Why do Muslim men have beards and wear turbans?
Muslims seek to follow the noble example of the Prophet of Islam(sa). The Holy Prophet(sa) had a beard and wore a turban, both of which were the custom appearance of men of that age and country. However, these were not done simply to follow custom or tradition.
The growing of beards has been linked with piety and manhood for thousands of years across many cultures and civilisations and it is common in many religions. In Sikhism, the beard is seen to be part of the dignity and nobility of men. In Judaism and Christianity, the ancient priests often used to grow beards and the shaving of them was seen as a sign of shame and dishonour. (1 Chronicles 19:5)
‘Narrated Ibn ‘Umar: Allah’s Apostle (saw) said, “Trim the moustaches short and grow the beard.” ’ (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 781)
From this hadith it appears that there is no fixed size or style of the beard, but it should be longer than the moustache. Moustaches should not be shaved altogether not should they be too long as the hadith says ‘trim’. A beard is a beauty of a man so it should be tidy as well.
‘Growing a beard is one of the signs of nature.’ (Muslim)
As for turbans it is true to say that many Arab and Asian Muslims wear the turban purely for customary reasons, but there is no religious requirement that a turban should be worn. The reason why Muslims may wear a turban is because it reflects the spirit of Islam that seeks to remind people of God. When praying Muslims are required to cover their heads as they are in the presence of their Lord. Covering the head is a sign of showing respect to God. Similarly some Muslims choose to cover their heads at other times as a reminder of their faith and of God. The form of head covering is not prescribed so can range from caps and hats to turbans.
In the Asian and Arabian culture the turban also symbolised that the person was a man of learning and wisdom. Thus it served as a reflection of what a true Muslim should be – one who is ever-mindful of his Creator and ever-inclined to seek knowledge.