Are women obliged to keep long hair?
I’ve been asked this question and I want to raise it here for it to be answered if possible: are women obliged to keep long hair? Is it not allowed for a woman to cut her hair? Some have said that one points of reasoning behind this is, is that it would cover their awra’ on the day of judgement.
No on both counts.
The cited reasoning or justification mentioned, is a khurāfah – a superstition, as there is no textual evidence to substantiate this view. Just as there is no text outlining an obligation for women to keep their hair long, there isn’t any prohibition contained within the Islamic texts concerning women cutting their hair, or even for that matter, keeping it short. We know that there is a report that the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) had their hair cut short mainly for ease in washing as outlined by the mother of the believers, ‘Aisha, may Allah be pleased with her. Imām Muslim records in his Ṣaḥīḥ:
و حدثني عبید الله بن معاذ العنبري قال حدثنا أبي قال حدثنا شعبة عن أبي بڪر بن حفص عن أبي سلمة بن عبد الرحمن قال دخلت علی عاٸشة أنا وأخوها من الرضاعة فسألها عن غسل النبي صلی الله علیه وسلم من الجنابة فدعت بإناء قدر الصاع فاغتسلت وبیننا وبینها ستر وأفرغت علی رأسها ثلاثا قال وڪان أزواج النبي صلی الله علیه وسلم یأخذن من رءوسهن حتی تڪون ڪالوفرة
And ‘Ubaidullah ibn Mu’ādth al-‘Anbary narrated to me he said my father narrated to us he said Shu’ba narrated to us from Abu Bakr ibn Ḥafṣ from Abu Salamah ibn Abdar-Raḥman, he said: I along with the foster brother of ‘Aisha went to her and he asked about the bath of the Prophet (peace be upon him) because of sexual intercourse. She called for a vessel equal to a Sa’ and she took a bath and there was a curtain between us and her. She poured water on her head three-times. The wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to cut their hair until it came just below their ears.
We have no narratives on record that the Prophet (peace be upon him) ever forbade his wives and / or the general female populace from having their hair cut in this manner. It is therefore not acceptable to invent something and then seek to argue that a prohibition should apply. The view that women are prohibited from cutting their hair seems to be a unique, peculiar view from some in the Indian sub-continent. Their opposition seems to only be on the basis that women cutting their hair generally and / or having various styles is prohibited because it is imitating the non-Muslims and men. Such a position though is ridiculous when considered against the narration we have from Imām Muslim as cited above as well as the general Sharī’ah evidences.
In relation to Ḥajj, the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not oblige or recommend women to shave their heads following completion, but to merely clip it. That is set out clearly in the following narration from the Sunan of Abu Dāwud:
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْحَسَنِ الْعَتَكِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ بَكْرٍ، حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ جُرَيْجٍ، قَالَ بَلَغَنِي عَنْ صَفِيَّةَ بِنْتِ شَيْبَةَ بْنِ عُثْمَانَ، قَالَتْ أَخْبَرَتْنِي أُمُّ عُثْمَانَ بِنْتُ أَبِي سُفْيَانَ، أَنَّ ابْنَ عَبَّاسٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم لَيْسَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ حَلْقٌ إِنَّمَا عَلَى النِّسَاءِ التَّقْصِيرُ
Muḥammad ibn al-Ḥasan al-‘Ataki narrated to us Muḥammad ibn Bakr narrated to us Ibn Jurayj narrated to us he said I have heard from Ṣaffiya the daughter of Shayba ibn Uthmān, she said: Umm Uthmān bint Abi Sufyān reported to me that Ibn ‘Abbās said that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Shaving is not a duty laid upon women; only clipping the hair is incumbent on them.
Some have interpreted this ḥadith, as well as what Imām Bukhāri recorded concerning the praising of those who shave their head to mean that it is generally impermissible for women to shave their heads, but the language of the ḥadith does not indicate that.
On average women generally tend to have longer hair than men and taking care of it, including cutting and styling is part of beautification. The matter should be very clear based upon these narrations and the general evidences.
All success rests with Allah, and ultimately Allah knows best