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the islamic ruling on shaving beard

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    Posted: 02 May 2005 at 7:26am

The Islamic Ruling on Shaving the Beard

By Br. Bilal Az-Zuhri

In the name of Allah the Most Gracious the Most Beneficent, peace and blessing be upon the Messenger of Allah and whoever follows his path.

When discussing the Islamic ruling on shaving beards, perhaps it is important to note that shaving the beard is a tradition, which has been imported to the Muslim world as a result of the Western occupation to the Muslim countries, following World War One. These were the days when non-Muslim ideologies began to spread in our societies. Such ideologies resulted in the widespread of un-Islamic traditions amongst the Muslim Ummah. Therefore, such practices have no relation whatsoever with the Islamic Law, nor with the Arabic or even the Eastern culture.

According to the Arabic language terminology, a beard is the hair that grows on the cheeks and on the chin. The same definition applies in the Islamic terminology.

The sayings of Scholars

The majority of scholars have agreed that shaving the beard is forbidden in Islam, and that growing it is Wajib (mandatory). There are disagreements, however, on whether it can be shortened. With Allah's Will, we will firstly mention the scholars' sayings with regards to shaving the beard, then state the Islamic proofs for the prohibition of shaving it, as well as the proofs for and against shortening it.

The Opinions of the Four Schools of Thought

The Hanafis: They say that it is forbidden for a man to shave his beard, and they have instructed shaving any excessive hair over a handful; cutting anything from what is less than a handful is not allowed.

The Malikies: They ruled on the prohibition of shaving the beard, as well as shortening it if this would result in any disfigurement. If cutting parts of it when it gets too long would not result in any disfigurement, then it is allowed. However, some said that this would be Makrooh (undesirable).

The Shafi'is: They said that shaving the beard is Makrooh (undesirable), although Ibn Al-Rif'ah opposed this ruling, and said that Imam Ash-Shafi'i has stated in his book "Al-Umm" that this is Haram, not just Makrooh. Al-Athra'iy said that the correct opinion amongst the Shafi'is is that shaving it is Haram, unless it had defects.

The Hanbalis: They ruled that shaving the beard is forbidden. No disagreement about this has been reported in the Hanbali school of thought, as stated in "Al-Insaf".

[The above narrations were mentioned by Sheikh Ali Mahfooz, in his book Al-Ibdaa', page 410].

Imam Ibn Hazm said: "And they (scholars) have agreed that shaving the beard is a disfigurement, and is not allowed". [Al-Muhallah, 2/189] Sheikhul-Islam Ibn Taimiyah also stated that: "Shaving the beard is forbidden". [Al-Ikhtiyarat Al-Ilmiyyah, page 6]. Ibn Abdul-Barr stated in his book "At-Tamheed" that shaving the beard is Haram and that it is only done by the effeminate (those who imitate women).

Many of the recent scholars have also ruled on the prohibition of shaving the beard and the necessity of growing it. Among these scholars are: Sheikh Al-Albany in his book "Adaab Az-Zafaf", and his students, Sheikh Ali Mahfooz in his book "Al-Ibdaa'", Sayid Sabiq in his book "Fiqhus-Sunnah", Mahmoud Al-Istanbuli in his book "Tuhfatul Arous", Al-Qaradawi in his book "The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam", Sheikh Ismail Al-Ansari as well as all the scholars of the Arabian Peninsula who clearly ruled and explained the prohibition of shaving the beard in their books and lectures. And if we were to state the opinions of the different scholars in this matter, the whole issue of this magazine will not be sufficient, although we believe that the above should be sufficient for those who are sincere in looking for the truth.

Proofs for Prohibition

* Shaving the beard involves altering the creation of Allah, which is forbidden as stated in the Qur'an: "Allah cursed him. And he (Shaytaan) said: 'I will take an appointed portion of your slaves. Verily, I will mislead them, and surely I will arouse in them false desires; and certainly I will order them to slit the ears of cattle, and indeed I will order them to change the nature created by Allah.' And whoever takes Shaytaan as a Wali (protector or helper) instead of Allah, has surely suffered a manifest loss" [4: 118-119]. Sheikh Al-Albany said regarding this verse that it is "a clear statement that changing Allah's creation without His permission is obeying Shaytaan, and that there is no doubt that shaving the beard for beauty reasons comes under the rule of this verse" [Adabul-Zafaf, PP 119-120]. There are also numerous verses which command Muslims to follow the tradition of the Prophet (s.a.w) as Allah (s.w.t) says: "And whatsoever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it)" [59: 7].

* Shaving the beard involves disobeying the order of the Prophet (s.a.w) who commanded us to grow our beards, as he (s.a.w) said "contradict the non-believers, grow the beards and cut the moustaches" [Bukhari and Muslim]. Ibn Jarir have also narrated to the story of the two messengers of Kisra (the Persian king) to the Prophet, who entered to where the Prophet (s.a.w) was, and they had shaved their beards and grown their moustaches, the Prophet (s.a.w) hated to even look at them and told them: "Woe to you! Who ordered you to do that?" They replied: "Our lord (i.e. Kisra) ordered us". The Prophet then said: "But my Lord ordered me to grow my beard and clip my moustache". Here we see that the Prophet (s.a.w) hated to even look at the unbelievers, so how would his reaction be had he seen those who claim to be his loyal followers imitating the unbelievers and shaving their beards? Also, it is important to note that the Prophet (s.a.w) attributed the order of growing the beard and clipping the moustache to Allah (s.w.t), so it becomes an order from Allah (s.w.t) to the believers, which makes it mandatory on the believers to follow, and forbidden to disobey.

* Shaving the beard is a way of imitating the disbelievers, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, 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.

* The imitation of women, and there is no doubt that shaving the beard is an imitation of women, and Imam Ibn Hajar Al-Haythamy n his book "Az-Zawajir" stated that such imitation is amongst the Major Sins in Islam.

* Contradicting the traditions of the Prophets and righteous men. Imam Al-Shanqiti said in his commentary on the verse "He (Harun) said: O son of my mother! Seize (me) not by my beard, nor by my head" [20: 94], that it is a Qur'anic proof that growing the beard is the tradition of the Prophets of Allah.

* Finally, shaving the beard is a contradiction of the Fitrah (nature) which was intended for us by Allah, since growing the beard is one of the ten natural instincts as maintained by the Prophet (s.a.w). The fact that Arabs before Islam used to grow their beards can be explained by the fact that they inherited it from the Prophet Ibrahim (a.s).

Shortening the Beard

The scholars have disagreed on the ruling with regards to shortening the beard, whether in length or width.

Imam At-Tabari said: "Some scholars have taken the hadith literally and considered it undesirable to cut anything from the beard, either in length or width, while others said that the excessive hair can be removed if it was more than a handful" [Fathul-Bari, 10/350]. He then related some narrations stating that the Companions (r.a.a) used to remove the excessive hair over a handful during Hajj and Umrah. He also related narrations that did not restrict this to Hajj and Umrah. Amongst these Companions is Omar, and his son Abdullah, Abu Hurairah (r.a.a), as well as a group of the Tabi'een.

Amongst the scholars who issued verdicts allowing to cut the hair in excessive of a handful, is Imam Hassan Al-Basri, Ataa' and At-Tabari. The Judge 'Eyaadh went further to say that it is undesirable to exaggerate in its size, just as it is undesirable to cut it short. And this is the opinion of some of the recent scholars. As for tracing it to the extent of shaving, as some do, this action is not allowed, and no one from amongst the accountable scholars, whether recent or ancient, mentioned the permissibility of such a thing.

Shaving the Moustache

Shaving the whole moustache is considered Makrooh (undesirable) by all scholars, because the Prophet (s.a.w) mentioned shortening the moustache in his hadith, and not completely shaving it. When Imam Malik was asked about the person who completely shaves his moustache, he said that he sees that he should be beaten up, he also said that this is an innovation that appeared between people. [Narrated by Al-Bayhaqi, also mentioned in Fath Al-Bari, 10/347].

An Important note

Finally, we would like to touch up on one important issue which is widely misunderstood by our youth, and that is shaving the hair of the head completely, which is thought to be an act of Sunnah by many Muslims, relating to the Hadith by the Prophet (s.a.w) "Shave it all or leave it all". The purpose from this hadith is to forbid Qaza' (under cuts), that is shaving a part of the head and leaving another part. So this hadith is ordering Muslims to cut their hair in equal lengths, not to shave it completely.

Those were some points, which we wanted to illustrate, hoping that these words would benefit our readers who sincerely seek to know the ruling of Islam.


Edited by fanaofallah
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