Does not fit a topic from the list -- "Appearance of the Believers" Is it obligatory to keep a beard? Did Prophet Muhammad(sm) explicitly command believers to keep beard? If so, is that command to be taken as a religious order? For instance, Muhammad(sm) asked many a believers to not drink water in a standing position, which seems like an order until we find that he was seen doing so himself.
Growing a beard
In the name of Allah, We praise Him, seek His help and ask for His forgiveness. Whoever Allah guides none can misguide, and whoever He allows to fall astray, none can guide them aright. We bear witness that there is no one (no idol, no person, no grave, no prophet, no imam, no dai, nobody!) worthy of worship but Allah Alone, and we bear witness that Muhammad(saws) is His slave-servant and the seal of His Messengers.
Keeping a beard cannot be considered an obligatory command of the Prophet (saws), but rather it was his Sunnah, and the Sunnah of all the Prophets before him.
Growing a beard was considered normal and natural for a man at the time of the Messenger of Allah (saws), whether he was a believer or not. Even the enemies of Islam like Abu Jahl and Abu Lahb had beards! And because every man naturally grew a beard, it was not necessary for the Prophet (saws) to give an explicit command exhorting the believers to grow a beard.
The only specific saying of the Prophet (saws) regarding the keeping of beards arose when he saw that the pagans used to grow both their beards and their mustaches long; thus he (saws) said to the believers:
Do the opposite of what the pagans do. Lengthen your beards and cut the mustaches short.
It was only a couple of centuries ago, when the western culture and ideology became dominant over the world and muslim lands, that it became a fashion to be clean shaven. And as with any dominant culture, people are always ready to adopt its actions, whether they are of virtue, or of vice! But Islam has its own culture, and growing a beard is part of the Islamic culture.
The question is why should a believer, who professes to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and who professes to follow the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saws), want to grow a beard?
The answer is simple. Today, you might have seen many youngsters copy the fashion of sport-stars, Hollywood-stars or anybody else whom they love. If you notice today, many hot Hollywood stars and sport stars are sporting a "goatie" beard! And true to fashion, you see a lot of people around today who keep "goatie" beards!!! As Muslim, our role model should always be the Prophet (saws). We love to copy everything he did ... he had a beard, and if indeed, we want to follow the Messenger of Allah (saws), we should strive to grow a beard.
Allah says in the Holy Quran Chapter 33 Surah Ahzab verse 21:There is indeed the best model for you in the Messenger of Allah, for every such person looks forward to Allah and the Last Day, and remember Allah much.
In another narration, the Prophet of Allah said in narrating a prophecy of times to come:
There will emerge from the East some people who will recite the Quran, but it will not exceed their throats, and who will go out of the deen of Islam as an arrow passes through the game. They will never come back to it unless the arrow comes back to the middle of the bow by itself (i.e. impossible!). The companions asked, "What will their signs be?". The Prophet (saws) said: "Their sign will be the habit of shaving off of their beards".
Thus the keeping of beards is a Sunnah of the Prophet (saws) and every muslim must strive to keep a beard, if his model is indeed the Prophet of Allah (saws). He will get his due reward from Allah, Insha Allah, if he keeps the beard to follow the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saws).
But if a believer does not want to sport a beard for whatever reason, the other believers should not make an issue out of it. What is important in Islam and in the sight of Allah, is that one truly believes and does good righteous deeds. And when that happens, it is expected that the beard will follow soon after!
The beard is nothing more than a sign that the believer truly wants to follow a Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saws). There are many people who have long beards, but do deeds against the commands of Allah and His Messenger (saws). And there are many people who are amongst the best believers, but do not have beards! Allah will not decide the recipient of His Mercy and His Forgiveness from the appearance of the individual; but rather He will decide whether the person believed and did righteous deeds, as he was commanded by Allah and His Messenger (saws).
Now, to your specific questions:
Q-1: Is it obligatory to keep a beard?
No. It is not obligatory; but rather it is the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (saws), thus voluntary.
Q-2: Did Prophet Muhammad(sm) explicitly command believers to keep beard?
Yes, he did say in one of his authentic narrations for the men to grow their beards and cut their mustaches short.
Q-3: If so, is that command to be taken as a religious order?
For a believer, who truly believes in Allah and the Last Day, every command of the Messenger (saws) is a religious order. If one keeps a beard with the intention of following the words and deeds of the Messenger of Allah (saws), he will get his due reward from Allah. And if one grows a beard, with the intention of following the fashion of the times, will not get the reward of following a Sunnah.
One must understand here, that each command of the Prophet (saws) has its own position of importance, which he made it known to the believers. The command of keeping a beard cannot be compared to the commands of fasting, charity, obedience of parents, etc., which are absolutely obligatory on every muslim.
Q-4: For instance, Muhammad(sm) asked many a believers to not drink water in a standing position, which seems like an order until we find that he was seen doing so
Sahih Muslim Hadith 5017 Narrated by Anas ibn Malik
Allah`s Messenger (peace be upon him) disapproved the drinking of water while standing.
Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 770 Narrated by Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al-`As
Abdullah ibn Amr saw the Prophet (peace be upon him) drinking water while standing as well as while sitting.
Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 7.520 Narrated by An Nazzal bin Sabra
`Ali offered the Zuhr prayer and then sat down in the wide courtyard (of the Mosque) of Kufa in order to deal with the affairs of the people till the `Asr prayer became due. Then water was brought to him and he drank of it, washed his face, hands, head and feet. Then he stood up and drank the remaining water while he was standing. and said, "Some people dislike to drink water while standing though the Prophet did as I have just done."
There are several authentic narrations of the Messenger of Allah (saws), whereby he himself, under some circumstances, drank water while he was standing, although in general he (saws) recommended that one should drink water while in a sitting position. And since the Messenger of Allah (saws) himself drank water while standing and sitting both, in light of the above narrations, most scholars have said that it is better and recommended to drink water while sitting, but there is no harm or sin if one drinks it while standing. For if it was a sin, the Messenger of Allah (saws) would never have done it!
But this recommendation is different from the command to grow a beard. The Messenger of Allah (saws), the men of his noble family and the noble companions, all grew beards and there is absolutely no record of any of them being clean shaven at any time of their adult lives.
Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allah’s Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.
Your brother and well wisher in Islam,