This article is a reflection on the possible wisdom behind the Islamic practice of keeping a beard. It is an attempt at exploring some of the beautiful “side effects” of following one of the commands of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
I live in the West where bearded people who appear to be Muslim are sometimes viewed as being extremists, terrorists, fundamentalists, and/or violent. Given these common negative associations, what benefit is there in keeping a beard?
- By having a beard, I started feeling I have to “live up to the beard.” If you live among Muslims, and you begin keeping a beard, you may hear some of the following responses “Oh mashAllah brother you decided to keep a beard!… That beard looks really good on you brother!… “My brother! Welcome to Islam!” Ok, that last one is a little extreme – but you get the picture. By growing a beard, you are complying with one of the commands of the Prophet Muhammad (as elaborately explained by Shaykh Bilal Philips in the video lecture here). Indeed, beginning to grow your beard is a big step and in some cases, an outright declaration to the world that I am a Muslim and not afraid to let it be known. At the same time, if you grow your beard and “declare that you are a Muslim” and are concurrently committing sins, it makes one feel like a hypocrite. On one hand you are outwardly practicing the sunnah, showing people that you are a follower of the Prophet Muhammad, yet on the other hand you are committing sin. This in effect adds more pressure on one NOT to sin.
- Keeping a beard makes your life easier! People exert effort on a daily basis to try and remove their beard, which isn’t an easy thing to do. In fact, if you want to remain clean-shaven you have to shave regularly. Letting your beard grow, is the EASY thing to do: you don’t have to shave every single day, you don’t have to buy shaving cream and razors and shaving lotion and bandages when you cut yourself. So it saves money and blood!
- Although it’s possible that non-Muslims may find the beard unattractive (depending on many factors, like how long your beard is as well as other physical qualities), most people of faith find it to be on the contrary; they see it as something beautiful. Think of it this way; for a brother who has faith and follows his deen, a sister who covers her hair can be one of the most beautiful things to behold (please see Facebook group ” I LO♥ HIJABIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!“, hundreds of members mashaAllah). For a sister of faith, it is a similar matter – a brother with a beard is a sign of faith and can be very attractive. Of course, one of the key factors to whether it is attractive or not is the faith aspect. Now the question is why is it a good thing that the faithful find the beard attractive? I can think of two reasons:1) Islam teaches us of the benefits of having good companions (please refer to the hadith mentioned in Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 34, Number 314 as recorded here). If people of faith are attracted to you, this is more likely to happen.2) When you are looking for a prospective spouse, if the significant other is repulsed by your beard, then maybe their attachment to the sunnah is not as strong as you may like and that may help you sift through prospective spouses very quickly. Anyone who truly loves the Prophet, will likely love his sunnah and thereby find it easy to love those who practice the sunnah.
- Going back to living in the West, keeping a beard may be a trial for you. It is not easy to grow your beard and go to airports where some people are wondering at what time you’ll explode. It’s not easy going to work and finding that some people are nervous around you even though you mean them no harm. It’s not easy being judged and harassed (which unfortunately is possible). Why is this a benefit you ask? By being patient and persevering, Allah may grant us forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings. If we have pure intentions Allah will reward us for our effort and hardships that we face in his path. One of the best reasons for keeping a beard is to please our Lord by following the Prophet. And does it really matter what people think? What is more important to us; the sunnah and our deen or the creation?
- Going back to the earlier comment regarding “some people being nervous around you” – I have found that after the initial phase when a few people seemed nervous around me, people have become more comfortable. This is yet another benefit. There may have been some people who did not trust or even like me at first, but by trying to exhibit good character and trying to show kindness (which is in accordance to Islam), people can learn to accept and like our brothers and sisters in the ummah, inshaAllah.
- The beard can identify you as a Muslim. There is benefit in this because if people see that there are practicing moderate Muslims around them, then they will realize that Islam isn’t something to be feared. It is human nature to fear what you don’t know or understand. Therefore, we need to be known and understood!
- Another practical benefit of growing your beard is that it can cover your pimples and some facial imperfections.
I don’t mean to paint a dark picture. When I started in a new job there were people who were kind to me from the start! There are people who have already known Muslims in the past and actually sympathize with what Muslims are going through nowadays. Let’s not forget that we are not the only people to go through a tough period in the West. Our African American brothers came to this country as slaves. We must also remember how innocent Japanese people were held in detention centers in this country in World War II during this past century (one might even draw connections to the detention centers around the globe today that are being filled with Muslims). The bottom line is that with Allah subhana wa tala, we should expect the unexpected. We may expect poor treatment, discrimination, hatred, etc., yet we may find love, compassion, and sympathy. Allah provides help for His servants in ways that may not even be perceptible and in manners inconceivable. May God help me, my brothers and my sisters to put our faith in God.
[Note: What is the true intended wisdom by Allah to keep a beard? Allahu alim, Allah and His Messenger know best. This list is a compilation of the benefits as seen by a practicing Muslim.]
I want to end with a request – please make dua for me that God forgives my sins, beautifies my character and grants me Jannat-al-Firdous.