What is the ruling regarding cutting the hair for women? If it is allowed, then how short can she cut it?
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,
In general, the major classical Hanafi Fiqh books prohibit the cutting of hair for women. This is also affirmed by many Indian Subcontinent scholars. However, some scholars of the Arab world have permitted it conditionally.
In a Hadith, “the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) forbade women from shaving their hair.” (Sunan Tirmidhi, 2/246 & Sunan Nasa’i, 5/407)
Imam al-Haskafi (Allah have mercy on him) mentions in his famous book in Hanafi Fiqh:
“If a woman cuts her hair, she will be sinful and cursed. In al-Bazzaziyya it is added: “Even with the permission of the husband, as there is no obedience to the creation in disobeying the Creator.” (See: Radd al-Muhtar with the Durr of al-Haskafi, kitab al-hazr wal-ibaha, 5/261)
The main two reasons given by scholars for the impermissibility of women cutting their hair are:
a) Imitation of the Kuffar (non-Muslims),
b) Imitation of men,
Both of which have been clearly prohibited in Shariah.
In the Hadith recorded by Imam Abu Dawud in his ‘Sunan’ and others, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “Whosoever imitates a group is amongst them.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, no. 4031)
Regarding the imitation of men, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) cursed those men who imitate women and those women who imitate men.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, 7/205)
For the above two reasons, the jurists (fuqaha) have generally prohibited the cutting of hair for women. It is for the reason of imitating men; they considered such women to be cursed, as in the Hadith women who imitate men are cursed by the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace)
In view of the above, it would generally not be permitted for women to cut their hair. To imitate the styles of the Kuffar and non-Muslim women is not permissible. The hair cuts prevalent among many modern women have a clear resemblance with the styles of non-Muslim women, thus it will be unlawful.
Similarly, to shorten the hair in a way that it resembles the hair of men is also prohibited. If a woman does so, she will earn the curse of the blessed Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace)
However, if a woman trims her hair slightly in a way that she did not contravene any of the above two reasons, then this would be (and Allah knows best) permitted. In other words, there are two conditions for this permissibility, and they both should be understood properly, and not misused or taken out of context:
1) There should be no imitation of non-Muslim Women,
The hairstyles adopted by kuffar and non-Muslim women, such as flicks, perms, fringes, etc… will not be allowed. Cutting the hair from the front will also be impermissible.
2) There should be no imitation of men
Cutting the hair in any way that resembles the hair of men is unlawful (haram), as mentioned previously. Therefore, if a woman cuts her hair from the lower end slightly in order to equate the level of the hairs, then this will be permissible.
It should be noted that, if the hair is cut, then it should be well below the shoulders, and this permissibility is only to cut it slightly. If the woman is married, then this should be done with the consent of her husband.
Finally, it should be remembered that it is better for a woman to not cut her hair altogether, unless there is some genuine reason. In the early times, a woman’s beauty was considered in the length of her hair, and not in looking like a man.
In conclusion, generally it is not permissible for a woman to cut her hair. However, if the hair is cut in the manner outlined above, it would be permissible, although better to avoid.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK