Is Shaving the Head a Sunnah

Question #: 5722
Date Posted: 05-03-2004
<QUESTION>

In his (sallAllahu `alaihi wasallam) blessed lifetime how many times did al-Mustafa, Rasulullah (sallAllahu ta`ala `alaihi wa alihi wa sahbihi wasallam) shave his mubarak head (or had it shaved)? And on what occasion(s)? (E.g. hajj, ‘umra, battles, etc?)

<ANSWER>
In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,

The normal practice of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was that of keeping his hair.

Imam Tirmidhi (Allah have mercy on him) reports many narrations in his famous al-Shama’il which indicate that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) normally kept his hair.

1) Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) reports that the hair of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was up to half of his ear.” (Sahih Muslim, no. 2338, Sunan Abu Dawud, Sunan Nasai and Musnad Ahmad)

2) Sayyiduna Bara ibn Azib (Allah be pleased with him) says: “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was of average height, and the portion between his two shoulders was wide. His hair was till his ear-lobes.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 3549 & Sahih Muslim, no. 2337)

3) Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) says: “The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) and I used to bath from one utensil, and his hair was longer than the ear-lobes (jumma) and shorter than the hair that reaches the shoulders (wafra).” (Sunan Abu Dawud, no. 4187, Sunan Tirmidhi, no. 1755 & Musnad Ahmad, 6/108)

The above and other narrations do not contradict each other, as hair is something that grows. At times, his hair was till half of his ear (wafra), whereas, at other times, it reached his ear-lobes (limma), or to the shoulders (jumma).

As far as the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) shaving his hair is concerned, the predominant opinion of the Ulama is that he only shaved his hair whilst performing Hajj or Umrah.

The Hadith expert (hafidh), Imam Abd al-Rauf al-Munawi (Allah have mercy on him) states in his commentary of Shama’il al-Tirmidhi:

“These narrations indicate that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) refrained from shaving his head except in Hajj and Umrah…..Some Hadith commentators state that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) only shaved his hair in the year of Hudaibiyya, then in Umrah al-Qadha and then in Hajj al-Wada.” (Sharh al-Munawi ala Shama’il al-Tirmidhi, P. 99)

In light of the above, if one was to keep the hair in accordance with the practice of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), then he will be rewarded. To imitate and follow our beloved Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) is a sign of having love for him and a means of acquiring his and Allah’s pleasure.

However, to cut, trim or shave the head is totally permissible and lawful. There are cases where some of the Companions (Allah be pleased with them all) shaved their hair. At the time of the treaty of al-Hudaibiyya, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) ordered Ka’b ibn Ujrah (Allah be pleased with him) to shave his head due to him having trouble keeping long hair. (See: Tafsir al-Qurtubi, 2/360)

In conclusion, firstly, the normal practice of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was that of keeping hair. He is reported to have shaved his head only a few times. Secondly, to keep hair with the intention of following the Sunnah is certainly virtuous and rewarded. However, to trim, shave or cut the hair is without doubt permissible, especially when one has difficulty keeping long hair.
And Allah Knows Best

[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Darul Iftaa
Leicester , UK