glorified be He, has commanded me to spare my beard and trim my moustaches.” [Recorded by Ibn Jarir at-Tabari, Ibn Sa’d, and Ibn Bishran. Verified to be hasan (good) by al-Albani (Fiqh us-Sirah by al-Ghazali p. 359)]
2. Disobedience to the Messenger
Shaving the beard is an act of disobedience to the Messenger ! who commanded the men to spare their beards in many hadiths. Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) reported that Allah’s Messenger ! said:
“Closely trim the moustaches, and spare the beard.” [Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others].
Obeying the Messenger ! is equivalent to obeying Allah,
“He who obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah; and as for those who turn away: We have not sent you as a guardian over them.” [An-Nisa 4:80]
3. Deviation from the Guidance of the Messenger
There is no doubt that Allah’s Messenger ! is the best example of a man, both in his appearance and actions. Allah says:
“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern – for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day, and who remembers Allah often.” [An-Nisa’ 4:80]
And Jabir ” reported that Allah’s Messenger ! said:
“Verily, the best guidance is Muhammad’s guidance.” [Recorded by Muslim].
Jabir Bin Samurah ” reported that Allah’s Messenger ! had a large beard [Recorded by Muslim]. Shaving the beard clearly exhibits a deviation from his appearance and guidance.
4. Deviation from the Way of Believers
One must strive to follow the ways of the believers and identify with them. This is an obligation expressed by Allah:
“Whoever opposes the Messenger, after guidance has become clear to him, and follows other than the way of the ‘Believers’, We will give him what he has chosen and let him into Hell: What an evil destination!” [an-Nisa 4:115]
Note: The description ‘Believers’ in the ayah applies first and foremost to the Sahabah [the Prophet’s companions-May Allah be pleased with them all] All of the prophets (alaihis-salaam), the Sahabah (the Prophet’s companions), the great ‘ulama’, and the righteous Salaf (early Muslims) of this Ummah (Nation) grew their beards. There is no report of a single one of them selectively shaving his beard. -For example, Allah tells us that Harun (alaihis-salaam) addressed his brother Musa (alaihis-salaam) as follows: He said,
“O son of my mother! Do not hold me by my beard or head.” [Ta-Ha 20:94]
Furthermore, there are authentic reports indicating that the Rightly Guided Successors, as well as other sahabah and tabi’un had large beards. Abu Bakr ” had a thick beard [Qut ul-Qulub 4:9], Umar ” had a big beard [Al-Isabah 2:511], Uthman had a large beard [Al-Isabah 2:455], and Ali’s beard was so wide as to span the distance between his shoulders [At-Tabaqat (3:25) by Ibn Sa’d], Therefore, shaving the beard exhibits a clear deviation from the way of the believers.
5. Imitation of the Disbelievers
The Muslims have been commanded to be different and distinct from the disbelievers. In Surat ul-Fatihah, we are commanded to ask Allah to guide us away from the ways of the disbelievers:
“Guide us to the Straight Path – The path of those upon whom You have bestowed Your favor, not of those who have earned Your anger, nor of those who are astray.” [Al-Fatihah 1:6~7]
Also, Allah prohibits His Messenger ! from following the desires of the ignorant. And indeed, anyone who is not on the True Guidance is ignorant.
“Do not follow the whims of those who have no knowledge (of Islam).” [Al-Jathiyah 45:18]
The Prophet ! has indicated that a person who imitates a certain people will be counted (in Islam) as being one of them. Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) reported that Allah’s Messenger ! said:
“I have been sent, close to the Last Hour, with the sword (to fight for the truth) – until Allah is worshipped alone without partners. My sustenance has been allotted under the shade of my spear. Humility and defeat have been allocated to whoever strays from my command. And whoever imitates a people is one of them.” [Recorded by Abu Dawud and others. Verifies to be authentic by al-Albani (Irwa ulghalil no. 1269)]
How terrible it would be for a person whom Allah has favored with Islam to find himself resurrected on the Day of Judgment among non-Muslims – simply because he liked to imitate them.
In several hadiths, Allah’s Messenger ! has linked sparing the beard to being different from the followers of other religions. Abu Hurayrah ” reported that the Prophet ! said:
“Cut the moustaches and grow your beards. Be different from the ‘Magians’.” [Recorded by Muslim and Others]
Note: ‘Magians’ – Followers of an ancient Persian religion.
Abu Umamah ” reported that Allah’s Messenger ! said:
“Cut your moustaches and leave your beards alone. Be different from the people of the scripture.” [Recorded by Muslim]
Ibn Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) reported that Allah’s Messenger ! said:
“Be different from the ‘mushrikin’; trim your moustaches and save your beards.” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Note: ‘mushrikin’ – Those who join others with Allah in worship.
Therefore, shaving the beard is an act of imitation of the disbelievers, and should be extremely abhorred. It conflicts with many fundamentals of Islam, and yet many Muslim men do it in compliance with the practices of the disbelievers! Verily, Allah’s Messenger ! has foretold the truth, as was reported by Abu Said al-Khudri ” that he !, said:
“You will follow the example of those who preceded you, hand-span for hand-span, and arm-length for arm-length. Even if they entered into a lizard’s hole, you would surely enter it!”
He ! was asked, “Do you mean the Jews and Christians?” He replied, “Who else are the (previous) people?” [Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim and others].
6. Changing Allah’s Creation Without Permission
Except for cases that are expressly indicated in Islam, it is prohibited to change the way that Allah has created things. Changing Allah’s creation without permission involves obeying Satan who, as Allah tells us, had said:
“They actually call upon none but rebellious Satan, whom Allah has cursed. And he had said (to Allah), “I will surely take from among Your servants a specific portion. I will mislead them, give them false promises, command them so they will slit the ears of cattle, and command them so they will change the creation of Allah.” Certainly, whoever takes Satan as an ally instead of Allah is in tremendous loss.” [an-Nisa 4:117~119]
Allah has honored the human beings and fashioned them in the best form:
“Verily, We have created the human being in the best of stature.” [At-Tin 95:4]
Changing this without permission is indeed an act of great atrocity and deviation that deserves punishment. The Messenger ! has declared that the women who change what Allah has created (such as removing their facial hair, wearing wigs, filing their teeth, or tattooing their bodies) seeking by that to improve their appearance, are accursed by Allah.
Ibn Mas’ud ” reported that Allah’s Messenger ! said:
“Allah curses those (women) who tattoo (for others) and those who get tattoos, those who pluck the facial hair (for others) and those who have their facial hair plucked, those who connect their hair with other (fake) hair, and those who file their teeth for beauty – they all change Allah’s creation.” [al-Bukhari and Muslim]
This hadith mentions women in particular because they normally seek to beautify themselves more than men. But the warning applies to both genders, because the condition for the curse is declared: changing Allah’s creation. Thus the curse applies to anyone who satisfies such condition. Shaving the beard falls under this warning, as it is much worse than ‘nams’ – (removal of facial hair) practiced by some women.
“It is established that changing Allah’s creation is a cause for the curse, and that whatever Allah’s Messenger ! prohibits is prohibited by Allah.” [Bayan ul-Quran]
Waliyy Ullah ad-Dahlawi said:
“Cutting it is the way of the Magians, and involves changing Allah’s creation.” [Bayan ul-Quran]
7. Imitation of Women
The beard presents a major distinction between men and women. Shaving it removes this distinction, and is thus a means of imitating women. Any act that involves imitation of the opposite gender makes a person liable for the curse of Allah and His Messenger !. Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them), reported:
“Allah’s Messenger ! has cursed the men who imitate the women; and the women who imitate the men.” [Recorded by al-Bukhari and others].
“No one can have doubt that complete imitation of women arises from shaving the beard. This imitation is stronger than that of imitating their clothing and other matters, because the beard is the foremost and greatest distinction between men and women. This is possible to observe by all people, and is not denied except by one who wants to deceive himself, follow his whims, and be effeminate after Allah has favored him with the good appearance of a man.” [Wujub i’fa il-Lihyah 31-32].
8. Contradicting the Pure Fitrah
The Messenger ! indicates that a child is born with a pure nature, which may subsequently be blurred by self-indulgence or unfavorable environmental influence. Abu Hurayrah and al-Aswad Bin Sari reported that Allah’s Messenger ! said:
“Every child is born with the pure fitrah (nature) – until he becomes able to express himself. It is his parents who then turn him into a Jew, a Christian, a Magian, or a pagan.” [al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Furthermore, Allah’s Messenger ! mentioned ten qualities as indicative of a good, clean nature. Two of these qualities are to trim the moustaches and to grow the beard.
A’ishah ” reported that Allah’s Messenger ! said:
“There are ten qualities of fitrah: trimming the mustaches, sparing the beard, siwak (brushing the teeth), inhaling water (to clean the nose) [and rinsing the mouth], cutting the nails, washing the finger knuckles, plucking the armpit hair, shaving the pubic hair, washing the private parts with water, [and circumcision].” [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Ibn Abi Shaybah, and others. The part between square brackets is not in Muslim (Sahah ul-Jami `no. 2222)]
This fitrah never changes with time: Allah says:
“The pure nature according to which Allah has created the people. There is no change in Allah’s creation.” [ar-Rum 30:30]
In the footsteps of the disbelievers, many Muslims fitrah is now very deformed. They find a clean-shaven man more handsome and masculine than one with a beard – exactly the opposite to what the Messenger ! declared in the above hadith!
9. Ridiculing the Din
With the deformed fitrah that many contemporary Muslims have, they approve of the ways of the disbelievers and disapprove of the guidance of Allah’s Messenger !! They adorn themselves with closely shaved beards, and are ashamed of attending important functions or meetings with even a slight beard. They admire the shiny look of a clean shaved man, and congratulate one who just had a nice shave! They command their relatives, children, and subordinates to shave their beards, declaring that the beard is a sign of being messy, backward, and lazy! They ridicule the beard and anyone who grows it!
By doing this, they redicule an established part of the religion of Islam, which is a major sin. If they do not know that, they are most ignorant about their din, and if they do it knowingly, they could fall into a definite act of kufr (disbelief) – in Allah we seek refuge.
DOUBTS AND MISCONCEPTIONS
Despite clear texts from the Sunnah, and the consensus of the great scholars of Islam, we find that the majority of the Muslim men in our time do not grow their beards. This is one of the many indications that most of the Muslims do not follow the teachings of their Din. In addition, there are various doubts or misconceptions to which many men resort in order to justify shaving their beards. In what follows, we highlight the most important of these.
A Mere Sunnah?
One frequently hears the excuse, “But it is only a sunnah!” In their understanding, growing the beard is an optional sunnah at best! From the previous discussion, it is obvious that this is a wrong understanding, and there is no doubt that growing it is a mandatory sunnah.
Fatwas from Scholars?
People are often misled by a number of contemporary shaykhs who neglect this sunnah or provide unfounded fatwas (religious verdicts) belittling it. Thus they give a bad example for others, and cause them to neglect this sunnah as well. And surely, this adds to their burden of sins. Jarir Bin Abdillah ” reported that Allah’s Messenger ! said:
“He who initiates in Islam a good way gets his reward for it, as well as rewards similar to those who follow him into it, without reducing any of their rewards. And he who initiates in Islam an evil way gets his burden for it, as well as burdens similar to those who follow him into it, without reducing any of their burdens.” [Recorded by Muslim, Ahmad and others (Ahkam al-Janaiz 226)]
One such wrong fatwa was given by al-Qaradawi:
“It is true that no reports exist of anyone among the salaf shaving his beard; but that could be because they had no need for that, and it was their custom (to grow it).” [al-Halal wal Haram fil Islaam]
It is obvious from our earlier discussion that this is an invalid rationale; especially since the reason for growing the beard is much greater than mere custom – it is Allah’s command!
FALSE vs. TRUE SCHOLARS
Not every one who is in position of leadership or fatwa is a true scholar. True scholars are those who found their fatwas on clear evidence from Allah’s Book and His Messenger’s Sunnah. As time passes, fewer and fewer of the true scholars will be around. But this should not justify for anyone turning toward the false scholars.
Abdullah Bin Amr ” reported that Allah’s Messenger ! said:
“Allah does not pull the knowledge suddenly from the breasts of people, but takes away the knowledge by taking the lives of the ulama (true scholars). When no ulama are left, the people will appoint ignorant guides. When they are asked, they provide fatwa (Islamic verdicts) without knowledge, thereby straying and leading others astray.” [Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslims, and others].
The Prophet Trimmed His Beard?
Some people justify shaving their beards by that the Prophet ! used to trim his. By this, they usually refer to what has been recorded by at-Tirmithhi from Amr Bin Shu’ay from his father from his grandfather (Ibn Umar) -may Allah be pleased with them:
“The Prophet ! used to cut from the width and length of his beard.”
However, this report is extremely weak, and may not be used as an evidence [as expressed by an-Nawawi in Sharh ul-Muhaththab (1:321)]
And even if it were not weak, this report would then only provide an evidence for trimming the beard, not for shaving it.
Whom Are We to Please?
In order to justify shaving their beard, some men offer the excuse that their wives prefer them without one! One should fear Allah and remember that our course in this life must be to abide by the clear commands of Allah and His Messenger !, and not to follow the deformed inclinations of wives, parents, friends, etc.
Ali ” reported that Allah’s Messenger ! said:
“Obedience may not be offered to a human being if it involves disobeying Allah. Obedience should only be in good things.” [Recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim, and others. A similar hadith is recorded by Ahmad and others from Imran Bin Husayn ” and verified to be authentic byal-Albani (as-Sahihah no. 179,180)]
Irritation and Scratching?
Some men claim that growing their beard causes to them severe skin irritation and scratching. This cannot result from abiding by the pure fitrah, but would result from neglect of the proper cleaning and washing with wudu’, as instructed in the Sunnah.
If a person has a legitimate and unusual skin problem, he must consult a true Muslim doctor in order to find the best way to treat his problem in a way that would, as much as possible, preserve his beard intact.
Some men assert that their jobs require shaving the beard, and that they would lose their jobs if they do not shave. Usually, this is not true. If one provides evidence (like the letter included in the Appendix) that the beard is a religious requirement, the employer cannot force a man to shave it.
If it becomes most likely that one would lose his job if he grew his beard, then he should weigh his situation and see which option would constitute more harm to him, shaving the beard or losing that enslaving job. Based on that, and after consulting with some people of knowledge, he should take the course that would be most pleasing to Allah.
Threat to Life?
Some men assert that growing their beards in certain countries would endanger their lives or cause them harm in their person, property, or Din. If this is true, it should be dealt with in a cautious and reasonable manner, similar to that described in the previous section.
However, one should not hold a paranoid or cowardly position, and expect that all forces of evil will be mobilized against him once a few hairs start surfacing from his face.
The hadiths presented in Chapter 3 command the men to closely trim their moustaches, and indicate that trimming them is one of the qualities of fitrah.
Trimming the moustaches is done by cutting them level with the upper lip. This has been reported from five of the sahabah [Recorded by at-Tabarani, al-Bayhaqi, and others. Verified to be hasan by al-Albani (Adab uz-Zifaf p. 209]. Trimming the moustaches should be done at least once every forty days. This is indicated in Anas’s hadith below.
Shaving the moustaches completely is a bid ah, as declared by Malik:
“This is a bid ah that has appeared among the people … my opinion in regard to a person who completely shaves his moustaches is that he should be beaten.” [Recorded by al-Bayhaqi (1:151). Verified to be authentic by al Albani (Adab uz Zifaf p. 209)].
Malik had big moustaches. When questioned about that, he reported that when Umar ” got angry, he would roll his moustaches and blow [Recorded by at-Tabarani in al-Kabir. Verified to be authentic by al-Albani (Adab uz-Zifaf p. 209)].
Except for the moustaches, it is prohibited to pluck or shave the facial hair. We mentioned earlier that Allah’s Messenger ! has declared that those who remove their facial hair are accursed by Allah, as was reported from him by Ibn Mas`ud “:
“Allaah curses … those who pluck the facial hair (for others) and those who have their facial hair plucked, … ” [al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Hair of The Head
The Prophet ! was not particular about the hair of his head. It would sometimes extend to a level between his ears and shoulders [Recorded by Muslim, Abu Dawud, and others, from Anas Bin Malik ” and Aishah “], other times (in Umrah) he would shave it completely, and when he entered Makkah he had four braids [Recorded by Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, and others, from Umm Hani Bint Abi Talib. Verified to be authentic by al-Albani (Mukhtasar ush-Shamail p.35)].
Thus there is no specific restriction in regard to the hair of the head – other than the following:
a) A woman’s hair may not be shaved or cut short so as to resemble that of the men.
b) A man’s or woman’s hair may not be cut or done in a way resembling that of the sinners, disbelievers, etc.
Armpit and Pubic Hair
Removing the hair of the armpits and the pubic hair is among the qualities of fitrah. It should be done at least once every forty days. Anas ” reported:
“Allah’s Messenger ! timed for us trimming our moustaches, clipping our nails, pulling our armpit hair, and shaving our pubic hair-that we do not delay that beyond forty nights.” [Recorded by Muslim, Ahmad and others].
Removing the hair is not considered among the prohibited “change in Allah’s creation”, because Allah commands us to do it.
Other Hair of the Body
From the above, it is apparent that the human hair is of three types: that which is obligatory to remove (ex. The pubic hair), that which is prohibited to remove (ex. the Facial Hair), and that which is optional (the hair of the head).
Other bodily hair is not mentioned in any hadith is considered of the type: it may be removed for convenience if that does not lead to any violations, such as for men to resemble women.
Some of the issues mentioned in this chapter are of controversial nature among the scholars. We attempted to present the opinion that appears to be closest to the Sunnah, and Allah knows best.
May Allah guide us to abide by His Din, adhere to His Messenger’s Sunnah, and be among those whom He blessed.
SAMPLE LETTER TO SUPERIORS
The following is a sample letter that may be presented to employers, prison authorities, army commanders, etc, in order to get permission to grow the beard.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
This is to inform that the Islamic faith requires of every Muslim man growing a substantial beard. This is based on the command of the Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Trim your moustaches and leave alone your beards.”
Muslim employees and subordinates who choose to abide by this should be permitted to do so by their superiors. Freedom of religion is protected by our Constitution. Help and cooperation to facilitate for the Muslims performing their religious duties is appreciated.
Questions and inquiries are welcome to be directed to us.
[Taken from the book “THE BEARD, Between the Shalaf and the Khalaf” by Imam Muhammad al-Jibaly]