Monday, 11 December 2006

Women's Hair - How Long


Imam Muslim RA, Imam Tirmidhi RA and others have narrated the hadith of Umm Salama RA that she asked the Prophet SAW:

"I make the plaits of my hair tight. Should I loosen it at the time of a bath of impurity (janaba)?"

The Prophet Muhammad SAW replied:

"No, it is sufficient that you pour over your head three times and then pour water over your body.”( Riwayat Tirmidhi)

This hadith indicates that it is sufficient that water reaches the roots of the hair. It is not necessary to loosen plaits and wet all the hair. This ruling is confirmed by the scholars of fiqh.

The above narration also shows the preferable nature of a woman's hair to be long, to such an extent that even special concessions are given for purification purposes.

There is a hadith in Riwayat Muslim where it is stated that the blessed wives of the Prophet SAW used to cut their hair. However, the commentators of Riwayat Muslim explain that this permissibility is applied to women who are old and widowed and does not beautify herself.

Imam Nawawi RA states that this action cannot be imagined as have been during the lifetime of the Prophet SAW. It is permissible for an old woman and a young girl who cannot look after her hair, to cut it short a little, in order to look after it. Qadi lyad RA and Imam Nawawi RA said this was the manner of the wives of the Prophet SAW after his death because they had abandoned looking attractive and beautifying themselves.

Rulings For Hanafis and Shafi'is

According to leading Hanafi scholars, there is no harm in a woman cutting her hair, as long as:

a) it remains feminine and thus does not resemble men
b) it is not cut with the express intent of imitating non-Muslim fashions
c) it is not cut ‘excessively’

In the Shafi'i school, it is permitted to even cut the hair very short if the husband prefers it that way. However, this situation is very rare, as even the taste of a Muslim man who is well acquainted with the injunctions and best practices of Shari'ah from the Qur'an and Ahadith generally would like his wife to have long hair too. A Muslim man will understand that perfection in Deen will be attained via Emulation i.e. emulating the ways of the pious predecessors.

The following narration gives a flavour of what is best for women:

Abdullah ibn Umar RA is reported to have said:

"When a woman (pilgrim) wants to cut off her hair, she
may hold her hair at the front and cut it off about the length of the tip of a finger."

Despite technicalities, this short narration also provides a deeper meaning by means of principles. It gives us a strong conclusion on what is best for women - Long Hair.

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