Status of Beard According to Shari’ah

By Maulana Najeeb Qasmi

What is the stature of beard in Shari’ah, is it obligatory or Sunnah?? And is shaving impermissible or makrooh or forbidden (Haraam)? Majority of the scholars of Hadith, jurists, our respected Ulama and all the four Imams (rahimahumullah) (i.e. Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Shaafi’i, Imam Maalik and Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal) agree that beard is obligatory. Even in the present times almost all the schools of thought in Islam, in the light of the Holy Qur’an and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), are convinced about its status as obligatory.

On this topic, I studied statements of Hadeeth scholars, jurists and our respected Ulama recorded in numerous books written in Arabic and Urdu. All of them have acknowledged that in the light of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) growing a beard turns out to be obligatory because Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) has commanded the Muslim Ummah to grow beard and a commandment signifies obligation unless some other statement or act of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) or act of companions of Prophet Muhammad reveals that the commandment of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was not about obligation but more of an insistent expression. However, with reference to the topic we are discussing at the moment, the life of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and his companions (radhiyallahu anhuma) categorically informs us that Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) injunction to his (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) Ummah in relation to growing beard is about its obligatory status. Therefore, during the best of periods, from amongst the companions of the Prophet, Tabi’een (those who saw the companions of Prophet in a state of faith and died as believers) or Taba’ Tabi’een (those who saw a Tabi’ee in a state of faith and died as believers) not even a single scholar of Hadeeth, jurist or Aalim passed a decree that declared growing beard as non-obligatory. Rather, everyone has pronounced it obligatory. For details in relation to this particular topic please refer to Sheikhul Hadith Maulana Muhammad Zakariya Kandhlawi’s (rahimahullah) Arabic book titled Wujoob I’faa‘illihyah.

Even if we were to agree that growing beard is only Sunnah then it cannot be one of those common or ordinary Sunnahs. Instead, alongside being an extremely important Sunnate Mu’akkadah, growing beard is also to be understood as an essential part of Islam’s adage, and it has been a Sunnah of all the prophets (alayhimussalaam). Moreover, it is something that is natural in the case of human beings and there is simply no scope for changing human nature as Allah has mentioned in Surah Al-Rum, verse no. 30.

An iconic scholar of Hadeeth from the subcontinent Shah Waliullah Muhaddith Dehlvi (rahimahullah) has written in his book Hujjatullaahil Baalighah (1/152) that trimming or shaving beard is altering the creation and shape given by Allah. This does not get over here. Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) has declared that trimming or shaving of beard is the way of infidels and Zoroastrians and the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) did not even like to look at the faces of those who trimmed or shaved their beard.

Let us first go through the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) in relation to beard:

Abdullah bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Oppose the polytheists, by growing your beards and trimming your moustaches.” According to another report the words are, “Trim your moustaches properly and grow your beard.” (Bukhari and Muslim).

‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that once when a Zoroastrian (one who worships fire) was mentioned before Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) he (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “These people grow their moustaches and shave their beards. Thus you should oppose these people.” (Sahih Ibn Hibban).

‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was commanded to trim the moustache and grow beard. It came to people’s knowledge that the commandment to grow beard is from Allah, the Ruler of all the rulers. The word of Amara (أمر) too is found in books, which means that Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) has ordered us to trim our moustache and grow our beard (Muslim).

Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Polytheists grow their moustache and trim their beard. Thus, you oppose them and grow your beard and trim your moustache (reported in Bazzaaz on the authority of a Hasan Sanad). Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Trim your moustache and grow your beard and oppose the Zoroastrians.” (Muslim).

Ayesha (radhiyallahu anha) narrates that Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) has declared ten traits as natural. Out of those the first one is trimming of moustache and the second is growing of beard (Muslim). It means that growing beard is natural for human beings and is an Islamic motto. Moreover, it is the Sunnah of all the prophets (alayhimussalaam) as mentioned by Allamah Ibne Hajar Asqalaani (rahimahullah) in Bukhari’s commentary Fathul Baari (339/10) and by Allama Jalaaluddin Suyuti in Tanveerul Hawaalik, summary of Mu’atta Imam Maalik (219/2), while summarising nature (Fitrah).

When Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) wrote to different kings calling them to Islam, one of the letters was also written to Chosroes, the King of Persia. When the Prophet’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) letter reached him he tore it apart and wrote to the governor of Yemen to send two well-built persons to Hijaaz so that they could bring him the person who wrote to him the letter. So, by the permission of the King of Persia, the governor of Yemen sent two soldiers to Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). They both came to Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). Their beards were ‘clean-shaved’ and their moustaches were grown. The Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) did not even care to look at them. Then the Prophet addressed them and said, “There is chastisement for both of you, who has ordered you to do this?” They said, “Our lord, meaning Kisra has ordered us to do this.” Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “But my Lord has ordered me to grow beard and trim moustache.” (Al-Bidaayah Wan-nihaayah 4/270, Taarikh Ibne Jareer 3/90-91). This incident has been recorded by Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Sahab Kandhalvi in his famous work Hayaatus Sahaabah (Volume 1, Page 115) with different Sanad.

A person from the community of Zoroastrians came to Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) who had shaved his beard and grown his moustache. Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) asked him, “What is this?” He said, “This is our religion.” Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “But in our religion we grow beard and trim moustache.” (Ibn Abi Shaibah 8/379)

Jaabir bin Samrah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates, “Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) beard had a lot of hair”. (Muslim)

Hind bin Abi Haalah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) beard was dense” (Tirmidhi and Baihaqi). The same has been reported by Baraa (radhiyallahu anhu) (Nasai 5232) and ‘Ali (Radhiyallahu anhu) (Musnad Ahmad 2/102).

Ali (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates that Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) beard was extremely dense. (Musnad Ahmad (1/127).

Ayesha, Uthman bin Affaan, Ammaar bin Yaasir, Abu Ayyub Ansari (radhiyallahu anhuma) and other companions of Prophet Muhammad have been quoted in Hadeeth books saying that the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) used to run his wet fingers through his beard during ablution.

The beard should be left on its own, as in from any of the sides no hair should be trimmed or cut. Imam Shafi’i (rahimahullah) has made two statements in this regard out of which one that has been declared correct by Imam Nawawi (rahimahullah) and, in addition, one of the opinions of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal (rahimahullah) is the same.

The beard should be left on its own, however, after performing pilgrimage or Umrah it could be trimmed from the right and left sides. Out of two statements of Imam Shaafi’i (rahimahullah) this is the second one which is declared correct by Hafiz Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah).The hair that goes unkempt on the right and left side of the beard could be cut without holding them in the fist. Imam Maalik (rahimahullah) has the same opinion which has been declared correct by Qadhi ‘Iyaadh (rahimahullah). After holding the beard in the fist the remaining (length wise) should be trimmed. Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) has the same opinion that sunnah is to keep beard that could be held in a fist and less than a fist is not permissible. This opinion has been declared correct by all Ulama of Hanafi Fiqh. Renowned student of Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) Imam Muhammad (rahimahullah) has written in his book Kitaabul Aathaar that we narrate from Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah) and he narrated from Haitham  and he narrated from Abdullah bin Umar (rahimahullah) that [Abdullah bin Umar (rahimahullah)] used to take his beard in his fist and he would trim whatever was left outside the fist. Imam Muhammad (rahimahullah) says that he has adopted that stance only and the same opinion is held by Imam Abu Hanifah (rahimahullah). Therefore, in all the renowned and celebrated texts of Hanafi jurisprudence the same opinion is found that one has to keep beard that could be held in a fist and in case the beard is shorter than that then it is not permissible to trim it.      

On the day when Makkah was conquered, Abu Qahaafah (radhiyallahu anhu) was brought before Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) in such a way that his hair was totally white. So Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “Change his hair’s whiteness, however, stay away from black colour.” (Muslim, Abu Daud, Nasaai, Ibn e Maajah, Musnad Ahmad).

Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “In order to change the whiteness of hair use henna or Katam.” (Abu Daud, Nasaai, Tirmidhi, Ibne Maajah).

Abdullah bin Abbas (radhoyallahu anhu) narrates that Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said, “During the last days (close to qiyaamah), few people will dye their hair with pure black colour. Those people won’t even get the smell of the paradise.” (Abu Dawud, Nasaai).

Description of Prophet Muhammad’s Beard:

Leader of all the prophets and apostles, seal of prophets and Khairul Bariyyah (the best of all human beings) Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) always had beard as we find frequent references to Prophet’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) beard in Hadeeth books.

The fact of the matter is that the companions of Prophet Muhammad have referred to his (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) beard in different ways. The gist of their description is that Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) beard was dense and had a lot of hair. Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) also used to run his wet fingers through his beard while performing ablution, and at times he (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) would also apply henna on it. The Hadeeth books have references of the beard of the righteous caliphs and other companions of the Prophet but I am skipping them so that the article does not get too lengthy. Not even a single companion of the Prophet shaved his beard or had sported one that could not be held in his fist.

Size of beard

On the basis of categorically clear instructions majority of scholars of Hadeeth, jurists and our respected Ulama are in favour of beard being obligatory but for a very long time Ulama and jurists have expressed disagreement vis-a-vis what will be the size of the beard and whether Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) himself set a certain size of beard to be kept in mind. It can be said with considerable authority that in the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) there is not much clarity with reference to the size of the beard. Yet, as per a Hadeeth recorded in Tirmidhi, which is indeed weak in terms of authenticity, Prophet Muhammd (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) used to trim extra hair in length and breadth. Moreover, several companions of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), for instance it is substantiated by an authentic Hadeeth that Abdullah bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) used to hold his beard in his fist and trim the extra hair, as mentioned by Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) (Bukhari).

As a matter of fact, in relation to the size of the beard, few opinions are to be found of Tabi’een, Taba’ Tabi’een and our respected Ulama who belonged to subsequent periods. However, in relation to keeping a beard that is less than the hold of a fist, no companion of Prophet Muhammad or Tabi’ee or Taba’ Tabi’ee or any other reliable scholar of Hadeeth or jurist has given an argument.

Statements made by jurists in relation to the size of the beard:

Through the most authentic and reliable sources clear cut teachings of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) in relation to beard have reached the Muslim Ummah through Abdullah bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) only who is among those companions of Prophet Muhammad from whom even renowned companions of Prophet Muhammad sought opinion on different matters. Moreover, Abdullah bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) was an ardent follower of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and he was always among those who zealously followed each and every Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). His acts are presented as standards in themselves. Imam Bukhari (rahimahullah) presented Abdullah bin Umar’s (radhiyallahu anhu) act in relation to beard as a standard that when he would get done with pilgrimage or Umrah, he would untie his Ihram (the cloth wrapped for pilgrimage) and hold his beard in his fist and trim the extra hair (Bukhari).

Hafiz Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah) in his commentary on Bukhari, narrating from Tabari, informs that one group says that when the beard grows longer than a fistful then the extra length of hair ought to be trimmed, then, on his own authority, Tabari (rahimahullah) has narrated from Abdullah bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) and Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu) that they did the same.

Jaabir bin Abdullah (radhiyallahu anhu) narrates, “We used to keep the front portion of our beard grown but in Hajj and Umrah (meaning once they completed Hajj or Umrah) we used to trim that part.” (Abu Dawud).

In relation to beard, after Abdullah bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu), maximum number of reports is from Abu Hurairah (radhiyallahu anhu). It has been mentioned that with reference to his beard he too used to trim whatever remained extra after holding it in his fist (Nasabur Raayah).

Imam Ghazali (rahimahullah) writes in his book (Al-Ahyaa’, 1/143) that Ulama disagree in relation to trimming the beard more than a fistful (such that after trimming the beard cannot be held in the person’s fist) but in case someone trims his beard after it can be properly held in the fist then there is no problem because there is evidence for the same from Abdullah bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) and Tabi’een. Allamah Ibn Siren (rahimahullah) has affirmed that keeping a beard that could be held in a fist is better.

Sheikh Abdul Haq Muhaddith Dehlvi (rahimahullah) writes in his book (Ashi’atul Lama’at, vol. 1, page no. 228), “Shaving beard is forbidden and growing it till it becomes a fistful is obligatory.”

Allamah Ibn Taymiyyah writes in his book (Sharhul Umdah, 1/236) that, “I’afaul Lihyah means leaving the beard on its own but in case someone trims his beard after it has become more than a fistful or trims the unkempt hair from the sides then it is not disliked (Makrooh) because Abdullah bin Umar (radhiyallahu anhu) has done this.

An article by the author of Safwat At-Tafaaseer’s and teacher at the Prophet’s (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) mosque, Sheikh Muhammad bin Ali Al-Saabooni which was published in the famous newspaper of Arabia Al-Madinah on 24 Muharram 1415 AH, wherein along with arguments he had written that beard’s hair should not be left unkempt. Instead, unkempt hair should be trimmed in order to give the beard a proper look. Nor should be the beard left (to grow) in such a way that children start fearing and elderly start avoiding.

Note: Several Ulama of the present times have given fatwa justifying keeping beard that is less than a fistful. However, these Ulama too encourage growing beard till it could be held in a fist.

Clarification of a doubt:

Few people ask that where is it written in the Holy Qur’an to grow beard?? I would like to enquire those people that where is it written in the Holy Qur’an that we have to practice only on those things that are mentioned in it, and where is it written in the Holy Qur’an to not obey the injunctions of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). Instead, in the Holy Qur’an, there are numerous occasions where Allah has commanded believers to obey Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and, more importantly, Allah has declared obedience to Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) as following Him (Surah Al-Nisaa, verse no. 80). Moreover, at different places in the Holy Qur’an, Allah has declared that alongside obeying Him it is necessary to obey Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). In case the Holy Qur’an is sufficient for us then why has Allah commanded us repeatedly in the Holy Qur’an to obey Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)?

It is impossible to understand the Holy Qur’an without the aid of Sayings of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam). As specified clearly by Allah in Surah Al-Nahl verses 64 and 144 that the first commentator of the Holy Qur’an is Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), and Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) has been assigned the responsibility by Allah that he (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) may explain to the Muslim Ummah the commandments present in the Holy Qur’an in absolutely simple and clear terms.

Still, in order to satisfy these people it needs to be highlighted that beard has been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an (Surah Taha, verse no. 94). When Prophet Moosa (alayhissalaam) held the beard of Prophet Haroon (alayhissalaam), the latter said, “O son of my mother, do not hold me by my beard.

Colouring the beard by applying Henna or Khizaab:

In case, hair of beard or head have turned grey because of old age then our respected Ulama, in the light of sayings of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), unanimously agree that hair cannot be dyed with pure black colour because it implies altering the order of nature. However, in case a person’s hair turns grey during youth because of some disease then, in relation to dying hair with pure black colour during youth, the Ulama have disagreement but it is better to avoid. However, other than pure black colour, dying hair with henna or a shade closer to black is, whether it is done by young or old, not only permissible but recommended.

Summary:

My dear friends, keeping beard is the obedience of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), following and expressing love for him. The commandment of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) signals that growing beard is obligatory. However, in the times we live in, few people don’t care at all about what Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) commanded and not only do they get their beards shaved but they start passing various comments on it. Do remember that not growing beard is a sin but to pass false comments on beard or making fun of it pertains to infidelity.

May Allah make us all true lovers of Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) and may He make us one of those who grow beard, Aameen!

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