BEARDS HAVE BEEN around for quite a long time. How long you ask? Since the time Adam set foot on this planet. Exactly, that’s how long since the beard has been around. Since the very beginning beards have been a thing that showcased manliness and a badge of honor. Beards go way back as having prestige and power. From the dawn of time, a man’s beard was a symbol of his honor, sexual virility and his social status as a man.
The only problem I have is how hipsters are hijacking the bandwagon and making it their thing. Well as long as the market is flooded with better beard products and make men act as men, who am I to complain, right?
From Successful Jedi’s to World Leaders to Sportsmen, the beard has always been around. Then came a point in time where being clean-shaven was looked up to as a sign of sophistication, success, hygiene and etiquette. People with beards started to be regarded as unruly, wild and generally the poor.
This was the birth of a Western thought pattern that slowly but strongly spread across the countries which had been colonized. What started off as grooming and etiquette’s of work soon become a standard of fashion and beauty. Clean-shaven men were becoming desirable and those with beards looked “just uuurrrghhh.”
Though the beard trend is picking up pace again, it’s interesting to note how youth looks up to the western media and the fashion industry as the epitome of looks. Why blame just the youth? Look at Desi aunties and their craze for fair-skinned daughter-in-laws. The British might have left, but the colonial mindset and racism still remains deeply rooted amongst us.
From what I could find, the first nation ever to shave their beards was the nation of Lut in Sodom. Why am I not even surprised? Al-Ḥasan Al Baṣri reports a Hadith that the nation of Lut was punished for ten sins they had committed; the Prophet ﷺ mentioned ‘shaving the beard’ as being from among the ten sins. These sins then resulted in severe punishments from Allah as mentioned in the Quran in numerous chapters.
Gradually other nations also started to shave their beards but these were fewer in number. However in the 17th century, the King of Russia, Patrice propagated ‘shaving of the beard’ in Europe and was successful in his mission. In the 20th century, the Ottoman Empire collapsed and modern influences swamped nations. By the mid 20th century, these influences had penetrated the Muslim world, which has gradually resulted in corrupting Muslims.
Today, this is the reason why we see that most Muslims unfortunately shave off facial hair. Every nation and religion has some special distinguishing mark or symbol. The beard till now has been a sign of a man being a Muslim or of belonging to one of the corrupted Abrahamic faiths.
Alright, so right now we are looking at the beard from a Muslim perspective. It’s a hard fact that the Prophets throughout time immemorial have had beards and so did our very own Messenger ﷺ and his companions.
A major sign of worry that rises is that people go about proclaiming that keeping a beard is “Just Sunnah.” Firstly, that statement just blows my lid off. It somehow lessens the importance of Sunnah and just brushes it aside in a casual manner. What we as Muslims need to understand is that you cannot learn Islam by watching a few videos or reading those Whatsapp forwards. We have to see how the Ṣaḥâba and those after them understood it.
Right back to the point. So how do we get our knowledge? We go to the learned scholars from amongst us. Let’s put the scholars into two groups. One are scholars of fiqh (those with regard to the legal rulings, etc.) and the other are the scholars of Hadith.
Close the other tabs still open and read this line carefully. The scholars of Hadith in their books mentioned that keeping the beard was a Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ. I don’t think people read any further than that or else they would have found much more on it. Assuming the fact that the book they read didn’t have a commentary, we move on to the scholars of fiqh who derive rulings based on these aḥâdîth. So what exactly do they say on this?
Many a scholar in the past 1436 years have considered keeping a beard wâjib. Since the fiqh books aren’t as widely spread or distributed amongst the common masses, this misconception is understandable. Yes, a thing can be Sunnah and wâjib/farḍ at the same time. Every Sunnah may not be wâjib, but everything that’s wâjib is a Sunnah. Many scholars considered the man who shaved his beard to be effeminate. Many of them would not even accept his testimony or allow him to lead the prayers. Now that’s some serious stuff right there.
What Do the Quran & Sunnah Say?
Ibn ʿUmar narrates that the Prophet ﷺ has said:
Oppose the mushrikîn (idolaters) and lengthen the beard and shorten the moustache. (Bukhâri)
Abû Hurairah narrates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ has said:
Trim the mustache and lengthen the beard (let the beard hang). Oppose the fire worshippers. (Muslim)
Ibn ʿAbbâs reports from ʿÂishah that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ has cursed such men who imitate women and such women who imitate men. In one narration it is stated that such people should be thrown out of their houses. (Bukhâri)
Many scholars have stated that shaving the beard is changing the creation of Allah. Allah mentions in the Holy Quran the promise of Shayṭân,
Indeed I will order them [mankind] to change the nature created by Allah. [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:119]
In effect, the one who shaves his beard is obeying Shayṭân.
What exactly is this ‘nature’ that is being spoken about? It was narrated from the Mother of the Believers, ʿÂishah, that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said:
Ten things are part of the fiṭra: Cutting the mustache, letting the beard grow, cleaning the teeth with a siwâk [tooth stick], rinsing the nose with water, cutting one’s nails, washing between the finger-joints, plucking the armpit hair, shaving the pubic hair and cleaning one’s private parts with water. Muṣʿab said: I have forgotten the tenth but I think it was rinsing the mouth. (Muslim)
The great caliph, ʿUmar ibn ʿAbd Al-ʿAzîz would say,
Shaving the beard is muthla (mutilation). Verily the Prophet ﷺ has prohibited muthla.
The great Imam of Madinah, Imam Mâlik is reported to have said:
The sin of shaving the beard is not only a kabîra (major sin), but it is also bagi (open offence). The Prophet ﷺ says: My nation will be forgiven except those who sin in the night and then boast about their sin the following day.
Although one may not boast about this sin verbally, but he does so indirectly: He will boast by showing his face to the people.
Some sins are limited to the time of the act or omission, for example, zina (adultery & fornication) is a grave sin; the sinner is sinning for the duration of that act. Whereas this sin’s duration remains for as long as the beard remains shaven. The person will be regarded a sinner for every second his face is devoid of a proper beard, therefore sinning for that entire time span. This means its severity aggregates and persists more than other sins.
That part of an open offence is like, really scary. Do you realize, for even a minute, Whose commandments we are opposing?
All this is backed up by the verses where Allah says:
The only saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allah [His Words, the Quran] and His Messenger, for Him to judge between them, is that they say: ‘We hear and we obey.’ And such are the successful [who will live forever in Paradise]. [Sûrat Al-Nûr, 24:51)
Allah has honored the human being and fashioned them in the best form:
Verily, We have created the human being in the best of stature. [Sûrat Al-Tîn, 95:4]
Changing this without permission is indeed an act of great atrocity and deviation. The beard is without a doubt 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 ﷺ.
Ibn ʿAbbâs, reported:
Allah’s Messenger ﷺ has cursed the men who imitate the women; and the women who imitate the men. (Bukhâri)
Anyone who has kept a beard and then has shaven it would know just how awkward that mug looks afterwards. How do you think a lion looks with his mane shaved off?
Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as reported by Abû Saʿîd Al-Khudri had prophesied something of this manner when 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?” (Bukhâri, Muslim).
Seeing how we are looking up to movie stars, the characters they portray and fashion magazines for fashion trends and trying to copy them to the most minute of details, it is kinda scary when we read of such a description and think it may fit us well!
To be continued, inshâ’Allah…