Women’s Center holds discussion on religious beards

Photo courtesy of M. Garten, Wikipedia

In honor of No Shave November, the Women’s Center hosted Illustrious Beards, an event to discuss the history of facial hair and how religion plays a role in the reasoning behind why many men wear their beards and hair a certain way.

The event, which occurred on Monday, Nov. 20, covered Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Amish and Rastafarian respectively. These five religions may not seem as though they have anything in common, but the idea that hair needs to be preserved is a common theme among all of them.

One of the common factors in both the Amish and Judaism religions is that they follow the book of Leviticus. Specifically, Leviticus 19:27 states: “You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.”

A close look at men from each of these religions reveals that they may have clean cut hairstyles, but their beard, sideburns included, are left alone. They view growing out a beard is a signal that one is a follower of faith. In Judaism, specifically the growing out of sideburns is known as payot and is worn by both younger boys and older men.

On the other hand, Sikhism encourages growing out all of the hair on the body, for both men and women. Unlike in Amish and Judaism religions, hair is seen as a gift from god and is a way to show your faith.

Sikh women also grow out their hair. Harnaam Kaur is one Sikh woman who has become famous for not shaving her beard and following the rules of her religion. She is also known as the “Bearded Lady.”

Islam is a religion which has one of the more basic guidelines when it comes to hair. Islam men must have a beard in order to be considered a man. Whether it is only scruff or a full on beard, there are no limitations to what the beard must look like. The most important part is that they have facial hair and they can use this as a way to differentiate themselves from women.

Rastafarian, a lesser known religion in the states, also follows Leviticus but not the same one as the Amish and Jewish. They follow Leviticus 21:5 which states, “They shall not make bald patches on their heads, nor shave off the edges of their beards, nor make any cuts on their body.” This is why Rasta men and women often have very long dreadlocks because they see all hair as a very important part of their identity.

In a BBC article from 2014 the meaning of facial hair was decoded, writing: “It's a sociological signifier, a shorthand that often tells you who you're dealing with and what they're all about before they can even speak.”