“I see that you are trying to grow a beard… like a terrorist,” a colleague commented. “Nah, it’s just laziness,” I quipped apologetically. I was caught totally off-guard. I thought my beard must’ve been messy that day to have a non-Muslim commenting on my appearance like that.
Later I looked in the mirror. Well, it’s not that messy. In fact it’s barely half an inch in length. But maybe the few stray strands puts off the whole beard. The few placing the rest in negative light, no thanks to the bad bearded people.
Unfortunately, it seems that having a beard tend to result in a negative comment. I do try to keep it as neat as possible, but just like the hair on my head, it gets ruffled or unkempt on occasions.
This is not the first time I have been associated with famous bearded entities. Because of my beard, I have been called a Taliban and Osama (bin Laden, the infamous). On both occasions by non-Muslims, though in an attempted light-hearted manner. Both of whom are not my closest of friends; to say that either they have a questionable sense of humor, or really feel strongly that the long beard correlates with Taliban/Osama-types.
Beard, the Muslim Identity
Every religion has its own identity, one which its followers attempt to project based on its teachings. So it is common to see followers of various religions wearing bangles, turbans, crucifixes, or the hijab/tudung. As a male Muslim, I put in my own effort in showing my Islamic identity by growing a beard.
The Islamic ruling on growing a beard (or not shaving one) differs, but it is at least a “great sunnah” (سنة مؤكدة) to keep a beard, as supported by the great Azhari Jaad al-Haqq Ali Jaad al-Haqq. Also “none of the Companions was known to have shaved his beard,” signifying the beard’s unique and distinct characteristic among the great men of Islam. Ibn Umar narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said:
أَحْفُوا الشَّوَارِبَ ، وَأَعْفُوا اللِّحَى
“Trim closely the moustache, and let the beard grow.” (Muslim)
In short, to keep a beard is Islamic. It is an Islamic command, though not compulsory.
The Hijacked Beard
While I’m arguing that the beard is an Islamic thing to do, it would be confusing then to see Malay dudes (most of whom are Muslims) who sport beards, yet seem to be engrossed in non-Islamic mannerisms such as drinking and being rowdy. Unfortunately just like many other things, physical appearance manifested by the loudest group tend to end up in rash correlation. Examples of bad bearded people who “hijacked” the beard as “theirs”:
a) Terrorists: Their case is more simple to understand. They will abide by anything that they believe is even remotely Islamic. More so the beard, which is supported by hadith texts. It is thus of no surprise their bearded appearance.
b) The Malay gangster-wannabe types who also grow beards: Usually coupled with flame-colored hair, sometimes also blue or green. Their reason for keeping the beard is – I assume – more cultural than religious, one which I will bluntly categorize as a sort of “adult Malay-ness” identity (read: attempts at being taken seriously as abang-abang). While the beard do signal a sign of maturity for most, action speaks louder that facial hairs.
Aside from these two negative examples of bearded entities, most male Malays (in my circle at least) keep a short beard or goatee. They make up the Malay-Muslim demography who keeps a beard for religious reasons. Of course, there are others who do so for possibly aesthetic motives too.
I would say that the long beard is not that common among Malay-Muslims in Singapore, but still exists. Longer length usually denotes a sense of religiosity among Muslims. If you think long-bearded (3 inches or more) Muslim males are uneducated religious zealots, leave xenophobia at the door. In Singapore, the long-bearded Muslims I personally know are a PhD student, satellite engineer, a millionaire businessman, and a Cambridge graduate. Go figure.
1. Just because a Muslim grows a beard, it doesn’t mean he’s intent on harm.
2. It is Islamic to keep a beard. It’s a religious identity. Like when a Muslim wears a skullcap or turban, it doesn’t mean he’s intent on harm.
3. Stop equating the beard or anything that a terrorist has/does with Islam.
Nice watch. (Image credit)
4. Look at the picture above. Yes Osama has beard. And a Casio on his wrist. So just because Osama is wearing a Casio, does all Casio-equipped Muslims support him?
5. Osama doesn’t eat pork (I’m sure). So all non pork-consuming Muslims support him? (In case you are don’t know, Muslims don’t consume pork. And just because a food doesn’t contain pork or lard, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is halal.)
6. Stop the oh-you-have-a-beard-Osama-lover-haha comment. I find it insensitive and incongruous.
In conclusion, avoid binary logic.
And in case you missed it: just because a Muslim grows a beard, doesn’t mean that he supports terrorism. Period.