Tuesday, April 10, 2012

FEAR THE BEARD: Study Shows that Beards Intimidate

In my morning internet screwaround before work, I stumbled upon an interesting article on MSN.com's frontpage that immediately caught my attention. The teaser stated "Study: Beards intimidate". What was I, a card carrying member of the Muslim Beard Society, to think? Would this be an article lambasting me and my sunnah (a practice of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) ) following bretheren? Would this study declare that men should be discouraged from growing beards for fear of societal disapproval and disgust, calling for us to assimilate into clean shavery? I WILL NOT HAVE IT!

Instead, it was a ruse. But that was the whole point and they got me to click to read the article, hook, line and sinker. The Men's Health article (which you can read here.) put a positive spin on the beard--at least from a career/professional standpoint-- with the Title "How your Facial Hair can get you a promotion". What I found hilariously absurd was the byline underneath it. "Beards: Ladies hate them, guys fear them."

The research study was conducted by Northumbria University, a college in the UK, and basically concluded that beards give off the impression that you're aggressive, bold & daring, of a higher social status, and that you're basically not to be effed with. The article goes on to say this is great for businessmen in positions of power and persuasion as they can look more assertive and impress other men. That explains why an enormous amount of rappers and ballers have ditched their razors and let their manes go untamed.

My personal experiences with having facial hair, which with my hairyness coming in at the early age of 14, have been quite telling to say the least. Now for those who don't know me, I'm a gentle guy, softspoken, wouldn't hurt a fly. However, friends and people after getting to know me have divulged that I didn't look the part at first glance. I've had people tell me "Before I knew you, I thought you looked mean.", "You looked like someone that was one wrong stare away from kicking my a--". Another friend said that I looked like a "badass arab dude". I find these hilarious but at the same time ponder how in society the beard is protrayed and how some people make these generalizations off of what they have grown up into believing.

Guys with beards are usually villains in cartoons and movies. They are the weird guy that may be a pedophile or serial killer. They are the social outcast weirdo.And of course you can't get that Muslim Terrorist stamp of approval without the stereotypical unkempt Bin Laden beard. But usually religion has nothing to do with this perception. Bearded guys are pictured as cold, mean-spirited people that shouldn't be messed with. It's good to know that guys like Zach Galifinakis and Mick Foley are breaking that stereotype in the mainstream.

What is the Islamic viewpoint of beards? Though the Quran doesn't explicitly state that growing and keeping a beard as mandatory it is a highly regarded sunnah, or practice of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who was documented as saying to "Do the opposite of what the pagans do. Keep the beards and cut the moustaches short."1 From this quote, it is clear that this order was mainly to distinguish Muslims from other groups at the time. Over time, the significance of the beard grew (no pun intended) to where it is deemed as an obligation on the men to have and not shave off.

Ideally, Muslims are to follow the example of the Prophet and keep a beard. There is a difference of opinion among scholars who debate this matter and also there are differences when it comes to what part of the world you live regarding grooming it. Without getting into that muddy can of worms, I personally feel that the essence of the matter is to use the beard as a way to show that you're a Muslim to the world around you.

There are many Muslim sisters out there that fight through the scrutiny, the gawks and stares, and show their obedience to God by modestly covering their beauty and wearing headscarves (hijab). Most people can immediately tell that they're Muslim. What about the men? In Islam, men have less dress code restrictions but that doesn't mean that it's nonexistant.

I give a great big SMH (shaking my head) to those who go clean shaven just to avoid being put under a microscope or because they fear losing their job or being outcast. I almost treat the beard as my headscarf. Now don't get me wrong, having a beard doesn't neccessarily label me as a "good Muslim" just as having a headscarf doesn't make a Muslim woman righteous and pious. But if you're gonna take steps in the right direction and practice Islam correctly, you gotta follow the rules inside and out. What I mean by that is you gotta be Muslim externally with your appearance and internally with your character. They go hand in hand.

To the folks that jump to generalizations and etch in their minds thoughts of: "that Muslim with a beard over there must be a grumpy unsocial guy" or "that Muslim girl with the headscarf must be a weak pushover to men". That's what makes it so important to get to know one another. The cliche "Dont judge a book by the cover" fits perfectly here. In the end, you might learn something.

1 (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Dress, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 780)

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