Answered by Sidi Omar Mahmood
bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim,
the following is supplemented by a recent conversation in which a brother asked al-Habib Ali al-Jifry (one of our teachers from Hadramawt, Yemen) about the madhab's opinion on the beard:
Growing the beard is a command from the Prophet Muhammad (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) to the men of his Ummah. More specifically, the prohibition is to not shave the beard (that is, a man who simply cannot grow facial hair at all has not disobeyed this command). Although Imam as-Shafi'i wrote an opinion that shaving the beard is haram...the mu'tamid or most relied upon opinion in our madhab is that shaving the beard is makruh.
Letting the beard grow is a sunnah that is highly recommended by our fuqaha, may Allah have mercy on them. Anyone who loves the Messenger of Allah (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) should know that following his sunnah is a sign of sincere love. Anyone who despises the beard or makes fun of it should know that belittling or making fun of the sunnah is prohibited.
Now, we must be clear as to what the definition of "beard" is. The arabic term is "liHya." The scholars of the Shafi'i, Hanbali, and Maliki madhabs take the linguistic definition of the word "liHya" to be: the hair that sprouts from the chin. In fact, as can be found in "Nayl ar-Rajaa'" the sharh of the text "Safinat an-Najaa'" the author, as-Sayyid Ahmad b. Umar as-Shatiri lists 20 different hairs on the face that have been defined by the fuqaha. some of them (with my own translations) are as follows:
liHya (beard): the hair that sprouts from the chin (goatee region).
`aariDayn (sideburns): the two patches of hair that descend from the ear level to the chin, along the jawbone.
shaarib (mustache): the hair that sprouts above the upper lip.
sibaalayn (connectors): the two lines of hair that extend from the ends of the mustache and connect to the goatee (not all men have this)
`anfaqah (soul patch): the tuft of hair that sprouts below the lower lip.
nafakatayn (I don't know how translate this): the two patches of hair on either side of the `anfaqah (some men don't have this).
khaddayn (mid to upper cheek hairs) the two patches of hair that sprout on the cheeks... it was named after its location.
Remember, out of all of these hair,..it is the liHya that the believing men are commanded to let grow. Letting the sideburns and mustache grow are considered acts of sunnah...the Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam) did this is but did not command the Muslim men to do this. Habib Ali al-Jifry said that at one time, some of the `ulama of the Arabian Peninsula used to let their goatees grow and shave their sideburns to indicate that they understood the hukm of which one was mandatory and which one was sunnah. For the overwhelming majority of the knowledgeable scholars, the stricter opinion of the liHya being wajib is taken. Habib Ali said that it would be despicable for a student of sacred knowledge to shave his liHya as well as for anyone who sincerely wishes to follow the footsteps of our beloved Prophet (salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam).
Trimming the beard is permissible and the most recommended length is a fist-length. Be careful not to trim you beard to the point where it no longer fits the definition: the hair that *sprouts* (nabit) from the chin. (I personally don't think stubble would count, but Allah knows best).
Finally, (and this is very important), Habib Ali stated that we should remember that the beard in its essence is not a criterion for taqwa. People of other religions have been known to grow very long beards, but that says nothing of their position with Allah. To look at another Muslim and judge his closeness to Allah by the length of his beard (or whether he has one for that matter) would be a grave mistake.
wa Allahu a`lam
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