Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Beards - A Woman's Take

A guest blog post by Nowal.

So sure, you can now argue with me why the hijaab and beard are obligatory in Islam. Call me a firebrand, but I think beards are just ridiculous when they are worn as a sign of being a Muslim. Hijaabs as a gauge for your “Muslimity”, I understand and approve. I understand the moral and practical reasoning and I have seen the wonders it does for you (bad hair day masks). But let's take beards. Why do Muslims feel this compulsion to sport a beard, which btw, is NOT fard. It's wajib, or makruh or nafl. Not fard. So reasons, right:

1. The Prophet kept one. He asked his ummah to keep one.
Fair enough. It's Sunnah. More rewards if you keep one. It's like Tahajjud prayers or drinking fresh camel milk. You can use that extra sawaab.

2. Distinguishes you from the effeminate men.
Define effeminacy - "Effeminacy is character trait of a male showing femininity, unmanliness, womanliness, weakness, softness and/or a delicacy, which contradicts traditional masculine, male gender roles." (Google)

Let's tackle each of them separately, eh?

Femininity - women who have hirsutism have a massive amount of facial hair. Hirsutism could be congenital, hormonal imbalances (genetic or neoplastic reasons). So for those of you who have never walked past the women's toiletries aisle in Shopper's - go check out those upper lip wax strips and trimmers. A desi women's salon is a lesson in 101 ways of hair removal techniques. And laser hair removal was not just meant for removing chest hair people. Women have "beards" as well. Please read and learn.

Unmanliness/Womanliness - So manliness is a sign of courage and strength? A lion with his mane sits on his ass all day while the lionesses do the hunting. Or wait, is it ruthless fear? A manly man can induce fear into the hearts of everyone. If this, honestly, is your only reason for keeping that beard ... then dude, you need therapy.

Weakness/softness/delicacy - So our Muslim men should be strong/hard/tough? Is that what Islam is about?! Force and violence? Are they not allowed to be soft-cored? Well, apparently not. Muslim men = bearded = not effeminate = violent bulldogs.

Traditional masculine, male gender roles - varies according to culture. In most of the developed and developing nations, I doubt the man is placed under any circumstances to intimidate his business opponent using the aid of his curly, black mass hanging down from his chin. Well, fine. A more realistic scenario - do you think the Afghani militant sends the Canadian soldier off running because of his beard? No. It’s not the size of your beard that matters anymore, neither in the war zone, nor in the conference room. It’s the size of your weapon, be it your gun or your brain.

3. Distinguishes you from the pagans/Jews/Christians.
This was mentioned back in the day. I understand. A Sikh man, a rabbi and an imam came out of the pond together after taking a quick dip. 5 seconds. Identify who’s who.
4. Doesn't let you be a victim of your own vanity. An entire website for your beard. How to groom it, what to apply on it, how to grow it to its maximal potential. Even comes with FAQs! We’re vain. Accept it ... what makes you think keeping a beard is not going to have you obsessively stare at your face in the mirror and apply olive oil once every week?! A clean-shaven man is much less so. Spend 5 minutes shaving off your morning shadow, dab on some of that antiseptic thing and off you go.

We’re Muslims. We’d rather obsess over moon-sightings than unite our dividing ummah. Trimming a beard so it’s less than a fist-length is haraam! Whose fist do we use as a reference? What if you shave it off because you have a crazy fungal infection growing there? Why ARE we making such a fuss out of the TRIVIAL things when our RELIGION is about to fall apart?

And while we are comparing and cooing over each other’s beards, Afghanistan and Darfur will self-demolish.

So what am I trying to get at? Long-winded as it may have been…the reasons why Muslim men justify keeping a beard are impractical. Except for numero uno. Do it because the Prophet did it. Don't do it because it makes you "more Muslim".

All that being said, some of my loved-ones have beards.


Shovon said...

Has a list of hadith and supporting arguments.

However i dont agree with the conclusion. I refuse to be labelled a hermaphrodite :P

Stop hiding behind Maize. Get out of your woodwork Nowie!

Suroor said...

I loved this post and I loved the tag - "Muslim stupidity"!

It is so hilarious that now that I'm back into the chair after being lifted off the floor by my children, I'll post this to my BIL - the bearded one! But what if he issues fatwa # 2??

gerry said...

Well this is quite a post...and hey since Women's Day is coming up i'd also like you to drop by my blog on Womens Day Wishes and enjoy all that i've posted there!!!

Sonia said...

Good one. When I was little I used to say maybe they didn't have shaving cream in those days?

Is the next post going to examine irrational vs. rational reasons for wearing a hijab? I am intrigued by all these people who say that they think wearing the hijab is fard. But when I look around countries like Bangladesh I can see the majority of people don't think that. Girls in hijabs are in the minority.

Or was I just not looking right?

Maliha said...

I think dissing beards and hijabs is just as bad as dissing non hijabs/non beards. As much as we tell the fundos not to make a big deal; we do the same thing on the other side.

Can we all just respect each other for the painful personal decisions we all have to make?

Farah said...

I love this.

I have an uncle who told my brother he was sinning by not keeping a beard and he wasn't a proper Muslim. And this uncle in the army drinks and stuff (everyone in BD army does).

It's ridiculous when beards are used as a measure of being Muslim.

Haleem said...

This is quite true. I had kept a beard at one point but I decided I looked awful in that so I shaved it off. Vanity? Or was I trying to complete one half of my deen? Doesn't make me any less Muslim that I don't have a beard.

sabrina said...

I am usually in support for a beard. HOwever, lately I have come across many men (or at least quite a few, both in the blog world and in real life) who boast about their beard and their "muslimity" and yet practice some of the most "unislamic" things one can imagine. They might refrain from alcohol and having a girl friend, but will harm other human beings with harsh criticism (i.e. their tongue), and I fail to see how it is any better! I don't care whether or not you have a beard. But once you do have a beard, I'd like to know whether or not you associate your beard with Islam. Once you do associate your beard with Islam, I would want you to be a good example (even remotely close) of a good Muslim.

Having a beard and then condemning the rest of the world as worse than you... or criticising other Muslims for their "lack of Muslimity" while you are still flirting with women... probably doesn't do any good.

DO what you want to do.. but make sure your heart is pure and make sure your beard is a statement as the love for the Prophet (pbuh)... but also make sure you also emulate the Prophet(pbuh) in other things in life. It's much easier to keep a beard than refraining yourself when you feel like, say,"flirting", whether or not you are behind a pseudonym, i think!

Just a thought... more like an advice to the brothers. And if your beard makes you arrogant.... before the sun rises in the east the next day, shave it off... because arrogance will throw you in the hell fire, but not having a beard is not that harmful.

Aah.. i wanted to get this off of my chest for a long time. I could write about it myself. ;)

p.s. Mezba, I proof read this. But I still suspect typos. I love being imperfect. lol

Zainab said...

I second Maliha totally!

I don't like this post, infact this post IS Muslim stupidity.

Instead of issuing our OWN fatwas, why not just leave that job for the ones who are specialized in the field.

If the Qur'an and Hadith state something, then sorry dude but its a fact! face it.
If you don't want to act on it, the LEAST you can do is not try to twist it to suit your egoistic souls.

Anonymous said...

Everyone has free will,therefore,anyone can do anything with their *beards*. Well, so long as they are well-groomed. Just don't use your (beard/hijaab) for wrong reasons. sf

Abu Sinan said...

This is all about appearances. Hijabs, beards, they make you look like something, even though you might not be that something.

Some of the modest modest women I have known do not wear hijab, and some of the most dirty do. Some of the best Muslim men I have met are fanatical about keeping clean shaven, and I have met men with the Sunnah beard who drink and sleep around.

Appearances folks, that is what this is all about.

Em said...

Interesting read... Nowal, I liked number (4). Sabrina's comment elaborates on this excellently.

However, on (1), if the Prophet (saw) asked his ummah to keep one, it could be tantamount to being wajib, not just sunnah - I know you mention this before number (1). Wajib literally denotes compulsion...

On (3), :). Admittedly, often a moot point in practice. However, one should theoretically be able to tell apart the Imam from the other two - "trim the mustaches, grow the beards, unlike the...", from sahih ahadith.

Taken together with 33:36 "It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision", I think when Zainab comes to her conclusion in her last comment, at least I agree with her.

Sabrina, that's some excellent advice, sister. Jazak Allahu khair on behalf of the (bearded) brothers.

Nowal said...

aah sabrina. if only you knew how I giggled when I read what you wrote. this inspiration for the post WAS one such man. made me so darned furious that I stayed up one night and took out ALL my frustrations against that one things of his - his beard.

maliha and zainab, i wrote this a while ago so the tone of it fails to register on me anymore. nice to know how other people perceive it. for instance, mezb thought it was witty. i can't look at it objectively anymore. it has, and shall always be, a rant.

so if it came off as "twisting things to my own egotistic needs" - if you say so. can't quote the quran myself but i doubt it says to sport a beard anywhere in it. i did say sunnah, however.

isheeta said...

Some beards look hot, some deserve to be put in jail for crimes against fashion and inhumanity.

I fail to see why beards, like religion, are used as excuses for someone being faitful/less than that. As Abu Sinan said, its all about perspective. As Nowal said, do it for the right reasons. Its sad to see it used as a preaching medium (there are a shitload of methods out there as preaching medium - eg paradise is under the feet of mothers - noble and inspire goodness. Grow a beard - subjective and inspire fights. Hmm... what a conundrum?!). Apparently, in the islamic world, if you cannot win/support an argument, bring religion into it, and your argument is automatically solved.

Everybody's free to wear (or not) sunscreen. and (or not) beards!

mezba said...

Shovon: I am no hermaphrodite either! I have heard of flowery designs on towels being used to assuage someone's gayness but really - lack of beard? Thousands of women who fawned over Sean Connery in Goldfinger would argue the manliness of that hermaphrodite with you :-)

As to the writer's conclusion at the end of the article that he would not know if I am a Muslim or not just because I don't have a beard and therefore he cannot say Salaam - man that is just ... what can I say...

My position is that the beard is a sunnah - a strong sunnah. Lots of rewards. However it is not fard. Anyone who is equating a Sunnah to a fard is committing a mistake.

Maliha: I don't think Nowal meant it against people who keep beards, the rant was more against the "I have facial hair therefore I am holier than thou" attitude that some people have.

Zainab: why not just leave that job for the ones who are specialized in the field. We HAVE been doing that for the last few hundred years and look where it got us! Hudood ordiances (Pakistan), breaking up marriages because the guardian is not consenting (Malikis), and so on. It is time to realize that despite best intentions some shiekhs may not just be able to think beyond their narrow cultural mindset. It is time for ordinary people to think about Islam. Fatwas have to be made from the grassroots.

Em: However, on (1), if the Prophet (saw) asked his ummah to keep one, it could be tantamount to being wajib, not just sunnah - I know you mention this before number (1). Wajib literally denotes compulsion...

Again, the Prophet instructed us on so many things. He for example wanted every boy to learn horse riding and shooting bow and arrows. Similarly lot of other stuff. For example he desired his younger Companions to marry younger women. However these things are just recommendations, not obligatory instructions.

sabrina said...

And, I would disagree many of the commentors on comparing hijab with beard. I will tell you why!
Even though there are some (somewhat weak) differences in opinion about how "modesty" is interepreted, the 98% of th Muslim world agrees that Hijab is fard. So, when a girl is wearing hijab, it's really not all that special. It is just like doing your five daily prayers. Do we ever say, "oh my God, so and so is so Islamic, s/he prays five times a day" even though it could be some sadness to hear it. But we all know that that is just "minimum" requirement. So, just doing five prayers don't make you an ultra Muslim, similarly most hijabis see themselves (or should) as just doing the minimum requirement. Nothing too big.

However, only in Hanafi madhab beard is considered waajib, and the rest of the schools of thoughts have agreed that it is a sunnah. So, when a guy let his beard grow, it would seem to me that he is going that extra mile for that sunnah. But it just hurts to see that SO MANY brothers use their beard, more like taking advantage of the statement "I am bearded and hence trustworthy" when they are not.

I have absolutely NO problem with men drinking and getting wild with women. I have absolutely NO problem with even bearded men doing so, as long as he recognizes that what he is doing is wrong (and don't claim to be super islamic), and if his wrong actions lead him to humility and afterwards, penitance, maybe that is what he needs. But when bearded men try to buy people's trust (naive people's) that is alarming. For example:
a bearded player trying to marry a naive sister! ( I have seen that)
A bearded hypocrite trying to raise money for Islamic madrassas where he is sexually assaulting his female students. (I can name a few, with victims.. no one will ever know)
A bearded man scandalizing or being overly judgmental of other people. "Oh that sister listens to music and has these girls' parties, she is not a good hijabi" bloody blah!

I hope you get the picture. I don't know why us Muslims get so riled up to see a Muslim person drinking alcoholic beverages. Is he harming anyone? NO! Shouldn't we just ignore that and make dua'a for him? instead of broadcasting it? Let him deal with his God and make some room for his tauba instead of ostracizing him.No, we would kill them, and scandalize his whole family who may not have anything to do with that.. and when you act like that... that my friend taints the purpose of a beard... hijab.. prayers.. and your identity as a good human being!

That overly religious guy always shunning and condemning people and also hurting people (either with his behavior, hands or tongue)...
isn't he an object of alarm?

Jameela, I don't think Nowal was dismissing the necessity of a beard. SHe was more like asking for a good reason for a beard, which should be out of pure love for Allah and his messenger, and only then your beard will attain its purpose. And this same thing goes for every little thing we do, putting on a hijab, waking up for tahajjud, lowering our gaze in extreme temptation, or just giving upon something that is hard for us to give upon.

'liya said...

There's nothing wrong with beards (though personally I think they make men look old), but I too just think it's RIDICULOUS when beards are used as a measure of... being Muslim. I mean, just think about it... seriously! We're measuring someone's faith and goodness by .. the hair on their chin?! Don't we have better things to do!? And don't we have better ways to measure how faithful someone is to their religion? And why do we need to measure this anyway?!

P.S and what about Asian men who don't have hair? Are they automatically sinners because hair refuses to grow on their poor little chins?!

Em said...

Liya - I agree 100% with your comment, in that the beard cannot be a measure of one's conviction in Islam. Insomuch as Nowal et al stick to this theme, I agree with them, too.

Where I disapprove of Nowal's writeup is her splitting of (2) and (3) as distinct from (1), and then 'scholarly' dissecting each of the latter fragments in isolation. I've certainly not heard any bearded brothers quoting either (2) or (3) as solo reasons distinct from (1). But even if anyone hypothetically were to put either of them forward as solo justification for growing the beard, I'd be careful in pooh-poohing them because of the joint existence of (2) and (3) along with (1) in the words of some narrations in the hadith. That's what I hoped to convey when I quoted the ayah in the Qur'an.

Whether growing the beard is sunnah or wajib is irrelevant to the discussion. As far as I know, most schools agree that when there're differences in opinion, neither school can condemn the other for following their own schools. So you grow a beard for the right reasons, great! You don't grow one for the right reasons, great too!

And Allah knows best.

Nowal said...

you're right Em, not too many people use those as solo justifications in Islam. I'd poo-pooh them too. hence, the article. i'm poo-poohing them in a more verbose manner. lolz.

gosh, today was a long day. so want to reply back to some of the things really quickly.

shovon - you know i am not hiding. i'm too busy giving myself manicures. i make mezb do all the typing =)

sabrina, mezb and everyone else - you understood and EXPLAINED the point of the post better than I could have ever done myself. so there. summed up in a few words - it's like sunscreen as isheeta put it (hehe).

suroor - we'll counteract with a fatwa of our own then. :P

Asmaa said...

Yep, I've come across some long-bearded guys who are surprisingly bad people. But, all that being said, and regardless of all those categories, I just like the way beards look :)

mezba said...

Sabrina, I have one question.


sabrina said...

lol! I think I am schitzophrenic. I think I meant Zainab and not jameela. I think twhat happened is that i was simultnaeously reading some Jameel (i think) i don't know. i can't find any explanation. OH my God.. i am literally lol-ing... lol

maryam said...

i can't believe you have a tag called "muslim stupidity" come on now, don't put it out there like that! :) :) :)

maryam said...

and haleem, you'll have to show us a picture so we can be the judge of how suited your face is to beards.

Siraaj said...

Mezba, read the post, a lot of it is nonsense. In the opening paragraph, the author clearly doesn't understand the difference between faardh, waajib, makruh, etc and throws nafl in there (not exactly a hukm per se, maybe she meant mubah?), and then goes on to rule it sunnah.

I'm not trying to be condescending, but that is the truth. I would probably end up spending a good two - three hours cleaning up all this person's errors plus those in the comments, and if there's one thing I do agree on with the author and others, you and I have better and more pressing matters to attend to, and I'll leave it at that.


Anonymous said...

If you get the time, please check out this cd set on Usool Al Fiqh by Sheikh Muhammad Al Shareef on rulings such as halal, haraam, fardh, wajib, sunnah, and so on.

mezba said...

Thanks to everyone who commited. I guess from the diversity of opinions you can see we all have to agree to disagree. My own sympathies lie with the writer of this guest post. I had a beard for a while and then I didn't, and I had a full one and now I don't again. I don't see any difference in the type of Muslim I am just by this.