Sunday, April 01, 2007

Logic of Growing a Beard

Fashions change over the generations. At the turn of the 20th century beards were very popular; in modern times they are the exception rather than the rule. The fact that we readily accept clean-shaven culture (without questioning its logic) is a clear indication that how influenced we are from the modern western culture and how western values have taken over our lives. This article focuses on research done on the subject of beard (unfortunately, not a lot of research has been done on this subject and a lot more needs to be carried out); in addition, the article consists of logical arguments for growing a beard.

Shah Wali Ullah in his famous book (Hujjat Allah al-Balighah) writes that it is due to the beard that a distinction is made between adults and children. The beard is a beauty for men and its presence completes the personality of man. That is why it is obligatory (in Islam) to grow the beard and to shave the beard is an act of Zoroastrians.

Dr. Daniel G. Freedman, of the University of Chicago, did research on the reproductive value of male beardedness. To test his theory, Dr. Freedman and his graduate students asked a group of undergraduates of their feelings about beardedness by giving them questionnaires and interviewing them. Furthermore, one of the graduate students interviewed seven women about their feelings toward men with beards. The female students rated a bearded male face as more masculine, independent, sophisticated and mature compared to a clean-shaven male face. They concluded from their studies that a beard increases “sexual magnetism” and attractiveness and makes men more appealing to women. The presence of a beard makes a man appear more masculine to a woman, and she feels more feminine towards him.

Psychologist Robert J. Pellegrini reported in Psychology, 1973, Volume 10, No. 1, the results of an experiment on the perception of male personality as a function of varying states of beardedness. To carry out the experiment, Pellegrini hired eight full-bearded young men who were willing to have their beards fully shaved off for a payment of ten dollars. All of the full-bearded men were Caucasians. Their ages ranged from 22 to 25 years. The tabulation of the results showed a generally positive correlation between the amount of hair on the object person's face and his being perceived as masculine, mature, good-looking, dominant, self-confident, courageous, liberal, non-conforming, and older. The results also suggested a similar correlation regarding perceptions of intelligence, strength, health, and likableness. In view of the results, Pellegrini suggested that the presence of hair on a young man's face is associated with an idealised image of the male personality. In discussing the results of his experiment, Pellegrini wrote:

“Judging from the data in the present research, the male beard communicates a heroic image of independent, sturdy, and resourceful pioneer, ready, willing and able to do manly things.”

Pelligrini summed up his discussion by stating:

“In conclusion, it may very well be true that inside every clean-shaven man there is beard screaming to be let out. If so, the results of the present study provide a strong rationale for indulging that demand.”

Beards serve as secondary male sex characteristic. Secondary sex characteristics are those physical features which develop when human beings reach the age of puberty. Primary sex characteristics are the genitals, but the beard is a secondary sex characteristic in males. The purpose of secondary sex characteristics is to distinguish males from females. In addition, secondary sex characteristics serve the purpose of attracting the opposite sex.

A very interesting relationship between the male hormone testosterone, sexual activity and beard growth was published in the May, 30 1970 issue of the magazine Nature. The author and subject of this research carried out a detailed study to measure the rate of growth of his beard by shaving his beard everyday and weighing the hair which he collected in his electric razor. The author supplemented his article with scientific data in forms of charts and graphs. He concluded that, based on the results of his research, “the stimulus for increased beard growth is related to the resumption of sexual activity.” It was also shown in his research that as the weekend approached with the prospect of spending free time with his female companion, there was great increase in the beard growth. The author further writes: “Even the presence of particular female company in the absence of intercourse, after a period of separation, usually caused an obvious increase in beard growth.” Since the beard is a secondary sex characteristic, its growth is influenced by the levels of testosterone in the male body. The rate of production and the level of testosterone in body are affected by a man’s sexual behaviour. More interestingly, it has been shown by research that whereas testosterone stimulates the growth of beard, it has almost no effect on scalp hair. This further shows that the beard is, in fact, a secondary sex characteristic and our intelligent body does not grow the beard on our face in order for it to be removed with a razor everyday.

According to research of herbalists, allowing the beard to grow prevents a person from contracting diseases of the throat and of the gums. Similarly, some medical doctors of western medicine are also aware of the medical benefits of allowing the beard to grow. Physicians tell us that if we allow a beard to grow, we are less likely to suffer throat diseases. Recently, a medical specialist from Harley Street prescribed as treatment for a man suffering from a chronic cough that he allow his beard to grow. When the patient acted upon the advice of the doctor, his cough disappeared. Chronic coughs may be major indications of asthma and, hence, they may be activated by the same factors as for asthma, which include sudden changes in temperature or exposure to cold air. In this case, a beard acts as a preventive measure by keeping the neck warm.

People who frequently travel by sea are quite aware of the harmful effects of sea weather. Sea winds contain small quantities of salt. In addition to that, sometimes there are strong winds at sea. That is the reason that, in the past, most people who travelled by sea used to grow beards in order to protect their faces from the harmful effects of sea weather. It is interesting to note here that scientific research has shown that compared with the hair of the head, the hair of the beard has a faster swelling rate and higher reaction rate with a variety of reagents due to the less extensive disulphide bonding in it. This may suggest that the hair of the beard has more capacity to absorb harmful vapours in the air before they affect the face.

What is the total time spent in shaving by a man in his whole lifetime? Dr. Herbert Mescon from Boston University did research to give an answer to this question. Dr. Mescon calculated that if a teenager begin shaving at the age of 15, then in his 55 or so years of shaving, he is likely to spend about 3350 hours (which are equivalent to about 139 full days) at this task in his lifetime. That is an incredible amount of time which literally goes down the drain. You can add to it thousands of dollars one spends during his lifetime on products for shaving (razors, shaving gels, after-shave lotions etc).

Apart from the commercial media promoting the clean-shaven men culture, it is the fashion industry, many of whom are homosexuals, try to blur the difference between males and females. By doing so, they want to promote their own ideology of homosexuality (to understand what is wrong with homosexuality please read the article “Homosexuality and the Logic behind its Prohibition” on this website). It is clear that a beard is a big obstacle in the way of homosexuality, because a beard is an outward indication that men and women are different sexes. The reality is that men and women are different biologically as well as psychologically. Again, to achieve these goals, the fashion industry utilises advertising in television and in the print media. As “a picture is worth a thousand words”, it appears that fashion industry advertisements depicting clean-shaven men have the ability to deeply influence their viewers’ perception.

It is important to understand that the culture of clean-shaven faces is a Western culture. Daniel G. Freedman noted that “an emphasis on shaving creates a culture that worships youth, neglects the elderly and places less importance of differences between the sexes.” One consequence of this is that when a woman grows old she is more respected in an Islamic society. In western culture, woman receives more attention from society when she is at the peak of her youth and, hence, beauty.

Some other reasons men give to grow a beard are as follow:

I wanted to change my appearance
I look better, more handsome, with a beard
It is the natural thing to do
It is the manly thing to do
It suits my personality
I wanted to look older
I wanted to look more distinguished
Growing a beard is a family tradition
It is something that women cannot do
Saves from sunburn in summer and protects from cold in the winter.
Sign of piety
All the Prophets (peace be upon them all) had beards
It hides facial defects of a person
It is a cure for razor bumps on the face
To keep my facial hair down I have to shave twice a day. It is so irritating to have to constantly shave, so that is one reason I have facial hair
I think that having a goatee makes me look my age, and people take me more seriously
The fact that men can grow beards is a characteristic that nature has given us to distinguish ourselves from the female gender. I thought it would be interesting and fulfilling for me to grow one. I also have red hair and thought a red beard on my face would add more character
To me, it makes a man look even manlier, and handsome. Men should look as masculine as they can in my opinion. It's one of those things that separate the men from the boys (or girls).
You don't have to worry about the 5 o'clock shadow
Women wear makeup; men grow beards

It is evident that our creator has intended for us to grow the beard. Therefore, we should think twice before propagating clean-shaven values to others.

If you are interested in reading more about this subject, I would recommend that you to read “Growing a Beard: In the light of Quran, Sunnah and modern Science” by Dr. Gohar Mushtaq (this book can be purchased from May Allah guide us all to the straight path, Ameen.

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