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From hair to eternity, beard length matters!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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Posted on Sat, May. 31, 2003

From hair to eternity, beard length matters

By Nancy Haught


Some men take their beards very seriously. No, we're not talking about the 16-year-old stumped by a soul patch. We're talking about men whose religious beliefs encourage them to let their beards grow.

Hair long has been associated with divinity, wisdom, masculinity and humility. Religious practice often found in facial hair a way to set believers apart from nonbelievers.

Today, whether a man has a beard can still spark controversy. What kind of message does a beard send about innocence, guilt, stereotypes and political correctness?

Without drawing any conclusions about what a beard or long hair may or may not mean to the man who wears it, here is a quick look at what six faiths believe about beards and letting one's hair grow.


Orthodox and Hasidic Jews wear beards and, sometimes, long side-curls, called payot. Leviticus 19:27 forbids them to round off the corners of their temples or "mar" the edges of their beards. The latter is equated with shaving, but some Jews believe that scissors and scissor-action shavers may be used.

In some circles, a beard is a sign of mourning, grown from Passover to Shavuot on behalf of the Jewish people.


God is often depicted as having a flowing white beard, and Jesus, most often, has a darker one. No eternal, blanket understanding about facial hair arose, but smaller groups, such as the Orthodox churches, developed traditions about men keeping beards. In the modern world, men may or may not adhere to them.

Some groups ascribe particular meaning to beards. Amish men, for example, may grow beards as a sign of being married. Just a beard, though -- a mustache is seen as frivolous or militaristic.


The Prophet Muhammad had a beard and prescribed them for his male followers. Different styles of beards are allowed, and some reflect cultural differences. Muslims may disagree on whether it is permissible to trim a beard, but Muhammad said a mustache should be trimmed so that it does not get wet when a man takes a drink of water. Cutting hair is a different story. Muhammad himself had long or short hair at different times of his life.


A goal is to dissociate from the material world and its distractions, and hair is often a subject of pride or vanity. Buddhist monks and nuns may shave their heads as an outward sign of renouncing the world. Shaven heads and faces are associated with cleanliness. Some Western teachers avoid shaved heads because they can create discomfort in the general population.


Devout Sikhs, both men and women, let their hair grow, and men allow their beards to grow. Both are required as signs of the Khalsa, a fellowship of those who "belong to the divine." The rule affirms their belief that God made men and women perfectly, with no changes necessary. When the Khalsa arose in 1699, it set Sikhs apart and encouraged them to stand up against oppression and injustice.


Their characteristic dreadlocks express their pride in African hair and are allowed to grow free-form, uncombed and untreated after washing. They are in keeping with a Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, law for Nazarites -- a group of people who are consecrated or set apart. Numbers 6:5 says, "No razor shall come upon the head ... they shall be holy; they shall let the locks of the head grow long."

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