Haircuts from hell


There's a story told in the hadith that the Prophet Muhammad once saw a boy with a partly-shaved head – and disapproved. "Shave all of it or leave all of it," he is reported to have said.

Fourteen centuries later, this little incident is causing ructions on Saudi Arabia's soccer pitches. Last week Prince Abdullah bin Musa'ad, General President of Youth Welfare in the kingdom (and 50% owner of the Sheffield United club in Britain), issued an urgent circular to Saudi sports leagues, to the Saudi Olympic Committee and youth organisations ordering them to take action "to eliminate the qaza' phenomenon".

Qaza' is the Arabic word for a tuft of hair but it's applied more generally to hairstyles that some Islamic scholars regard as unlawful. According to these scholars – some of whom appear to know a great deal about different types of haircut – forbidden styles include the flattop, the rattail, the mohawk, fohawk, marine cut, tram lines, box fade, quiff, pompadour and emo cut.

The kingdom has made sporadic attempts over several years to stamp out "un-Islamic" hairstyles among footballers and the task of policing haircuts seems to been assigned mainly to referees. A video thought to date from 2012 shows Saudi goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah receiving an impromptu haircut on the pitch. These periodic crackdowns have apparently met some resistance, especially from non-Saudi players in the kingdom.

Extrapolating from the prophet's alleged encounter with the boy who had a partly-shaved head, some Islamic scholars have developed a rule that if you cut your hair all hairs should be cut to an equal length. "The one who cuts his hair on the sides of his head more than the middle comes under the heading of qaza', which is forbidden," a ruling on the IslamQA website says.

It adds: 

This style is not beautification for either men or women, rather it is changing the creation of Allaah and spoiling people's appearance, and it is an imitation of the west in which there is no benefit, in addition to the cost involved, as it involves a lot of effort and spending money on something that is harmful, as is well known. We advise men not to adopt this western style and we advise women to stick with that which their mothers and grandmothers did, of letting their hair grow and braiding it, as this is more beautiful.

However, another ruling on the same website recognises that the prophet's remark concerned head-shaving, not hair-cutting:

It is offensive to shave part of the hair of the head and to leave other parts of it unshaved. This is called qaza' in Arabic. "Shaving" refers to the complete removal of hair using a razor or something similar. Merely shortening the hair at certain locations and not shortening it at other locations does not fall under the definition of qaza' and is neither offensive nor unlawful in and of itself.

Although cutting one’s hair in such a manner isn’t forbidden in and of itself, it may become unlawful for external reasons that return to one’s intention. For example, if one is styling one’s hair in a certain manner to imitate someone who is not fit to be imitated – such as film and music stars that are known for their immoral conduct – the haircut would become impermissible because of this external factor. If, however, one is styling one’s hair in a particular manner merely because one likes the way it looks, then there is nothing wrong with it.

For anyone wondering about the Prophet's own hair, several sources state that it was neither curly nor straight, and that it hung over his shoulders and earlobes.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Wednesday, 13 April 2016