Keeping a Beard


Keeping a Beard


Ml Mohammad Taha Karaan


I’ve had people recently asking me the ruling for shaving the beard in accordance to my understanding all four schools of thoughts had a consensus that shaving is haram; however, I have read recently that the relied-upon position for the Shāfiʿī madhhab is that it is makrooh (not sinful) to shave the beard. Is this correct?

If yes, then the fact that to keep a beard is a sign of Islam, how can I explain to those who pick and choose from different schools of thought, or if someone is following the Shāfiʿī madhhab, that they should still grow it and not consider it a small act to shave? If there is no way, then that is understandable.

Also, I don’t know the terminologies in the Shāfiʿī madhhab when it comes to makrooh so if someone shaves and never grows a beard, in accordance to the Shāfiʿī madhhab, will he ever be considered a sinner? Jazak Allah Khair.


Wa alaykumus salam wa rahmatuLlah

Each of the four madhahib regards the keeping of the beard as virtuous and exemplary. None of them discourage its keeping or encourage its removal. All of them furthermore look with disapproval at shortening or shaving the beard. The only area in which a difference exists is the level of censure incurred by the removal of the beard. This is where the rajih view within the Shāfiʿī madhhab stops a little short from the other madhahib. Whereas the other madhahib (as well a marjuh view within the Shāfiʿī madhhab) deem it haram and sinful, the rajih view of the Shāfiʿī stop short at karahah. And karahah would by definition mean that the act, while frowned upon and disapproved, does not quite amount to sinfulness.

You are correct in saying that the beard is a sign of Islam. However, not every sign is necessarily wajib to observe or haram to remove. The general covering of the head for males would be a case in point. And then, not every sign of Islam requires enforcement through the threat of sinfulness. What ought rather to be done is to create love of the Sunnah of RasuluLlah sallaLlahu `alayhi wasallam so that people will willingly and with love adopt not just the sunnah of the beard but other sunnahs as well, both of external appearance and internal character.

With the highest of respect to the sunnah of the beard, one should not fall into the trap of becoming so focused upon its enforcement that sight is lost, on the one hand, of the good qualities possessed by those who fail in observing the sunnah of the beard, and on the other, of some not-so-good qualities within those who do keep the beard. It is not just the beard with whose inculcation within the masses the ulama are tasked, but the entire Shari’ah. When the fuqaha have differed about the level of censure attached to non-observance of the sunnah of the beard, those who do happen to subscribe to that view should, in my humble opinion, be afforded the latitude of their choice.

What may however be brought to their attention is that it is a misunderstanding to say that any particular madhhab displays apathy towards the beard. Apathy towards the beard is nowhere to be found in our entire Shari’ah. The Shāfiʿī madhhab does not say, “Don’t keep a beard,” or “You don’t have to keep a beard.” It says that the beard is a great sunnah whose observance is highly meritorious and whose removal caused distress to RasuluLlah sallaLlahu `alayhi wasallam, wherefore it is a loathsome act whose doer falls just short of being sinful.

Someone who opts for this view of the Shāfiʿī madhhab and decides to remove his beard must therefore know that he has every reason short of sin to feel guilty for removing his beard. I hope this helps. Was-salam.



Jazak Allahu Khair for the reply.

Just some more questions…

If it is not a sin then why would its removal cause distress to the Prophet (SAW)? Regarding other Ahadith where the Prophet (SAW) wouldn’t look at those who shaved, will the one who shaves still receive the intercession of the Prophet (SAW) on the day of qiyamah?

And also, has this then always been the opinion of the Shāfiʿī madhhab that it is makrooh or is it from recent times?

I’m still having trouble telling those who follow the Shāfiʿī madhhab to keep a beard. I’m not enforcing it but if I tell them it causes distress to the Prophet (SAW) it doesn’t seem to affect them and in accordance to the madhhab I can’t tell them it is a sin. Is there any way it will reach the level of a “sin” in the Shāfiʿī madhhab?


Causing distress to RasuluLlah sallaLlahu alayhi wasallam, as serious as it is, does not of necessity, by consensus, and under all circumstances amount to sinfulness. A case in point is that of salah in jama’ah. The distress this caused RasuluLlah sallaLlahu `alayhi wasallam is by no means unknown, yet a fair amount of the Fuqaha of the Ummah believe it to be not an intrinsic obligation, but an emphasised sunnah. This is in fact the position taken in Hanafi mutun like Quduri and Tanwir (although the mufta bihi opinion might differ). About udhiyyah RasuluLlah was emphatic enough to bar those who failed to do it from attending the salah, leading the Hanafis to conclude that it was wajib. Yet the Shāfiʿī and Hanbalis unequivocally, and the Malikis in their rajih position believe it to be a sunnah mu’akkadah.

The hadith about RasuluLlah sallaLlahu `alayhi wasallam refusing to look at those who shaves is exactly what lies at the bottom of my earlier statement that shaving causes him distress. To conclude from their that it is haram (or in the case of the Hanafi madhhab, makruh tahrimi) to shave is quite tenable, but it happens to be a position that all the fuqaha have historically not agreed upon. If the intention is to open up the door to verify the established views of the madhahib in light of dalil, I see no reason why this approach should be restricted to this issue alone. This very Salafi-like approach, despite what appears to be its merits, is bound to cause the Ummah more harm than good.

As for intercession, why should it be restricted to the beard alone? Yes, indeed, shaving the beard causes distress to RasuluLlah sallaLlahu `alayhi wasallam. But to restrict shafa’ah to the beard is to deny anything else any sort of value. Without in any way subtracting from the value of external observances, it must be realised that there are things which weigh as much if not at times more than the external display of the Sunnah. The hadith of the jester AbduLlah who used to be called Himar and was duly punished for it, imparts an important lesson about not setting so much store by the external that sight is completely lost of internal attributes. Had it been true that every bearded Muslim man is universally and without exception a paragon of virtue, I would have been inclined to agree that the non-observance of this sunnah will deprive one of Shafa’ah. But obviously, that is not the case.

The Shāfiʿī madhhab achieved standardized tarjih centuries before any other madhhab. The phenomenon of differing positions within the madhhab was stabilized by Imam Rafi’i and Imam Nawawi, both of whom lived in the 7th century after the Hijrah. It was on account of their tarjih that the view of karahah as opposed to tahrim came to be the standard position of the madhhab. This tarjih is therefore slightly under 800 years old. Now while there have been individual jurists after them who still preferred the position of tahrim, and while this continues up to the present day, and notwithstanding the fact that I myself am inclined to the tahrim position as well, this does not change the historical reality that in terms of the qawa’id of tarjih it is the preferences of Rafi’i and Nawawi that decide where the madhhab stands and not anyone else.

You would be well-advised to let go of the idea that your duty is unfulfilled until every Shāfiʿī person you know has a beard. Your duty is but conveyance, not enforcement. If the brothers you speak of were unaffected by your saying that it causes distress to RasuluLlah sallaLlahu alayhi wasallam, what guarantee do you have that they will comply when you say it is sinful (disingenuous though that may be)? Our Nabi sallaLlahualayhi wasallam experienced even greater distress at the non-acceptance of Iman by the people around him, and even by his beloved uncle, until Allah had to reveal to him:

إنك لا تهدي من أحببت ولكن الله يهدي من يشاء

That was iman itself; this is one sunnah act. I am sure there are many other neglected things of importance which deserve as much if not more attention than the beard. You have conveyed; now leave hidayah and tawfiq to Allah. Was-salam.