Some people say it is invalid for a person with a short beard to lead the prayer, is this correct according to the Hanafi Madhab?



Islamic Text

It is not correct to say that it is invalid for a person with a short beard to lead the prayer. This statement is not found in the authoritative books of the Hanafi Madhab.

عَنِ ابْنِ عُمَرَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: انْهَكُوا الشَّوَارِبَ، وَأَعْفُوا اللِّحَى

(Sayidina) Ibn Umar (May Allah Most High be pleased with them both) said, Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, ‘Trim the moustache and make the beard abundant.’ (Sahih al-Bukhari, 5893).

Although it is correct to say that having a large beard is Sunnah, it is not correct to say it is invalid for a person with a short beard to lead the prayer. Unfortunately, this misconception is widespread amongst Hanafis from the subcontinent. However, no such statement seems to be present in the authoritative books of the Hanafi Madhab.

It is important to understand that all of the Islamic sciences have books that are universally recognised and respected, such books become the authority within the science. Fiqh is no exception to this. In the Hanafi Madhab there are earlier books that all knowledgeable Hanafi scholars have accepted as authoritative. When we are speaking about any issue within the Madhab, these books must be consulted. Reliable Hanafi scholars do not cite books that claim authority amongst a particular group of Hanafis but do not have universal recognition or acceptance. Rather they quote from books that are accepted by all credible Hanafi scholars. The approach of quoting from books that are not universally accepted is flawed on many grounds.

The fact that people do not understand this fundamental principle of the Islamic sciences has led to widespread misunderstanding at times, and at times has fuelled sectarianism. Many recently established groups (which tend to be more sectarian) will claim authority for a book belonging to one of their own scholars and use it as a reference for the Hanafi Madhab (or other sciences). Yet this book may be unknown to people outside of that group, or may be known but not accepted as an authority. In such cases their insistence upon such books will lead to them splintering from the mainstream. This is a common trait you will find with all recently formed groups.

In any case, if we move away from such disturbing behaviour and focus upon the recognised books of the Hanafi Madhab, then we find no statement supporting the claim that it is invalid for a person with a short beard to lead the prayer.
Some people say it is not invalid for a person with a short beard to lead the prayer, rather it is sinful. To prove this point, they mention the fact that Hanafi scholars said it is Makruh (disliked) to pray behind a Fasiq. It is correct to say that Hanafi scholars accepted this principle as seen below.

فَنَقُولُ تَقْدِيمُ الْفَاسِقِ لِلْإِمَامَةِ جَائِزٌ عِنْدَنَا وَيُكْرَهُ. (المبسوط)

We say that putting a Fasiq (brazen sinner) forward for Imamah (leading the prayer) is permitted with us, but disliked (Makruh). (Imam al-Sarakhsi, al-Mabsoot).

والْفَاسِقِ. لِأَنَّهُ لَا يَهْتَمُّ بِأَمْرِ دِينِهِ. (الجوهرة النيرة)

(It is Makruh to put forward for Imamah) a Fasiq, because he does not care about matters of his religion. (Imam al-Haddadi, al-Jowharah al-Nayyirah).

كره إمامة “الفاسق” العالم لعدم اهتمامه بالدين. (مراقي الفلاح شرح متن نور الإيضاح)

It is Makruh (disliked for a Fasiq to be Imam) because of his lack of care about religious matters. (Imam al-Shurunbulali, Maraaqi al-Falah).

(قَوْلُهُ وَفَاسِقٌ) مِنْ الْفِسْقِ: وَهُوَ الْخُرُوجُ عَنْ الِاسْتِقَامَةِ، وَلَعَلَّ الْمُرَادَ بِهِ مَنْ يَرْتَكِبُ الْكَبَائِرَ كَشَارِبِ الْخَمْرِ، وَالزَّانِي وَآكِلِ الرِّبَا وَنَحْوِ ذَلِكَ، كَذَا فِي الْبُرْجَنْدِيِّ إسْمَاعِيلُ. (رد المحتار على الدر المختار)

And his saying (the Imamah of) a Fasiq (is Makruh), it (Fasiq) is from (the word) Fisq, which is to contradict steadfastness. It may be referring to people who commit enormities (major sins, Kabaair), like drinking wine, adultery, consuming Riba (interest) and the like, as mentioned in al-Burjandi Ismaeel. (Imam Ibn Abideen, Radd al-Muhtaar).

As we see in the Nusoos (texts) above, it is Makruh for a Fasiq (brazen sinner) to lead Salah. The mistake some people make is to apply the ruling of a Fasiq to a person with a shorter beard. Authoritative Hanafi scholars have not declared a person who trims his beard a Fasiq. Rather this is a relatively recent stance taken by some Hanafis. Such a stance is not supported by the authoritative books of the Madhab.

The sad reality is that many Muslims focus on issues that are not true concerns, rather misconceptions. Whilst ignoring or being unaware of genuine concerns. In this context the issue of the Imam’s Tajweed comes to mind. Unfortunately we still have too many Imams that are unable to recite the Holy Quran with correct Tajweed, and thus they make major errors. Such errors not only jeopardise the validity of the Salah but change the meaning of the verses of the Holy Quran. Every Muslim must be able to recognise how grave a matter this is. However, too many people focus on the misconceived issue of the Imams beard length and ignore the serious concern regarding his ability to recite the Holy Quran correctly.

And Allah Most High Knows Best.

-Answered by Shaykh Noorud-deen Rashid (07.03.2022)

See also:
Who should make the Adhan?

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