Published On:03 December 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

OPINION: Controversy rages as Maharashtra Muslim police personell give priority to beards instead of professionalism

By Danish Ahmad Khan

In Maharashtra, a controversy is currently raging as the state Director General of Police (DGP) has asked Muslim police personnel to sport beard with prior permission. "The order of DGP is in strict violation of Union Home Ministry's instructions dated 19.03.1989, which permits a Muslim para-military personnel to grow beard, and is totally against the fundamental right of Muslims guaranteed by the Indian constitution," said All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) president Maulana Badruddin Ajmal.

AIUDF chief Maulana Badruddin Ajmal recently met Union Home Minister and Union Minoritiy Affiars Minister over Muslim police officials beard issue. Maulana Ajmal, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha), led a delegation from Maharashtra on 27th November 2012 and met the Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Union Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan at New Delhi over the issue of beard for Muslim police officials in Maharashtra.

During his meetings with the two ministers, Maulana Badruddin Ajmal strongly protested the Circular (No. DGP/6/4601/2006, dated 07.02.2006) by Director General of Police (DGP), Maharashtra, in which it said that a Muslim police personnel can keep beard temporarily for some period of time that too with prior permission from senior officer.

Maulana Badruddin Ajmal said, "The circular issued by the state DGP was totally against the instructions of Central Home Ministry dated 19.03.1989, which permits a Muslim para-military personnel to grow beard."

He said that the state DGP's circular was totally against the fundamental right of Muslims guaranteed by the Indian constitution.

In his memorandum addressed to the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, UPA Chairperson Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Union Minority Affairs Minister K. Rahman Khan, Chief Minister of Maharashtra Pritviraj Chauhan and Home Minister of Maharashtra R.R. Patil, Maulana Badruddin Ajmal said, "I would like to draw your kind attention to the above mentioned issue that there are many Muslim who are working in Maharashtra Police Service and some of them keep beard as it is essential according to Islamic point of view. But the Muslim police personnel in Maharashtra seeking permission to grow beard are being tortured. "

Maulana Badruddin Ajmal alleged that the Government of Maharashtra is interpreting the Central Government’s rules on the subject arbitrarily against the Muslim community working in police department. Maulana Ajmal has sought intervention on the issue in the larger interest of society.

Islamic Perspective on Beard

Maulana Badruddin Ajmal may be right in questioning the circular and actions of Maharashtra DGP and raising a pertinent issue of fundamental right to freedom of religion as guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.

But terming the "keeping of beard as essential according to the Islamic point of view", and therefore "obligatory" by Muslim police personnel in Maharashtra raises serious questions. Maulana Badruddin Ajmal has rightly raised the issue treating it as discriminatory on religious grounds as this is in violation of the constitutional right to freedom of religion. But, is it okay to mix religious ideologies with professionalism? Isn’t the issue worth pondering?

Insofar as keeping of beard by Maharashtra Muslim personnel or any other Muslim is concerned, it may be right as it is considered a Sunnah (Practice by Prophet Mohammad (SAW)) – a permissible act, and not obligatory. In other words, this simply means that if a Muslim keeps beard it is the most preferred act according to Prophet’s Sunnah, but if a Muslim doesn’t keep beard then it is surely not a grave sin (Haram). It may at best be considered "Makruh" (an undesirable act and a lesser sin).

Even several Islamic scholars are sharply divided over the issue of keeping beard Prominent Islamic scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi says: "We see that there are three views on shaving the beard. First, shaving beard is prohibited. This is the view of Ibn Taimyiah. Second: it is Makruh (reprehensible), that is `Iyad’s view. The Third view is that there is no problem in shaving the beard. This view is held by many contemporary scholars. It seems to me that the closest of these three views is the one that deems shaving beard as Makruh. As the stated reason for growing the beard is to be different from the non-believers, it is similar to the matter of dyeing gray hair in order to be distinct from the Jews and Christians; it is known that some of the Companions of the Prophet did not dye their grey hair, signifying that it was commendable rather than obligatory. Similarly, growing the beard may be regarded as commendable but not obligatory, and, accordingly, shaving it would be classified as Makruh rather than Haram. It is true that none of the Companions was known to have shaved his beard. Perhaps there was no need to shave, and perhaps growing the beard was a custom among them."

Professionalism versus Religiosity

Today, in India mixing religious ideologies with professionalism is becoming the order of the day and taking dangerous portends. In July 2009, Justice Markandey Katju, now retired judge of the Supreme Court of India and presently Chairman of Press Council of India, had to face protests over his remarks when he opined in open court that any Muslim that sported a beard must, by necessary implication, belong to the Taliban. Justice Katju later on immediately apologized.

The case related to one Mohammed Salim who was denied the right to keep his beard in a Christian convent school where he studied. Salim argued that sporting a beard is an intrinsic component of his Islamic faith. However, the convent argued that their status as a minority institution gives them broad powers under Article 30 to apply norms that could potentially conflict with the religious values of any student.

This is not the first case. On earlier occasions, Muslims employed in the Indian Army had to face similar issues of keeping beard and had successfully argued their case in the Indian courts.

But, raising such issues at intervals and mixing religion with professionalism sends wrong message and create hurdles in future progress of Muslims in national life and for their own prosperity. Had beard been a uniform issue for the entire Muslim Ummah or been kept by all Muslims in police, army, administration, or even in schools, colleges and universities, it would have been understandable and the people fighting the discriminatory approach would have received support from all quarters. But, surely this is not the case. It would be best if Muslims focus more on their employment issues, professional excellence, education, scientific and technological advancement, entrepreneurship and social integration. This would be more in their interest and future well-being. It’s about time to completely shirk extremism and adopt moderate thoughts and of peaceful co-existence.

How long will Muslims keep themselves entagled in religious issues, rather than being thorough professionals and achieve excellence in all walks of life? Will Muslims give a serious rethink?

[Danish Ahmad Khan, a Delhi-based Journalist, is Founder-Editor of IndianMuslimObserver.com. He can be reached at contact@indianmuslimobserver.com.]

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