My question concerns the beard. I have seen many aalims, shayks and other scholars of Islaam trim their beard to a level other than fist length. I have done a lot of research through the internet and recieved the views that some say the beard is a sunnah. Is this true? And is it ok to trim the beard low?
Keeping the beard is a very important Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A). Some people are under the impression that it was one of the simple practices of the Prophet (S.A) which he did as an Arab and was not a practice which was connected to a religious requirement. This understanding is clearly wrong and misguided. There are many sound and authentic traditions of the Prophet (S.A) which show the great emphasis he placed on keeping the beard and also ordering his followers to do the same.
In a tradition recorded by Imam Bukhari, it is narrated that Abdullah Ibn Umar (R.A) reports that the Prophet (S.A) said, “Grow the beard and shorten the moustache”. It is clear that if there was no religious significance of the beard in Islam, the Prophet (S.A) would not have issued such an order. Similar traditions have been recorded in many books of Ahadith which emphasize the order of growing the beard and shortening the moustache. Based on the degree of the emphasis placed on this matter, as clearly recorded in authentic and sound traditions, all the scholars from the early generations of Muslims have considered it essential for a male to keep a beard and have declared it Haraam (unlawful) for him to shave it.
With respect to the length which must be kept, it is evident from the words of the great scholars of the past that keeping the beard to one’s fist is essential. This length is evident from the actions and statements of the companions of the Prophet (S.A) who followed the Prophet in all his practices (including the length of the beard).
Imam Bukhari has narrated that Abdullah Ibn Umar (R.A) used to keep his beard to the length of one fist and would trim it when it exceeded that amount (Bukhaari). It is recorded in Umdatul Qaari (commentary of Saheeh Bukhaari by Allama Aini) that Umar (R.A) once saw a man with a very long beard and ordered him to cut it to the length of one fist. It is also recorded that Abu Hurairah (R.A) used to keep his beard to the length of one fist (Umdatul Qari). It is important to note that these actions of the Companions could only have come about when they had seen the Prophet (S.A) doing the same.
Based on these and other similar reports, the great Fuqaha (Jurists) of Islam have stated that it is essential for one to grow his beard to the length of one fist and may trim it when it crosses that amount. They have also stated that it is impermissible for one to trim his beard before it reaches this length.
It may be literally correct to say that the beard was a Sunnah of the Prophet (S.A), meaning it is a practice which is established from his teachings. However, owing to the fact that the traditions which speak about growing the beard comes with the imperative tense (Al-Amr) which according to (Usoolul Fiqh) the Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence expresses an order and command, it would be technically incorrect to treat the issue of the beard as a mere Sunnah having no serious implications. A command brings with it religious duty and cannot be dismissed lightly.
It is for this reason the scholars from among the Sahabahs, Tabieen and Tabiut Tabieen have considered it to be an essential religious duty upon Muslim males and have termed those who do not uphold this teaching to be ‘Fusaaq’ (wrongdoers and transgressors).
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan
Importance of keeping the beard.