The Beard in Islam

Keeping the Beard

The beard is associated with the devout Muslim male, but what are the proofs for it, what do the four schools say about it and what is the ruling for the one who doesn’t keep it?

The Evidence

The primary evidence used, as in Sahih Bukhari, is narrated by ibn `Umar رضي الله عنه, he said, The Prophet ﷺ said, “Do the opposite of what the pagans do- keep the beards and cut the moustaches short.” Whenever Ibn `Umar رضي الله عنه performed the Hajj or `Umra, he used to hold his beard with his hand and cut whatever remained outside his hold.” Sahih al-Bukhari 5892. 1

Another hadith used to support growing a beard is, “Ten things are from the primordial state (fitra): clipping the moustache, keeping the beard, using the tooth stick, snuffing water and expelling it from the nose to clean it, trimming the nails, cleaning the knuckles, plucking out underarm hair, shaving pubic hair, and decreasing the amount of water used.” Some of the narrators said, “and I forgot the tenth, which is rinsing the mouth with water.” 2

There are also numerous hadith that command the Muslims to be different from the Jews and Christians and other non-Muslims. “Jews and Christians do not dye their hair so you should do the opposite of what they do.” Sahih Al-Bukhari, 5899

There is also evidence that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ had a beard. Numerous hadith mentioning the beard when narrating the ruling regarding purification Ibn Maja 433, as well as Ash-Shama’il Al-Muhammadiyah by Imam Tirmidhi mentions the beard of the Messenger ﷺ in 1, 8, 33, 38 and a hadith on dyeing the beard in ibn Majah 3626

Another hadith mentions, “We asked Khabbab رضي الله عنه whether Allah’s Messenger ﷺ used to recite the Qur’an in the Zuhr and the `Asr prayers. He replied in the affirmative. We said, “How did you come to know about it?” He said, “By the movement of his beard.” Bukhari 746

In one instance, “When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ wrote a letter to the King of Persia inviting him to Islam, he tore the letter apart and then sent two of his people to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. When they entered onto the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, their beards were shaven and they had grown a big moustache, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ disliked to even look at them, and said; “Who commanded you to do this? They replied that their Lord Kisra had ordered them to do so. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “But my Lord has ordered me to shorten my moustache and lengthen my beard…” (al-Bidaya Wal-Nihaya, 4/269/270).

The classical scholars also argued the beard was a natural and physical characteristic of a man, part of his fitra which Allah ordained. Imam Shawkani رحمه الله said: “What he ﷺ meant by fitra is if these characteristics are followed by a man, he would be described as a man of fitra, which Allah has gifted his servants with and encouraged them to follow so that they attain a high degree of respectability and dignity.” (Nayl Al-Awtar) as well as all other Prophet’s also havokng a beard.

The Ruling of the Four Schools

The rulings consist of the necessity of keeping a beard, the optimal length and rules regarding trimming the beard.

The Hanafi School

The Ahnaaf say keeping the beard is compulsory (wajib) and shaving it is forbidden (haram).

This position is confirmed in many works such as al-Bahr al-Ra’iq, Fath al-Qadir, al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, Bada’i al-Sana’i and al-Ikhtiyar.

The length and trimming the beard

The hadith mentioned about Khabbab رضي الله عنه seeing the beard move whilst the Prophet led them in prayer, the scholars say he could have only see it move, it it was a substantial length, at least a fistful.

Ibn Umar, Abu Hurayra and Umar ibn al-Khattab رضی اللہ عنھم are reported to have trimmed their beards to a fistful, thus the practice of the Sahaba, who understood the Sunnah more than anyone else, is a clear proof of keeping a beard but also the permissibility of trimming the beard to a fistful and not having to let it grow endlessly.

Imam Abu Hanifa رحمه الله narrates with his chain, that once Abu Qahafa رضي الله عنه came in the presence of the Prophet ﷺ in a state that the hair of his beard were scattered, the narrator says: The Prophet ﷺ said: I Wish you reduce (these hair) and pointed towards the ends of his beard. [Musnad Imam al-Adham]. This hadith is also narrated by Imam Abu Yusuf رحمه الله [Kitaab ul Athaar]. Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Shaybani رحمه الله reports in Kitab al-athar, from Imam Abu Hanifa, that “The sunna concerning it [the beard] is the handful, and consists in a man grasping his beard with his hand, and whatever exceeds that, he cuts.”

Thus, establishing that it is permissible to trim the beard, not cause it to grow endlessly.

Many, if not most, of the companions had a beard at least a fist length. There is a question regarding the permissibility of trimming the beard shorter than the fistful.

The Hanafi Shaami scholar, Imam al-Haskafi رحمه الله states in his Durr al-Mukhtar: “It is unlawful for one to trim his beard, and as for shortening it when it is less than a fistful, as some North Africans and effeminate men do, this is something no one (of the Hanafi scholars) has said is permitted. And as for shaving it completely, it is the doing of the Indian Jews and the Persian Magians” (Radd al-Muhtar ala al-Durr al-Mukhtar, 2/113, Kitab al-Sawm). The other Hanafi Shaami scholar, ibn Abideen رحمه الله says there is no harm in trimming the edges of the beard, though keeping the handful is sunnah, for when a narrator (Ibn ‘Umar, in this case), has done something in ostensive contravention to what he has narrated, it shows that the original command, the words “leave beards be” is superseded (mansukh) by a subsequent one–permitting the beard to be trimmed, in this case. But trimming it when it is already less than a handful is not permissible in the Hanafi school. Ibn Abideen رحمه الله says to let it grow means to leave it till it becomes abundant and thick. (Radd al-muhtar ‘ala al-durr al-Mukhtar. 5 vols. Bulaq 1272/1855.)

Both scholars claim the position of the ahnaaf is that keeping at least a fistful beard is Wajib. Trimming anything less is impermissible.

In the Indian Subcontinent, Muhaddith Dehalwi رحمه الله also had a similar opinion, that it is wajib to keep at least a fistful. He said this based on another scholars (Imam Badruddin Ayni and Imam Hammam) opinion that it is wajib to keep it fistful, neither shorter nor longer. This point has been refuted though by showing neither of the scholars meant wujub.

The Shaami opinion spread in the Arab world and the Indian opinion spread in the subcontinent. Today, many Hanafi scholars hold that it is wajib to keep a fistful.

However, some contemporary Hanafi scholars claim, the original position of the Ahnaaf has been that it is sunnah to keep a fistful. The general command of having a beard is clear but no specification on the length, so it cannot be Wajib.

As for the opinion of Imam Haskafi رحمه الله, the reason for his stern opinion that it must be at least a fistful, is because the North Africans kept their beards short copying the Europeans. We do not want to be people who imitate the Europeans by trimming. This opinion is based on a specific time and place. It can be argued his opinion does not stand anymore.

The majority of scholars still consider it wajib, but there is a valid opinion for Sunnah.

There is also an opinion in the school that, to trim the excess hair of a fistful is necessary if it distorts ones appearance (wajib), although the preferred opinion is that it is recommended (mandub) to trim it to a fistful.

The Maliki School

The Malikis say keeping the beard is compulsory (wajib) and shaving it is forbidden (haram).

The length and trimming the beard

“Shaving the beard is prohibited, as is cutting it if it causes a clear disfigurement3. But if it becomes oversized, and if cutting it would not appear as a mutilation, then it may be cut; but that would be disliked and contrary to that which is better.” [Sharh ur-Risalah by Abu al-Hasan, and the commentary on it by al-Adawi]. He also said, “There is nothing wrong in trimming the beard if it is exceptionally long. It will be impermissible to trim it if it was not long enough or was only slightly long. There is an element of abnormality.” Imam al-Qarafi رحمه الله states: “From the nature (fitrah) is the lengthening of the beard unless it becomes extremely long (Jiddan), in which case, it would be recommended to trim it.” (al-Zakhira, 13/278).

Qadhi Ayadh رحمه الله said: Cutting the beard and to remove it from the roots is disliked, and trimming it and also keeping a very long beard is disliked. It is recommended to shorten the beard from length and width. Some previous scholars have not set any limit for reducing the beard, they have said that beard should not be left as it is till it becomes a point of being made fun of. Some scholars have put limit of grasp (fistful) whereas some other scholars told not to reduce the beard except during Hajj or Umrah.

al-Ubiy رحمه الله said: …when the beard is a sign of beauty then to reduce it from edges and width is also recommended up until the fistful. [Allama Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Khalfa Washtani Abi Maliki in his Ikmaal Ikmal ul Mu’alim (2/39)]

It is Wajib for men to refrain from shaving the hair on their jaw bone by passing a blade or razor over the skin. As for hair on other body parts (outside of the head), it is permissible to remove. It is mandub to keep the beard from getting too long. The beard is too long if it reaches the lower chest when the man is in an upright posture. (Footnotes 2175 & 2176, The Guiding Helper). Imam al-Dasuqi states: “It is haram for a man to shave off his beard, and the perpetrator will be disciplined.” (Hashiyat al-Dasuqi ala Sharh al-Kabir, 1/90, Kitab al-Taharah)

The Shafi‘i School

The Shafi‘i say keeping the beard is recommended (sunnah) and shaving it is not forbidden, but it is disliked (makhruh).

Imam Shafi رحمه الله himself states it is haram to shave in his book Kitab al Umm, however the two verifying scholars of the Shafi`i school, Imam Abul Qasim al-Rafi`i رحمه الله and Imam Abu Zakariyya al-Nawawi رحمه الله, in accordance with the position of Imam Ghazali, have ruled that to keep a full beard is merely recommended, not obligatory, and that it is neither unlawful to shave it nor to shorten it, even when this is done without an excuse. It is, however, disliked to shorten or shave the beard because it contravenes the prophetic command to grow a full beard.


The evidence for this opinion is similar to commands related to customs, food, drink, clothing, mannerism, etc. which is understood to be a recommendation and not an obligation. They use the examples of the command to dye clothes and to pray in sandals to prove that these are not commands imposing obligation, but rather recommendations. 5

As the Shafi’s do not take shaving to be haram, trimming is also not haram. But they confirm the optimal length of the beard is to leave it uncut and not touch it at all. Anything less than this optimal length is disliked (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 9.376). The Shafi‘is of Hadramawt say that someone who grows hair on his chin is legally considered to have kept a beard. As such, a goatee would minimally fulfil the sunna of keeping a beard, although it would be superior to keep a longer beard. The level of disliked-ness (karahah) is akin to the shortness of the beard.

The command of growing the beard is a command of encouragement, i.e. O Muslim, instead of looking like the disbeliever, look this way. It is not necessarily, grow your beard to this length or else, sort of command. The length is a sunnah of good practice, not Wajib nor Sunnah Muakkidah.

The length and trimming the beard

Imam al-Ghazali رحمه الله writes: There is difference of opinion in the length, one opinion regards no harm in trimming it to a fistful, the other is leaving the beard (i.e. not cutting it) is recommended, because the Prophet said: Let your beards grow. Nevertheless, is recommended to trim the sides or make it neat as to not attract people making fun. Others also said only trim it when going for hajj and umrah. Imam al-Nawawi رحمه الله states: “The correct opinion is that it is disliked to trim the beard unrestrictedly, rather, it should be left uncut however it grows.” (al-Majmu’, 1/290) Imam Ibn Hajar رحمه الله says: “The outward purport of what our imams say is that it is unconditionally disliked to trim the beard.” (Tuhfat al-Muhtaj, 9.376)

The Hanbali School

The Hanbalis considered shaving the beard as disliked (makruh), however after Ibn Taymiyah رحمه الله, Hanbalis now agree it is forbidden (haram) to shave the beard, thus making it compulsory (wajib) to keep one.

Ibn Hazm رحمه الله said in al-Furu’: “..according to our colleagues means that it is haram to shave the beard.” and ibn Taymiyah رحمه الله said: “The Quran, Sunnah and ijma’ all indicate that we must differ from the unbelievers in all aspects and not imitate them, because imitating them on the outside will make us imitate them in their bad deeds and habits, and even in beliefs, which will result in befriending them in our hearts, just as loving them in our hearts will lead to imitating them on the outside. Al-Tirmidhi رحمه الله reported that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “He is not one of us who imitates people other than us. Do not imitate the Jews and Christians.” According to another version: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” (Ahmad). 6.

The length and trimming the beard

It is permissible to trim the beard to a fistful, but preferable to let it grow unrestrictedly, unless it becomes an abhorrence. (See: Kashaf al-Qina’, 1/75)

What is classed as a beard?

The Arabic dictionary, Al Mujam Al Waseet, defines the beard as ‘the hair of both cheeks and the chin’, likewise the Al Qamoos Al Waheed also defines it as hair on the both cheeks and the chin.

Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali

The beard is the hair that grows along the jaw, up to the side where the jaw bone ends. It also includes the area above the jaw, lower cheek, but not the upper cheek under the eyes. Hair growing on the neck that is not naturally part of the beard is excluded.


The beard is defined as the ‘hair that grows on the chin.’ [Fath al-Mubīn 1.66]. It is also defined as the hair to the sides of the beard [Qāmūs al-Muhīt, 436]. However, the majority hold that it is the chin that is considered when trimming or shaving, therefore essential for the Shafi’ رحمه الله to keep hair on the chin to avoid the makhruh.

The Moustache

The shorting of the moustache has been emphatically mentioned in many narrations of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, namely either ‘shorten your moustaches’ or ‘remove your moustaches.’

The length of a moustache is relevant to the time and place. If the moustache was overgrown (over the lips and to the sides), then to shorten it means keep it moderate, but if it was already moderate then it means to keep it really short. Nevertheless, all four schools say it is impermissible to allow the moustache to overgrow on too the upper lip due to hygiene.

“Whosoever does not shorten his moustache is not one from us.” (Tirmidhi, No. 2761, Nasai, No. 14). Abdullah ibn Abbas narrates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to trim or take from his moustache, and the friend of Allah, the Prophet Ibrahim would also do the same. (tirmidhi, no. 2760)

The scholars differ as to whether it is better to shorten the moustache or remove it completely.

Hanafis and Hanbalis

Imam al-Tahawi said that it is a Sunnah to shave the moustache, and it is better than shortening it, affirming that this is the position of Abu Hanifa and both his main students. (See: Tahawi, Sharh Ma’ani al-Athaar, 4.229). If one trims it, he has still met the Sunnah.

Imam Tahawi confirms, many companions like including Abd Allah ibn Umar, Abu Hurayra, Abu Sa’id al-Khudri, Abu Usayd al-Sa’idi, Rafi’ ibn Khadij, Jabir ibn Abd Allah, Anas ibn Malik also shaved their moustaches.

The Hanbalis also agree and this was the practice of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal رحمه الله.

Malikis and Shafis

Imam Baghawi رحمه الله records that “Malik has said, ‘Shaving the moustache is an innovation (bid’a) that has appeared among people'” (Sharh al-Sunna. 16 vols. Damascus: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1400/1980, 12.108). Both schools say the moustache should not be completely removed, rather only shortened.

What if beard doesn’t grow?

There is no sin upon the one whose beard does not grow. He should allow it to grow as much as possible.

What if one doesn’t keep one?

To summarise, the Hanafis, Malikis and Hanbalis say, it is obligatory to keep a beard. So it will be haram to not have one. Only the Shafi’s say it is recommended to grow a beard.

Arguments against

Aside from the alternative opinion presented by some Hanafis on the length of the beard, there are other objections to validity of the beard.

Is it a command or not?

If we consider the hadith, “Do the opposite of what the pagans do. Keep the beards and cut the moustaches short.” Sahih Al-Bukhari, 5892. It appears to be a command to keep a beard. There is also another hadith with similar wording. “Jews and Christians do not dye their hair so you should do the opposite of what they do.” Sahih Al-Bukhari, 5899. However, in this case, dying of the hair is not obligated.

In Musnad Ahmad, hadith 21789, the Messenger ﷺ commands to dye beards, walk barefoot, grow a beard, trim moustaches, wear pants and/or a loincloth. But we find walking barefoot, wearing pants or a loincloth are not obligatory.

There are also examples from the Quran:

  • “But when you have left the sacred territory, go hunting.” Qur’an 5:2
  • “And when the prayer is ended, then disperse.” Qur’an 62:10
  • Eat of the things which Allah has provided for you.” Qur’an 5:88
  • Wear your beautiful garments at every time and place of prayer.” Qur’an 7:31

All four verses imply a command; however, no jurist suggests it is obligatory to go hunting, dispersing after the prayer, eating or wearing beautiful garments.

Likewise, when the Prophet ﷺ said, “We have been ordered to make tasbih after prayers” (Tirmidhi 3413). It is not an obligation. All of these commands are understood to be recommended.

The scholars are well aware of the different types of command in the Quran and Hadith and have separated the obligatory to the recommended ones.

The scholars spent time corroborating evidence form the Quran, Sunnah and actions of the companions. For example, there were a lack of companions who dyed their hair as it was understood as a recommendation. Imam al-Nawawi رحمه الله says the words: A’fu, Awfu, Arkhu, Arju and Waffiru have all been used; the meaning of all of which is to leave the beard as it is.” (Sharh Sahih Muslim, 3/151). According to Usool e Fiqh principles, where there is an explicit command, it is taken as an obligatory command unless proven otherwise. See, for example: al-Nasafi, Kashf al-Asrar Sharh al-Manar, 1/37 for the Hanafi school, al-Baji, Ihkam al-Fusul fi Ahkam al-Usul, p.79 for the Maliki school, al-Shirazi, al-Luma’ for the Shafi’i school and Ibn Badran, Nuzhat al-Khatir al-Atir, 2/43 for the Hanbali school.

Imitating the disbelievers

Yusuf Al-Qaradawi says the reason for growing a beard was in the necessity of distinguishing Muslims from non-Muslims. The non-Muslims referred to here are the Persians –fire worshipers – who used to shave their beards and grow moustaches very long. The Prophet ﷺ wanted to teach Muslims how to be distinguished in their appearance, and their behaviour.

Essentially Yusuf Qaradawi is saying, let’s go back to the drawing board. If the obligation is based on not imitating the disbelievers, then how can the hadith apply, if Yogis, Sikhs and Hipsters all wear beards? The Jews also pray with no shoes, as do we. Do we not consider other ways to not imitate the disbelievers, like have high standards, morals and excellent character?

A noticeable difference between the Sikh/Jewish beard and the Muslims beard is that, they grow it unrestrictedly, as well as keeping long moustaches, whereas Muslims keep it around a fist length and have short moustaches.

At the time, if a Muslim didn’t grow a beard or visibly imitated another group, nation, people, then it was clear he is imitating another people, and not the Muslims. This was frowned upon. Life was tribal. This applied to all cultures and people. You look like your own. The Muslims had a cultural appearance, so look like a Muslim.

The Question is, what does a Muslim look like these days? We live in a globalised world where fashion is mixed throughout. 400 years ago, it would have been an imitation of the enemy to wear a suit, now it is the formal dress for many cultures.

If a man is clean shaven now, is he really imitating the Kufaar?  

Cultural Phenomenon

Traditionally, men kept a beard whether Muslim or Kaafir, Arab or non-Arab. So, it was a case of continue having a beard and appear Muslim, not an obligation to have a beard with certain dimensions. The Prophet ﷺ used to also wear a turban. This is far more distinguishing than the beard, shouldn’t we all wear turbans? Why is it not obligatory for us all?

In reply to the comments on imitation and cultural phenomenon, Ibn Khaldun رحمه الله says something interesting. “The vanquished always want to imitate the victor in his distinctive characteristics, his dress, his occupation, and all his other conditions and customs. The reason for this is that the soul always sees perfection in the person who is superior to it and to whom it is subservient. It considers him perfect, either because it is impressed by the respect it has for him, or because it erroneously assumes that its own subservience to him is not due to the nature of defeat but to the perfection of the victor.” (Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddimah).

It could be a case of not seeing the wood for the trees, in retrospect we only realise there was a real distinction between Muslim and Kufaar, haq and baatil. So we Muslims should have a distinct identity, one that includes the beard.


There is emphasis on growing the beard but the moustache is overlooked. If we take from the hadith in Bukhari, then trimming the moustache should also be emphasised. 7


I wrote this post to outline the rulings related to the beard according to the four schools.

To me, it is the natural sign of a man, and when combined with cleanliness and sunnah, it represents the Muslim man. The scholars of the past did not discuss the beard at length except for its length because keeping one was common, even in western culture. Similarly to domes, arches, and minarets, it is now part of the Muslim tradition. The Muslim is the bearded one and the bearded one is probably a Muslim.


  1. Similar narrations also in Bukhari, no. 5893, Muslim, no. 259, 260, Tirmidhi 2763, 2764, Nasai 15, 5045, 5046 and Dawud 4199
  2. Muslim 261a, similar narrations also in Ibn Majah 293, Abu Dawud 53, Nasai 5040, 5042 and Tirmidhi 2757
  3. outside of what it is to be considered a beard
  4. The role of Imam Rafi`i رحمه الله and Imam Nawawi رحمه الله in the Shafi`i school was to sift through and re-evaluate the various conflicting opinions of the preceding Shafi`is in order to determine the official position of the Shafi`i school. It is a well-known rule among the late scholars of the Shafi`i school that the official, relied-upon position of the Shafi`i school is whatever is determined as such by these two scholars of verification, even if other scholars disagree with them, no matter how high the rank of these disagreeing scholars may be. Whenever Imam Rafi`i and Imam Nawawi disagree, precedence is given to the recensions of Imam Nawawi. Because of their central role in the Shafi`i school, the Shafi`is who came after Nawawi and Rafi`i them gave the two imams the honorific title of “the two shaykhs”. Ibn Hajar mentions it is the position of Imam Nawawi and Imam Rafi‘i (Hashiyat Shirwani, 9.376).
  5. as confirmed by Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, Muhammad al-Ramli, al-Khatib al-Shirbini, and Shaykh al-Islam Zakariyya al-Ansari (I‘anatu’l-Talibin, 2.341).
  6. This is also confirmed in the other major Hanbali works, such as: al-Insaf, 1/121 by al-Mawardi, Sharh Muntaha al-Iradat, 1/85 by al-Bahuti and al-Rawdh al-Murbi’, 27-28.
  7. In Arabic this is called illat, the main purpose or reason behind a statement.

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