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Is it Haram to Shave your beard?

Is it Haram to Shave your beard?


is it haram to shave?

Salaam alykum,

There are many issues here, because when we discuss the beard today, we discuss it within a very different cultural framework than the one that structured the issue of a man’s beard (and more importantly, a person’s appearance) during the time of The Prophet.

The argument that is constantly bandied about is about “looking Muslim,” and that I should make sure that people know that I’m Muslim. I’ve had a problems with that idea, first-hand. Today, if I grow a beard, no one will look at me and think I’m a Muslim. Trust me, I’ve tried.

The other issue is when people attempt to make some sort of connection between a woman’s hijab and a man’s beard. There are two major differences between these two issues. First, there is tangible evidence within The Qur’an from which someone can argue for hijab, however, there is nothing in The Qur’an that points to men keeping a beard. I’d like to repeat, nothing. This leads me to the second issue, there is a difference between a woman covering her hair and a man growing a beard, for a very simple reason: what if the man cannot grow a beard?

Therefore, we find ourselves in a “Hadith throw-down,” which is, funnily enough, a term coined by Imam Abu Hanifa, in his famous treatise “Nizam Al-Throw-Down fi Usul al-Fiqh.” First, I hope that you realize that was a joke, and second, it becomes abundantly clear that, within the basic structures of Shariah that when attempting to determine whether something is Fard/Wajib (required) of a Muslim, when you do not have Qur’anic support, you must be very conscious of how you address and apply the Hadith in question.

Whenever you look at the various Hadith that discuss this issue, they are set within a context that is different to ours. Contextualization is something that everyone does, whether its arguing that how gender separation is done in Mecca is only okay there (for some reason) or whether it is when I discussed the issue of pants.

First of all, there is the context of the specific time, of The Prophet’s situation, in which, the way that someone dressed or groomed themselves indicated what social class, tribe, and clan they were apart of. The Prophet wanted to destroy those links based on kinship, class, or clan, and he wanted Muslims to distinguish themselves from non-Muslims, because within his context those issues of appearance were far weightier than today.

Allow me to explain that last point, by way of analogy. Have you seen the movie Apocalypto? When they go into the large city, do you see how people’s clothes, head dresses, and various other physical markers were tangible markers of their status, wealth, and importance? This process was not unique to any society, and The Prophet’s corrupt society was no different, and thus, the point of urging Muslims to grow their beards in a certain way, and to wear shorter pants, and so on and so forth, was designed for Muslims to be able to make a conscious differentiation between themselves and non-Muslims, not because this act in of itself is required, but because of the context in question.

So when you read the Hadith from Abu Huraira, in Muslim to “Cut off mustaches, leave beards and do otherwise than the fire worshipers.” Or the Hadith from Anas ibn Malik which says “Trim mustaches, lengthen/leave beards and do not imitate the Jews,” the reality is that the point of this process is to differentiate between people in this context, where one’s appearance directly affected one’s treatment by others.

However, the strongest Hadith collection, in my opinion is Imam Malik’s Al-Muwatta, and it is there that we get this Hadith:

“The Prophet was in the Mosque when a man came in with disheveled hair and beard. The Messenger of God. may God bless him and grant him peace, motioned with his hand that he should be sent out to groom his hair and beard. The man did so and then returned. The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, said, “Isn’t this better than that one of you should come with his head disheveled, as if he were a shaytan?”

It is clear that The Prophet refers specifically to the man’s head, “الرَّأْسِ” rather than his face or his beard, so we must consider that when deducing importance, but also, we should realize that the central theme of this Hadith was over one’s overall appearance. So, when we look at these injunctions we realize that the point here was to differentiate one’s self, but also, to make sure that one is put together. However, the issue here is not the Hadith, but the intent of the Hadith as it relates to us today.

While I mentioned earlier about how clothes and grooming were used to directly indicate one’s status, the reality is that today that is not the case. Today, people are able to construct their identity, we have “fashion” as an industry in which you can attempt to create a persona for yourself through your clothes. L’Uomo, The Italian Men’s Vogue, releases a seasonal book, “The Red Book,” in which they categorize looks by their aesthetic label. So, there is “intellectual,” or “writer,” or “dandy,” and so on and so forth. People who do not have money can buy clothes to make themselves look rich, while people who are rich create styles that combine some derogatory term with the word “chic.”

We do not live within the same cultural constructs of The Prophet, because, we have a society in which our clothes do not signify the same things. It follows that our grooming is also within this construct. Thus, we must exert our understanding and see whether these contexts actually line up or not. My argument is that I don’t think they do, and we should be very conscious of our appearance, in that we should be put-together and that we should dress modestly, but as far as whether that entails beards, I am not so sure.

I mean, it’s just funny to me that shaving your beard is somehow effeminate to some, yet those same people would argue that growing your hair out long would be effeminate as well. I mean, The Prophet had long hair. In fact, he braided his hair when going into battle.

There is a very strong Hadith, again, from Al-Muwatta, in which Abu Qatada al-Ansari said to The Prophet:

“I have a lot of hair which comes down to my shoulders, shall I comb it?” The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Yes, and honor it.’ Sometimes Abu Qatada oiled it twice in one day because the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, said to him. ‘Honor it.’“

Why do we not follow this aspect of The Prophet’s actions? The reality is that people perceive of it as “effeminate,” that to have long hair or braids, or to oil one’s hair, is “effeminate.” So, people from across the spectrum of Islamic thought, contextualize actions of The Prophet as they see fit, and emphasize others, because it agrees with their world-view. I personally prefer to attempt to distill The Prophet’s actions into larger lessons, and thus, it is from that perspective that I do not agree with the idea that it is haram to shave.

All that being said, the main issue, in my mind, is that there are many people who cannot grow a beard if their life depended on it. I have people in my family, who can go literally weeks without shaving and will not have so much as a whisker. Are they suddenly bad Muslims because they can’t grow facial hair?

At the end of the day, I just wish I could have a cool Arab guy beard (I’m thinking Sheikh Hamdan), and so, if you’re capable of doing that, and you’re going clean shaven, then we have a problem, because I’m super jealous. I don’t really like looking like the Brawny man when I have facial hair, it’s not a good look, so that’s why I shave.

Insha Allah, I hope that answered your question, and if you, or anyone else, has a question on this, or any other subject, please do not hesitate to ask me.

A Note: Scholars opinion vary widely on this issue, and many times, websites dismiss this, such as Imam Shafi’is position that shaving can be done in certain circumstances or that shaving one’s beard is considered simply to be “Makruh” (detested) rather than “Haram” (impermissible). So, please be mindful of this fact before sending me a message, insha Allah.

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