By Shaykh Luqman Ahmad
As Muslims we seem to not fail to uncover any stone in our search for issues to argue and fight over. Disagreeing is one thing. However, we frequently escalate issues to the point of separation and splintering which is counter to the very foundation of what Islam is all about. “Be not like those who are divided amongst themselves and fall into disputations after receiving Clear Signs: For them is a dreadful penalty.” 3:105. One recent issue that caught my attention is the wearing of a beard. Wearing of the beard for Muslim men is the sunna of our beloved Prophet (SAWS) without question or disagreement by any of the reputable scholars of Islam. The fiqh position as far as shaving the beard, is that both the Maaliki and Handball schools of law consider it prohibited to shave the beard off outright, but do not consider it disliked to cut off what is in excess of a handful or to trim off an amount that is not regarded as shaving. The Hanafees consider it a prohibitive dislike to shave the beard entirely. The Shaafi’iyya considers shaving the beard to be disliked. Imam Nawawi, in his explanation of sahih Muslim mentioned ten disliked actions with regard to the beard, amongst them is it’s shaving, except in the case of a woman who has hair growth resembling a beard, in which case is it recommended that she shave it off.  (Al-fiqh al-Islaami wa adillatuh, Dr. Wahba Zuhaili, vol. 1, p. 308)
Some Muslims have advanced the notion that a person who does not wear a beard should be beaten or punished. They trace this opinion they say, back to Imam Malik. Requiring that someone is punished or beaten for not having a beard is absurd and irresponsible, especially coming from a scholar. Are we supposed to go about in America’s Masaajid, picking fights and beating Muslims up for not having a beard? Or calling them fussaaq (corrupt)? Punishing people for not having beards is not a practice of the Prophet (SAWS) or any of the companions of knowledge. So if a brother wears a beard because he fears reprisal from other Muslims, is he then wearing the beard for Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala, or wearing it for the satisfaction of the Muslims who taunt him? If he wears it for the latter then this is shirk, and there is no reward associated with it. This is the idiocy of taking issues of fiqh and deen to extreme levels not practiced by the Prophet (SAWS).
In the biographical account of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, he did not have a beard and it is well known that the Imam of the Muhadditheen, Imam Bukhaari did not have a beard either. Imagine the fitna that would ensue if Muslims started to condemn each other for not wearing beards. Oops, I’m sorry; we don’t have to imagine it, it has already begun. The hadith; “Act against the polytheists, trim closely the moustache and grow the beard.” is a sound hadith from Ibn Umar and collected by Imam Muslim in his sahih. Scholars differ as to the wujoob (incumbent), or istih’baab (recommended) nature of wearing a beard and what is its desirable length. They all agree unanimously that it is Sunna. However, American Muslims should not let the issue of the beard be a part of contention between us to the degree of animosity.
Wearing a beard, although a very important part of natural grooming (fitra) for Muslim men, does not suffice by itself as a referendum on who and who is not righteous. There are hundreds of singular acts of worship, sunnans, recommendations, orders, prohibitions, ideologies, and daily habits that make up Islam and that constitute proper Muslim behavior. For example, the hadith; “He who has no character, has no religion”, or the hadith; “none of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself”. A person could easily say to the person who has perceived bad character, that he or she is a bad Muslim, or has no deen as the Prophet (SAWS) said in the hadith. However, that is not the way we navigate faith in Islam according to the Quran and the sunna. Otherwise we would all continuously perform moral cat scans on each other to try to gauge each other to see who has better imaan. Such is not the desirable behavior of a Muslim; “Therefore ascribe not purity unto yourselves. He (Allah) is best aware of him who has piety (taqwa).” 53:32
Muslims should not let themselves be tricked by the devil to relying on outer manifestations of Islamic behavior to become the basis of their deen. Yes, brothers should wear beards because it is sunna. Brothers should also, pay charity, honor their parents, raise their children, be kind to their wives, honor their neighbors, guests, relatives. They should refrain from drugs and alcohol, and selling narcotics, they should pray in the Masjid, they should use miswak, they should feed the poor, tend to the single women with children, be honest in their dealings, they should earn an income and not live on their wives welfare check, and they should remain chaste until married.
Muslim women are often fooled by a brother who has a beard, a sajda mark (sometimes fake as I have been told), and short pants or thobe who presents himself as pious, and then marry them to find out he is a monster in a Muslim costume. There are much more heinous crimes and more important issues at hand than that. Some actions subject a Muslim to public accusation of corruption; a Muslim who openly sells alcohol, encourages Muslim on Muslim violence, or endorses racism, or the supremacy of one ethnic group over the other is more of an open sinner that someone who doesn’t have a beard! By the way if you take a look at Sikhs in America, almost every one of them has beards, so do many suicide bombers.
What’s important is that we all strive to assist each other in righteousness and piety and be patience with each other as we work to do good deeds. Lets stop this madness brothers and sisters. Work on your own faith because when it comes down to it; Allah will only ask you about you. Muslims should be careful not to embark upon issues that further separate the umma into factions. Doing such is itself, resembling the polytheists. “Turn ye back in repentance to Him, and fear Him: establish regular prayers, and be not ye among those who join gods with Allah,- Those who split up their Religion, and become (mere) Sects,- each party rejoicing in that which is with itself” , Quran 30:31-32 And Allah knows best.
Shaykh Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad
 Al-fiqh al-Islaami wa adillatuh, Dr. Wahba Zuhaili, vol. 1, p. 308