Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Beard; A Sunnah

The Value of Sunnah

Muslim scholars are unanimous on the point that Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah (May Allah shower abundant mercy and peace upon him) or Prophetic Tradition, namely, his acts and teachings establish a binding proof. In more than one verse, the Qur’an enjoins obedience to the Prophet Muhammad (May Allah shower abundant mercy and peace upon him) and makes it a vital duty upon every Muslim to submit to his judgement and authority without question. The following are some verses of the Qur’an that are explicit on this theme, all which are quoted by the famous early Muslim Jurist, al-Shafi’i in his renowned work, al-Risalah.

‘And whatever the Messenger gives you take it, and whatever he forbids you, abstain from it’ (al-Hashr, 59:7)

‘Whosoever obeys the Messenger verily obeys God’ (al-Nisa, 4:80)

‘Obey God and Obey the Messenger and those who are in charge of affairs among you. Should you happen to dispute over something, then refer it to God and the Messenger’ (al-Nisa, 4:58-59)

‘Should you dispute over a matter among yourselves, refer it to God and His Messenger, if you do believe in God and the Last Day’ (al-Nisa, 4:59)

In another verse, Allah Almighty states, ‘Surely you have an excellent example in the life of Allah’s Apostle’ (al-Ahzab, 33:21)

Moreover, numerous other verses in the Qur’an categorically stipulate the value and authority of Prophet Muhammad’s acts and teachings. I have found 18 verses of the Qur’an which all denote the same theme. I hope this point will draw the importance of Islamic rituals and shed light on the individual responsibility that falls on Muslims as regards to obedience and submission.

The Beard is a Sunnah

The issue of keeping a beard has been fully discussed in many epistles, expositions and commentaries on Hadith textual corpus, over the past 14 centuries. Muslim Jurists or fuqaha, have, however, composed books on the subject in question, such as Imam Ahad Raza (d.1921) who wrote the far-famed ‘lum’at al-Duha’. He supports the Muslim view regarding the necessity of a beard by 18 verses of the Qur’an, 72 narrations transmitted from the Prophet, and 60 verdicts of Muslim Jurists.

Here are a few of these narrations;

1- Ibn 'Umar relates from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he said: "Do otherwise than those who ascribe partners to Allah (al-mushrikin): leave beards be, and trim moustaches." (Sahih al-Bukhari. 9 vols. Cairo 1313/1895. Reprint (9 vols. in 3). Beirut: Dar al-Jil, n.d., 7.206: 5892 and Sahih Muslim, 5 vols. Cairo 1376/1956. Reprint. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1403/1983, 1.222: 259).

2- Abdullah bin Umar Faruq relates from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that he said: ‘trim the moustache and make beards plenteous’. (Ref: Mu’atta Imam Malik, Musnad Ahmad, Abu Da’ud, Tirmidhi, Nisa’I, Ibn Majah & Tahawi)

3- Jabir bin Samrah, a companion of Prophet Muhammad, describes him as ‘one with a copious beard’ (Ref: Sahih Muslim & Ibn Asakir)

4- A similar report is narrated from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri, another famous companion of Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), in which the Prophet said: ‘It is not permissible for one to make short the beard length’.

Many other companions, as reported by the great scholars of hadith science and its textual corpus, have reported similar sound and rigorously authentic reports from the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). To name a few, Hind bin Abi Halalah, Ali, Anas, Abu Hurairah, Abu Umamah al-Bahili, Abdullah bin Abbas, Abdullah ibn Umar, Ibn al-Abbas and Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri. Numerous reports can be found in the classical collections of the sunnahs or Prophetic traditions, such as Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Ibn Majah, Abu Da’ud, Nisa’i, Tirmidhi, Mu’atta Imam Malik, Musnad Imam Ahmad, Bayhaqi’s al-Sh’ab and Dala’il al-Nubuwah, Qadhi Ayyad’s al-Shifa, Ali Qari’s al-Mirqat and Sharh al-Shifa, Tabarani’s Mu’jamm(s), Ibn Asakir’s Tareekh (chronicle) and Tirmidhi’s Shama’il.

The issue exists in books of Islamic Jurisprudence

We find that the necessity of keeping a beard was discussed by a large number of Islamic jurists in the books of verdicts or fatawa as well as it exists in the books of Prophetic practices and traditions. To name a few, Tahtawi in Hashiyah Tanweer, Ibn Abideen in Radd al-Muhtar and al-Uqud al-Durriyah, Ibn al-Hummam in Fat’h al-Qadir, Abdal Haq Dehlvi in Lum’at, Ali Qari in al-Mirqat, Qurtubi in Ittihaf al-Sadat, and many more shed light on the subject. This explicitly suggests the importance of keeping a beard in Islam.

See also: Sheikh Nuh's article on the beard @ www.masud.co.uk, and search for 'beard' on www.sunnipath.com.

Munawwar Ateeq Rizvi