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Facial hair and religion


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In certain religious sects having lots of facial hair in the form of a thick flowing beard is necessary or is indicated as being necessary to being a man. What if you were a male with very little facial hair. Could you still be a member?

 

I'm just curious because I have very little facial hair but all the Taliban seem to have long full beards, is this religious or cultural or both? Americans who work closely with people from Afghanistan all wear the full beards to gain the mens trust. It occurred to me I would stand out like a sore thumb!

 

So what is the real status of the beard thing?

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In certain religious sects having lots of facial hair in the form of a thick flowing beard is necessary or is indicated as being necessary to being a man. What if you were a male with very little facial hair. Could you still be a member?

 

I'm just curious because I have very little facial hair but all the Taliban seem to have long full beards, is this religious or cultural or both? Americans who work closely with people from Afghanistan all wear the full beards to gain the mens trust. It occurred to me I would stand out like a sore thumb!

 

So what is the real status of the beard thing?

 

IIRC, Islam has many of the same rules as Judaism. In Judaism, God said shaving is bad.

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"Chabad" (A religious jewish organization) has a question and answer about this subject regarding jews in particular, a somewhat 'cabbalistic' approach (as is the usual with Chabad):

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/160973/jewish/The-Beard.htm

There is more to the beard than just identifying as a Jew. According to Kabbalah the beard should not even be trimmed, but should be allowed to grow freely. Why?

 

Kabbalistically, our outer physical appearance is a reflection of our inner spiritual reality. The hands represent our ability to give and receive. The feet symbolize the power to progress. What does the beard represent?

 

One of the greatest struggles in life is to live up to our ideals. Many of us know what is right in our minds, but find it difficult to apply that knowledge in our daily lives. Often we do things that we know are wrong, but feel we "couldn't help ourselves". For example, we know that it is wrong to lose our temper, but when we get annoyed at someone we find it impossible to control our anger. Or we may know that it is good to give charity, but never get around to actually giving.

 

Between theory and practice there is a huge gulf. It is one thing to have good intentions, but that is far from actually doing good. It is like realizing a dream; without diligence, determination and hard work, it will always remain just a dream.

 

The greatest step we can take in our personal growth is learning to bridge this gap and implement our good intentions.

 

This is what the beard represents. The beard is hair that grows down from the head to the rest of the body. It is the bridge between mind and heart, thoughts and actions, theory and practice, good intentions and good deeds.

 

So we don't cut the beard, but rather let it flow freely, to open a direct flow from the ideals and philosophies of our minds into our everyday lifestyle.

 

Wikipedia, too, seems to have a few answers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaving_in_Judaism):

 

The book of Leviticus in the Bible appears to completely forbid the shaving of the corners of the head and prohibits the marring of the corners of the beard[1], with particular emphasis on priests not marring the corners of the beard[2]; as with many other parts of the Leviticus, the Book of Ezekiel describes similar regulations, stating that the priests should not shave their heads, or let their locks grow long[3].

 

And particularly:

The forbidding of shaving the corners of the head was interpreted by the Mishnah as prohibiting the hair at the temples being cut so that the hairline was a straight line from behind the ears to the forehead[23]; thus it was deemed necessary to retain sidelocks, leading to the development of a distinctly Jewish form of sidelock, known as payot. As for the beard, more complicated views arose; the corners of the beard were explained to refer to five extremities in the Talmud. There are many opinions in medival scholar as to what these five points are. For example it may be a point on each cheek near the temples, a point at the end of the cheek bone towards the centre of the face, and the point of the chin[24][25]. Or it may be 2 on the mustache, 2 somewhere on the cheek and one on the point on the chin. As a result Shulchan Aruch prohibits the shaving of the entire beard and mustache.

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A beard is something highly visible that distinguished men from women, like breasts. I've read that conquerors in biblical times used to shame the male prisoners of war by shaving their beards off. I think it was also a pagan practice to shave as a sign of mourning, so the Israelites were forbidden to do so as a way of proving their faith.

 

I think it's mostly a masculine thing. Only men grow facial hair so a really manly man must have a lot of it. Maybe it's a virility thing as well, something sexually selected for back then.

 

Beards protect the face from sun and sand as well. They aren't very hygienic, but perhaps they also soften the blow from all the smiting going around in that era.

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This is very interesting, I am of native American ancestry and I have almost no beard, none at all at my temples a tiny bit on my chin and sparse mustache. What little bit of facial hair I have is quite clear and has to be quite long to even been noticed. My grandfather who was Cherokee had even less beard than me, he could "shave" with a pair of tweezers, just yank out a few hairs that grew around his moles he was clean shaven!

 

 

I guess the next question is how would these religious groups deal with men who had no facial hair?

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I guess the next question is how would these religious groups deal with men who had no facial hair?
You'd probably be pariah until your beard grows back. If it doesn't grow back (or you never had one to begin with), you wouldn't be considered one of the faithful. That could have several different outcomes, I suppose.
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Well then, until you can sprout a nice full Moses we're going to have to shun you. Don't try to enter the village or talk to any of the women. If we see the skin of your face around here again, you'll get stoned, and not the good kind.

 

You should be old enough to remember the old Halloween Hobo disguise. For a quick costume we used to rub some egg white on our cheeks and then stick some coffee grounds on there. Instant beard stubble. Of course, you had to wash before Sunday School, so I'm betting the church elders are easily fooled by anything resembling follicular activity.

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