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Beared in Islam

Growing beard and adopting appearance resembling Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) shows the extreme love and reverence of a Muslim to the Sunnah. Beared is considered as religious identity by many Muslims. However the history reveals that beared keeping is not restricted to Muslims only. Presently the people wear some specific symbols to display their religious identity. 

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Religious Symbols: 
A religious symbol is an iconic representation intended to represent a specific religion, or a specific concept within a given religion. The Christian cross has traditionally been a symbol representing Christianity or Christendom as a whole. Presently religious symbols  include; Star of David for Jews. Crescent and star for Islam, Om for Hinduism. In appearance and dress Sikhs are prominent with long untrimmed beard and turban.
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Orthodox jews with long beard, skull cap or black hat, religious Muslims with beard and cap, Muslim women with Hijab. The dress is either according to local culture or Western, some religious person wear religious symbols like jewelry to display their religious identity.  The French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools bans wearing conspicuous religious symbols in French public primary and secondary schools. The law does not mention any particular symbol, and thus bans all Christian (veil, signs), Muslim (veil, signs), Sikh (turban, signs) Jewish and other religions' signs.

Beard- Short History:
Throughout the course of history, societal attitudes toward male beards have varied widely depending on factors such as prevailing cultural-religious traditions and the current era's fashion trends. Islam and Sikhism have considered a full beard to be absolutely essential for all males able to grow one, and mandate it as part of their official dogma. Other cultures, even while not officially mandating it, view a beard as central to a man's virility, exemplifying such virtues as wisdom, strength, sexual prowess and high social status.

The ancient Greeks regarded the beard as a badge or sign of virility (manhood); in the Homeric epics it had almost sanctified significance, so that a common form of entreaty was to touch the beard of the person addressed. In the time of Alexander the Great the custom of smooth shaving was introduced. Reportedly, Alexander ordered his soldiers to be clean-shaven, fearing that their beards would serve as handles for their enemies to grab and to hold the soldier as he was killed.
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In the Middle-Age Europe, a beard displayed a knight's virility and honour. The Castilian knight El Cid is described in The Lay of the Cid as "the one with the flowery beard". Holding somebody else's beard was a serious offence that had to be righted in a duel. While most noblemen and knights were bearded, the Catholic clergy were generally required to be clean-shaven. This was understood as a symbol of their celibacy (is the state of voluntarily being unmarried, sexually abstinent, or both, usually for religious reasons).
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In the time of Alexander the Great the custom of smooth shaving was introduced.. Reportedly, Alexander ordered his soldiers to be clean-shaven, fearing that their beards would serve as handles for their enemies to grab and to hold the soldier as he was killed.
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In Greek mythology and art, Zeus and Poseidon are always portrayed with beards, but Apollo never is. A bearded Hermes was replaced with the more familiar beardless youth in the 5th century BC. Zoroaster, the 11th/10th century BC era founder of Zoroastrianism is almost always depicted with a beard. In Norse mythology, Thor the god of thunder is portrayed wearing a red beard.

The "Philosopher's beard":
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In Greco-Roman antiquity the beard was "seen as the defining characteristic of the philosopher; philosophers had to have beards, and anyone with a beard was assumed to be a philosopher." While one may be tempted to think that Socrates and Plato sported "philosopher's beards", such is not the case. Shaving was not widespread in Athens during fifth & fourth-century BCE and so they would not be distinguished from the general populace for having a beard. The popularity of shaving did not rise in the region until the example of Alexander the Great near the end of the fourth century BCE.

The highest ranking Ancient Egyptians grew hair on their chins which was often dyed or hennaed (reddish brown) and sometimes plaited with interwoven gold thread.
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Confucius held that the human body was a gift from one's parents to which no alterations should be made. Aside from abstaining from body modifications such as tattoos, Confucians were also discouraged from cutting their hair, fingernails or beards. To what extent people could actually comply with this ideal depended on their profession; farmers or soldiers could probably not grow long beards as it would have interfered with their work.

In ancient India, the beard was allowed to grow long, a symbol of dignity and of wisdom (cf. sadhu). The nations in the east generally treated their beards with great care and veneration, and the punishment for licentiousness and adultery was to have the beard of the offending parties publicly cut off. They had such a sacred regard for the preservation of their beards that a man might pledge it for the payment of a debt.
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Hinduism: The ancient text followed regarding beards depends on the Deva and other teachings, varying according to whom the devotee worships or follows. Many Sadhus, Yogis, or Yoga practitioners keep beards, and represent all situations of life. Shaivite ascetics generally have beards, as they are not permitted to own anything, which would include a razor. The beard is also a sign of a nomadic and ascetic lifestyle. Vaishnava men, typically of the ISKCON sect, are often clean-shaven as a sign of cleanliness.

The Bible states in Leviticus 19:27 that "You shall not round off the corners of your heads nor mar the corners of your beard." Talmudic tradition explains this to mean that a man may not shave his beard with a razor with a single blade, since the cutting action of the blade against the skin "mars" the beard.
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Traditional Jews refrain from shaving, trimming the beard, and haircuts during certain times of the year like Passover, Sukkot, the Counting of the Omer and the Three Weeks. Cutting the hair is also restricted during the 30-day mourning period after the death of a close relative, known in Hebrew as the Shloshim (thirty).

Iconography and art dating from the 4th century onward almost always portray Jesus with a beard. In paintings and statues most of the Old Testament Biblical characters such as Moses and Abraham and Jesus' New Testament disciples such as St Peter appear with beards, as does John the Baptist. However, Western European art generally depicts John the Apostle as clean-shaven, to emphasize his relative youth. Eight of the figures portrayed in the painting entitled The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci are bearded.
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In Eastern Christianity, members of the priesthood and monastics often wear beards, and religious authorities at times have recommended or required beards for all male believers.
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At various times in its history and depending on various circumstances, the Catholic Church in the West permitted or prohibited facial hair (barbae nutritio – literally meaning "nourishing a beard") for clergy.  A decree of the beginning of the 6th century in either Carthage or the south of Gaul forbade clerics to let their hair and beards grow freely. The phrase "nourishing a beard" was interpreted in different ways, either as imposing a clean-shaven face or only excluding a too-lengthy beard. In relatively modern times, the first pope to wear a beard was Pope Julius II, who in 1511–12 did so for a while as a sign of mourning for the loss of the city of Bologna.
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Pope Clement VI let his beard grow at the time of the sack of Rome (1527) and kept it. All his successors did so until the death in 1700 of Pope Innocent XII. Since then, no pope has worn a beard. Most Latin-rite clergy are now clean-shaven, but Capuchins and some others are bearded. Present canon law is silent on the matter.
Although most Protestant Christians regard the beard as a matter of choice, some have taken the lead in fashion by openly encouraging its growth as "a habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial" (C. H. Spurgeon). Some Messianic Jews also wear beards to show their observance of the Old Testament.

Middle ages:
In the Middle-Age Europe, a beard displayed a knight's virility and honour. The Castilian knight El Cid is described in The Lay of the Cid as "the one with the flowery beard".
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Holding somebody else's beard was a serious offence that had to be righted in a duel. While most noblemen and knights were bearded, the Catholic clergy were generally required to be clean-shaven. This was understood as a symbol of their celibacy.

Presently we find majority of Muslims not growing beard and their appearance is not different form the non Muslims. if we go back  to the era of Makkah 1400 years ago, dress, appearance of Muslims and non Muslims was same. Growing a beard was considered normal and natural for a man at the time of the Messenger of Allah (saws), whether he was a believer or not. Even the enemies of Islam like Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab had beards!
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And because every man naturally grew a beard, it was not necessary for the Prophet (saws) to give an explicit command exhorting the believers to grow a beard. there is no direct commandment in Quran for beard keeping. The specific saying of the Prophet (saws) regarding the keeping of beards arose when he saw that the pagans used to grow both their beards and their mustaches long; thus he (saws) said to the believers: Ibn `Umar related that the Messenger of Allah (saws) said: "Differ from the polytheists: let your beards (grow), and shave your moustache."Related by al-Bukhari and Muslim. [Note Muslims were not yet large in numbers as today] 
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It was only a couple of centuries ago, when the Western culture and ideology became dominant over the world and Muslim lands, that it became a fashion to be clean shaven.
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And as with any dominant culture, people are always ready to adopt its actions, whether they are of virtue, or of vice! But Islam has its own culture, and growing a beard is part of the Islamic culture and Sunnah.
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The majority of Muslims have abandoned the practice of keeping beard, they could be categorized as follows:

  1. Consider keeping beared as obligatory [Fardh, Wajib]. while some keep beared, the others don't but remaining guilty of sin.
  2. Don't consider as obligatory, but optional. They think that the Prophet's commandment was related to the period of his time due to peculiar circumstance. In present ere it is does not remain symbol of Muslims, non Muslims like Sikhs keep it as religious obligation and many more as either religious obligation or just as a fashion.
Presently we see the society under decay, there  are many Muslims just by name, majority does not offer obligatory prayers 5 times a day, just once on Juma or once a year on Eid is considered ok. Cheating, lying, taking bribes, corruption,  indulging in immoral practices, sins, adultery (Zina), drinking ... almost every evil is now considered as normal.
"We have bestowed the Book on those of Our servants whom We have chosen. Some wrong their own souls, some keep half-way [between right and wrong]; some, by God's leave, excel others in good deeds. This is a great bounty of God: (Quran;35:32)

Under these circumstances if we start emphasising  the "appearance" ask the Muslims to first grow their beards and hope they will become good Muslims consequently, may be too simplistic approach.

The evil practices have gone to such an extent that we find many people using Sunnah to deceive the people. They look very religious but indulge in bad practices, cheating, fraud etc. Even the religious political leaders are found to be getting illegal gratifications, undue favours form the rulers to vote in their favour to pass a law or constitutional amendment.

The biggest issue today is the weakening of Faith AYMAN. If a Muslim truly believes in the accountability on Day of Judgment, will he indulge in anti Islamic, immoral practices?

It was rightly said that Islam focuses on Person, Individual. If individual is reformed the society will be reformed. The individual be reformed form easy to difficult, step by step. Not form difficult to easy. A person who becomes strong in FAITH, EYMAN,  will gradually start offering Salah, will start changing his appearance and finally becomes a good Muslim in Faith, in practice and in appearance. It could be slow process. Even if he does not adopt traditional Muslim appearance (due to any reason)  but offers Salah, is morally sound,  honest possessing all traits of good Muslims, we should not ridicule him. We should respect him and pray for him.

We know many people around us who are regular in prayer in congregation since decades, have been good all along but did not have beared, now they have grown beard. Some say "Beared is in Islam, BUT slam in not in beard". [Many people grow beard but they are not Muslims].
But if a believer does not want to sport a beard for whatever reason, the other believers should not make an issue out of it. What is important in Islam and in the sight of Allah is that one truly believes and does good righteous deeds. And when that happens, it is expected that the beard, appearance  will follow soon after!
[Allah Knows Best]

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