A Reply to the Essay, “Perspective on Trimming/Shaving beard”

Bismillāhir Rahmānir Rahīm

In the following, we will address a 9-page essay authored by Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan of Botswana called, “Perspective on Trimming/Shaving beard.”[1] Sheikh Hategekimana attempts to show that growing the beard is not a precept of religion or Sharī‘ah, but merely a recommended cultural practice inherited from Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). He further argues that there is no sin in shaving the beard, and the widely-held notion that a person who shaves his beard should not be appointed an imam is an innovation in Islamic thought with no basis in earlier jurisprudential writings.

Summary of Sheikh Hategekimana’s Article

Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan’s aim in writing this essay is to address the issue of whether a person who trims or shaves his beard is suitable for imāmat. He does so by responding to three documents written on the topic of the beard in Islam, one by Shaykh al-Hadīth Mawlānā Zakariyyā Kāndehlewī, the second by Muftī Afzal Elias and the third by an unknown author.

He starts by quoting the argument that the Qur’ān obligates obedience to Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) in several verses, including 4:59, 8:20, 8:24, 33:21 and 59:7. In response to this, he argues that this is a general Qur’ānic directive that applies specifically to the religious mission of Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), not to other aspects of his life.

He then provides a three-pronged division of “Sunnah” based on the principles of Islamic jurisprudence (Usūl al-Fiqh): Sunnah Dhātiyyah (Personal Sunnah), natural and spontaneous activities of Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), like his manner of standing, sitting and so on; Sunnah Khāssah (Exclusive Sunnah), those things exclusive and peculiar to Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam); and Sunnah Mufassirah (Interpretive Sunnah), those reports from Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) which have legislative force and clarify legal injunctions of the Qur’ān. The first category of Sunnah does not constitute part of Sharī‘ah and a Muslim is only recommended to emulate Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) in these aspects and is not accountable for failing to do so. The second is of a separate class not related to the followers of Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam). And only the third category of Sunnah is binding on the ummah to different degrees. He argues that the beard falls in the first category of Sunnah. Sheikh Hategekimana further contends that the “Qur’an as a primal source of all our Islamic activities is silent about [the issue of the beard].”

Regarding the hadīths from Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) on the beard, he claims all the hadīths mentioned on this issue are, in reality, only one hadith, “reported by different people using different words and content.” This hadīth states, “Clip your moustaches and lengthen your beards.” He asserts that all the hadīths that report these words refer to one incident, recorded in full in the following hadith:

Abu Umamah reported that: Rasulullah (S.A.W)[2] once came to some old men of Ansar. These men had extremely white beards. Seeing them, Rasulullah (S.A.W) made the following remark: ‘O people of Ansar dye your beards in red or golden colour and do not follow the people of the Book.’…They said: ‘O Rasulullah (S.A.W) these People of the Book wear neither shoes nor socks. At this, Rasulullah (S.A.W) said: ‘Wear shoes and socks and do not follow these People of the Book.’ They said: ‘O Rasulullah (S.A.W.) these people of the book lengthen their moustaches and shave their beards.’ At this, Rasulullah (S.A.W.) said: ‘Clip your moustaches and lengthen your beards and do not follow these people of the book.Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hambal, vol. 5 p. 264

Sheikh Hategekimana takes this hadith as the primary hadīth reference on the beard. Other versions of this hadīth state that those who would cut their beards short and lengthen their moustaches, and who Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) commanded the Muslims to oppose, were not the “People of the Book,” but the “Zoroastrians” or the “idolaters.”  Sheikh Hategekimana suggests that these latter wordings of the hadiths are mistaken as the full context described in the hadīth of Abū Umāmah shows this statement was made in Madīnah, and “there were no mushriks or kaafirs in Madina. The non-Muslims of Madina were known as the people of the book.”

His basic argument from this hadith is, in his words: “As dyeing hair, wearing socks and shoes while praying have not become compulsory directives according to this hadith, keeping beard as an obligatory directive cannot be deduced from the words of this hadith of Rasulullah (S.A.W) as well. One can conclude that the practice of keeping beard does not belong to the class of obligatory directives. Rather it is a desirable thing which will not hold a person liable if he does not follow it. Like any other sunnat practices of the first category as I mentioned above.”

His interpretation of this hadīth is that the Muslims of Madīnah felt that they ought to follow the Ahl al-Kitab in the abovementioned matters, and the hadīth only advises the Sahābah that it is permissible not to do so. He says, “In other words, these ahaadith are not asking men to grow beard. They are merely saying that keeping beard and clipping moustache is not a condemned religious practice as certain people are contending.”

In terms of scholarly views and juristic opinions, he quotes some contemporary scholars to justify his stance: Muhammad Hashim Kamal, Shehzad Saleem, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and Wahba Zuhayli. From classical scholars who in his view held the view he advocates, he mentions “the Shafite jurists” and Qadi Iyad, who purportedly regard shaving the beard as “makruh.” And with respect to the definition of “makruh,” he quotes Abu Zuhrah, “the perpetrator of makruh is not to be condemned while a person who desists from it is praiseworthy”.

He concludes: “The beard as a condition for the Imamat is a new development in Islamic thought. It was not an issue during the life of Rasulullah (S.A.W) or after the demise of Rasulullah. Rasulullah (S.A.W) neither insulted nor abused people by calling them fusaaq (evil doers)…” Quoting some passages stating the position of the four schools of jurisprudence on who has more right of imāmat, he says: “None of the Imams of the four schools of thought stated or included growing or lengthening the beard as a condition of Imamat…It is very surprisingly to hear in our days that person who shaves his beard cannot act as an Imam in Islam. This was not the case with the four Imams as demonstrated in their views above.”


The opinions that Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan expresses in this essay and the arguments he presents to support his position on the beard are, on the whole, erroneous and flawed. To shave the beard and to trim it excessively is harām according to the vast majority of the scholars, and this is based on clear texts from the sources of Sharī‘ah.

We will break down our reply under the following headings:

  1. Beard in the Qur’an
  2. Beard in the Sunnah
  3. Beard According to the Four Madhhabs
  4. The Ruling of Following an Imam Who Shaves his Beard

In doing so, we will address the arguments presented by Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan.

Beard in the Qur’an

Sheikh Hategekimana said, “Qur’an as a primal source of all our Islamic activities is silent about [the issue of the beard].”

While it is true that the Qur’ān has no clear directive on the beard, it is incorrect to say the Qur’ān is silent on the issue.

The beard is explicitly mentioned in the description of the prophet Hārūn (‘alayhissalām). In the story of Mūsā’s return to his people, Mūsā (‘alayhissalām) is angered, and takes hold of his brother’s beard and hair. Hārūn (‘alayhissalām) replies:

يَا ابْنَ أُمَّ لَا تَأْخُذْ بِلِحْيَتِي وَلَا بِرَأْسِي

“O son of my mother! Do not take hold of my beard, nor my head.” (20:94)

We can deduce from this that having a grown beard was the norm amongst the Anbiyā’ (‘alayhimussalām). It is certainly true, however, that this verse does not convey any specific ruling with respect to the beard as it is left ambiguous whether the grown beard is being referred to as a religious practice or as a cultural norm.

Secondly, Allāh Ta‘ālā says:

إِذِ ابْتَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَاتٍ فَأَتَمَّهُنَّ

“When his Lord tested Ibrāhīm with directives and he accomplished them.” (2:124)

One of the famous interpretations of the “directives” (kalimāt) given to Ibrāhīm (‘alayhissalām) in this verse is the traits of “Fitrah,” or those qualities that constitute part of a sound human disposition according to the law of Allāh Ta‘ālā. Ibn al-‘Arabī (d. 543 H), the famous exegete, faqīh and muhaddith, said under the commentary of this verse:

What are those directives? The scholars have differed over it abundantly. The essence of these [differences of opinions] are two views…The second [of them] is that it is the Fitrah which Allah inspired to him and appointed to him. ‘Ā’ishah narrated in the Sahīh from the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) that he said: ‘Ten [traits] are from the Fitrah: cutting the moustache, lengthening the beard…’”[3]

The hadith he quotes is found in Sahīh Muslim, and we will return to it in the next section.

Other exegetes, like Hāfiz Ibn Kathīr, have noted the same.[4]

Hence, the Qur’an alludes to the beard being a norm amongst prophets, and according to one of the famous interpretations of verse 2:124, it was amongst the divine directives given to Ibrāhīm (‘alayhissalām) to grow his beard. It is incorrect to say, therefore, that the Qur’an is silent on the issue of the beard.

Beard in the Sunnah

In regards to the position of the Sunnah on the beard, Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan claims that there is only one hadith on this issue narrated in different wordings, and that is the report, ‘Lengthen the beards and clip the moustaches.’

In fact, there are at least three different hadiths, which we will discuss below.

First Hadīth

Ibn ‘Umar (radiyAllāhu ‘anhumā) reported that Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:

خالفوا المشركين، ووفروا اللحى وأحفوا الشوارب

“Be different to the idolaters. Make the beards plentiful and cut the moustaches short.” (Sahīh al-Bukhārī, 5892)[5]

Abū Hurayrah (radiyAllāhu ‘anhu) reported that Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:

جزوا الشوارب وأرخوا اللحى، خالفوا المجوس

“Cut the moustaches short and lengthen the beards. Be different from the Zoroastrians.” (Sahīh Muslim, 602)

The reference to “idolaters” in the first hadīth does not refer to the Arab idolaters, but to the Zoroastrians.

Hāfiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalānī said:

“Be different from the idolaters.” In the hadīth of Abū Hurayrah, according to Muslim [the wording is]: “Be different from the Zoroastrians,” and this is the intent of the hadith of Ibn ‘Umar, as they would cut their beards and some of them would shave them [as distinguished from the Arab idolaters].[6]

Imām an-Nawawī says:

It was from the practice of the Persians to cut the beard. Thus, the Sharī‘ah forbade that.[7]

The second and third hadiths discussed below also prove that the intent of those who would make their moustaches long and beards short are the Majūs (Zoroastrians) from the non-Arabs, not the Arabs or Ahlul Kitāb residing in the Hijaz.

This hadith was also reported by Ibn ‘Abbās (al-Mu‘jam al-Kabīr, 11724)[8] and Jābir ibn ‘Abdillah (Musannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah, 26016)[9]. The hadith of Ibn ‘Abbās has the interesting addition:

And Ibrāhīm, the friend of the Most Merciful, would lengthen his beard and cut his moustache.

This supports the interpretation of Qur’ān 2:124 discussed earlier.

In answer to the clear directive mentioned in this hadīth, Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan counters with another version of this same hadith:

Abu Umamah reported that: Rasulullah (S.A.W) once came to some old men of Ansar. These men had extremely white beards. Seeing them, Rasulullah (S.A.W) made the following remark: ‘O people of Ansar dye your beards in red or golden colour and do not follow the people of the Book.’…They said: ‘O Rasulullah (S.A.W) these People of the Book wear neither shoes nor socks. At this, Rasulullah (S.A.W) said: ‘Wear shoes and socks and do not follow these People of the Book.’ They said: ‘O Rasulullah (S.A.W.) these people of the book lengthen their moustaches and shave their beards.’ At this, Rasulullah (S.A.W.) said: ‘Clip your moustaches and lengthen your beards and do not follow these people of the book.Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hambal, vol. 5 p. 264

He then says: “The three documents submitted to me mentioned only the last part of this hadith between Rasulullah (S.A.W) and the people of Madina who are known as Al-Ansar. The other part of the above Hadith is of no importance to them.” (p. 3)

The documents in reference do not quote this hadīth, but the famous hadith of Abū Hurayrah (in Sahīh Muslim) and Ibn ‘Umar (in Sahīh al-Bukhārī and Sahīh Muslim) quoted above, which simply state: “Grow the beards, and cut the moustaches short” with the addition, “Be different from the Zoroastrians” or, “Be different from the idolaters.”

The hadīth of Abū Umāmāh (radiyAllāhu ‘anhu) which he quotes is narrated by Ahmad ibn Hanbal (Musnad, 22283)[10] and at-Tabarānī (al-Mu‘jam al-Kabīr, 7924). However, there are a number of problems with this narration, making it an unacceptable report.

  1. Firstly, although the chain of narration is apparently authentic, there is a hidden defect (‘illah) in the chain, as stated by Abū Hātim ar-Rāzī (d. 277 H), recorded in al-‘Ilal of his son, Ibn Abī Hātim.[11]
  2. Secondly, the hadīth is inconsistent with other more authentic narrations. This is because this hadīth apparently suggests that the people who would grow their moustaches and shorten their beards are the Ahlul Kitāb residing in Madīnah. However, other hadīths show that in fact the people that are referred to are the Zoroastrians (majūs); or, as some of the commentators of the hadīth, mentioned, “the non-Arabs” (al-a‘ājim). It was not a practice of the Arabs, neither the idolaters nor the Ahlul Kitāb, to cut their beards short. This also becomes clear from the second and third hadīths discussed below. Hence, this narration would be considered shādhdh (anomalous), and thus rejected.

Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan made this hadīth, which suffers these defects, his primary hadīth source, and on this basis, cast doubt on the authentic hadīths mentioned above as they refer to “idolaters” and not “people of the book”. In truth, academic fairness dictates that the reverse should have been the case. Since the abovementioned authentic hadīths contradict this hadīth, it is an indication that this hadīth is problematic.

Based on the questionable hadīth of Abū Umāmah, he argued: “As dyeing hair, wearing socks and shoes while praying have not become compulsory directives according to this hadith, keeping beard as an obligatory directive cannot be deduced from the words of this hadith of Rasulullah (S.A.W) as well.”

Although the hadīth that he used cannot be presented as evidence, there is a hadīth in Sahīh al-Bukhārī that states:

إن اليهود والنصارى لا يصبغون فخالفوهم

“Verily, the Jews and Christians do not dye (their white hair), so oppose them.”[12]

Based on this hadīth, the vast majority of scholars have regarded dying the white hairs – in a colour other than black – as recommended (mustahabb)[13], while one position reported from Ahmad ibn Hanbal is that it is obligatory (wājib)[14].

It could be argued, therefore, that since this hadīth, which is worded in almost an identical form to the hadīth concerning the beard, did not confer the ruling of obligation but only recommendation, the same should apply to the beard. However, this is an invalid analogy, as the ruling pertaining to the beard is not derived from this one hadīth alone as Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan assumed. If it was only this one hadīth, perhaps a reasonable argument could be made that just like dyeing the hair, growing the beard ought to be merely recommended and not obligatory. However, there are other hadīths which show otherwise. For example, Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:

من لم يأخذ من شاربه فليس منا

“The one who does not take from his moustache is not from us.” (Ahmad, Nasā’ī and Tirmidhī who said: “a sahīh hadīth.”) [15]

Such strong warning is only said for something that is an obligation.[16] The hadīths discussed below also further consolidate this assessment.

Second Hadīth

Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said:

عشر من الفطرة: قص الشارب وإعفاء اللحية والسواك واستنشاق الماء وقص الأظفار وغسل البراجم ونتف الإبط وحلق العانة وانتقاص الماء

“Ten [traits] are from the Fitrah: cutting the moustache, leaving the beard, brushing the teeth, rinsing the nose, clipping the nails, washing between the finger joints, plucking the underarm hair, shaving pubic hair, doing istinjā’ with water…” (Sahīh Muslim, 603)[17]

Ibn al-‘Arabī said with regards to this hadith:

The ummah have agreed that they are from religion, and they have differed over their grades [whether obligatory or recommended].[18]

Ibn al-‘Arabī, here, quotes total consensus that all of these things constitute part of religion and Shari‘ah, contrary to what Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan asserted that the beard falls under the first class of Sunnah (i.e. Personal Sunnah), having no legislative force in religion or Sharī‘ah.

Imām an-Nawawī, like Ibn al-‘Arabī, also mentioned under this hadīth that these traits do not all have the same ruling. Some may be obligatory and others recommended.[19]

This hadīth has also been reported by Abū Hurayrah with the following words:

إن فطرة الإسلام الغسل يوم الجمعة والاستنان وأخذ الشارب وإعفاء اللحى فإن المجوس تعفي شواربها وتحفي لحاها فخالفوهم، خذوا شواربكم وأعفوا لحاكم

“Verily, the Fitrah of Islām is to bathe on Friday, brush the teeth, take from the moustache and make the beard grow, for verily the Zoroastrians lengthen their moustaches and cut their beards short, so oppose them! Take from your moustaches, and make your beards long.” (Sahīh Ibn Hibbān, 1219)[20]

This hadīth is, in effect, a combination of both the first and second hadīths.

Third Hadith

‘Ubaydullāh ibn ‘Abdillāh ibn ‘Utbah reported:

A Zoroastrian entered upon the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), and he had lengthened his moustache and cut his beard short. So he said to him: “Who ordered your to [do] this?” He said: “My lord [Khosrau] commanded me.” He said: “But my Lord [Allah] commanded me to cut my moustache short and make my beard long.”[21]

The hadīth is narrated through an authentic mursal chain. This hadīth is clear proof that growing the beard is a divine command and not merely a cultural practice. In another version of this narration, it mentions the Prophet (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) “disliked looking at them” due to the appearance they adopted. Mawlānā Zafar Usmani writes:

In this is clear evidence that he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) hated this [practice] for the disbelievers, let alone the Muslims! And he hated looking at the one who shaved the beard and made the moustache long. In this is proof that this was not from the norms of the Arabs, as it has not been transmitted at all that he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) hated looking at any of the Arabs due to his appearance. And in this is the clearest of evidence for the prohibition of the act and its despicability. So understand and do not be from the ignorant ones![22]

In another version of this event, Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said to the Zoroastrian:

But it is part of our religion to cut the moustache short and to make the beard long.[23]Musannaf Ibn Abī Shaybah, 26013

These hadīths disprove the claims made by Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan that there is only one hadīth regarding the beard and that the hadīth has no legislative force. Furthermore, these hadīths offer strong evidence that shaving or cutting the beard excessively is harām and sinful.

Beard According to the Four Madhhabs

Here, we will discuss the view of the four madhhabs on this issue, from which it will become abundantly clear that the view that shaving the beard is prohibited is that of the vast majority of the fuqahā’ – such that some scholars have even quoted consensus on this ruling.

The Hanafi Madhhab:

The early Hanafī jurist, Abū Bakr al-Iskāf (d. 330 H) said:

It is impermissible for a man to cut his beard.[24]

Ibn al-Humām (d. 861 H), writes:

As for taking from it (i.e. the beard) when it is less than that (i.e. a fist-length), as some westerners and effeminate men do, none have permitted it, and taking all of it is the practice of the Jews of India and the Zoroastrians of the non-Arabs.[25]

‘Alā ad-Dīn al-Haskafī (d. 1088) states in his al-Durr al-Mukhtār.

It is harām for a man to cut his beard (less than a fist-length). [26]

Shaykh ‘Ābid as-Sindī (d. 1257 H) said:

And imitation of them is harām, and doing this (i.e. shaving) is mutilation, so caution should be adopted against it.[27]

Mālikī Madhhab:

According to the Mālikī madhhab, to shave the beard or to trim it when it is not long is harām. An-Nafrāwī (d. 1126 H) said, describing the Mālikī position:

Shaving it is harām when it belongs to a man. As for cutting it, if it is not long, then it is the same [i.e. harām].[28]

By “not long,” in the terminology of the Mālikīs, is meant a beard that comes close to the length of a fist as inferred from the writings of the Mālikī jurists.[29]

Shāfi‘ī Madhhab

Imām ash-Shāfi‘ī wrote in his Kitāb al-Umm:

Shaving [the hair of another without his consent] is not an offence [that deserves compensation], because it is a ritual act on the head [during Hajj] and there is not much pain involved in it, and although it [i.e. shaving] is not permitted (lā yajūz) for the beard, there is neither much pain involved in it nor the [complete] removal of hair because it will [eventually] be replaced.[30]

Lā yajūz” (impermissible) in the usage of the Shāfi‘ī fuqahā’, generally, means harām, as stated by Imām an-Nawawī (Sharh al-Muhadhdab, 5:287; 2:26)[31]

Some of the major early Shāfi‘ī imams have also said the same. Ibn al-Mulaqqin (d. 802 H) recorded in his Al-I‘lām bi Fawā’id ‘Umdat al-Ahkām that the great early jurist, Abū ‘Abdillāh al-Halīmī (d. 403) said in his Minhāj:

It is not permissible for anyone to shave his beard, nor his eyebrows, although it is allowed for him to shave his moustache because there is a benefit in shaving it, which is that the oil of food and its bad odour will not cling to it, as opposed to shaving the beard since it is a defect and draws attention and is imitation of women, so it is like removing the penis.[32]

Here “not permissible” means “harām,” as evident from the examples used, and it was understood as such by later Shāfi‘ī fuqahā’ as shown below.

Al-Halīmī’s teacher, al-Qaffāl al-Shāshī (d. 365 H) also held this view.

Summarising the views of the Shāfi‘ī jurists on this issue, Ibn Hajar al-Haythamī (d. 974 H) said in Sharh al-‘Ubāb:

The two shaykhs [an-Nawawī and ar-Rāfi‘ī] said it is makrūh tanzīhī to shave the beard, and Ibn al-Rif‘ah objected to it in Hāshiyat al-Kāfi by [saying] that al-Shāfi‘ī, Allāh be pleased with him, stated its prohibition (tahrīm) explicitly in al-Umm. Al-Zarkashī said: ‘And likewise al-Halīmī in Shu‘ab al-Īmān, and his teacher al-Qaffāl al-Shāshi in Mahāsin al-Sharī’ah.’ And al-Adhra‘ī said: ‘The truth is the prohibition of shaving it…’[33]

The tenth century Shāfi‘ī jurist, al-Mālibārī, said:

And shaving the beard is harām.[34]

Furthermore, Ibn Hajar al-Haythamī (d. 974 H) said the view of prohibition is also the view of the majority of the later Shāfi‘ī jurists.[35]

Hence, although there is a view in the Shāfi‘ī madhhab that regards shaving the beard and cutting it as makrūh tanzīhī, the view of Imām ash-Shāfi‘ī, the major early scholars of the school, and the majority of the later jurists is of prohibition, in line with the other schools of jurisprudence.

Hanbalī Madhhab

Recording the Hanbalī position, al-Bahūtī (d. 1051 H) said:

It is haram to shave it [i.e. the beard]…though trimming what is in excess of a handful is not disliked.[36]

Ibn Muflih (d. 763) said:

Shaving it is harām…and taking what exceeds a fist-length is not disliked…Ibn Hazm stated consensus that clipping the moustache and lengthening the beard is obligatory…And it is reported from Zayd ibn Arqam as a marfū‘ hadith: “Whoever does not take from his moustache is not from us.” Ahmad, an-Nasā’ī and at-Tirmidhī narrated it and he graded it sahīh. And this wording dictates prohibition (tahrīm) according to us.[37]

Statements Expressing Consensus

As the last quote shows, Ibn Hazm (d. 456 H) declared consensus that growing the beard is obligatory (fard). Moreover, in his work, Marātib al-Ijmā‘, Ibn Hazm states that there is consensus that shaving the entire beard is mutilation and impermissible.[38]

Abul Hasan Ibn al-Qattān (d. 628 H), a Mālikī jurist, reiterated this statement of Ibn Hazm in his work on scholarly consensus or ijmā‘.[39]

In al-Mawsū‘at al-Fiqhiyyah, this position is stated as the view of the majority of jurists:

The majority of the jurists, Hanafīs, Mālikis and Hanbalīs – and it is a view according to the Shāfi‘is – have adopted [the view] that it is harām to shave the beard because it goes against the prophetic command to leave it and make it plentiful.[40]

Other Opinions

From amongst classical jurists, Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan asserted that Qādī ‘Iyād considered shaving the beard as makrūh, and he quoted Abu Zuhrah as saying “the perpetrator of makruh is not to be condemned while a person who desists from it is praiseworthy.” This argument is premised on “makrūh here being in the meaning of “makrūh tanzīhī.” Qādī ‘Iyād used the word yukrah (it is detested) for shaving and cutting the beard.[41] However, he did not do this in explaining its ruling in a book of Islamic jurisprudence, but in commenting on a hadīth. The terminology of hadīth-scholars does not necessarily conform to that of the jurists. In fact “yukrah” and its cognates are frequently used in discussions of hadīth for things that are categorically and clearly harām. For example, Imām al-Bukhārī titles one of his chapters, “Karāhiyyat at-Ta‘arrī fis Salāti wa Ghayrihā,”[42] “the reprehensibility of being naked in Salah and outside of it,” which obviously means hurmah, and does not mean makrūh tanzīhī.

In explaining this point, Imam al-Shātibī (d. 790) said:

As for the speech of ‘ulamā’ – even if they use “karāhiyyah” in matters that are prohibited – they do not mean thereby “karāhiyyat al-tanzih” only. Rather, this is a convention of the later scholars: When they wished to differentiate between the two categories, they used the word “karāhiyyah” for karāhiyyat al-tanzih alone, and they designated karāhiyyat al-tahrim with the word “tahrīm” (prohibition) or “man‘” (proscription) and the equivalents of these.

As for the early scholars from the predecessors, it was not from their temperament to say in that which there is no clear text: “This is halāl” and: “This is harām,” and they avoided using such expressions, for fear of what is in the verse in His saying: “Do not say about what your tongues describe falsely, ‘This is halāl and this is harām,’ so that you invent a lie against Allah.” (16:116)

Mālik related this usage from those who preceded him. Thus, when, “I dislike this (akrahu hādhā),” “I do not love this (lā uhibbu hadhā),” “This is makrūh,” and the likes of these are found in their speech regarding bid‘ah or something else, you must not have certainty that they intend tanzīh thereby.[43]

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d. 751) also discussed this temperament of the early scholars:

Many of the later scholar from the followers of the Imams imputed error on their Imams due to this reason, whereby the Imams were careful in using the word “harām” and they used the word “karāhah,” and then the later scholars negated prohibition from that in which the Imams used “karāhah” and then the word karāhah became insignificant and its burden became light on them, so some of them held it according to light (tanzih) [karāhah]…So because of this great error occurred against the Sharī‘ah and against the imams.

Indeed He (Exalted is He) said after mentioning what He prohibited of the forbidden things from his saying: “Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him,” to His saying, “do not say to them: uff,” to His saying: “Do not kill your children for fear of poverty,” to His saying, “Do not even go close to fornication,” to His saying, “Do not kill any person the life of whom is sanctified by Allah, except for a just reason,” to the end of the verses, and then He said: “That which is evil, of all these, is detestable (makrūh) in the sight of your Lord.” (17:23-38) And in the Sahīh [it is narrated]: “Verily, Allah detests (kariha) for you gossip and asking much and wasting wealth.”

The Salaf would use karāhah in its meaning used in the speech of Allah and His Messenger. However, the later scholars devised a specific technical definition for karāhah which is other than harām, the omission of which is superior to its performance, and then those of them who understood the speech of the imams according to the new technical definition understood it as such, and erred therein.[44]

Hence, where Qādī ‘Iyād used the word yukrah (it is detested) for shaving the beard and cutting it, there can be no certainty that he intended makrūh tanzīhī. Rather, based on the view of the overwhelming majority, it should be understood as harām, which was one of the popular meanings of makrūh at that time.

Following an Imam who Shaves his Beard

If the position that shaving the beard is harām is adopted, which is the view of the vast majority of the scholars and the schools of the fuqahā’, the person who shaves his beard will, by definition, be regarded as a “fāsiq” if he does so persistently. Fisq is to commit either one major sin or numerous minor sins.[45]

By virtue of this definition, Ibn ‘Ābidīn has stated explicitly that the one who shaves his beard is a fāsiq:

Thus, if he persists on this prohibition [of cutting the beard less than a fist-length], he will be a fāsiq…[46]

The Mālikīs regard shaving the beard a crime deserving physical punishment.[47]

As-Sarakhsī, the great Hanafī jurist, said:

Appointing a fāsiq as imam is valid according to us, but makrūh (tahrīmī).[48]

The remaining madhhabs also consider it reprehensible for a fāsiq to lead the prayer.[49]

Hence, the claim, “the beard as a condition for the Imamat is a new development in Islamic thought” is incorrect, and the argument, “It was not an issue during the life of Rasulullah (S.A.W)” is misplaced. There are many things not addressed at the time of Rasūlullāh (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) as they were not even conceived of at that time. It was inconceivable that large groups of Muslims will begin to cut their beards short or shave, and on top of that, be appointed as imams.

To prove his point, Sheikh Hategekimana Hassan quotes the positions of the four madhhabs on who has the most right of imāmat. However, this is another fallacious argument as these quotes do not address who should not be made imam. Rather, they are discussing who should be made imam. Hence, they do not mention that the imam should not be a non-Muslim, a heretic or a woman, although all madhhabs agree to this.


Sheikh Hategekimana says: “In conclusion, we need to respect, accept, appreciate and tolerate one another opinion and view. Let us learn to work together instead of creating unnecessary differences that at the end can cause divisions in the community.”

Mutual tolerance and acceptance of other opinions can only be realised when the opinions are grounded in honest academic research, and are not based on flawed arguments. Sheikh Hategekimana’s essay lacks academic merit as clear from the above discussion. Moreover, it would appear from his essay that he is decidedly intolerant towards the view that shaving the beard is harām and that a person who shaves should not be appointed as imam. His call for academic tolerance, therefore, appears to only be one-sided.

In light of the above analysis of Sheikh Hategekimana’s essay, his research on this question should be disregarded in favour of the traditional standpoint on the matter, which is that it is harām for a man to shave his beard and if appointed as imam, the Salāh will be rendered makrūh (reprehensible).

Zameelur Rahman

Checked and Approved by,
Mufti Ebrahim Desai with the following comment:

Apart from the above research which is abundantly clear, the administration of a masjid should adopt an ideal standard of administration, especially in appointing an imam who is the ambassador of the musallies before Allah. Only an imam adhering to the Sunnah makes an ideal representation for the musallies.

[2] This abbreviation has been kept here and elsewhere in the interest of accurately reproducing the quoted passage. Otherwise, we prefer to quote the durūd, sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam, in full.

[3] أحكام القرآن، المكتبة التوفيقية. ج. ١ ص. ٥٤

[4]  قال الحافظ ابن كثير:

وقال عبد الرزاق أيضاً، أخبرنا معمر عن ابن طاوس عن أبيه عن ابن عباس { وَإِذِ ٱبْتَلَىٰ إِبْرَٰهِيمَ رَبُّهُ بِكَلِمَـٰتٍ } ، قال: ابتلاه بالطهارة؛ خمس في الرأس، وخمس في الجسد، في الرأس: قص الشارب، والمضمضة، والاستنشاق، والسواك، وفرق الرأس، وفي الجسد: تقليم الأظفار، وحلق العانة، والختان، ونتف الإبط، وغسل أثر الغائط والبول بالماء. قال ابن أبي حاتم: وروي عن سعيد بن المسيب ومجاهد والشعبي والنخعي، وأبي صالح وأبي الجلد نحو ذلك، (قلت): وقريب من هذا ما ثبت في صحيح مسلم عن عائشة رضي الله عنها، قالت: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم:

عشر من الفطرة: قص الشارب، وإعفاء اللحية، والسواك، واستنشاق الماء، وقص الأظفار، وغسل البراجم، ونتف الإبط، وحلق العانة، وانتقاص الماء، ونسيت العاشرة، إلا أن تكون المضمضة  (تفسير ابن كثير، قديمي كتب خانه، ج. ١ ص. ٢١٨)

[5] فتح الباري، دار السلام، ج. ١٠ ص. ٤٢٨

[6] قوله خالفوا المشركين في حديث أبي هريرة عند مسلم خالفوا المجوس وهو المراد في حديث ابن عمر فإنهم كان يقصون لحاهم ومنهم من كان يحلقها (فتح الباري، دار السلام، ج. ١٠ ص. ٤٢٩)

[7] وكان من عادة الفرس قص اللحية فنهى الشرع عن ذلك (شرح النووي على صحيح مسلم، دار ابن رجب. ج. ٢ ص. ١٤٧)

[8] حدثنا إبراهيم بن نائلة الأصبهاني ثنا إسماعيل بن عمرو البجلي ثنا إسرائيل عن سماك بن حرب عن عكرمة عن ابن عباس قال قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: أوفوا اللحى وقصوا الشوارب قال: وكان إبراهم عليه السلام خليل الرحمن يوفي لحيته ويقص شاربه (المعجم الكبير للطبراني، مكتبة ابن تيمية، ج. ١١ ص. ٢٧٧)

[9] حدثنا عائذ بن حبيب عن أشعث عن أبى الزبير عن جابر قال: كنا نؤمر أن نوفى السبال ونأخذ من الشوارب

[10] حدثنا زيد بن يحيى حدثنا عبد الله بن العلاء بن زبر حدثني القاسم قال: سمعت أبا أمامة يقول: خرج رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم على مشيخة من الأنصار إلخ (مسند الإمام أحمد، مؤسسة الرسالة، ج. ٣٦ ص. ٦١٣)

[11] قال ابن أبي حاتم بعد نقل هذا الحديث بنفس إسناد أحمد والطبراني: قال أبي: سألت شعيب بن شعيب وكان ختن زيد بن يحيى على ابنته فسألته أن يخرج إلي كتاب عبد الله بن العلاء فأخرج إلي الكتاب فطلبت هذا الحديث وحديثا آخر عن أبي عبيد الله مسلم بن مشكم عن أبي تعلبة عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه سأله عن البر والإثم فلم أجد لهما أصلا في كتابه (كتاب العلل، ج. ٥ ص. ٦٠٦ – ٦٠٧)

[12] فتح الباري، دار السلام، ج. ١٠ ص. ٤٣٥

[13] كشف الباري، مكتبة فاروقية، ج.  ص. ٢٥٧

[14] فتح الباري، دار السلام ج. ١٠ ص. ٤٣٦

[15] أحكام القرآن للتهانوي، إدارة القرآن والعلوم الإسلامية، ج. ١ ص. ٦٥

[16] وهذا وعيد لا يرد مثله إلا على ترك الواجب (أحكام القرآن للتهانوي، إدارة القرآن والعلوم الإسلامية، ج. ١ ص. ٦٥)

[17] فتح الملهم، ج. ٢ ص. ٥٠٩

[18] وقد اتفقت الأمة على أنها من الملة واختلفوا في مراتبها (أحكام القرآن، المكتبة التوفيقية. ج. ١ ص. ٥٤)

[19] لا يمتنع قرن الواجب بغيره (شرح النووي على صحيح مسلم، دار ابن رجب، ج. ٢ ص. ١٤٥)

[20] التعليقات الحسان على صحيح ابن حبان، دار باوزير، ج. ٢ ص. ٤٤٤ – ٥

[21] أخبرنا عبد الله بن محمد قال: حدثنا محمد بن يحيى قال: حدثنا محمد بن عمر بن علي قال: حدثنا علي بن حرب قال: حدثنا سفيان عن عبد المجيد بن سهيل بن عبد الرحمن عن عبيد الله بن عبد الله بن عتبة أن مجوسيا دخل على النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم وقد أعفى شاربه وأحفى لحيته فقال: من أمرك بهذا؟ قال: أمرني ربي. قال: لكن ربي أمرني أن أحفي شاربي وأعفي لحيتي (التميهد لابن عبد البر، الفاروق الحدثية للطباعة والنشر، ج. ١٢ ص. ٦٦)

وهو في تاريخ الطبري والطبقات الكبرى لابن سعد ودلائل النبوة لأبي نعيم

[22] وفيه دلالة وأي دلالة على أنه صلى الله عليه وسلم كره ذلك للكفار فضلا عن المسلمين كره النظر إلى من حلق اللحية ووفر الشوارب، وفيه أيضا أن ذلك لم يكن من عوائد العرب، فلم يقنل قط أنه كره النظر إلى أحد من العرب لأجل زيه، وفي ذلك أوضح دليل على حرمة الفعل وشاعته، فافهم ولا تكن من الجاهلين (أحكام القرآن للتهانوي، إدارة القرآن والعلوم الإسلامية، ج. ١ ص. ٦٦)

[23] حدثنا جعفر بن عون قال أخبرنا أبو العميس عن عبد المجيد بن سهيل عن عبيد الله بن عبد الله بن عتبة قال: جاء رجل من المجوس إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قد حلق لحيته وأطال شاربه فقال له النبي صلى الله ما هذا؟! قال: هذا في ديننا قال: لكن في ديننا أن نجز الشارب وأن نعفي اللحية (مصنف ابن أبي شيبة، دار قرطبة، ج. ١٣ ص. ١١٧)

[24] لا يحل للرجل أن يقطع لحيته (النوازل للفقيه أبى الليث السمرقندي، مخطوط، مراد ملا، ١١٧٩، ص. ٤٠)

[25] وأما الأخذ منها وهي دون ذلك كما يفعله بعض المغاربة ومخنثة الرجال فلم يبحه أحد وأخذ كلها فعل يهود الهند ومجوس الأعاجم. فتح

[26] يحرم على الرجل قطع لحيته (الدر المختار مع حاشية ابن عابدين، سعيد، ج. ٦ ص. ٤٠٧)

[27] والتشبه بهم حرام وفعل ذلك مثلة فليحذر عن ذلك (طوالع الأنوار، ج. ٣ ص. ٢٧٥)

[28] يحرم حلقها إذا كان لرجل وأما قصها فإن لم تكن طالت فكذلك

الفواكه الدواني، دار الكتب العلمية، ج. ٢ ص.  ٤٩٧ – ٤٩٨

[29] دل عليه قول العلامة العدوي: والمعروف لا حد للأخذ منها. أي أنها إذا طالت كثيرا وقلنا لا بأس بالأخذ منها فاختلف على قولين: ١. المعروف منها أنه لا حد للأخذ أي فيقتصر على ما تحسن به الهيئة (ولا يزيد على ذلك – أي يقتصر على ما تزول به كثرة الطول)؛ ٢. ومقابل المعروف ما قاله الباجي: أنه يقص ما زاد على القبضة، ويدل له ما روي أن ابن عمر وأبا هريرة كانا يأخذان من اللحية ما زاد على القبضة؛ إلا أنك خبير بأن هذا المقابل (للمعروف) لا يقضي بأن محل الخلاف إذا طالت كثيرا، كما هو مفاد شارحنا (بل يقضي الخلاف فيما إذا لم يطل كثيرا) (كفاية الطالب الرباني، ج.٤ ص.٣٣٢)

[30] والحلاق ليس بجناية لأن فيه نسكا فى الرأس وليس كثير ألم وهو وإن كان فى اللحية لا يجوز فليس كثير ألم ولا ذهاب شعر لأنه يستخلف (كتاب الأم، دار الوفاء ج. ٧ ص. ٢٠٣)

[31] ويحتمل أنهما أرادا التحريم كما هو الظاهر من استعمال الفقهاء قولهم لا يجوز (المجموع شرح المهذب، مكتبة الإرشاد، ج. ٥ ص. ٢٨٧)

وقد استعمل المصنف لا يجوز في مواضع ليست محرمة…فإن قيل هذا غير معتاد في كتب المذهب قلنا هو موجود فيها وإن كان قليلا (المجموع شرح المهذب، مكتبة الإرشاد، ج. ٢ ص. ١٢٦)

[32] وقال الحليمي في منهاجه لا يحل لأحد أن يحلق لحيته ولا حاجبيه وإن كان له أن يحلق سباله لأن لحلقه فائدة وهي أن لا يعلق به دسم الطعام ورائحته ما يكره بخلاف حلق اللحية فإنه هجنة وشهرة وتشبه بالنساء فهو كجب الذكر (الإعلام بفوائد عمدة الأحكام، دار العاصمة، ج. ١ ص. ٣٢٢)

[33] في شرح العباب: فائدة: قال الشيخان يكره حلق اللحية واعترضه ابن الرفعة في حاشية الكافية بأن الشافعي رضي الله تعالى عنه نص في الأم على التحريم قال الزركشي وكذا الحليمي في شعب الإيمان وأستاذه القفال الشاشي في محاسن الشريعة وقال الأذرعي الصواب تحريم حلقها جملة لغير علة بها كما يفعله القلندرية  (حواشى الشرواني وابن قاسم العبادي على تحفة المحتاج، دار صادر، ج. ٩ ص. ٣٧٦ – ٧)

[34] ويحرم حلق اللحية (فتح المعين بشرح قرة العين بمهمات الدين، دار ابن حزم، ص. ٣٠٥)

[35] ويحصل التعزير بضرب غير مبرح أو صفع وهو الضرب بجمع الكف أو حبس حتى عن الجمعة أو توبيخ بكلام أو تغريب أو إقامة من مجلس ونحوها مما يراها المعزر جنسا وقدار لا بحلق لحية. قال شيخنا: وظاهره حرمة حلقها وهو إنما يجئ على حرمته التي عليها أكثر المتأخرين أما على كراهته التي عليها الشيخان وآخرون فلا وجه للمنع إذا رآه الامام. انتهى.

(فتح المعين بشرح قرة العين بمهمات الدين، دار ابن حزم، ص. ٥٨٧)

[36] ويحرم حلقها…ولا يكره أخذ ما زاد على القبضة… (كشاف القناع، دار عالم الكتب، ج. ١ ص. ٩٤)

[37] ويحرم حلقها…ولا يكره أخذ ما زاد على القبضة…وذكر ابن حزم الإجماع أن قص الشارب وإعفاء اللحية فرض…وعن زيد بن أرقم مرفوعا: من لم يأخذ من شاربه فليس منا. رواه أحمد والنسائي والترمذي وصححه وهذه الصيغة تقتضي عند أصحابنا التحريم (كتاب الفروع، مؤسسة الرسالة، ج. ١ ص. ١٥٢)

[38] واتفقوا أن حلق جميع اللحية مثلة لا يجوز (مراتب الإجماع، مكتبة القدسي، ص. ١٥٧)

[39] واتفقوا أن حلق اللحية مثلة لا يجوز (الإقناع في مسائل الإجماع، ص. ٢٩٩)

[40] ذهب جمهور الفقهاء الحنفية والمالكية والحنابلة وهو قول عند الشافعية إلى أنه يحرم حلق اللحية لأنه مناقض للأمر النبوي بإعفائها وتوفيرها (الموسوعة الفقهية الكويتية، ج. ٢٥ ص. ٢٢٥ – ٢٢٦)

[41] وقال القاضي عياض رحمه الله تعالى: يكره حلقها وقصها (شرح النووي على صحيح مسلم، دار ابن رجب، ج. ٢ ص. ١٥٠)

[42] فتح الباري، دار السلام، ج. ١ ص. ٦١٥

[43] وأما كلام العلماء فإنهم – وإن أطلقوا الكراهية فى الأمور المنهي عنها – لا يعنون بها كراهية التنزيه فقط، وإنما هذا اصطلاح للمتأخرين حين أرادوا أن يفرقوا بين القبيلين، فيطلقون لفظ الكراهية على كراهية التنزيه فقط، ويخصون كراهية التحريم بلفظ التحريم أو المنع وأشباه ذلك

وأما المتقدمون من السلف فإنه لم يكن من شأنهم فيما لا نص فيه صريحا أن يقولوا: هذا حلال، وهذا حرام، ويتحامون هذه العبارة، خوفا مما فى الآية من قوله

وَلاَ تَقُولُوا لِمَا تَصِفُ أَلْسِنَتُكُمُ الْكَذِبَ هٰذَا حَلٰلٌ وَهٰذَا حَرَامٌ لِّتَفْتَرُوا عَلَى اللهِ الْكَذِب

وحكى مالك عمن تقدمه هذا المعنى، فإذا وجدت في كلامهم فى البدعة وغيرها: أكره هذا، ولا أحب هذا، وهذا مكروه، وما أشبه ذلك، فلا تقتطعن على أنهم يريدون التنزيه فقط (الإعتصام، مكتبة التوحيد، ج. ٢ ص. ٣٧٢)

[44] وقد غلط كثير من المتأخرين من أتباع الأئمة على أئمتهم بسبب ذلك حيث تورع الأئمة عن أطلاق لفظ التحريم وأطلقوا لفظ الكراهة فنفى المتأخرون التحريم وأطلقوا لفظ الكراهة وخفت مؤنته عليهم فحمله بعدهم على التنزيه وتجاوز بعضهم إلى كراهة ترك الأولى وهذا كثير في تصرفاتهم فحصل بسببه غلط عظيم على الشريعة وعلى الأئمة … وقد قال تعالى عقب ذكر ما حرمه من المحرمات من عند قوله وقضى ربك ألا تعبدوا إلا إياه إلى قوله فلا تقل لهما أف ولا تنهرهما إلى قوله ولا تقتلوا أولادكم خشية إملق إلى قوله ولا تقربوا الزنى إلى قوله ولا تقتلوا النفس التي حرم الله إلا بالحق إلى قوله ولا تقربوا مال اليتيم إلى قوله ولا تقف ما ليس لك به علم إلى آخر الآيات ثم قال: كل ذلك كان سيئه عند ربك مكروها وفى الصحيح إن الله كره لكم قيل وقال وكثرة السؤال وإضاعة المال. والسلف كانوا يستعملون الكراهة في معناها الذي استعملت فيه في كلام الله ورسوله ولكن المتأخرون اصطلحوا على تخصيص الكراهة بما ليس بمحرم وتركه أرجح من فعله ثم حمل من حمل منهم كلام الأئمة على الإصطلاح الحادث فغلط في ذلك (إعلام الموقعين، دار ابن الجوزي، ج. ٢ ص. ٧٥ – ٨١)

[45] والفسق يقع على القليل من الذنوب إذا كانت كبائر وبالكثير (الموسوعة الفقهية الكويتية، ج. ٣٢ ص. ١٤٠)

الفسق وهو الخروج عن الاستقامة…المراد به من يرتكب الكبيرة (رد المحتار، دار الكتب العلمية، ج. ٢ ص. ٢٩٨)

لا صغيرة مع إصرار (بدائع الصنائع، دار الكتب العلمية، ج. ٩ ص. ١٨)

[46] وقال العلائي في كتاب الصوم قبيل فصل العوارض إن الأخذ من اللحية وهي دون القبضة كما يفعله بعض المغاربة ومخنثة الرجال لم يبحه أحد وأخذ كلها فعل يهود والهنود ومجوس الأعاجم اه فحيث أدمن على فعل هذا المحرم يفسق وإن لم يكن ممن يسخفونه ولا يعدونه قادحا للعدالة والمروءة (تنقيح الفتاوى الحامدية، قديمي كتب خانه، ج. ١ ص. ٥٨٩)

[47] ويحرم على الرجل حلق اللحية…ويؤدب فاعله (منح الجليل شرح مختصر الخليل، ص. ٤٨)

[48] تَقْدِيمُ الْفَاسِقِ لِلْإِمَامَةِ جَائِزٌ عِنْدَنَا وَيُكْرَهُ (المبسوط، ج ١ ص. ٤٠)

[49] الموسوعة الفقهية الكويتية، ج. ٣٢ ص. ١٤٢

Zameelur Rahman

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