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The noble hair and beard of the Holy Prophet (saw)

Allah bless and greet him and his Family and Companions
By Dr. G. F. Haddad
Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

The Noble Beard


The adjectives used in relation to the noble beard in the authentic narrations of
the Prophetic attributes are “ample/full/plenteous” (kathîr), “large/heavy”
(dakhm), and “great/very large” (‘azîm). “Thick” (kathth) is also used but seems
of less established reliability. “Wide” (‘arîda) is not used in the hadith but as a
gloss by a contemporary scholar.

The most authentic evidence – the hadith of Jabir in Muslim and Ahmad – merely
states a full (kathîr) beard.

Following are the narrations that mention the Noble Beard:

1. In Sahih Muslim from Jabir ibn Samura – Allah be well-pleased with him –:

Wa kâna kathîra sha‘ri al-lihyati = And he – Allah bless and greet him – had an
ample/full beard.

2. A more appealing wording is probably that of Imam Ahmad’s narration from


Jabir of the same hadith in the Musnad with two chains:

Wa kâna kathîra al-sha‘ri wal-lihyati = And he – Allah bless and greet him – had
plentiful hair and an ample/full beard.

“Thick” is an acceptable translation although “ample” seems more accurate so as


to leave “thick-bearded” for “kathth al-lihya,” which does occur when the beard is
mentioned specifically in certain narrations, for example the hadith of the Khariji
who insulted the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – in the narration of Abu
Sa‘id al-Khudri in the Sahihayn and the Sunan. And also:

3. In Sunan al-Nasa’i from al-Bara’ ibn ‘Azib – Allah be well-pleased with him –
with a chain of trustworthy (thiqa) narrators:

“The Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – was a wide-shouldered man of
proportionate/medium build, thick-bearded (kathth al-lihya) with a reddish
complexion (ta‘lûhu humratun), his long hair reaching to the earlobes. I saw him
[thus], wearing a red tunic and never saw anyone more handsome.”

In none of the other wordings of this narration from al-Bara’ – in the Sahihayn,
the Sunan, and the Musnad of Ahmad including al-Nasa’i’s own three additional
versions – are the words “kathth al-lihya” mentioned. This is therefore likely to be
a shâdhdh – anomalous – wording.

Nice note: Al-Bukhari and Ahmad relate that the Tabi‘i Abu Ishaq al-Hamadani
said he heard al-Bara’ narrate this description many times, but always with a
smile on his face.

4. In Ahmad’s Musnad, with three chains from Muhammad ibn ‘Ali from ‘Ali – Allah
be well-pleased with him –:
“The Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – had a large head (dakhm al-ra’s) with
very large eyes (‘azîm al-‘aynayn), long eyelashes (hadib al-ashfâr/al-shifâr), and
eyes with red in them (mushrab al-‘ayni/al-‘aynayn bihumratin), he was thick-
bearded (kathth al-lihya) and of pink (azhar) complexion. He walked briskly, as if
down a slope. Whenever he turned [to look], he turned with his entire body. He
had fine hands and feet.”

These three chains contain ‘Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Aqil who is da‘îf (weak)
as in Tahrir Taqrib al-Tahdhib (2:264 #3592).

The mention of the red eyes is anomalous (shâdhdh), since (1) all narrations
other than Ibn ‘Aqil’s attribute color to the face/skin, not the eyes, and (2) the
Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – is elsewhere described as ad‘aj al-‘aynayn:
“His eyes were jet-black.” The very large eyes are confirmed in another narration
with the terms ashkal / ashhal al-‘aynayn: “Wide-Eyed”.

5. In Ahmad’s Musnad, with two other chains from Nafi‘ ibn Jubayr ibn Mut‘im,
from ‘Ali:

“The Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – was neither tall nor short. He had a
large head and beard (dakhmu al-ra’si wal-lihya), fine hands and feet, his face
had a reddish hue (mushrab wajhuhu humratan), he had a long chest-to-navel
line of hair (tawîl al-masruba) and large joints (karâdîs). He walked briskly,
literally leaning forward as if going downhill. I never saw anyone comparable
before or after him.”

These chains contain “‘Uthman ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Hurmuz” = ‘Uthman ibn Muslim
ibn Hurmuz who is da‘îf as in the Tahrir (2:446 #4517). [This is not Imam Malik’s
Shaykh.]

The zeugma “large head and beard” suggests that by “large/great head” in the
hadiths nos. 4-5 and 7-8, is actually meant “large head of hair” so as to resemble
the wording of no. 2 above, i.e. “plentiful hair and an ample/full beard.”

6. In Ahmad’s Musnad, with two other chains from Nafi‘ ibn Jubayr, from ‘Ali with
the following respective wordings:

First wording: “The Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – was of truly imposing
stature (‘azîm al-hâma), fair with a reddish hue, with a very large beard (‘azîm
al-lihya), large joints, fine hands and feet, a long chest-to-navel line of hair and
plentiful hair on his head (kathîra sha‘ri al-ra’si) - wavy hair (râjilahu). He walked
briskly as if going downhill. He was neither tall nor short. I never saw anyone
comparable before or after him.”

Second wording: “The Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – was of truly great
stature (dakhm al-hâma), with a reddish complexion (mushraban humratan), fine
hands and feet, a large beard (dakhm al-lihya), a long chest-to-navel line of hair,
and large joints. He walked briskly, leaning forward. He was neither short nor tall.
I never saw anyone comparable before or after him.”

These chains are fair (hasan) considering Sharik ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Nakha‘i and
‘Abd al-Malik ibn ‘Umayr as in the Tahrir.

7. In Ahmad’s Musnad, with another chain from Nafi‘ ibn Jubayr, from ‘Ali:
“The Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – was neither short nor tall, he had a
great head [of] wavy [hair] (‘azîm al-ra’si rajilahu [not râjilahu]), a great beard
(‘azîm al-lihya), with a reddish complexion (mushraban humratan), a long chest-
to-navel line of hair, very large joints, and fine hands and feet. He walked briskly
as if going downhill. He was neither tall nor short. I never saw anyone
comparable before or after him.”

This chain is merely acceptable due to the unknown Tabi‘i Salih ibn Su‘ayd or
Sa‘id, but it is useful as a confirmation of the others.

8. In Ahmad’s Musnad, with another chain from ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Imran, from ‘Ali,
with the same wording as no. 5.

9. In Ahmad’s Musnad, al-Tirmidhi’s Shama’il from Ibn ‘Abbas – Allah be well-


pleased with both of them:

Yazid al-Farisi said - he was a copyist of the Qur’an: I saw the Prophet – Allah
bless and greet him – in my sleep in the time of Ibn ‘Abbas. I told Ibn ‘Abbas, and
he said: “The Prophet used to say: Verily, the shaytan cannot take my likeness,
therefore whoever sees me in his sleep has seen me (truly). Can you therefore
describe for us that man whom you saw?” I said: “Yes, I saw a man of medium
build, his flesh was tawny to fair (lahmuhu asmaru ilâ al-bayâd), his smile was
beautiful, his eyes were jet-black, he had a handsome, round face, his beard
(lihya) went from here to here and almost filled his upper chest (kâdat tamla’u
nahrahu).” Ibn ‘Abbas said: “Had you seen him while awake you could not have
described him better.”

Al-Haythami in Majma‘ al-Zawa’id said: “Its narrators are trustworthy (thiqât).”


However, Yazid al-Farisi is only “passable” (maqbûl). Sidi ‘Abd Allah al-Lahji (d.
1410) said in his newly-published Muntaha al-Sul (4:339-340), his commentary
on al-Nabahani’s Wasa’il al-Wusul ila Shama’il al-Rasul (saws) – Allah bless and
greet him: “‘From here to here’ means ‘from this ear to this ear’... indicating by
this that his noble beard is wide and very large (‘arîdatun ‘azîma), and it is an
indication of its length.” Allah knows best, but in light of the Ba ‘Alawi Shuyukh’s
definition of the beard (lihya) according to the Shafi‘i School – whereby the lihya
is only the hair that grows on the chin, whereas the ‘âridân are the facial side-hair
that grows from mid-ear down to the chin – it would seem that “from here to
here” rather means from the top to the bottom of the chin-beard, not the ear-to-
ear width; this is confirmed by the words “and almost filled his upper chest”
immediately following, which are for emphasis (ta’kîd), not dissimilation
(mughâyara).

Note: Since Yazid al-Farisi was a Successor from Basra who had never seen the
Prophet – Allah bless and greet him –, his narration constitutes a refutation,
among other evidence, of those – such as Mustafa al-Zarqa and his follower Bilal
Philips – who claimed without basis other than their own speculation that the
hadiths of the vision of the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – in dream [in the
Sahihayn] applied only to the Muslims who knew his appearance from having
seen him while awake, namely, the Companions. Among the non-Companion
Salaf related to see the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – in their dream:
Sulayman ibn Nu‘aym, Nafi‘ al-Qari’ – one of the Seven canonical readers – ‘Umar
ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, ‘Asim ibn Kulayb’s father, Imam Abu al-Hasan al-Ash‘ari, and
others. See Shaykh ‘Isa ibn Mani‘ al-Himyari’s fatwa, Ru’ya al-Nabi (saws)
Haqqun ila Qiyami al-Sa‘a (“The Vision of the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him
– is a True Reality Until the Rising of the Hour”).
10. In al-Tirmidhi’s Sunan from ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As:

“The Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – used to shorten his beard a little, from
its width and length.” Al-Tirmidhi said it is single-chained (gharîb) and his chain
contains ‘Umar ibn Harun who is abandoned as a narrator (matrûk) - although al-
Bukhari had a good opinion of him - so the narration is very weak (da‘îf jiddan).
However, its contents are confirmed by the practice of the Companions, whom
Ibrahim al-Nakha‘i said “used to trim their beards on the sides” as narrated by al-
Baghawi in Sharh al-Sunna (12:108-109) specifically Abu Hurayra and Ibn ‘Umar
– Allah be well-pleased with all of them – and before going on Pilgrimage the
latter would trim all but a fistful of his beard although he is the one who narrates:

11. The command of the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – in the Sihah,
Sunan, and Musnad to “let beards grow freely”:

“Waffirû / a‘fû / a‘iffû / arkhû al-lihâ.” Al-Nawawi in Sharh Sahih Muslim


understood it in the absolute sense of leaving them in their natural state, while
Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari said that what was forbidden was to shave them or
something like it, as opposed to shortening them. Yet Imam al-Shafi‘i finally
declared it “reprehensible” (makrûh) to shave the beards, going back from his
previous ruling of “prohibited” (harâm) and re-interpreting the command to let
them grow freely as a sunna i.e. not entailing a sin if not put into practice.

At the very least, the command to let them grow freely is not absolute, but rather
conditioned by the criteria of (1) differing from non-Muslims; (2) keeping clean
and handsome; and (3) avoiding self-display. As Shaykh Nuh Keller said, “If the
earliest Muslims had all had beards down to their waists or to their knees from
never cutting them, this would have been conveyed to us by hadiths, but it has
not.”

Note: There is in the verb “waffirû” - “make plenteous” - a linguistic suggestion,


based on the same-root expression “al-wafra” - “earlobe hair-length” - used in
the hadiths on the Noble Hair, that the length meant in this Prophetic command
equals the vertical line from the top of the head to the earlobe, i.e. between one
and two fistfuls. I have not seen this mentioned anywhere, wAllahu Ta‘ala a‘lam.

12. In al-Shirazi’s al-Alqab as cited by al-Nabahani in Wasa’il al-Wusul from Abu


Hurayra: “The Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – used to take his beard in his
hand and look at it when he was preoccupied.”

Al-Lahji said its chain was fair (hasan) in Muntaha al-Sul (1:317). The narration
indicates a length above that of the fistful.

Abu Bakr – Allah be well-pleased with him – “was a man with fair skin, thin,
emaciated, with a sparse beard” while ‘Uthman – Allah be well-pleased with him –
had a large beard which he dyed yellow. ‘Ali – Allah be well-pleased with him –
had a thick white beard. Ibn Burayda described Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari – Allah be
well-pleased with him – as “of sparse beard / thin side-beard (athatt).” Imam
Malik was described as having a thick white beard and as detesting inordinate
length for the beard. Imam al-Shafi‘i had a sparse side-beard (khafîf al- ‘âridayn)
and “if he grasped his beard it would not exceed his fist.”

The Noble Hair


The Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – wore his hair long until his passing
from this world, “from more than shoulder-length (fawqa al-jumma*) to short of
the earlobes (dûna al-wafra**)” as narrated from ‘A’isha – Allah be well-pleased
with her – by al-Tirmidhi (hasan sahîh gharîb). Al-Bara’ ibn ‘Azib said: “Never did
I see anyone with head-and-shoulder hair (dhî limma***) look more more
handsome with a red garment on than the Messenger of Allah, his hair over his
shoulders (sha‘ruhu yadribu minkabayh), wide-shouldered, neither tall nor short.”
(Muslim, Ahmad, and the Sunan except Ibn Majah)
*jumma = (noun) literally “luxuriance.”

**wafra = (noun) literally “plenty.”

*** limma = (noun) literally “curl.”

He – Allah bless and greet him – explicitly praised long hair when he described
‘Isa (AS) [in the Sahihayn] as “having the most beautiful hair you could have
seen, wavy, shoulder-length and dripping with water.” In another version in the
Sahihayn the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – describes ‘Isa (AS) as “having
head-and-shoulder hair (limmatun) as beautiful as the most beautiful head-and-
shoulder hair (ka’ahsani mâ anta râ’in min al-limam).”

Style-wise the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – first let his hair hang down
freely (sadala), then he preferred parting it (farraqa), as in the hadith to that
effect from Ibn ‘Abbas – Allah be well-pleased with both of them in the Sahihayn.
‘A’isha – Allah be well-pleased with her – said she “parted his hair and let his
forelock (nâsiya) hang between his eyes” as narrated by Abu Dawud and Ahmad
with a sound chain according to Shaykh Shu‘ayb al-Arna’ut.

Al-Qadi ‘Iyad said that the freely-hanging hair (sadl), forelock (nâsiya), and
shoulder-length hair (jumma) were abrogated. At the time the Prophet – Allah
bless and greet him – entered Makka, he was wearing his hair braided in four
plaits (ghadâ’ir, dafâ’ir, ‘aqâ’is). Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (hasangharîb, in some
mss. gharîb only), Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud, and Ahmad, all four with the same
chain graded “fair” (hasan) by Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari (10:304), a grading
confirmed by Shaykh Shu‘ayb al-Arna’ut in his edition of al-Baghawi’s Sharh al-
Sunna (12:97).

It is not related in the Sunna - and Allah knows best - that the Prophet – Allah
bless and greet him – ever had his hair shortened. Rather, it is established that
he – Allah bless and greet him – kept his hair cleaned and oiled a lot of the time.
He also said: “Whoever has hair, let him honor it.” Narrated by Abu Dawud in his
Sunan with a fair to weak chain because of Ibn Abi al-Zannad.

Two hadiths are also narrated in which the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him –
expresses preference for shorter hair for two men, but the context indicates that
he meant to preclude showoff and conceit:

a) From Ibn al-Hanzaliyya – Allah be well-pleased with him –: “The Prophet –


Allah bless and greet him – said: ‘A fine man, Khuraym al-Asadi! were it not for
the length of his hair and the dragging of his waist-wrap.’ News of this reached
Khuraym, whereupon he immediately took a blade and cut (qata‘a) his hair to his
ears, then he raised up his waist-wrap to his mid-calves.” Part of a longer hadith
narrated by Abu Dawud and Ahmad with a near-hasan chain according to Shaykh
Shu‘ayb al-Arna’ut.
b) From Wa’il ibn Hujr – Allah be well-pleased with him –: “I came to [see] the
Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – when I had long hair. When the Prophet –
Allah bless and greet him – saw me he said: ‘Misfortune, misfortune’ (dhubâb,
dhubâb, lit. ‘flies’)! Then I returned and clipped it (jazaztuhu). When I came back
to [see] him the next day he said: ‘I truly did not mean you, but this is better.’”
Narrated by Abu Dawud, al-Nasa’i, and Ibn Majah with a strong chain according
to Shaykh Shu‘ayb al-Arna’ut. Both reports are in al-Baghawi’s Sharh al-Sunna
(12:101).

We heard from Dr. Wahbi al-Zuhayli: “The way the Prophet – Allah bless and
greet him – wore his hair was a question of local custom (‘urf zamânih).” I.e. with
regard to length and style. Al-Nabahani said in al-Anwar al-Muhammadiyya (p.
237): “Leaving the hair grow on the head is a sunna, and whoever denies it while
knowing it must be taught a lesson. It is permissible for whoever is unable to let
it grow to remove it.” If long hair is sunna, then clipping it is also sunna in light of
the above narrations, both rulings being conditional on the preclusion of self-
display wAllahu a‘lam.

‘Uthman – Allah be well-pleased with him – had long dark hair which reached to
his shoulders, and gold-braced teeth. ‘Abd Allah ibn Hazm said: “I saw ‘Uthman,
and I never saw man nor woman with a more handsome face than him.” ‘Ali –
Allah be well-pleased with him – was described as having white hair which he
parted in the middle. Abu Hurayra – Allah be well-pleased with him – used to
wear two braids (dafîratayn). Salim ibn ‘Umar, al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali, and the two sons
of Bishr al-Mazini were all related to wear braids, Allah be well-pleased with them.

It is established that in Madina the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – shaved
his hair three times and only for pilgrimage rites: at the ‘Umras of Hudaybiya and
Qada’, and at the Farewell Hajj.

Shaving the head for ordinary hygiene is permissible as shown by the hadith
prohibiting partial head-shave (qaza‘): “Either shave it all or leave it all”
(ahliqûhu kullahu aw utrukûhu kullah). Narrated from Ibn ‘Umar by al-Nasa’i and
Abu Dawud with an impeccable sahih chain. Imam al-Tahawi said that in the
School of Imam Abu Hanifa and his companions, removing altogether (ihfâ’) the
hair of the head - i.e. outside pilgrimage - is preferable to shortening it, on the
strength of the triple Du‘a of the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – for those
who shaved their heads in Pilgrimage as opposed to a single Du‘a for those who
merely cut it [in the Sahihayn and Sunan]. But shaving the head as a ritual act of
worship other than at the close of Hajj or ‘Umra is an agreed-upon innovation
(bid‘a) of the Khawarij as narrated in the Sahihayn.

As for the moustache, both shortening (qass) and removal (ihfâ’) are Sunna
according to all - including al-Tabari - except Malik, who considered shortening
the mustache sunna and removing it a bid‘a. wAllahu a‘lam.

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