AI 54: For the Love of God and His Prophet

Obligatory vs. Voluntary Sunnah

Filed under: Uncategorized March 23, 2014 @ 3:09 pm

I read the Qu’ran,

I read the hadith,

Differing rules,

Which to believe?


Several with beard,

Others without,

It’s not very clear,

How to go about.


Shall it be long?

Or shall it be trimmed?

What about width?

Should it be thinned?


Several says yes,

Others say no,

I look around,

How should I know?


I am a Muslim,

To God I revere,

Does this require,

Of me a beard?


As the Prophet,

I strive to be,

But to what extent,

To imitate thee?


-Sharely Fred


Verily in the messenger of God you have a beautiful model for everyone who hopes for God and the Last Judgment and often remembers God (33:21).-  Infidel of Love (Asani)


According to Islamic belief, Muhammad was the last of God’s Prophet who received the revelation.  Many consider this to have taken place because Muhammad prepared himself for this moment by purifying himself of faults and errors. For that reason, practitioners find it difficult to separate the process of revelation from Muhammad, and many have developed a notion of Muhammad as the “Walking Qu’ran”. In addition to his role as a prophet and messenger, Muhammad is viewed as a role model (uswa hasana), and he is believed to exemplify the correct way of living life according to God’s will. As a result of this characterization, respect for sunnah (“custom” or “path” of Prophet) has emerged, and some of the Prophet’s lifestyles have been established as norms. However, Muslim groups differ with respect to what they consider to be obligatory and voluntary sunnah.

Muslims believe that the Prophet’s prescription and practices, particularly those that are not explicitly stated in the Qu’ran, are obligatory, such as salat (prayer). However, other Muslim groups believe that the Prophet’s lifestyle, such as his likes/dislikes, are voluntary, and this establishes a premise for many debates within the Islamic tradition.

One major debate is that of having a beard. Given that the Prophet had a beard, Muslims are conflicted as to whether this should be an obligatory practice, given that it is not stipulated in the Qu’ran. The Sunni and Taliban believe that having a beard is obligatory, and that it should not be trimmed. Others argue that since having a beard is not explicitly stated in the Qu’ran it has no basis, and they have developed counterarguments to support this belief.

A central reason against the practice of the beard is that much of its support stems from narrations of the Prophet’s life, hadith, which were transmitted orally. The hadith is not a primary source and as such, certain Muslim groups, such as Qu’ranists, have rejected it. Thus it is clear, as my last post represented (“Change your lens, change your interpretation”), that depending on one’s interpretation, one’s views of what constitutes a Muslim will vary.

My poem attempts to address this concern of how to define a Muslim. Shahadah (the belief in one God and in Muhammad as the Prophet), is widely accepted as obligatory. Most Muslim groups will agree that in order to be a good practitioner of Islam you shall profess shahadah. What about having a beard? Do all Muslim groups think the same regarding the notion of the beard? The answer is no. There are varied views about how one’s physical appearance should be if one is Muslim. Certain groups believe a beard is necessary since Muhammad had a beard, and all Muslims should imitate his lifestyle (sunnah), but other groups do not see a basis for this. The question becomes: How does physical appearance affect one’s standing within the Islamic society? Does having a beard becoming a sufficient criteria to classify practitioners as good or bad Muslims? My poem represents a general viewpoint that could stem from any practitioner debating this notion of whether a beard is necessary.

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