بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
It is not lawful for women to cut their hair. However, the reality of the Hadith mentioned in Muslim Sharif which speaks that the holy Wives of the Prophet (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon them) used to cut their hair is that it does not speak about cutting (qat’), rather the word is ‘akhz’ that means to take or hold. Here is the Hadith of Muslim Sharif:
عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، قَالَ دَخَلْتُ عَلَى عَائِشَةَ أَنَا وَأَخُوهَا، مِنَ الرَّضَاعَةِ فَسَأَلَهَا عَنْ غُسْلِ النَّبِيِّ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – مِنَ الْجَنَابَةِ ، فَدَعَتْ بِإِنَاءٍ قَدْرِ الصَّاعِ ، فَاغْتَسَلَتْ ، وَبَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَهَا سِتْرٌ ، وَأَفْرَغَتْ عَلَى رَأْسِهَا ثَلاَثًا ، قَالَ : وَكَانَ أَزْوَاجُ النَّبِيِّ – صلى الله عليه وسلم – يَأْخُذْنَ مِنْ رُءُوسِهِنَّ حَتَّى تَكُونَ كَالْوَفْرَةِ . (رواه مسلم 1/148)
The word ‘akhz’ has been used for taking and holding in the Holy Quran and Hadith in various places. Though some time it means ‘cutting’ according to the context. However, in the above-mentioned Hadith the meaning according to the context is holding and taking. In one way it could be interpreted that the Hadith speaks about ghusl and there is no connection of cutting hair with ghusl. Here the meaning of Hadith is that they used to collect them near the ears after washing them during the ghusl which look like they are up to the ears. Hadhrat Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani, may Allah have mercy upon him, writes in Fath al-Mulhim (vol. 3, p. 156, pub. Darul Uloom Karachi):
قلت عندي اطراد بالحديث أن نساء النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – كن يعقصن شعورهن المسترسلة ، يعقدنها على القفا أو على الرأس من غير أن يتخذنها قروناً وضفائر ، حتى تكون كالوفرة في عدم مجاوزتها من الأذنين كما يفعله كثير من العجائز والأيامي في عصرنا بل عامة النساء في حالة الاغتسال بعد غسل الرأس ؛ فإن الشعور الطويلة لو استرسلت على حالها ، فإيصال الماء إلى البدن المستور تحت الشعور المسترسلة لا يخلو عن كلفة و مشقة اهـ.
And this is supported by one Hadith which is recorded in Mu’jam Awsat by Tabrani (vol. 8, p. 39 number: 7078), which tells that the Holy wives of the Apostle, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, whilst performing the ghusl used to put their hair bun on their heads and did not untie them.
The other meaning is that the word of Hadith ‘حتى تكون كالوفرة’ indicates that the bun of the hair only looked like wafarah but it was not so in reality. Otherwise, the word of Hadith would have been ‘حتى تكون وفرة يا لمة يا جمة’ . The other interpretation is that which is liked by Allamah Kashmiri among the Mashaikh scholars that this cutting of the Holy Wives was only for being halal from the ihram due to which it is obvious that the hair was short. Also when it is most probable that the plural form of wives is for respect and it only refers to Hadhrat Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her, as the narrator Abu Salmah (may Allah be pleased with him) was her mahram, not of other wives. That is why it is possible that he might have seen her not the other wives. Also it is narrated that Hadhrat Aisha, (may Allah be pleased with her) used to perform Umrah extensively thus this interpretation is also preferable. One probability is also that the narrator said so after seeing the less hair of Hadhrat Aisha (may Alah be pleased with her) as the Hadith does not speak about cutting hair and the reason of less hair may be illness, as it is learnt by the Hadith of Bukhari in which Hadhrat Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said, “We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. I had an attack of fever for a month, and my hair had come down to the earlobes.” Here the word of Hadith is ‘جميمة’ which means small jumma and it is like wafarah. And one meaning is that due to old age the hair lessened as it is the opinion of Shaikh al-Hind, may Allah have mercy upon him.
However, if it is accepted that the holy wives (may Allah be pleased with them) used to cut their hair then according to Allamah Nawawi (may Allah have mercy upon him) it was for abandoning the adornment; since the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, had left for his heavenly abode, thus now there was no need of adornment. And it only can prove the permission of cutting hair for an old lady so that due to leaving the adornment and due to not combing the hair she does not feel the burden of hair. [Imdad al-Fatawa, vol. 4, p. 247, Imdad al-Ahkam, vol. 7, pp. 141-144.]
في العرف الشذي للكشميري (1/183) ، وعندي أن قصر بعض أزواج النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إنما كان عند التحلل من الإحرام لا في غيره من الأوقات ، ولي في هذا الجواب قرائن اهـ وفي العرف الشذي (1/183): قال الكشميري : سألت مولانا مدظله العالي عن حل الإشكال ، فقال : لعلها قلت الأشعار حالة الشیب اهـ . وفي شرح مسلم للنووي (1/148): قال القاضي عياض رحمه الله تعالى : المعروف أن نساء العرب إنما كن يتخذن القرون والذوائب ولعل أزواج النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم فعلن هذا بعد وفاته صلى الله عليه وسلم لتركهن التزين واستغنائهن عن تطويل الشعر وتخفيفاً لمؤنة رؤسهن وهذا الذي ذكره القاضي عياض من كونهن فعلنه بعد وفاته صلى الله عليه وسلم لا في حياته ، كذا قاله أيضا غيره وهو متعين ، ولا يظن بهن فعله في حياته صلى الله عليه وسلم وفيه دليل على جواز تخفيف الشعور للنساء اهـ.
Allah knows Best!
Darul Uloom Deoband