Al-Lihyah: The Brilliant Beard
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Why do Muslim men keep a beard? I can’t claim to speak for every bearded Muslim man out there as I can’t be sure why each keeps his individual beard, but I do believe the reasons of most are similar to mine. So, I’ll tell you why I keep a beard.
*Post contributed by a bearded-and-proud brother, may Allah reward him.*
To put it simply, it is because Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم commanded us to do it and that command is enough for those who love and follow him. That’s the top motivating factor for me to let the hair flow! We believe that everything Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم told us to do is beneficial for us, even though we might not see it. He did not speak to satisfy his own whims and desires, but only to guide the Muslims, and all of mankind, to what is best for us.
Allah has given us men this unique ability to grow a beard so why not take advantage of it? Why must we look like females? Just because the latest fashion magazine shows a clean-shaven model? Or because the hero in every blockbuster movie is clean-shaven? I think I’m better than that. I’d rather follow what my Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم , sent by my Creator as a mercy to all creation, told me to do rather than follow trends which are hot one day and a flop the next. Following a celebrity might make someone feel ‘cool’, but I know that in following the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم I’m being rewarded for following the best man who walked this earth. If that isn’t motivating then I don’t know what is!
The beard is naturally one of the most apparent qualities of men that immediately differentiates us from women at a glance. Unfortunately though, many of us shave that quality off. Today there is a culture surrounding the beard which almost derides it and makes it a thing of shame, something unattractive and undesirable. There is no basis for such a culture. Earlier prophets had beards and even non-Muslims throughout time have kept beards. Think of philosophers, rulers, inventors, scientists and painters and you will surely be able to conjure up images of blokes with beards! The perception that a beard is something ‘uncool’ is something unfortunately stemming from the times we live in today.
Getting back to what I think about the beard. For me, and most likely for other Muslim men too, the beard is not just a random bunch of hair on our faces; it is part of our identity. When a Muslim man shaves his beard and walks outside, it is impossible to tell whether he is a Muslim or not. Such a brother is likely to miss out on the Muslim greeting of peace which other brothers would greet him with if they visibly recognised him as a brother in faith.
But, I hear you asking, there are many non-Muslims who also keep a beard so how can you tell a bearded Muslim man apart from a bearded non-Muslim? Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم has given us a unique method of maintaining a beard that especially makes us stand apart from all the other men who let their beards grow. Not confined to the fashion of any particular era, his command for us is to specifically grow a beard and trim (or completely shave off) the mustache.
If you’ve noticed, Jewish men also keep a long beard. So do Sikhs and even some Hindus. But, all of them also let their mustaches grow, something Muslim men don’t. Just today I was walking outside and I saw a man with a fist-long beard and shaved mustache. I knew from 20 feet away he was a Muslim and I said “Assalaamu alaikum” when we came near each other. That’s our unique identity. It’s just a wonderful feeling to be able to identify yourself as a Muslim, especially living in the West. Yes, some of us might face hardship because of our long beard, such as being stopped by the police or extra long searches at the airports, but in the end we are doing this to please Allah. This is a small price to pay for the pleasures that awaits us in the Hereafter for putting our submission to our Lord before our whims and desires.
The thought of meeting my Lord with a feature that adorned the face of His Beloved Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم is in itself a blessing for me personally. Who knows, this little good I did for the sake of my Lord could tip my balance on the Day of Reckoning and make me an eternal winner in Paradise.
So what do I think of the beard? I think a certain verse of the Quran sums it up nicely:
You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much. (Al-Azhab 33:21)