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.
http://www.beards.org/ 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.