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 it is not.
It is up to the individual whether he lets his facial hair grow or not, Mr Abdel Haleem says, attributing this view to most scholars of Islamic law across a majority of Muslim-dominated countries…
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…
Mr Abdel Haleem says the body of Islamic law at the core of manuals of Muslim practice puts it as a recommendation – sitting in the middle between an order and absolute free choice.
But, he adds, it is “a recommendation nonetheless“.
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, says Mr Abdel Haleem.
Every practising Muslim, he argues – adding that he is one of them – should be free to exercise their choice, without fear of retribution.
Being free to exercise your choice without fear of retribution is characteristic of any society with aspirations to liberty.
Still, there is no shortage of religious communities supposedly dedicated to freeing human spirit, bringing the word of whichever neighborhood in heaven they aspire to – to the average heathen – which automatically skip the part about fear of retribution.
You may be causing no special harm to any other human being; but, if your behavior, hair, speech and sexuality upset the neighborhood Knight Templar – you’re target number one.