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 The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam with Regards to Clothing and Adornment

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PostSubject: The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam with Regards to Clothing and Adornment    Sun Jun 26, 2011 8:34 pm


The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam with Regards to Clothing and Adornment

By: Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi



Cleanliness and Beautification Are Characteristics of Islam
Gold and Silk
Gold and Pure Silk are Haram for Men
The Wisdom of These Two Prohibitions Concerning Men
Why Gold and Silk are Permitted to Women
The Dress of the Muslim
The Dress of the Muslim Woman
Concerning Woman's Imitating Man and Vice Versa
Dressing for the Sake of Ostentation and Pride
Artificial Changes of Features
Going to Extremes in Beautification by Changing What Allah Created
The Prohibition of Tattooing, Cutting the Teeth, and Undergoing Surgery for Beautification
Plucking the Eyebrows
Wigs and Hairpieces
Dyeing the Hair
Letting the Beard Grow

Clothing and Adornment

Islam permits, and in fact requires, that the Muslim be careful about his appearance, dress decently, maintain his dignity, and enjoy what Allah has created for the purpose of clothing and adornment.

From the Islamic point of view, clothing has two purposes: to cover the body and to beautify the appearance. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala counts His bestowal of clothing and adornment upon human beings as one of His favors to mankind: O children of Adam! Verily, We have bestowed upon you clothing to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you ... (7:26)

Whoever neglects either of these two aspects, covering or adornment, has deviated from the way of Islam toward the path of Satan. Accordingly, Allah warns people concerning both nakedness and neglect of good appearance, as these are snares of Satan, in the following verses: O children of Adam! Do not let Satan seduce in the same manner as he expelled your parents (Adam and Eve) from the Garden, stripping them of their raiment in order to expose their shame.... (7:27)

O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every place of worship, and eat and drink, but do not be wasteful.... (7:31)

Islam has made it obligatory on Muslims to cover their private parts, which everyone naturally feels a sense of shame at exposing in order that they may be distinguished from the naked animals; in fact, it instructs them to avoid uncovering these parts of their bodies even when they are alone so that they may attain perfection in morals and religion.

Bahaz ibn Hakim, on the authority of his grandfather, reported the latter as saying: I asked, 'O Messenger of Allah! What should we conceal and what can we show of our private parts?' He replied, 'Let no one see them except your wife or your bondwoman.' I then asked, 'What if some people live together (e.g., during travel, or camping)?' He replied, 'If you can manage it, try not to let anyone see them ' I then said, 'And what if no one is present (meaning if one is alone)?' He said, 'Allah Tabarak wa Ta'ala is most deserving of your modesty.' (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daoud, al-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Majah.)

Cleanliness and Beautification Are Characteristics of Islam

Before directing its attention to the questions of adornment and good appearance, Islam addressed itself in considerable depth to the question of cleanliness, for cleanliness is the essence of good appearance and the beauty of every adornment.

It is reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) said: "Cleanse yourself, for Islam is cleanliness." (Reported by Ibn Hayyan.) "Cleanliness invites toward faith, and faith leads its possessor to the Garden. (Reported by al-Tabarani.)" The Prophet (peace be on him) placed a great emphasis on keeping the body, clothing, houses, and streets clean, and he laid special stress on cleaning the teeth, hands, and hair. This emphasis on cleanliness is not to be wondered at in a religion which makes cleanliness the key to its principle form of worship, salat, for the Muslim's salat is not acceptable unless his body, clothing, and the place where he performs his salat are all clean. In addition to this requirement' there are the obligatory types of cleansing, either of the entire body in the form of ghusl (total washing), or of those parts of the body which are exposed to dirt, in the form of wudu (ablution forsalat).

The desert environment of Arabia and the nomadic life of its people were not very conducive to cleanliness and refinement, and most of them neglected these aspects.

The Prophet (peace be on him), with his lively instruction and to-the-point admonition, gradually led them out of their uncouth habits and taught them refinement and civil manners. Once a man approached the Prophet (peace be on him) with his hair and beard disheveled. The Prophet (peace be on him) made some gestures as if asking the man to comb his hair. He did so, and when he returned the Prophet (peace be on him) said to him, "Is not this better than that one should come with disheveled hair, looking like a devil?" (Reported by Malik in Al-Muwatta.) On another occasion the Prophet (peace be on him) saw a man with unkept hair and remarked, "Does he have nothing with which to comb his hair?" (Reported by Abu Daoud.) Upon seeing another man with dirty clothes he remarked, "Cannot he find anything with which to wash his clothes?" (Reported by Abu Daoud.)

A man came to the Prophet (peace be on him) wearing cheap-looking garments. "Do you have property?" the Prophet (peace be on him) asked him. "Yes," the man replied. "What kind of property?" asked the Prophet (peace be on him). "Allah has given me all kinds of wealth," he said. The Prophet (peace be on him) then said to him, "Since Allah has given you wealth, let Him see the effects of His favor and bounty upon you.'' (Reported by al-Nisai.)

The Prophet insisted that people come to general gatherings, such as the Friday and the 'Eid prayers, nicely dressed and well-groomed. He said, If you can afford it, it is befitting that you wear garments other than your working clothes to Friday prayer. (Reported by Abu Daoud.)

Gold and Pure Silk are Haram for Men

Beautification and elegance are not merely permitted but are required by Islam, and in general it repudiates any attempts to prohibit them. Say: Who has forbidden the adornment of Allah which He has brought forth for His servants, and the good things of His providing? (7:32)

Islam has, however, prohibited two kinds of adornment for men, while permitting them to women. These are, first, gold ornaments and, second, clothing made of pure silk. 'All reported that the Prophet (peace be on him) took some silk in his right hand and some gold in his left, declaring, "These two areharam for the males among my followers." (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daoud, al-Nisai, Ibn Hayyan, and lbn Majah, who reports the additional phrase, "but halal for the females.") 'Umar reported that he heard the Prophet (peace be on him) say, "Do not wear silk, for those who wear it in this life shall not wear it in the Hereafter." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim. A Similar hadith is reported by them on the authority of Anas.) On another occasion, referring to a silken garment, he said, "This is the dress of a man who has no character.'' (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

The Prophet (peace be on him) once saw a gold ring on a man's hand. He immediately took it from him and threw it down saying, 'Does a person pick up a piece of burning coal and hold it in his hand?' After the Prophet (peace be on him) had left the place, someone asked the man, 'Why do you not pick it up and benefit from it?' He replied, 'No, by Allah! I shall not pick it up after the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) has thrown it away.' (Reported by Muslim.)

The same prohibition which applies to the gold ring likewise applies to what we observe among conspicuous spenders, i.e., the gold pen, gold watch, gold cigarette case and lighter, gold teeth, etc.

The Prophet (peace be on him), however, permitted men to wear silver rings. On the authority of Ibn'Umar, al-Bukhari reported the former saying, "The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) wore a silver ring. After him, Abu Bakr and then 'Umar and 'Uthman wore it, until it fell off his finger into the well of Arees." (Reported by al-Bukhari in the chapter on "Clothing" (Al-Libas).) As for other metals such as iron, there are no sound texts prohibiting them. On the contrary, in the Sahih of al-Bukhari we find that the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) advised a man who wanted to marry a woman to, "Present her with a gift, even if it be ring made of iron." On the basis of this hadith al-Bukhari inferred the permissibility of iron rings.

The Prophet (peace be on him) made concessions in the wearing of silken garments for medical reasons, as he gave 'Abd al-Rahman bin 'Auf and al-Zubayr bin al-'Awwam, both of whom suffered from scabies, permission to wear silk. (Reported by al-Bukhari.)

The Wisdom of these Two Prohibitions Concerning Men

By means of these two prohibitions which concern men, Islam's aim is to achieve certain noble educational and moral objectives.

Since it is the relof jihad (striving) and strength, Islam must safeguard the manly qualities of men from any show of weakness, passivity, and lethargy. Allah has made the physique of the man different from that of the woman, and it does not befit a man to wear clothes made of fine material or to adorn his body with costly ornaments.

There is, however, a social aim underlying these prohibitions. The prohibition of gold and silk to males is part of a broader Islamic program of combating luxuriousness in living. From the Qur'anic point of view, luxurious living leads to weakness among nations and to their eventual downfall; the existence of luxury is also an expression of social injustice, as only a few can afford luxurious items at the expense of the deprived masses of people.

In addition to this, luxurious living is an enemy of every call towards truth, justice, and social reform. The Qur'an says: And when We intend that We should destroy a township, we permit its luxury-loving people to commit wickedness therein. Then the word is proved true against it, and We then destroy it utterly. (17:16) and again, And We did not send a warner to any township without its luxury-loving people saying, 'Assuredly we are disbelievers in that with which you have been sent.' (34:34)
In keeping with the spirit of the Qur'an, the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade Muslims any indulgence in conspicuous consumption. He not only forbade the use of gold and silk to men but also forbade men and women alike the use of gold and silver utensils.
Finally, economic considerations also carry some weight here. Since gold is a universal medium of exchange, using it to make household utensils or ornaments for men does not make sense in economic tenn6.

Why Gold and Silk are Permitted to Women

Woman has been exempted from this prohibition out of consideration for her feminine nature, as the love of jewelry and ornaments is quite natural and becoming for a woman. However, she is not to use her adornments to attract men and arouse their sexual desires. According to a hadith, When a woman puts on perfume and goes among people so that its scent reaches them, she is an adulteress, and any eye which is attracted to her is that of an adulterer.

(Reported by al-Nisai, and also by Ibn Khazimah and Ibn Hayyan in their respective Sahih's.)
And Allah Ta'ala warns women ...that they should not stamp their feet in order to make apparent what is hidden of their adornment.... (24:31)

The Dress of the Muslim Woman

Islam makes it haram for women to wear clothes which fail to cover the body and which are transparent, revealing what is underneath. It is likewiseharam to wear tightly fitting clothes which delineate the parts of the body, especially those parts which are sexually attractive. Abu Hurairah narrated that the Messenger, of Allah (peace be on him) said, I will not be a witness for two types of people who are destined for the Fire: people with whips, like the tails of cows, who beat the people (i.e., tyrannical rulers who are the enemies of their own people), and women who, although clothed, are yet naked, seducing and being seduced, their hair styled like the tilted humps of camels. These will not enter the Garden nor will its fragrance even reach them, although its fragrance reaches a very great distance. (Reported by Muslim.)

The Prophet (peace be on him) described such women as being clothed, yet naked, since their clothing, being transparent and fine, does not do the job of conceling the body but is rather intended to reveal it; such is the dress of the women of our time. The Prophet (peace be on him) likened their hair-style to the hump of a special breed of camel (bakht) which has very large humps, because they put up their hair in a beehive shape from the middle of their heads.

It is as if the Prophet (peace be on him) were looking beyond the centuries to the present age, when dressing the hair of women and styling it in variety of shapes has become a profession dominated by men who charge top prices for their work. And this is not all. Many women, not satisfied with what Allah gave them in the way of natural hair, buy wigs made of artificial hair to add to their own in order to increase its body, beauty, and luster, imagining that this renders them better looking and more sexually attractive.

The astonishing thing about this hadith is the connection of political oppression with moral laxity. This connection is borne out by facts, since it is the way of rulers to keep people preoccupied with their personal desires and lusts so that they have no time to think about public affairs.

Concerning Woman's Imitating Man and Vice Versa

The Prophet (peace be on him) declared that a woman should not wear a man's clothing nor a man a woman's. He cursed men who imitate women and women who imitate men. (Reported by al-Bukhari and others.) Aspects of such imitation include the manner of speaking, walking, dressing, moving and so on.

The evil of such conduct, which affects both the life of the individual and of society, is that it constitutes a rebellion against the natural ordering of things. According to this natural order, there are men and there are women, and each of the two sexes has its own distinctive characteristics. However, if men become effeminate and women masculinized, this natural order will be reversed and will disintegrate.

Among those who are cursed by Allah and His angels, both in this world and in the Hereafter, the Prophet (peace be on him) has mentioned the man whom Allah has made a male but who becomes effeminate by imitating women, and a woman whom Allah has made a female but who becomes masculinized by imitating men. (Reported by al-Tabarani.)

For this reason the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade men to wear fabric decorated with large, loud, or bold designs. In his Sahih, Muslim reported 'All as saying,
The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) forbade me the wearing of a gold ring, a silken garment, and clothing with bold designs.

Muslim also reports a hadith from Ibn 'Umar, who said, "The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) saw me wearing two garments having bold designs, and he said, "This is what unbelievers wear. Do not wear such things."

Dressing for the Sake of Ostentation and Pride

The general rule for the enjoyment of the good things of life, such as food, drink, and clothing, is that their use should be without extravagance or pride.
Extravagance consists of exceeding the limits of what is beneficial in the use of the halal, while pride is something related to the intention and the heart rather than to what is apparent. Pride is the intention to look superior and above others, and Allah does not love any proud boaster. (57:23) The Prophet (peace be on him) said: "On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will not look at the person who trails his robe behind him out of pride."(Agreed upon by Bukhari and Muslim.)

In order to avoid even the suspicion of pride, the Prophet (peace be on him) forbade Muslims to wear garments of "fame" that is, clothes which are worn in order to impress others and which generate competition in vain and idle pursuits. According to a hadith, On the Day of Resurrection, Allah will clothe the one who wears garments of fame with the garments of humiliation. (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Daoud, al-Nisai, and Ibn Majah.)

A man asked Ibn 'Umar, "What kind of clothes shall I wear?" Ibn 'Umar replied, "Such as would neither invite the scorn of the weak-minded (because of their being cheap and ugly) nor the blame of the wise (because of their being immoderately expensive)." (Reported by al-Tabarani.)

Going to Extremes in Beautification by Changing What Allah Created
Islam denounces such excesses in beautifying oneself as require altering one's physical features as Allah created them. The Qur'an considers such alterations as inspired by Satan, who ...will command them (his devotees) to change what Allah has created... (4:119)

The Prohibition of Tattooing, Cutting the Teeth, and Undergoing Surgery for Beautification

Among such excesses are tattooing and shortening the teeth. (A beautification practice of the pre-IslaArabs. (Trans.)) The Messenger of Allah (peace beon him) cursed the tattooer and the one who is tattooed, the shortener of teeth and the one whose teeth are shortened. (Reported by Muslim.)

As far as tattooing is concerned, it permanently disfigures the face and other parts of the body with blue pigment and repulsive designs. Some Arabs, especially women, were in the habit of tattooing large portions of their bodies, while people of certain religious sects tattooed pictures of their deities or religious rituals on their hands and chests. To all these abominations is added the pain and agony which the person being tattooed must undergo from the pricking of the needles. Because all of this, both the tattooer and the one who is tattooed have been cursed.

As for cutting or shortening the teeth, the Prophet (peace be on him) cursed both the men and the women who do it and the women who request it. If a man does it, he merits an even greater curse. Similarly, the Prophet (peace be on him) prohibited widening the spaces between the teeth, and he cursed...Women who widen the gaps between their own or others' teeth for the sake of beauty, changing what Allah has created.

Now, Allah obviously created some women with gaps between their teeth and others without. Some women who have no such gaps desire to create them artificially, either by filing or by cutting away parts of the adjoining teeth. Islam considers this a form of deception and excessive involvement with personal beauty, both of which it discourages.

From these ahadith of the Prophet (peace be on him), we also know the ruling of the Islamic Shari'ah concerning plastic surgery. Surgeries for beautification are in vogue today as the result of the materialistic outlook of Western civilization, a civilization stressing the body and its desires. Men and women spend hundreds and thousands of dollars to reshape their noses or breasts, or whatever they consider misshapen. This behavior most certainly belongs in the category of excessive beautification, unnecessarily changing what Allah has created, and it merits the curse of Allah and His Prophet (peace be on him). It likewise involves torture, pain, and waste of money merely for the sake of one's appearance; it is, moreover, an expression of an individual's preoccupation with form rather than substance, with body rather than with spirit.

It may happen that a person has an unusual physical defect which attracts the attention of others to the point of inflicting physical and psychological pain every time he meets people. In this case, he may treat the defect and thus alleviate the embarrassment which made his life miserable. Allah the Most Merciful has imposed no hardship on us in religion.... (Al Bahee al-Khooly, Al Mar'ah Bain al-Bait wal-Mujtama', 2nd edition, p. 105.)

This statement is perhaps supported by the hadith concerning widening the gap between the teeth for the sake of beautification, for what is disapproved here is doing this merely for the sake of achieving good looks and artificial beauty. However, if it is needed to eliminate pain or distress, there is nothing wrong with it; but Allah knows best.

Plucking the Eyebrows

Among the extremes of beautification prohibited by Islam is al-nams, which denotes removing the hair of the eyebrows by plucking in order to thin or shape them. The Prophet (peace be on him) cursed both the women who do the plucking and those who seek to have it done. (Narrated by Abu Daoud on good authority.) This practice is particularly frowned upon because it is customarily done by prostitutes.

According to some Hanbali scholars, if the husband approves it, the removal of facial hair (other than that of the eyebrows) and the use of powder, creams, and other beauty aids are permitted to women, as this is part of feminine adornment. Al-Nawawi is somewhat more strict, considering the removal of facial hair to be al-nams and hence forbidden. In contrast to his opinion, we may, however, mention Abu Daud's statement in his Sunan that"al-nams is plucking the eyebrows in order to thin them," from which we may conclude that al-nams does not include the removal of facial hair.

Al-Tabari reports a narrative concerning the wife of Abu Ishaq, who loved to beautify herself. Once she visited 'Aisha and asked, "What if a woman removes the hair from her forehead to please her husband?" 'Aisha replied, "Remove what is harmful from yourselves whenever possible."(Fath al-Bari, under the explanation of the hadith by Ibn Mas'ood in the chapter entitled "Pluckers of Eyebrows," in the book Clothing.)

Wigs and Hairpieces

In the category of female adornments, the addition of any other hair, real or artificial, to one's own hair—that is, the wearing of wigs and hairpieces—is also prohibited.
It is reported by al-Bukhari on the authority of 'Aisha, her sister Asma, Ibn Mas'ood, Ibn 'Umar, and Abu Hurairah that "The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) cursed al-wasilah and al-mustawsilah," al-mustawsilah," wasilah denoting a woman whose profession is making wigs and hairpieces' andmustawsilah a woman who uses them.
Men are prohibited such things to an even greater degree, whether they are a wasil (coiffeur or hairdresser) or a mustawsil, like today's effeminate, long-haired young men of the "hippie" mould.

The Prophet (peace be on him) was very strict in combating such deceptions, so much so that if a woman lost her hair due to some illness, he did not permit her to add other hair to that on her head, even if she were soon to be married. Al-Bukhari reports 'Aisha's narrative concerning a girl of the Ansar who was married and subsequently fell ill, losing her hair. Some people wanted to add other hair to her own, but when they asked the Prophet (peace be on him) about this he replied, Allah has cursed the wasilah and the mustawsilah (Reported by al-Bukhari, in his book Clothing, in the chapter entitled "Adding to the Hair")

Al-Bukhari also reports Asma's narrative concerning a woman who said to the Prophet (peace be on him), "O Messenger of Allah, since my daughter has had measles, her hair has fallen out, and I am about to give her in marriage. Shall I add some strands of hair to her hair?" and the Prophet (peace be on him) replied, "Allah has cursed the wasilah and the mustawsilah. (Reported by al-Bukhari.)"

Sa'id ibn al-Musayab narrated that Mu'awiyah delivered a public address during his last visit to Madinah. In the course of it he took out a strand of hair, saying, "I have not seen anyone using this besides the Jews. Indeed, the Prophet (peace be on him), referring to the adding of hair to one's own hair, called it forgery." According to another report, he said to the people of Madinah, "Where are your scholars? I heard the Prophet (peace be on him) prohibiting the use of this and saying, 'The Children of Israel were destroyed when their women started using this.' "

The Prophet's terming the use of false hair "a forgery" indicates the reason for its prohibition. It is, in fact, fraud, falsification, and deception, and Islam condemns deception and dissociates itself from those who practice it either by material or psychological means, for "The one who deceives us is not of us." (Reported by a number of sahabah (Companions of the Prophet).)

Khattabi said, Harsh punishments are promised (in the Hereafter for such practices because they involve deception and fraud. If any of these is allowed, the door will be open for other types of forgeries. Moreover, this involves the alteration of God-given features, as mentioned in the hadith of Ibn Mas'ood concerning 'The alterers of Allah's creation. (Fath al-Bari, in the chapter entitled "Adding to the Hair.")

What is prohibited in these ahadith is the addition of other hair whether natural or artificial, to one's own, as this is a form of deceit and fraud. What is not included in this prohibition is the use of material other than hair, such as thread or cloth, which can be interwover with natural hair. On the authority of Sa'id ibn Jubair, we have the saying of the Prophet (peace be on him): There is nothing wrong with tawamil, (Mentioned in Fath al-Bari on the authority of Abu Daoud.) meaning the use of wool or silk to make braids. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal haalso commented on its permissibility. (Fath al-Bari.)

Dyeing the Hair

Another aspect of beautification relates to dyeing the gray hair of the head or the beard. It was reported that the Jews and Christians refrained from dyeing the hair, regarding such beautification and adornment as contrary to piety and devotion, and not befitting rabbis, priests, and ascetics. The Prophet (peace be on him) forbade Muslims to imitate these people or follow their ways, in order that Muslims might develop their own distinctive and independent characteristics in appearance and behavior.

Al-Bukhari, on the authority of Abu Hurairah, reported the Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) as saying, "The Jews and Christians do not dye their hair, so be different from them." (Reported in al-Bukhari's chapter on "Dyeing the Hair" in his book Clothing.) This is, however, not a command but only a recommendation, as is evident from the actions of the sahabah, such as Abu Bakr and 'Umar, who used to dye their hair, while others, such as 'All, Ubay ibn Ka'b, and Anas did not.

The question now remains as to what type of dye is to be used. Should its color be black or can there be other colors? Or should black be avoided? If a man is of a very advanced age, with white hair and beard, it would hardly be appropriate for him to use black dye. On the day of the conquest of Makkah, Abu Bakr brought his aged father, Abu Qahafah, carrying him until he had seated him in front of the Prophet (peace be on him). On seeing Abu Qahafah's snow-white hair, the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "Change this, but avoid black." (Fath al-Bari, in explaining the above mentioned hadith (in the chapter on "Dyeing) However, if a man is not of such advanced age or feebleness as Abu Qahafah then was, there is no harm in his using black dye. In this regard al-Zuhri said, "We dyed our hair black when the face looked young, but discarded it when the face became wrinkled and the teeth decayed."(Reported by Ibn Abu 'Asim in the book on "Dyeing the Hair.")

Some of the early Muslims, including some sahabah such as Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, 'Uqbah ibn 'Amr, al-Hassan, al-Hussein, Jarir, and others permitted the use of black dye. Some scholars, on the other hand, do not consider the use of black hair dye as permissible except during time of war, when the enemy might be impressed by the fact that all the soldiers of the Muslim army look young.
Abu Dharr narrated the hadith, The best thing with which to dye gray hair is henna and katm. (Mentioned in Fath al-Bari.) Henna makes the hair red, while katm, a plant from Yemen, colors it black tinged with red. Said Anas, "Abu Bakr dyed his hair with henna and katm, and 'Umar dyed it with henna only."

Letting the Beard Grow

The growing of beards is also related to our topic. Al-Bukhari, on the authority of Ibn 'Umar, reported the Prophet (peace be on him) as saying, "Be different from the polytheists (mushrikeen): let the beard grow and trim the moustache." The purpose here, as the hadith states, is to be different from the polytheists, who, in the particular instance cited, were Zoroastrians, the worshippers of fire, whose practice was either to clip or shave their beards. The Prophet's command to be different from them was intended to train the Muslims in developing an independent personality, distinct in its inner reality as well as in outward appearance, in substance as well as in form. At the same time, shaving the beard is an affront to the masculine nature, as it is an attempt to resemble women, while the beard is an integral part of masculinity and a distinctive feature of the male sex.

However, letting the beard grow does not mean letting it grow wild or so long that it becomes a nuisance. One should certainly trim it in both length and breadth. This has been recommended in a hadith reported by al-Tirmidhi; moreover, the Muslims of the first generations did so. Said 'Ayyad, (The twelfth century author of a well known hook about the characteristics of the Prophet. (Trans.)) "It is makruh to shave the beard or to drastically cut or shorten it, but it ismustahab (commendable) to remove something from its length and breadth if it grows big."

Abu Shamah voiced the complaint that "Some people have started shaving their beards, and that is a step further than the Zoroastrians, who used only to trim them." (Fath al-Bari, in the chapter entitled "Growing Beards.") In my view it is regrettable that at the present time the majority of Muslims shave their beards in imitation of the foreign elements who have occupied their lands. It is an unfortunate fact that the conquered always imitate their conquerors. Today's Muslims have ignored the Prophet's command that they be different from non-believers and avoid imitating them. Indeed, anyone who "imitates a people is one of them." (A hadith reported by Abu Daoud on the authority of Ibn 'Umar.)

A large number of jurists consider shaving the beard to be haram on the basis of the Prophet's command. This command to let the beard grow renders it an obligation, especially because it is for the purpose of being different from non-Muslims, since maintenance of this distinction from those who do not believe is obligatory for Muslims.

It has never been reported that any of the Muslims of the earliest generations neglected this obligation. However, some modern scholars permit the shaving of the beard under the impact of events in response to public opinion, arguing that the growing of the beard was a personal preference of the Prophet (peace be on him) which was not related to religious practice, and hence it need not be followed. But the truth of this matter is that growing the beard is required not merely because the Prophet (peace be on him) had one but because he explicitly commanded it in order to maintain the distinction from non-believers. Ibn Taymiyyah has convincingly argued that to make the Muslims different from non-believers was the aim of the Law-Giver, for resemblance in appearance produces love, friendship, and affinity in feeling, just as love in the heart produces resemblance in outward appearance. This psychological fact is borne out by experience and observation. Says Ibn Taymiyyah:

The Qur'an, the Sunnah, and the consensus of Muslim scholars all teach Muslims to be distinct from nonbelievers and in general to avoid resembling them. Anything which is likely to cause corruption in a hidden and diffuse manner is related to this matter and is likewise prohibited. The imitation of the appearance of the non-believers will lead to imitation of their immoral behavior and evil qualities—indeed, even of their beliefs. Such influences can neither be brought under control nor easily detected, and consequently it becomes difficult or even impossible to eradicate them. Accordingly, whatever is a cause of corruption has been prohibited by the Law-Giver. (Refer to Kitab Iqtida al-Sirat al-Mustaqeem.)

Thus, we note that there are three opinions with regard to the shaving of the beard: one, that it is haram, which is the opinion of Ibn Taymiyyah and others; two, that it is makruh, the opinion of 'Ayyad as mentioned in Al-Fatah al-Bari but of no one else; and three, that it is permitted, which is the opinion of some modern scholars. Perhaps the second opinion, that it is makruh, is nearer to the truth and more moderate. As the stated reason for growing the beard is to be different from the non-believers, it is similar to the matter of dyeing gray hair in order to be distinct from the Jews and Christians; it is known that some of the sahabah did not dye their gray hair, signifying that it was commendable rather than obligatory. Similarly, growing the beard may be regarded as commendable but not obligatory, and, accordingly, shaving it would be classified as makruh rather than haram. It is true that none of the sahabah was known to have shaved his beard. Perhaps there was no need to shave, and perhaps growing the beard was a custom among them.

Source: The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam by Yusuf al-Qaradawi
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