Are beards obligatory for devout Muslim men?

Man with a beard

Between coercion and free choice?

Hizbul-Islam militants in Somalia ordered men in Mogadishu this week to grow their beards and trim their moustaches.

“Anyone found violating this law will face the consequences,” a Hizbul-Islam militant said, announcing the edict.

But is growing a beard obligatory under Islam?

Professor Muhammad Abdel Haleem, of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, says “this is not the only view expressed by Muslim scholars.”

Many Muslim scholars now do not see the beard as an obligation and do shave their beards.


Muslims learn about the Prophet’s views on facial hair not from the Koran, but through hadith – or sayings – attributed to Muhammad.

One such hadith, in a collection by Muslim scholar Sahih Bukhari centuries ago, stipulates: “Cut the moustaches short and leave the beard.”

The Prophet Muhammad is believed to have had a beard and those who insist that devout Muslims grow beards argue that they are doing no more than asking the faithful to emulate the Prophet’s actions.

Iraqi Shia lawmaker Jamal Al-Deen Many Shia Muslims sport closely cropped beardsThe question that arises is one of enforcement.

Mr Abdel Haleem, along with many other Muslim scholars, says the wearing of beards should be considered a recommendation rather than an obligation.

The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan until they were ousted in 2001, and the Islamists of Somalia, are among a small minority in the Muslim world who demand unconditional observance and threaten penalties for non-compliance.

Mr Abdel Haleem argues that all practising Muslims – of which he is one – should be free to exercise their choice over a matter about which there is no overall consensus of opinion, without fear of retribution.

Imam Abduljalil Sajid, who is based at the Brighton Islamic Mission in the UK, concurs.

Continue reading the main story

Going without a beard became a sign of modernity

Abduljalil Sajid Imam

“In my opinion, this is a bit like the issue of women wearing headscarves. It is not one of the compulsory pillars of Islam, like prayer or fasting.”

There are, however, schools of Islamic law – Hanafi, Maliki, Hanbali and Shafi – which, among many other things, appear to promote the sporting of prominent beards.

By contrast, followers of Shia Islam generally prefer closely cropped beards, which are mostly “like two, or three days’ growth”.

Most Islamic scholars or other figures of religious authority, whether Shia or Sunni, sport beards in emulation of the Prophet.

However Egypt, Jordan and Turkey are an exception, says Imam Abduljalil. In these countries you would find some scholars without beards.

“Going without a beard became a sign of modernity,” the imam explains. “In the 1960s and 1970s, you saw more Muslims shaving off their beards.”

But more “fundamentalist Muslims” he says, continue to follow every letter of the Prophet’s teachings today.

The hadith, he says, offers guidelines on “how to trim your beard and keep it looking beautiful.”


‘Young Imam’ Is the Reality Show Creating All the Buzz in Malaysia


[Imam]Astro EntertainmentContestants, above, face elimination from ‘Young Imam.’

KUALA LUMPUR—The U.S. has “American Idol.” Britain has “The X Factor.” Malaysia, one of the world’s more progressive Muslim nations, has something rather different—a televised search for the country’s most eligible young religious leader.

“Young Imam” might look familiar at first glance. Ten good-looking male contestants in sharp-looking suits are assigned to sing and complete a series of complex tasks. At the end of the show, the studio lights dim, the music drops to a whisper, and a clutch of young hopefuls step forward nervously, waiting hand-in-hand to find out who will be sent home that night.

Instead of a record contract or a million-dollar prize, though, the last imam standing wins a scholarship to the al-Madinah University in Saudi Arabia, a job leading prayers at a Kuala Lumpur mosque and an expense-paid trip to Mecca to perform the Haj pilgrimage.


Astro EntertainmentParticipants carry a coffin to its final resting place as part of the show.



The sole judge who decides who stays and who goes each Friday in prime-time isn’t an aging pop star or talk-show host. He’s the turban-wearing former grand mufti of Malaysia’s national mosque, Hasan Mahmood. Last week Mr. Hasan stifled a sob as he eliminated 25-year-old Sharafuddin Suaut from the show for stumbling over some of the finer points of Islamic theory.

It’s an unusual portrayal of both Islam and of the vital job of imam—a broad role whose duties range from leading prayers to helping sort out community problems. Izelan Basar, a channel manager at Kuala Lumpur cable network Astro Entertainment Sdn. Bhd., devised the show’s format with the help of local religious authorities to help smooth over any sensitivities.

While Malaysia generally takes a moderate approach to Islam and has tried to put a modern spin on the faith for years, there are strong conservative undercurrents here. Three Muslim women were for the first time caned here earlier this year for breaching Islamic Shariah laws by having extramarital sex. In recent days police and government officials have warned that al-Qaeda-linked agents have tried to recruit young Muslims from the country’s universities. Continue reading

Blackwater Firm Gets $120M U.S. Gov’t Contract

CBS News has learned in an exclusive report that the State Department has awarded a part of what was formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide a contract worth more than $120 million for providing security services in Afghanistan.

Blackwater Tape Erik Prince

Private security firm U.S. Training Center, a business unit of the Moyock, N.C.-based Blackwater, now called Xe Services, was awarded the contract Friday, a State Department spokeswoman said Friday night.

Under the contract, U.S. Training Center will provide “protective security services” at the new U.S. consulates in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, the spokeswoman said. The firm can begin work “immediately” and has to start within two months. The contract lasts a year but can be extended twice for three months at a time to last a maximum of 18 months.

Should the firm fulfill all 18 months available in the contract, it will be paid a total of $120,123,293, the spokeswoman said. Continue reading

Afghanistan Awaits Further Exploitation

WASHINGTON — Mining companies around the world are eager to exploit Afghanistan’s newly discovered mineral wealth, but executives of Western firms caution that war, corruption and lack of roads and other infrastructure are likely to delay exploration for years.

A few high-risk investors are sufficiently intrigued by the country’s potential to take an early look. JP Morgan, for instance, has just sent a team of mining experts to Afghanistan to examine possible projects to develop.

“Afghanistan could be one of the leading producers of copper, gold, lithium and iron ore in the world,” said Ian Hannam, a London-based banker and mining expert with JP Morgan. “I believe this has the potential to be transforming for Afghanistan.”

But executives with international mining firms said in interviews that while they believed that Afghanistan’s mineral deposits held great potential, their businesses were not planning to move into the country until the war was over and the country more stable.

“There are huge deposits there,” said David Beatty, chief executive of Rio-Novo Gold, a mining company based in Toronto. Continue reading

Tea Party Confessional Runs In Playboy



Tea Party

The new Playboy magazine has an anonymousconfessional from a K Street consultant who lifts the curtain on many of the politically crafty, somewhat seedy underpinnings of the Tea Party movement.

The article has not received much attention. But its contents, if true, are illustrative and fascinating. The consultant, who doesn’t identify for whom he actually works, paints a picture of a movement that has strength in its legions of followers outside the Beltway but harnesses its power from the “black arts” of politicking.

Among the author’s various claims are the following:

  • Tea Party strategists have “quietly acquired Service Employees International Union shirts to wear at Tea Party rallies,” which he or she describes as the equivalent of “handing out TSA uniforms in Kabul.”
  • Sarah Palin isn’t the leader of the movement. Big Government’s Andrew Breitbart is. “Breitbart is one of them, except smarter, better connected and angrier; compared with him, Palin is Las Vegas dinner theater. That’s why he is loved by Tea Partyers in a way Palin can never hope to be loved.”
  • Actual elected officials are bowing down to the Tea Party throng in ever-growing numbers. Describing a meeting he held with his finance team at the Richard Nixon suite at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. the consultant writes that members of Congress came in and asked for a list of what to do. “The second meeting drew 10 congressmen,” the consultant writes. “There we sat, inside the Capitol Hill Club (which shares the building that houses the Republican National Committee), sharing ideas on how we can work together. The third meeting drew 17 congressmen.”
  • Strategists deliberately try to stir up rage among average Americans, calculating that it’s much easier to push a political movement if it’s deeply frightened than if it’s entirely hopeful. “We’re playing to the reptilian brain rather than the logic centers, so we look for key words and images to leverage the intense rage and anxiety of white working-class conservatives,” the consultant writes. “In other words, I talk to the same part of your brain that causes road rage.”
  • Continue reading