The Arabic word for beard is lihyah. It derives from lahy (jaw) and lahyan (the two jaws). Thus, a beard is defined as the hair that grows on the cheeks and jaws- It includes the hair that grows on the temples, underneath the lower lip, the hair of the chin, and the hair that grows on the lower side of the jaws.
Growing the beard is wajib (mandatory) for all males who are capable of doing so. As will be presented below, there is ample evidence for this in the Sunnah, and it is the unanimous opinion of the ‘ulama’ of Islam.
All the ‘ulama’ (scholars) of as-Salaf us-Salih (the Righteous early Muslims), including the Four Imams, agree that shaving the beard is haram (prohibited). They consider shaving it an impermissible mutilation, as has been reported from Umar Bin Abdul Aziz. They considered the man who shaved his beard effeminate. Many of them would not accept his testimony or allow him to lead the prayers.
Proof of Wujoob
There are various ahadith of Rasulullah in which the keeping and lengthening of the beard have been ordered. We will just mention a few that prove the above claim.
1) Imam Bukhari (Rahimahullaah) reports on the authority of Imam Nafi’ [ra] who narrates from Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, that Rasulullah said, ‘Oppose the Mushrikeen (polytheists); lengthen the beards and trim the moustaches.’
Imam Nafi’ (RA) further states, ‘And ibn Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, during Hajj or Umrah used to hold on to his beard with his fist and cut off whatever was in excess of that.’
The verdict of the growing of the beard being wajib (obligatory) is deduced from this hadith. That is because any explicit command of Rasulullah will be regarded as wajib, if there is no apparent, clear reason/proof which states that that particular command is for istihbab (preference). This is an established fact in usool-ul-fiqh (principles of jurisprudence). Rasulullah has commanded the Ummah to lengthen the beards. Allah Ta’ala has mentioned in the noble Qur’an, ‘Those who disobey him (Rasulullah – Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) should beware of a trial or painful punishment that will afflict them.’ (Surah Noor 63)
Allamah Nawawi (RA) has explained that this hadith has been reported with various wordings:
The word, ‘Waffiroo’ is mentioned in Sahih Bukhari (Hadith5892). In another narration of Bukhari. The words ‘Ufoo’ is mentioned (Sahih Bukhari Hadith5893). The word ‘Arkhoo’ is mentioned in Sahih Muslim (Hadith602). The word ‘Awfoo’ is mentioned in Sahih Bukhari (Hadith5892) and Sahih Muslim (Hadith601). All these words imply the same meaning and that is to lengthen and to increase the growth of the beard.
2) When the two messengers of Kisra (Khusru – the Persian King) came to Rasulullah , they had long moustaches and shaved beards. Rasulullah [sallallaahu alayhi wasallam turned his face away in disgust and asked them, ‘Who commanded you to do this (despicable deed)?’ They replied, ‘Our Lord, (i.e. King)’ At this, Rasulullah mentioned, ‘But my Lord has commanded me to lengthen my beard and shorten my moustache.’
3) In this narration, Rasulullah has stated that to lengthen the beard is in fact the command of Allah Ta’ala Himself.
Furthermore, the Wujoob is further emphasized by the fact that Rasulullah did practice this in his entire life. Know well that Rasulullah did not trim his beard in his life. In fact, the beard of Rasulullah was dense and almost covered his blessed chest. (Shamaail Tirmidhi Hadith8; Dalaail al-Nubuwwah of Imaam Bayhaqi vol.1 pg.235)
Actions of the Sahaba [radhiallaahu anhum] The narrator (Ibn Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, himself trimmed his beard beyond a fist’s length, this implies that the wujoob of keeping a beard is up to a fist length only (this will be explained shortly).
Furthermore, this (trimming beyond a fist length) has also been reported from Sayyiduna Abu Huraira, Radi-Allahu anhu, and other Tabi’een. (Tamheed of ibn Abdul-Barr al-Muntaqaa and Fathul Baari vol.10 pg.430). Bear in mind that Sayyiduna Abu Huraira [radhiallaahu anhu] has also narrated a hadith wherein we are commanded to lengthen the beards. (Sahih Muslim Hadith602)
Moreover, for the benefit of your knowledge, the sayings and actions of the Sahaba (Radhiallaahu Anhum) are a Hujjah (proof). This is also an established principle in usool-ul-fiqh.
Some individuals acknowledge that it is wajib to keep a beard, but then argue that there is no mention of any specific length in the hadith. Hence, if one has a bit of hair on his face – irrespective of the length – it would be permissible, because this is also called a beard.
This is a result of a lack of understanding of the actual wording of the hadith. First, in the hadith we have quoted, Rasulullah [sallallahu alayhi wasallam] has commanded us to lengthen the beard and not just to ‘keep’ a beard. The difference between the two is quite clear. If one just ‘keeps’ a shortened beard, he will not be fulfilling the command of Rasulullah .
Therefore, the one who intentionally keeps a trimmed beard will not be fulfilling the command of lengthening the beard. The lengthening is wajib, not just having any sort of a beard.
Second, the hadith is general and does not specify any length of the beard. The words, ‘u’ful lluhaa / waffiroo-lluhaa’ in the hadith command us to lengthen the beards, which will (literally) mean, ‘it is wajib to let the beard grow’ up to whatever length it reaches. If we did not have the narration of Nafi’ that Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, did trim his beard, then this would have been the case.
However, the narrator himself (Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar and Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra – radhiallaahu anhuma) as well as other Tabi’een (Radhiallaahu Anhum) did trim their beards beyond one fist’s length, the Ulama have deduced that this means that the wujoob (obligation) of lengthening is only up to a fist’s length. Neither can we say that it is not permissible to trim it at all – resulting in the accusation of the Sahaba (Radhiallaahu Anhum) of contradicting the explicit command of Rasulullah and especially the narrator, (Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar and sayyiduna Abu Huraira – Radhiallaahu Anhuma). Nor can one claim the permissibility of trimming it to leave less than a fist’s length, for there is no proof for this in the Shari’ah.
Hence, if a person is to trim his beard beyond a fist’s length it would be permissible and if he leaves shorter than a fist’s length, he will be going against an act which is wajib and this is not permissible, and if he chooses not to trim it at all, this will also be permissible.
The practice of the Sahabi [radhiallaahu anhu] here is used for ‘permissibility’ of cutting up to a fist’s length, because – being the narrator – this is what he understood to be the intended meaning of Rasulullah . In other words, the Sahabi [radhiallaahu anhu] had understood that the command of Rasulullah of lengthening the beard only applies up to a fist’s length and not more. That is why they (the Sahaba concerned – Sayyiduna Abdullah ibn Umar and Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra – radhiallaahu anhuma) used to trim what was in excess of one fist. It is not wajib to follow them in doing so. What is wajib in this situation is to let it grow, and the action of the Sahabi is used only to explain that wajib and restrict going against that.
Severity of the Sin
One should ponder over the narration that we have quoted concerning the two messengers of the Persian King. How Rasulullah turned his blessed face away from them in disgust. Remember these were disbelievers. Imagine if Rasulullah [sallallahu alayhi wasallam] turns his face away from a Muslim on the day of Qiyamat because he did not have a proper beard! Imagine the plight of that person, Allah forbid.
Furthermore, as for the act of clean-shaving, by doing so, one is actually imitating the appearance of women. Rasulullah has cursed those males who aspire to resemble the females and vice versa. (Sahih Bukhari)
Thus a Muslim who shaves or shortens his beard is like a hermophrodite, his Imamate is near prohibition, his evidence is not valid, he will not have the right to vote or being voted for. Shaving and shortening the beard is the action of the non-believers. Imam Ghazzali (RA) says, “know that the key to total bliss (saadah) lies in following the Sunnah and in emulating the life of Rasulullah (S.A.W) in ALL that issues from him, and in ALL his doings even if it concerns the manner of his eating, rising, sleeping, and speaking. I do say this in relation to rituals in worship ONLY because there is no way neglecting the Sunnah reported of him in such matters – but what I say INCLUDES EVERY ASPECT of his daily life”. (Kitab al Arbain Addin, Cairo 1344, page 89). Allah Taala told Nabi (S.A.W) to say, “Say IF you love Allah, follow me, Allah will love you”
The daily recitation of a band of angels of ALLAH is “HOLY is the Being who adorned men with beard and women with pigtails and braids”
ALLAH TAALA says —And when true believers are called to ALLAH and His RASUL (S.A.W) (to accept and practice the law and commands of ALLAH and His RASUL) (S.A.W) that he may pass judgement upon them, their ONLY reply is “We hear and obey” Such men shall surely prosper’ (24/51).
THE CALL IS TO GROW A FIST LENGTH BEARD, LET US HEAR AND OBEY TO PROSPER.