I was speaking to someone a few days ago and he brought up the fact that he decided to trim his beard past the fist. When he did so, a group of brothers began to scold him for doing such. “It’s HARAM to touch the beard”, “YOUR SOFT AKI”, or just “Aki, What happen’ to yo beard?”, were some of the things that must have been said, I imagine.
This is an ever so recurring phenomenon, and this is probably because of sheer ignorance about what the scholars actually say. A common statement that is circulated in the study circles goes as follows:
“If one’s knowledge increases, his objections decrease.” For this reason, I decided to share some of the issues pertaining to the beard along with their proofs and the opinions of the scholars pertaining to each (issue).
Shaving the beard is absolutely prohibited in Islam based on the unequivocal nature of some of the following traditions:
1 – Ibn Umar reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Go against the ways of the disbelievers ! Let the beards grow thick (Tawfeer), and trim (Al-Ihfaa’) the moustache!” [Bukhari]
2 – Abu Hurairah reported that the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Cut the moustaches (Juzzu), and leave the beards [so that they grow](Al-Irkha’)!” [Muslim]
3 – Abu Ma’mar asked Khubaab (RA), “Did the Prophet (PBUH) recite during Dhur and Asr prayer?” He replied, “Yes.” I then asked him, “How did you come to learn this?” He replied, “From the movement of his beard.”
Note: The words that the Prophet (PBUH) used to command us to grow our beards with are five. Imam An-Nawawi said in his explanation of Saheeh Muslim, “There are five narration [that contain the following five words]: U’foo, Awfoo, Arkhoo, Arjoo, and Waffiroo. All of these words come out to mean: Leave it as it is.”
After researching the matter extensively, I found that most of the scholars agreed that it is impermissible for one to shave his beard. The following are some of the statements of the scholars pertaining the issue.
– Ibn ‘Aabideen Al-Hanafi said in Radd Al-Muhtaar, “It is impermissible for one to shave his beard.” and similar statements can be found in several of the Hanafi texts, such as Fathul-Qadeer, and others.
– Ibn Abdil-Barr Al-Maliki mentioned in At-Tamheed, “It is impermissible to shave the beard…”
– Ad-Dussoqi Al-Maliki said in his Hashiyah, “It is impermissible for a man to shave his beard or moustache.”
– Al-‘Adawi Al-Maliki mentioned in his Hashiyah, “It is impermissible to remove the hair below the lips, just as it is impermissible to shave ones beard.”
It is clear from the previously mentioned proofs and statements of the scholars that shaving the beard is not permissible, and Allah knows best!
This issue can be divided into two subdivisions. I will, InshaAllah, share an ample amount of information pertaining to both.
1. Trimming until fist length
Trimming all the way up to the fist length is acceptable based on the position of almost all the scholars. We also find this often practiced in the actions of the Salaf. Marwan ibn Salim said, “I saw Ibn Umar holding his beard with his fist. He then cut everything beyond the fist.” [Abu Dawood]
The scholars differed, however, about whether it is better to trim to fist length or leave it as it is. The Hanafi school holds that it is preferable to trim everything beyond fist length. Ibn Nujaim said in Al-Bahr Ar-Raiq, “Al-I’faa (which is one of the five words I mentioned earlier) means to leave the beard until it grows thick and large. However, Al-Qass is preferable, which means to hold one’s beard with his fist and cut whatever is beyond it (i.e., the fist)…”
Several other scholars hold that it is better not to trim anything from the beard. This is the opinion of the Hanbali school, and several others as well. Muhammad ibn Abdillah As-Samiri Al-Hanbali said in his book Al-Mustaw’ib, “One should not trim his beard; except that which is beyond the fist if he wishes. It is, however, better for him not to trim at all.”
Note: It should be noted that it is not recommended to keep the beard overly large in size. This can lead to one to becoming subject to mockery. Imam At-Tabari said, as mentioned by Ibn Hajar in Fathul-Bari, “A man lets his beard grow until it becomes extremely long and wide, [all of this] only to present himself to someone that can mock him.”
2. Trimming less than fist length
Trimming less than fist length can either be for straightening scattered hair, or for no particular reason at all. Here is what Al-Qurtubi said in Al-Mufhim in relation to trimming scattered hair, “It is not permissible to shave, nor pluck the beard. Neither is it acceptable to trim a large portion of it. As for trimming scattered hair, hair which disfigures the look and leads one to look out of place, be it in length or width, then it is good to do such according to Imam Malik and others…”
Ibn Abdil-Barr mentioned in At-Tamheed that Ibrahim [An-Nakha’e] said, “They (i.e., the Salaf,) used to trim portions from the edges of their beards.”
The previously mentioned quotes indicate that it is acceptable for one to trim scattered hair, be it above or below fist length. If one wishes to shorten his beard less than fist length for no particular reason, this would be considered acceptable based on the opinion of several scholars. Ibn Abdil-Barr states in At-Tamheed, “The scholars differed about trimming ones beard. Some of them disliked this act, whereas others held that this is permissible.” It was also narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) used to trim his beard in length and width, as related by At-Tirmidhi, but this tradition (to my knowledge) is not authentic. Ali (RA) is also said to be amongst the Salaf who practiced trimming. If the tradition (about Ali (RA) trimming) found in Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah is authentic, then this would be a clear action of a companion who trimmed parts of his beard (to say the least) less than fist length (I plan on researching this in a future article).
Just as the Prophet (PBUH) commanded us to let the beards grow with several different words, the Prophet (PBUH) also used a variety of terms to direct the commandment pertaining to the moustache. Al-Qass, Al-Jazz, Al-Inhaak, Al-Halq, and Al-Ihfaa, are some of the words found in the Prophetic traditions.
In most of the narrations, however, we find the word Al-Qass is used. The scholars differed about what exactly does this word indicate. Imam Al-Qurtubi said explaining the word Al-Qass, “Al-Qass is to trim the portion of the moustache that grows onto the lips.” This is also the position of Imam An-Nawawi amongst others. However, some scholars, such as Al-Khattabi, hold that it is better to trim the entire moustache off. This seems to be the practice of Ibn Umar as mentioned in Saheeh Al-Bukhari. The following words (from the words mentioned above) can support this practice: Al-Ihfaa, Al-Inhaak, and maybe even Al-Jazz. A third view, is the opinion of Imam At-Tahawi along with the Hanafi scholars at large. Imam At-Tahawi said, “the opinion of Abu Hanifa, Abu Yusuf, Muhammad [ibn Al-Hasan] is to shave.” The word Al-Halq, which the Prophet (PBUH) mentioned (and is amongst the words mentioned above), as found in An-Nasaee also strengthens the view of the Hanafi school.
Too many opinions, what do I do?! The answer is beautifully stated by Imam At-Tabari as he says, “The Sunnah showed us both these ways (to shave or to trim) and there is no contradiction therein. For the word Al-Qass means to trim, whereas Al-Ihfaa means to remove entirely, and both of these words are authenticated terms [in the Prophetic traditions]. Based on this, it is permissible for one to do as he pleases.”
And Allah Almighty Knows Best,
Abdul Wahab Saleem
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Thursday, November 25th, 2010