What’s So Important About a Beard?

June 23, 2015


(Islamic Art DB)

In Moustafa Bayoumi’s book How Does it Feel to be a Problem?, an Egyptian American named Mohammed wishes to go to Egypt to see how Egyptian Muslims live and meet a respected Islamic scholar. However, Bayoumi explains, “His mother, however, has laid down a rule: He can go to Egypt only if he shaves his beard.” The author explains, “‘It’s because she’s worried about you,’ I told him one day as he drove me to the subway after prayers. He sighed. ‘I know.’ But both Rami and Mohammed gain strength from the outward manifestations of their faith.” (Bayoumi, 244-245)

In Islam, the Qur’an dictates that Adam was given a beard from Allah in order to beautify men. Later Allah gave Abraham ten things that purified the body, two of which involved trimming the moustache and wearing the beard. It is generally thought of as a sin to shave your beard because it alters the creation of Allah. Overall, Muslim men are instructed to keep their beards because it is required by Allah. There are also numerous justifications for it in the Qur’an and in the traditions left by the Holy Prophet Muhammed. In fact, in addition to donning the beard because of Allah’s commandment, many Muslim men wear the beard to emulate the Prophet Muhammed. (al-Islam.org-The Islamic Perspective of the beard)


In this video a man by the name of Saad Tasleem explains how men in the modern age should change the reason they wear their beards. The common belief in “hipster” culture is that wearing a beard makes you a man. But Tasleem explains the real reason men should wear a beard is because it respects Allah who commanded men to wear their beards and trim their mustaches. He goes against the claim that wearing a beard is a fashion statement and that Muslim men should wear their beards regardless of the dominant fashion trends.


In a similar video, Abu Mussab pleads with his male audience to keep their beards because Allah wants them to. He criticizes bosses who attack their employees with a beard because it will supposedly stop customers from shopping there. But the people are not there to buy a man’s beard. They are there to buy the product. He encourages the men to “be a man” and keep their beards regardless of the criticism they will face in their day-to-day lives.

However, Mohammed, the man from Bayoumi’s work, wore his beard not only to respect Allah and the Prophet Muhammed, but also to make his religion visible. This adds a layer of complexity to the excerpt that I began with. Tasleem and Mussab explain that the beard is a religious commandment and should not be shaved because society tells a man that it is fashionable or more profitable for him to be clean shaven. However, Mohammed takes the reasoning for not shaving his beard a step further. He keeps his beard in order to force people to ask him what Islam is really about. It makes Islam visible to his society. (Bayoumi, 245)

Overall, the religiously sanctioned beards of Islam are important because they are a commandment from Allah, but they are also a way for Muslim men to express their religiosity and make Islam visible.




Bayoumi, Moustafa. How Does it Feel to Be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America. Penguin Books, 2009.


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