—Photo Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/Dawn.com

After reading the news that Saudi morality police — acting as “God’s agents” on earth to prevent sin — beat up a woman and a man accompanying her on suspicion of dating. I asked myself this question: what right do these “keepers-of-faith” have to rigorously impose Islamic morals on other people? The woman and man turned out to be relatives.

When the members of Haia realised their folly, they tried to hush up the Yanbu woman, who was accompanying her uncle for work in Medina, by paying for their hotel stay, SR500 in cash, and mint leaves, with hopes that she would not lodge an official complaint.

The image of God’s men exerting force on women and being afraid of an earthly complaint is all a bit odd when thinking of the Prophetic character. Do they really think they’re furthering God’s wishes on earth? If so, why does their lack of tact so contradict the manner of the last prophet who, through kindness, won the hearts of the rigid Meccans?

To answer my initial question, it is important to ponder upon what constitutes faith. Being a practicing Muslim man, who has experienced Muslim life in the United States, London, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Pakistan, I’m often driven to despair by the emphasis on outward appearance as opposed to one’s manners, morals and ethics.

“Why do you not keep a beard?,” I am often asked, whether I am at the Regents Park Mosque, in London, or the mosque on 96th Street and Lexington Avenue, in New York City. Some have more forcefully tried to convince me that it’s feminine to have a clean shave. “If you keep a beard, my heart will automatically draw toward you because you’ll be fulfilling a sunnah,” said a man, who hardly knew me, at the Columbia University prayer room that I frequented during my undergrad and graduate-school days. But it surprised me that the gentleman never bothered to actually get to know me; if he did, he would have found a man eager to lead an ethical and moral life and someone who was working toward bettering himself spiritually.

Over the years, I have taken heat from many Muslims for using prayer beads because it’s a “despicable innovation in Islam,” for getting a western-style haircut because “the prophet either kept long hair or shaved his head” (mind you, there were no scissors then), for wearing black because “it’s a color for women and men are supposed to wear white,” and for my interest in Sufism because “all those Sufis had gone astray” from the right path and some of them were “heretics.”

This is only a fraction of the list of things that others commanded that I address in order to be granted a place in heaven, in addition to finding myself an honorable wife who would keep me away from the “lure of women.”

If the true measure of faith for men is a four-finger beard and for women is to wear hijab miserly, covering every lock of their hair, then what about the prophet’s teaching: “The most excellent jihad is that for the conquest of self.”

Surely, Islam talks about modesty, but what is it? “Modesty is ultimately an awareness of both our sensual energy (our marvelous capacity for mischief) — and whence, also an awareness of our capacity for restraint (our awareness of limitations),” Abdallah Adhami, a prominent Muslim scholar explained. “Modesty in this sense is, therefore, inextricably linked to humility.”

So, what is humility? “Like modesty, humility begins in the heart, and inwardly, it is the most radiant manifestation of inner calm; outwardly, again like modestly, humility exudes dignity, poise and restraint,” the scholar noted.

Ah! So it starts from within.

I can dress modestly, but what good is it if I don’t restrain my glance when a woman passes by. What if I am only pretending not to look? I often hear that an unintentional glimpse of the opposite sex is forgiven, but I’ve seen glimpses that last for 60 seconds, jokes apart.

Forbidding the wrong and commanding the good with use of force will never generate the effect that inward stirrings of the faith would. One can force the other to read a religious text but it is unlikely that the person will drink deeply from the fountain of divine wisdom. The requisite factor for modesty, humility and piety is the intention and the will to change and progress.

Counseling is effective when the other is seeking counsel. With force you can create a social deviant, but not steer somebody toward religion. In response to a question on the mannerism of good counsel, Faraz Rabbani, a leading scholar of Islam, wrote: “Our age is an age where the Prophetic mercy, gentleness, gradualness, and wisdom need to predominate and condition any “promotion” of both virtue and law.”

The only plausible reason for the morality police — may they be government funded or otherwise — to intimidate devotees to follow their commands is that it takes less effort to tell other people to do something than it takes to do something yourself. There is a psychological benefit in the knowledge that they are fulfilling God’s wishes by preventing sin. And there is also an element of pride in being God’s agent.

It is easier to counsel others to keep a beard and to dress modestly than to counsel others on how to be a better human being. All you have to do is to pontificate for a few minutes, scare the other person with talk of hellfire or just beat them up — after all, you’re only ensuring that they’re making headway to heaven (pun intended) — and you can feel the instant gratification from demonstrable change.

Conversely, for real change, one would have to take the pains to mold the other person in a way that would enable them to start thinking for themselves which, in affect, brings an inward change.

If you ask me, until you’re squared away on the bigger issues — manners, morals and ethics — don’t go out picking on the minor shortcomings of other people. We’re all works in progress. Live by example and inspire others to improve themselves.

Fahad Faruqui is a journalist, writer, and educator. Alumni Columbia University. You can email him at fahad@caa.columbia.edu or connect with him on Twitter here.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (83)

Tahir PhD
October 22, 2011 1:15 pm
A brilliantly expressed piece from someone who wants to live a decent law abiding life according to the time and not in the stone age. Alas 'God Agents' have ruined our country and are forging ahead unrelentingly without being challenged because of religious black mailing, trying to dictate who should do what and acting on God’s behalf in deciding as to who is a Muslim. Yet at the same time the same God Agents and alike depend on other progressive societies and usurp their technologies and have the audacity to call them infidels. What posers!
Asn J
October 22, 2011 2:10 pm
Nice one!
Sara
October 22, 2011 2:37 pm
You just stole my words, you just stole my thoughts, you just stole my experiences. Brilliant work done <3. I still wonder where we are heading. Why, why is it so hard for people to see Islam as the only religion insisting upon humanity the most. Why do we stick our brains to aimless religious discussions, and subtly ignore the main point. Why we don't wanna see the new perspective, the true perspective. Its hopeless to see people discussing stuff like 'is brushing teeth during fast is prohibited or not' and what not. God is the MOST intelligent and loves those who behave and think intelligently and rationally. Be a good human, that's all he wants.
Baber
October 22, 2011 2:41 pm
you spoke my heart
Sanity
October 22, 2011 3:08 pm
Wow! an excellent article.
Talha Vaqar
October 22, 2011 3:52 pm
'Works in progress'... I like this analogy immensely... I feel that is what we should all hope to be till our last breath... Ameen.
mohammed ali jawaid
October 22, 2011 4:33 pm
i sincerely hope to see more such bold voices in the Urdu press as English readers are generally considered liberals and so are brushed aside. this phenomenon, a legacy of Zia, has become so dangerous that you don't know when somebody conveniently blames you for blasphemy and will get away with getting you punished too! Poor Taseer's case in point.
Narinder
October 22, 2011 5:11 pm
As parents we like to moralise to our children to follow the faith we inherited from our parents. This way we are so hypocritical. Because, on one hand, we want our children to study and specialise in subjects of interest to them at college and university, preferably in a western country, but do not give them the option of knowing about other religions and, if they like, adopt some other faith. What freedom?!
Zahid Hussain
October 22, 2011 5:21 pm
No ... It is not that simple for someone to be beaten up like that... I am there in Saudi Arabia for couple of decades.
G.A.
October 22, 2011 5:22 pm
Excellent article. I think this needs to be published in Urdu, Arabic and Persian newspapers so that God's self proclaimed agents can also read and mend their ways. Purpose of religion is to provide guidance, not to act as opium.
deepak paul
October 22, 2011 5:39 pm
Well said. True humility is at the heart of all religions and often much more difficult to achieve than we think - yet it is the beginning of Wisdom
Adil
October 22, 2011 6:47 pm
Yes! Yes! Yes! I too use the word "hypocrites" instead of "religious" or "fundamentalists." Great article!
SUNNY
October 22, 2011 7:11 pm
you and people like you claim to be liberal, moderate and neutral. you are ridiculing the beard and islamic traditions between the lines. the photograph at the front page of the column is the sound manifestation of your knowledge, morals, trainity and humanity. " sharam magar tum ko nhe aati"
Jabalultariq
October 22, 2011 8:03 pm
Nice article - but one should not go on the defensive when one feels a "holier than thou" attitude from someone else. At least I dont. Islam is your religion as well , and there are varying levels of practising it , as long as you dont deny ANY of teachings of Qur'an and sunnah and keep up the effort of finding the truth and a sincere effort to follow the deen to the fullest.......you should nt be bothered by this white noise....because that human nature....i.e ego
parvez ahmed
October 22, 2011 8:26 pm
MY God you so right you have to start yourself and within before changing outward stuff without really getting the true meaning of Islam. I am asked several times by people why dont I join Tableeq for two months and spread the word of Islam, But when i feel i am not really pure within what good is that if i preach to other people to be good Muslim and leave my family on the mercy of others and telling myself Oh yeh God will take care of them yes God will but even God does not help people who donot help themselves that is really wrong with us that point our fingers to others without self soul searching . Loved Your article hope more people will start thinking like you think and we will be the best people on the earth keep up the good work
kamran
October 22, 2011 8:36 pm
A little piece of advise! Kindly have this translated in Urdu and write in as many local/urdu newspapers as you can. Your article must reach the masses.
Suresh Charnalia
October 22, 2011 8:53 pm
Dear Fahad You are the modern age human being who has an open mind and courage to express the language of billions. May God give you good health and long life to express your true views.
Rustam Ali Khan
October 22, 2011 10:29 pm
You touched my heart. A very thought provoking article. God bless you
EhteshamHuq
October 23, 2011 12:39 am
Well written, carry on as much as possible until completely understood, it's all about character not about beard, our great prophet never told the umaha to keep beard after he passes away.
Nadeem
October 23, 2011 1:13 am
Well said..
Kenneth
October 23, 2011 2:05 am
enjoyed reading
omer
October 23, 2011 4:03 am
When you wrote that, they forcefully tried to convince me? did they put you on gun point? the thing is until you love the sunnah, you can't be a true lover of the prophet, there are sunnah which are public and some which u apply when u are alone or at home. You like clean shave,thats why to defend your inner every time i come across such long articles written by many. Obey sunnah, and then say or point out any one.
Umer Farouq
October 23, 2011 5:29 am
I have lived in the US for over 25 years. And I do have a beard for about 20 of those years. No one ever asked me to keep one - or told me that it would be better if I did. But once I kept one - a whole host of my Muslim brethen roundly told me to shave it off. There is the 'moral' mutawas in Saudi Arabia and in many Muslim communiteis. But what about everone getting a stomach ache when one keeps a beards or if a women (on her own volition) decides to wear a head cover. There is an equally (if not more potent) 'secular' brigade. Everyone needs a chill pill.
Ejaz Ali
October 23, 2011 8:37 am
Devotion and faith comes from one's will, determination and the heart. It does not come from one's appearances. There are many Muslim Uzbek and Chinese who have no beards due to their genetic make up. Does that make them any less Muslim then Muslims who have beards? Faith and religion are such personal issues. God Almighty reaches out to us and not to the clothes we wear. We reach out to God for ourselves, for our inner peace and for our souls, for our community and environment and not for the clothes we wear or the beads we hold. Ameen.
Saamia Rizwan
October 23, 2011 9:30 am
You have so eloquently put into words my feelings and observations about these self proclaimed guardians of faith. There is so much emphasis on the overt expression of religion beard, hijab etc but alas the real soul of Islam is sadly missing.
Aurangzeb
October 23, 2011 9:49 am
A balanced view which is much needed here. Well-Written Fahad.
AJS
October 23, 2011 10:21 am
But aren't the outward appearances and rituals part of all religious practitioners? When one starts to think for oneself and reflect on ideas within any theology, one goes beyond the literal and the superficial boundaries of any religion that most believers, alas, wllingly imprison themselves within. If you have a mind, then free yourself.
Naseer
October 23, 2011 10:57 am
Well, we can can I say! about this topic, before writing any thing about Islam, we need to have complete information about that particular topic, talking about a group of people hired by Govt commanding good and prohibiting evil deeds, we need to refer to authenticated Islamic books and see what are Islamic guidelines in this regard, there is clear and cut rule in Islam that there should always such group of people exist in Islamic community to do the job of true well wishers. Because this principle does exist in Islam we should respect and follow it, now the question is how to implement it, forcefully or mercifully, The writer might be right about the manner in which this ruling is implemented in Saudi, but the rule itself is not only justified in Islam but also a prerequisite for a peaceful and good Islamic community. I don’t think there should be any problem in commanding good, even if it is related to outward appearances like keeping beard, attending prayer etc, because there is no harm in that, and same is the case with not allowing people to do bad things. For doing this job, people should be trained, they should be given the tactics of how to convince and motivate people in soft way, and their capacity should be improved to enable them to carry out their job with the cooperation of people without harming the integrity of people. But the job is not easy, there will be people who will resist, and for dealing with them sometimes it will be necessary to use force; a well trained religious police can adjust well according to the situation. Look at the job of police, they are well trained, but still sometimes they don’t behave well, we cannot blame entire police dept, or the system, same is the case with religious police, if some of them do not perform their job properly, id does not mean that the system is faulty.
Aamer
October 23, 2011 11:02 am
Very nice article.... I both agree and disagree with you. I agree on part that a true Muslim should not only be a Muslim to show others, by having a beard or having hijab. But their inner faith should also be strong and should be a good human. And that is what has been taught by our beloved Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (PBUH). However, in the matter of "God's agent", I would disagree with you. I have myself spent a good time in Saudi Arabia and liked the system they have. Look punishments should be there to make the people abide by the law. For e.g. in Pakistan you can easily cross the red traffic light because you know that you will not be fined unless there is a traffic policeman standing there. But in US you will not cross the red traffic light because you know even there is no traffic policeman standing there but if you cross the red light you will receive a ticket (fine) at your home. So I think the Saudi Arabia is doing a good job in restraining people from sins.
puneet
October 23, 2011 11:10 am
@Sara: You know something, the greatest religion of god is "Humanity". We humans turned religion as an instrument to gain power. The question to ponder upon is "Who will get benefited from this?" . "Free Will" is hard to find even after gaining independence.. Are we really an independent nation.. Sometimes, I wonder!!.. just a thought after all.
Zulfiqar
October 23, 2011 12:24 pm
Change inside, outside will automatically change
Waqas Ali
October 23, 2011 12:48 pm
Fahad Bhai! I am really sorry to say that i am not agree to your views about religious ethics.We cannot add or subtract even a single thing in Islam and in its techings.We have to follow its rules and regulations even if we don't agree with them.We might be wrong but Islam is not....................
Waqas Ali
October 23, 2011 12:52 pm
Agreed with You
mohammed
October 23, 2011 1:31 pm
I agree
Malik Nasir Awan MNA
October 23, 2011 1:42 pm
well said. i do agree with u
Saeeda
October 23, 2011 2:13 pm
I agree wholeheartedly with you. Whether you have a beard or not does not change whether you are good or bad. Someone who beats someone else up in the street for whatever reason is a criminal and should be arrested. God did not give anyone the right to judge others for their religion. The Qur'an says leave them alone and they will be judged by God. The Qur'an also tells men and women to lower their gaze and not stare into the faces of the opposite sex. If women were meant to cover their faces this rule would not have been sent by God. If someone covers their face they can look at men to their hearts content without anyone stopping them. A veil does not make someone modest. It is their actions. A good article.
yousaf
October 23, 2011 2:27 pm
urdu press will never publish such sound articles.every thinking mind agrees with fahad but the thing is this that no body is ready to face the truth in pakistani society, they are just making things day to day in their own interest even religion has also become a tool in some strong hands.
XYZ
October 23, 2011 3:56 pm
But there can be many interpretaions of a single sentence in Quran. Why do diffrent sects think "my interpretaion is the correct one" ? No one - not even you can be "Islamic" enough. There will always be a guy more Islamic running you down.
adam
October 23, 2011 5:09 pm
Fahad, You have taken a very bold step, I agree with the contents and the details. The basic problem with those who consider them "Agents of God" are those who want some power edge over others. They are sick in their attitude as they imposing it on others, instead of setting up a good example to the world, they are setting up bad examples. I advise all those territorial mullahs to stop using Islam as tool to humiliate and punish others. We can see the exteam example of this approach in tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where militants acted against all Islamic principles including banning educaiton for girls, blowing up schools, slaughtering innocent people, bombing even mosques.
Muhammad Farooq
October 23, 2011 6:00 pm
We can teach, we can try to persuade, we can even try to convince but we cannot force a person to Sirat-e-mustaqeem. There is no compulsion in religion. Very well written.
Zahir
October 23, 2011 6:40 pm
Iman leads to sincerity, behavior, control over anger, all good deeds. All practices prescribed by Prophet Muhammad (peace) & Quran increased perfection in Iman. Prayers with pause & patience & fasting for Allah is an excellent tool to increase Iman. It is a two way street. I agree it is the character of a person that inspires not force
raika45
October 23, 2011 6:56 pm
Islam has become such a convulsive religion that no body understands it.NO wonder the whole non muslim world looks at it with suspicion.
Naeem Ahmed Khan
October 23, 2011 7:19 pm
I have no additional respect for anyone who decides "to keep a beard". I can only respect people with ethical and moral values. Only Allah can decide who is a Muslim and who is not. And what is the big deal of being a Muslim? A Hindu, a jew or a Christian is also following God's religion as imparted and understood by him. His morality and ethics count. His beard is irrelevant. By the way, I am a Muslim and work for a chemical company in USA. I refuse to hire anyone with a beard because it is a safety hazard in the chemical company. So how does the Sunnah apply here? Can any Mullah tell me or perhaps there is no such thing as common sense.
Ks ali
October 23, 2011 7:35 pm
Monkey see monkey do. Most of these bearded fella's are nothing but mindless indoctrinated drones. "To seek God by rituals is to get the ritual and lose God in the process, for he hides behind it." Meister Eckhart
AdilRizvi
October 23, 2011 7:50 pm
Dear Fahad, You used the 'wrong actions' of some people who are using force to implement "their version of ideology" on others and using the people announce against these groups and trying to decrease the importance of the "Outward Appearance" which is recommended in Islam along with "Inner morality". Outward appearance if not along side with Inner Morality is Hypocracy Similary, wondering if Inner Morality if not along side with Outward Appearance is not Hypocracy too?
jay komerath
October 23, 2011 7:56 pm
Dear Mr Fahad, I want tocommend you for an excellent article,and if the Muslim leadership is like this,the MUslim populations of the world,would have been in pretty good shape-My view of the whole trouble in the muslim world is that unfortunately the conservatves andonly the conservatives dominate the politics of these areas, SPREAD THE WORD,AND WATCH YOUR BACK JAY KOMERATH
mohammad mukthar
October 23, 2011 8:04 pm
Islam is not against development instead it became the beacon for modern civilization and science .The base for science was lead by muslims while europe was in darker ages .Pakistan inorder to develop must look at the way the of early islamic secular culture, where people from diifferent creed used to live together and muslims used to protect them not the one which we see today where minorities are targetted .
Tamseel Naqvi
October 23, 2011 8:39 pm
I 100% agree with you.Its really illogical to reflect Islamic values externally. Most of us practicing the same.Nobody has a right to impose things on others.Important is what you are rather what you are pretending.Offering prayers,keeping fasts and having beards doesn't make us an "agent of God" to impose religious norms on others.I appreciate the writer.
Tanvir
October 23, 2011 8:51 pm
Very well articulated article - needless to say we have too many orthodox Mullaha's and self declared Pious people ( in Islamic world & others as well ) , who think it is their divine duty to enforce such doctrine ( religious rules and rituals ) - the fact is that ,all you Need Allah (God) and the Holy Quran (holy Book - need to understand it - read in Arabic , English Urdu or whatever language you know ) and your own internal faith - You don't need others to tell you what is right in their perspective , one can only discuss - as a process of extension of ideas . And the last think we need is someone passing judgment on others - who are they to do say , It is God only who will judge us . Time to bring some rationalism , not beating up people to follow a faith , how illogical that is ?
Amar
October 23, 2011 9:05 pm
Dear, What I think, every muslim in the world think himself a agent of god. Every muslim considers himself missionary of Islam. Every muslim interpret Islam his way and try to force it on allmuslims and even non muslim.
Sultan Mehmood
October 23, 2011 9:18 pm
@ XYZ Don't fool yourself. In most of the things the Islamic scholars agree, and beard is not amond the one that has any interpretation problem. You want to keep beard, good for you. You don't want it, then please don't, but don't try to twist Islam according to your whims.
Tamur Butt
October 23, 2011 9:28 pm
Saudi Arabia is practicing its own cult version of Islam, which is why these 'Agents of God' only exist in that country. Islam has given more rights to women yet in Saudi Arabia they are not allowed to drive, nor go out on their own. Recently a Saudi woman was sentenced to 10 lashes for driving a car. What is the crime here? If Islam allows a man to drive, then why not a woman. What is the Islamic guidance behind the Fatwa which does not allow women to drive? We all know Hazrat Khadija (RA) had her own business and our Holy Prophet (PBUH) provided his professional services to her. If women could be CEOs then, why now now? Saudi Arabia is another religious dictatorship which I hope comes to end soon.
Joshi
October 23, 2011 9:45 pm
In Mumbai,most of young are clean shaven but over 50 are keeping beard I used to keep GOTI and moustache when i was young and wanted to show my seniority. In old days when there were no lights and no scissors except with Rich people, custom wasin all religions. Those days when sword was the only thing in war. Beard was easy for war. In india, 3000 yrs ago all had beard. Is not books are to guideus in days that are changed. Well written.
Naveed Lotia
October 23, 2011 10:01 pm
Great perspective. Finally, somebody has written something that I have believed for a long time..."...It is easier to counsel others to keep a beard and to dress modestly than to counsel others on how to be a better human being....." The only thing I would add to this, and this is important, is that it is often far easier to observe the rituals of faith for oneself...beard, Hijab etc. and fool yourself into believing you have achieved eternal salvation. This is because it is far harder to achieve the true goals of any faith or religion by being a good human being, being fair, being honest, Just, charitable, polite and being non-judgmental towards others; all these are a lot harder to do thus the superficial shorts cuts of the Beard, Hijab etc.
Kalyan
October 23, 2011 10:03 pm
You wrote "We cannot add or subtract even a single thing in Islam and in its techings", why? You need to remember religion is nothing but a way of life, it needs constant changes with ages....this is what exactly we did in hinduism....
Pridepaki
October 23, 2011 10:05 pm
Waqas ... i guess you misunderstood the entire article. The writer is simply saying "stop judging the book by its cover" and we as Muslims fall in this category unfortunately.
Ch Gujjar
October 23, 2011 10:17 pm
There is no compulsion for non Muslims to enter Islam. However there is compulsion on Muslims to follow Islam. The Prophet peace be upon him was about to burn the house of a man (with him inside it) only because he prayed at home rather than praying his fard salah in the Masjid. But the Prophet peace be upon him only stopped because he had wife and children who were not compelled to pray in the Masjid. He also detested men who shaved their beards so much that he did not like looking at their faces even if the man was a non Muslim. Likewise when there was an minor earth quake in Madina Hazret Umar gathered the Muslims and said these things can happen because of the sins of people. He said if those who are sinning do not stop, i know how to make them stop.
qj
October 23, 2011 10:21 pm
Aamer, I am surprised that even after reading this article you still think "the Saudi Arabia is doing a good job in restraining people from sins"! Perhaps you should read the first three paragraphs of this article again a couple of times.
Salik
October 23, 2011 10:35 pm
People in the US are generally law abiding not because of fear of a fine, but because "it is the right thing to do". Muslims, who generally are far less law abiding, could learn a thing or two from them.
Salik
October 23, 2011 10:43 pm
It is no wonder that muslims like to come to the "west". For they are allowed to practise (or not) as they please and to their own interpretation with out fear of persecution. Surely there is no mention of a "thought" police in Sharia or Quran. In fact, the prophet spoke many times that often is was those who rush to judges are far more in the wrong, than those who were accused (regardless if they were guilty).
Atheist(India)
October 23, 2011 11:36 pm
well said !! It is very rare to find rationalist like you in the muslim world. Keep writing
Sam Baidya
October 24, 2011 12:10 am
The author has brilliantly tackled a serious topic, although he has ignored the muslims who want to follow the Bin Laden Theology or Fundamentalst version of Islam,who would vehemently argue that infedil killing is proper and should be done.
Hassan Shah
October 24, 2011 1:31 am
This article represents a vast silent majority who have been trying to perform good deeds without pretending or showing off the pious outlook in order to achieve the inner tranquillity. It can be debated that betterment in personality can be gained from appearances which eventually goes inwards to cause a change in inner-self, alternately this process could be just other way around. It is just a matter of personal choice, as an example regarding charity one is allowed either make it publicly or in secrecy, but it must be based on pure intentions, which can only be judged by Allah. Similarly in all other matters where Allah gives us choice in options, its wrong for men to dictate others to opt for his personal choice of actions. Some people exactly behaving in a manner as writer rightly refers as "God Agents", to intervene in matters which suppose to be between God and his slaves. I have personal experience of this ignorant intervention. Once I have been in Mecca to perform umrah, a bearded saudi guy approached me, his first question after greeting was, "are you muslim?" I was gob-smacked, as I was wearing Ehram at the time and was just preparing to enter in Holy mosque. He felt my astonishment and continued, "why you not have beard? you don't lookalike muslim! (as I always have clean shave)". This ignorant mind set need to change, no one have a right to act forcefully as self appointed guardian of faith, particularly in matters which are solely between the creator and creation.
noman
October 24, 2011 1:49 am
Umer Farouq says: Yesterday at 5:29 am I have lived in the US for over 25 years. And I do have a beard for about 20 of those years. No one ever asked me to keep one – or told me that it would be better if I did. But once I kept one – a whole host of my Muslim brethen roundly told me to shave it off. There is the ‘moral’ mutawas in Saudi Arabia and in many Muslim communiteis. But what about everone getting a stomach ache when one keeps a beards or if a women (on her own volition) decides to wear a head cover. There is an equally (if not more potent) ‘secular’ brigade. Everyone needs a chill pill. My sentiments exactly ..!! I thought i should highlight this again so the people here can get both sides of the story.
faraz
October 24, 2011 3:54 am
having a beard alone does not mean anything. Beard or no beard, you can still be a good/bad Muslim.
VRCanon
October 24, 2011 3:57 am
Whats wrong with you guys? Grow beard, wear this or that, how long gaze a women, is that you call religion? You guys might have read Quran, its time to understand it.
faraz
October 24, 2011 3:59 am
why do you people get offended when someone says anything about the beard. As far as I can see, no one is ridiculing the beard in any way here. But then since you likely have a beard you are a better Muslim and I am not or cannot be because I don't have a beard and that's why, cannot have an opinion here because obviously I don't love the Sunnah as much as you do (sarcasm).
Margret Simpson
October 24, 2011 7:21 am
I have lived in Saudia for 3 years. Found Saudis to be the worst hypocrites. Islam is a very good religion, but the way it is imposed in Saudia, is enough to turn people away. Not paying the foreign maids for years is very very common and when you ask them, they say that this is Islam. Does islam teach not to pay salary to someone you hired?
Awais Khan
October 24, 2011 10:46 am
Unfortunately a majority of people in Pakistan are out to prove that they are better Muslims than others, resulting in religious intolerance.
mazhar
October 24, 2011 11:24 am
a good one
Sajid
October 24, 2011 12:22 pm
Well said....
Alex
October 24, 2011 12:32 pm
One simple question I have to ask all the advocates of beard ? On the judgment day is Allah going to decide on the basis of your deeds or the length of your beards ?
Pranav Saini
October 24, 2011 12:42 pm
Not just the maids - they treat Non-Arab muslims specially those of India and Pakistan too like dirt. I wonder why those from the "Ghairat Brigade" dont go to that country and convince them that the Pakistanis are actually of Arab origin.
mohammed ali jawaid
October 24, 2011 12:45 pm
yes Margret, you're right! we Muslims are the worst followers of a best religion. just to tell you what our religion says about payment of salaries. it orders to pay one's salary before his/her perspiration dries off. meaning thereby that he/she must get his/her payment asa the work finishes but, who cares.
Prateik
October 24, 2011 1:00 pm
I am reminded of an incident in our neighborhood in India. One morning a few Government vehicles of the municipal corporation came at a house and an official with a flowing muslim beard got down and started raising a hue and cry, threatening to demolish the house. The owner of the house calmly requested him to come inside for discussion. On enquiry it was known that the house owner had made illegal additions to his house from the approved plan. After some time the official came out, sat in his car and went away. Soon we came to know that "a deal has been done" and the matter "settled". Now the question is will his beard save him on the day of judgment ?
abdul
October 24, 2011 1:12 pm
Some muslims are more conerned about eating halal meat, but they never pause for a second when they lie right and left to claim free benefits.
Kammi Kameen
October 24, 2011 1:19 pm
Length of the beard.
Muhammad Yahya
October 24, 2011 2:50 pm
Actually both, because keeping beard according to Sunnah is also a deed worth rewarding. It is the command of Prophet Muhammad (Sallalahu Alayhi Wassalam) as mentioned below. Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith Hadith 7.780     Narrated by Nafi (r.a)   Ibn Umar (r.a) said: The Prophet (s.a.w.s)said, "Do the opposite of what the pagans do. Keep the beards and cut the moustaches short." Whenever Ibn 'Umar performed the Hajj or 'Umra, he used to hold his beard with his hand and cut whatever moustaches. Ibn Umar (r.a)used to cut his moustache so short that the whiteness of his skin (above the upper lip) was visible, and he used to cut (the hair) between his moustaches and his beard. Rasulullah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said "I have no connection with one who shaves, shouts and tears his clothing eg. in grief or affliction." - Reported by Abu Darda (R.A.) in Muslim, Hadith no. 501 Allah says in the Holy Quran: "O you who believe! obey Allah and His messenger and do not turn back from Him while you hear" (8:20) "Whoever obeys the messenger, he indeed obeys Allah, and whoever turns back, so We have not sent you as a keeper over them." (4:80) It is an established fact that all the Prophets (peace be upon them all) had beard, so did all the Companions of Prophet Muhammad (Sallalahu Alayhi Wassalam). All the Tabi'een, Taba
Sundaresh
October 24, 2011 4:17 pm
It an excelent article. I really liked it. prophet’s teaching: “The most excellent jihad is that for the conquest of self.”.. I liked this teaching. Istead of spending valuable time in cursing others.. Every day.. If we utter this once it is enough. Thanks Dawn
Sara
October 24, 2011 4:40 pm
Good sarcasm Kammi. But seriously, on the day of judgement, we neither would have time for any sarcasm nor to measure the lengths of our beards.
Latif Khan
October 24, 2011 7:37 pm
Religion should be one's own beliefs and be flexible to adopt to one's profession. In my case, in offshore engineering, divers can't have long beards as it becomes hindrance to wear head and face gears. It cannot become airtight if tiny hair get inside the locking system. It should be person own choice to see what is suitable for him. If he is involved with religion work, he needs to demonstrate that he fulfils the Islamic norms that will carry some weight in his talk. Islam should be flexible to accommodate other nations which are not aware of Islam. It should not pose a threat to non-believers but provide attraction to them. Islam is a religion of peace but our mullahs make it so rigid that one wishes to run away from it.
ARS
October 24, 2011 9:52 pm
My dear friends not following sunnah and doing sin are two different things. Islam does not teach practicing Sunnah at force. But Islam does ask Muslims to try to stop sins. Please consider following sahih Hadees: Whoever amongst you notices something evil, should correct it with his own hand, and if he is unable to do so, should prohibit the same with his tongue; if he is unable even to do this, he should at least consider it as bad in his heart. this is the lowest degree of faith.” (Sahih Muslim Vol. 1 Book of Faith Ch. 21, Hadith # 79) Based on this the Mutawas in Saudia are fine, if they have the power and are seeing some evil, they are stopping it with their hands. Now the occasion you mentioned, they were wrong and they apologized for that. But when they are right, they are doing nothing wrong. I don’t think its any different than any Pakistani police man stopping someone in suspicion. So going back to “Sunah by force” you are right, they should not force you to have beard, on the other end the liberals should not force bearded people to not have beard. But when it comes to stopping sin, you are ill-informed and putting a wrong spin on the problem. Finally, I would urge all the readers to go to the source, Allah has sent us a book few hundred pages long. I am sure everyone reading this must have read and understood many many books in their lives. Please consider understanding the book of Allah and do not make your mind what “a scholar” said or even worse by listening to someone saying what a scholar said. Thanks for reading this. May Allah show us all the righteous path. A Harvard Grad,
pradip
October 25, 2011 11:08 am
Whoa Naeem, let there be millions like you!
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