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Is Shaving One's Beard Unlawful?

Answers with proofs from the four sources the rules of the Islamic Shariah are derived from.

Translators Foreword.

This booklet has been translated, from Hurmatu Halq al-Lahyah by Allamah Murtada
Baghdadi, for the enlightenment of those who are not yet fully aware of the Islamic
rulings concerning the beard. It is in no way meant to offend those who do not wear a
beard nor should it be used as an instrument, by those who do wear it to ridicule those
who do not.

We as Muslims must realise that none other than Allah, the Exalted, the Mighty, can
guide those who may have gone astray. However it is the solemn duty of the
Messengers, the Prophets, the Chosen Infallible leaders and the believers amongst men
and women to admonish one another, to forbid evil and enjoin good. None other than
those who sincerely love each other will do that.

5th January 1998- Shar Ramadan Al-Mubarak

In the name of The Most High.

The Four Sources On Which All The Rulings Of Islam Are Based.

The question most commonly asked question regarding the beard is whether it is
permissible to shave it or not. We will try to answer this question from the four sources
upon which our whole religion is based.
The four sources are:
The Book (The Holy Quran)
The Sunnah (Narrations of our Prophet and the Imams as)
'Ijma (Consensus)
'Aql (Intellect)

One of the necessities for any person who is religious, his religion also being a heavenly
one (and not man made) accompanied by its rules and regulations which the intellectual
does not cross nor the believer disobey, it will become obligatory upon the ignorant to
learn those rules and regulations, and where they see that they are incapable of
understanding or comprehending a certain rule or regulation of Shariah, they have to turn
to a scholar of high aptitude, so that he can illuminate the dark unsure path they are
traversing, so that the dark path is transformed for them, into the radiant path of religious

As the Holy Quran states in chapter al-Nahl (The Bee) verse 43

"And we did not send before you any but men to whom we sent revelation-so ask
the followers of the reminder if you do not know."

It is evident from the verse above, that when one is incapable of understanding a certain
Islamic issue it becomes obligatory upon one to refer to the learned for assistance to
clarify one's ambiguity surrounding that certain issue, and at that moment, (i.e. in the
state of ignorance about an Islamic rule) to question or ask for a proof from the jurist
(Mujtahid) to verify his ruling would not be deemed necessary

From this point onward we see those who are ignorant always asking, "Where is it in the
Quran that shaving ones beard is unlawful?"

In fact many other rules of Shariah in the understanding of the lay person are not
mentioned in apparent clear Quranic verses, for example the number of Rakats in our
daily prayers, the different amounts of Zakat to be paid on different items etc., Whereas
the answers would be derived from the study of Quranic verses and explanations of the
verses by the Holy Prophet of Islam and the Infallible Imams (as) in the form of their
invaluable Narrations

The conclusion being, that the responsibility of the lay person is to learn the practical
laws of the Islamic Shariah (i.e. Lawful, unlawful, abominable, recommended &
permissible) By means of utilising the four sources mentioned earlier

Shahid Allamah Baqir al-Sadr, (may Allah (swt) rest his soul and raise him with the Holy
Imams (as) and grant him the loftiest of stations in the hereafter) states:

Allah the All Mighty on the day of judgement will question his slave, My slave were you
among the learned? And if the answer is affirmative He will be again questioned, did you
not practice what you learnt? And if he then replies, I was from the ignorant, He will
finally be asked, did you not learn so that you could practice? This final question will be
sufficient in the slave being left defeated by the evidence of the All Mighty Allah (swt).

The Beard

Literally means: Hair, which grows on the face (sides and chin)

The hair on the Chin

1. The beauty, respect and the adornment of the male, is the beard
2. The beard is one of the naturally occurring miracles of the human that
differentiates between male and female, and because of it possessing inherent
goodness, this result being derived from logic and intellect
3. Allah (swt) has made the growth of the beard an in built natural feature of the
male species of humans, resulting as an answer to the supplication of our original
father Prophet Adam(as) which will remain till the day of judgement

Allamah Majlisi (upon him be the mercy of Allah) in his 110 Vol. book (Bihar al-Anwar)
States in Vol. No16 a narration from Ibn Masood from the Holy Prophet of Islam (sws)

When Allah the Merciful accepted Adam's (as) repentance Jibrail(as) came to him and
said May Allah give you life and Bayyaak Allah,(may Allah possess you) Adam(as)
replied, as to the first statement I fully comprehend, but what does the second one
implicate? Adam (as) prostrated and raised his head from prostration and supplicated O
Allah increase in me beauty, after his supplication a beautiful black beard appeared on his
radiant face Jibrail(as) touched Adam's beard and said, this is in reply to your
supplication from your lord for you and your male offspring till the day of judgement

It is apparent from the above narration, the beauty and respect from Allah (swt) for Adam
(as) and his male offspring would remain till the day of judgement

Generally speaking, one of the acts among the unlawful ones is shaving of the beard,
which obviously is not liked by the law giver, and is considered as a sin worthy of
punishment, In every command of the law giver or his forbidding something there are
ways and clear evidences about the inherent goodness or inherent evil within these
certain acts, some of which only the All Mighty Creator knows best about.

The First Source: The Book (The Holy Quran)

Al-Nisa (The Women) Verse 119

"And most certainly I will lead them astray and excite in them vain desires, and bid
them so that they shall slit the ears of the cattle, and most certainly I will bid them
so that they shall alter Allah's creation, and whoever takes the Shaitan for a
guardian rather then Allah he indeed shall suffer a manifest loss."

To base this holy verse as a proof (for the shaving of ones beard being unlawful) is
dependant on proving two preludes

a) Proving that, shaving ones beard is considered as altering the creation of Allah

b) Proving that, every "Alteration" in the creation is unlawful except when intercepted
with rules of exemptions from within the Islamic Shariah

c) As for the first prelude, there is no doubt as to shaving one's beard is equivocal to
bringing about an alteration in the creation of Allah (swt), as we mentioned earlier, that
the beard was a specific matter ordained by the All Mighty (swt) and so will it remain,
and secondly, the beard being an adornment and beauty for Adam (as) and his male
offspring until the day of judgement, therefore alterations in this particular issue except
for exceptions to the rule in Islamic law would be classified as unlawful acts

d) A general understanding of meaning of the verse "alter Allah's creation"

encompasses every possible natural physical alteration one can perceive and it does not
point to alterations made due to other Islamic Shariah laws i.e. laws which the jurists
prove with the backing of one of the four sources mentioned to be exceptions to the rule,
i.e. Circumcision, trimming one's nails, trimming one's moustache etc.

Summary: Implications of the above mentioned verse apply to natural physical alteration
and not "alteration" due to other Islamic laws of exemption, so it would become difficult
for one to debate about matters such as " Tattoos " or " nail polish " also being some sort
of alteration and as a result categorising these also as unlawful acts, which would not be
the case, because the verse implicitly refers to natural physical alteration and non other.
In Tafseer al-Qumi, Imam al-Sadiq (as) States: Allah (swt) revealed upon Ibrahim (as)
"Al-Haneef" (The Upright One) ten things, five for the head and the other five for the

Those for the head being:

1. Trimming one's moustache
2. Keeping one's beard
3. Nourishing one's hair (with Henna)
4. Brushing one's teeth
5. Flossing one's teeth

And those for the body being:

1. Circumcision
2. Trimming one's nails
3. Cleaning one's self with water
4. Cleaning one's arm pits/pubic hair
5. Ceremonial bath (ghusl al-janabah)

The above mentioned were the things endowed upon Prophet Ibrahim (as) as the beard
was to Adam (as), and as a result we can see that these were not abrogated, nor will they
be till the day of recompense, the verse here being Verse125, Chapter4 al-Nisa (The

"And who has a better religion than he who submits himself entirely to Allah? And
he is the doer of good (to others) and followers of the faith of Ibrahim, the upright
one and Allah took Ibrahim as a friend."

This verse being another proof that what Prophet Ibrahim (as) was endowed with our
Holy Prophet (saw) was also requested to comply with by the All Mighty Creator of all

On analysing this and many other narrations such as this one, one may find that some of
the acts mentioned in one single narration may have things which are "recommended"
and at the same time in the same narration find acts which are "obligatory" this confusion
is very easily solved by a Faqih (Mujathid) who also refers to many other Narrations by
which he can easily categorise each and every act, be it recommended or otherwise, and
give to us the final result in it's correct category.

The Second Source: Al-Sunnah

(Traditions of the Holy Prophet (sws) & the Imams (as)

1 Al-Kafi / Jababaah-al-Walebiah stated:

I saw the leader of the Believers 'Ali (as) walking in a courtyard with a two pronged
stick, he was striking sellers of unlawful edible fish with it , and said to them "O Sellers,
the transformed ones of bani Israil (into apes) and the soldiers of Bani Marwan (who
transgressed in the land) a nation of whom used to shave their beards and lengthen their
moustaches were surely transformed "(into animals) (*the sellers being without beards
and having long moustaches)
There is no doubt that the Hadith is pointing to shaving ones beard being unlawful,
because the persons being reprimanded and deservedly so in such a strong manner and by
Ali (as) does point only to the fact that an unlawful act was taking place and it is the
solemn duty of the Imam of the time to forbid evil and enjoin good etc. and by observing
the above mentioned Hadith we also understand that if the actions of those being
reprimanded were not to be considered unlawful at least their actions would without a
doubt be considered as abominable actions, but in fact those taking part in such actions ,
for them to be transformed by the wrath and anger of Allah(swt) would point to the
actions addressed in the narration being unlawful rather than mere abominable actions

Al-Jafferiat in which the Holy Prophet of Islam (saw) states:

Shaving the beard is surely maltreatment (of others) and for one who maltreats, may the
curse of Allah (swt) be upon him

If shaving of the beard is considered as "maltreatment" and its subject deserving of the
curse of Allah (swt) and when one is cursed by Allah (swt) it necessitates him being
angry with the subject in question, his action would also be disliked up to such an extent,
that he becomes deserving of the wrath/curse of Allah (swt), this conclusion would not
contradict logic and understanding in any way what so ever, also no ruling by any
individual jurist (Mujtahid) can be found which considers "maltreatment" as being lawful
and as a result, if shaving is being compared to it then clearly shaving ones beard is
unlawful without a doubt.

Al-Saduq/ Reports from the Holy Prophet Of Islam(saw)in which he states:

Trim your moustaches, and let your beards grow, and do not emulate the Jews

The above mentioned narration is considered authentic by the Shi'i and the Sunni schools
of thought, the indication of a sentence in the imperative form, usually implies that an act
is obligatory and the prohibitive construction of a sentence implies that an act is
unlawful, especially where the action implies emulation of the enemies of Islam i.e.
emulating infidels, equals an unlawful action, the result here also being, shaving of the
beard being regarded as an unlawful act

It is reported in this narration that the king of Fars, (Persia) Chosroe, sent two of his
ambassadors to the Holy Prophet(sws), when they came before the Prophet (sws) He
glanced at their moustaches and saw that they were very long and also noticed that they
had no beards, he turned his attention towards them and said, Woe be onto you for what
you have performed ! They replied; Our master (Chosroe) commanded us to do this, the
Holy Prophet (sws) replied, My Master (swt) commanded me to keep my beard and trim
my moustache

Again in this narration it is evident that Allah (swt) commanded his Prophet (sws) to keep
a beard and as the verse of the Holy Quran states; verse 7 chapter 95 al-Hashr (The

Whatever the messenger gives you, accept it and from whatever he forbids you (from
doing) keep back - Bihar al-Anwar /kitab al-Mahasin/ Imam Musa al-Kadhim(as)
Imam (as) was asked, is keeping the beard recommended? He replied: yes He then was
asked, could a man shave his beard? Imam (as) replied; as for the sides of his face there is
no problem, however from the front (chin) it is not permissible

There are numerous other narrations on the shaving of the beard being unlawful, one who
wishes to refer to these should refer to a book named Wasail al-Shi'ah in which matters
regarding the unlawfulness of shaving ones beard will become very clear and apparent

The Third Source

al-Ijma (Consensus)

The Shi'iah and the Sunni schools of thought both agree through general consensus that
shaving ones beard is unlawful, because of "consensus" being one of the four sources by
which a jurist may give a ruling on a particular issue, it is considered sufficient for use in
proving an obscure / unknown issue if an issue can not be solved by the other three
sources, but a major difference being, that when the Shi'ite jurist uses "consensus" as a
source, his result has to be obtained by consensus but with at least one narration of the
Infallibles (as) on that particular issue the jurist is trying to prove, and if that is not
possible the jurist would turn to another source to provide an answer regarding the issue
at hand .al-Bahai, al-Damaad, and Kashif al-Ghita have given rulings of shaving being
unlawful using the above method, in their books al-E'eteqadaat, and Resalat al-Share al-

The Fourth source: al-'Aql(intellect)

The first cause:

The beard was created for the males when human beings first came into existence, the
beard playing an important role in differentiating between male and female, Imam al-
Sadiq (as) has narrated:

From the laws of the Lord of the universe was that he gave the male gender of the human
a beard so there be a difference between them

Another narration of al-Sadiq (as) states:

If the hair were not to grow at a specific given time, would not (the male) remain in a
state like that of a youth and a female, whereas you would not see in him respect and awe

The second cause:

Ibn Sina in his book, al-Qanun, states:

"Surely the benefits of specifying the beard with the males and not the females is the
introduction of beauty, awe and respect which the male requires rather than the female,"
the above statement confirms the discussion on Prophet Adam (as) and his supplication to
Allah (swt), we also observe in the Arabic language the beard having different names,
such as; al-Karimah(the respected), and al Mahasin (the beautifier) So logically, who
would deny beauty if it were to be offered to him? And who would be prepared to
impersonate a female? And finally, who would prefer to forget his original creation? (i.e.
where he would see his beard grow as an adornment given to him by his Lord and
Master)dictates, that every potential "harm" should be avoided, and to alleviate harm
would become obligatory, so if the scholars and the doctors inform us about a harmful
issue, it would at that moment become obligatory upon us to avoid that issue, and that
would be as a result of our own intellect and logic dictating to us, the avoiding of
anything that might harm us

We see that when the leader of the Prophets, doctors and wise men Prophet Muhammad
(saw) forbade the Muslims (and the so called Muslims) from certain issues, whereas,
many questions were raised and sometimes the issue in question was and is sometimes
totally ignored, and as we know the Prophet of Islam (saw) forbade us from shaving our
beards because of it being harmful and therefore unlawful, it should also be noted that
Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran:

He does not speak from his own desires but it is revealed upon him

Most learned scholars of the west also agree that the Prophet of Islam (saw) was a great
man of his era and also of times to come, and it is proven that all Godly rules are not
issued except by the infinite wisdom and goodness being inherent within them, from here
on in it is understood, that only with the wisdom, intellect and goodness which Allah
(swt) knows about, does such a ruling reach his humble slaves

Western views concerning the beard

Keeping a beard strengthens teeth and gums, Sujan Afendi al-Marwani states in his book,
History of America, Vol. 160, Dr Victor George states, "the beard saves the face from
getting wet protects the teeth and gums", he then states:" we once shaved the beards of all
the rail workers in our region in summer, where as it was noticed that most of them
suffered from tooth ache and sores in the gums" in another statement he says; "persons
who had been protected from the cold at the North pole came back to England, shaved
their beards and a week later they had become ill"

Some of the Canonical verdicts of our great Mujtahedin

The only time when one is allowed to shave ones beard according to some Mujtahids, is:
When ones life is in danger, because of necessary treatment, when one by shaving can
protect his religion, or when one becomes the focus of serious ridicule, etc. one has to
refer to one's own Mujtahid to clarify one's own duty towards Allah (swt)