Mini compilation from Talisman re hair

This is an archived post from the old bulletin board. For new posts, see the forum.

Posted by Jonah ( on January 19, 2003 at 17:59:05:

In Reply to: Question about hair posted by Misagh on January 19, 2003 at 16:41:53:

These messages were sent to Talisman and Irfan in 1996-97. I edited out last names, email addresses, and unrelated sentences. -Jonah

Date: Sun, 24 Mar 1996
From: John
Subject: Long hairs and ear lobes

The meaning of this verse is not clear, as far as I know. My old Aqdas teacher Vahid Rafati had no explanation for it, which tells me that the Persian Baha'i tradition did not have a standard explanation. I do recall that Browne comments on the Baha'i men in Akka in the 1880s wearing their hair pulled back behind their ears and then cut off in the back at roughly the level of the ear lobe.

If there is a cultural reference to this verse, it is probably that the Shi'ite ulama tended to shave their heads and dervishes wore theirs long, I think.


Date: Sun, 24 Mar 96
From: Ahang
Subject: Re: Long hairs and ear lobes

One inescapable observation is that Abduíl-Baha Himself was not in compliance with this rule, judging by the published photographs.

But I think we want to be a bit careful here, as there is no "rule" as yet. What Baha'u'llah provided was a general statement which cannot be construed as a specific law (hence, as John says, noone able to tell you what it means). As Ian Semple used to explain there are at least 6 ways for the House of Justice to legislate on this subject: 1. shorter than ear lobes all around; 2. Long hair on back, but short sideburns; etc. Since the House of Justice has not legislated on the matter, and there was no Baha'i "rule", Abdu'l-Baha was in compliance with societal standards of His time -- and the same goes for us, for the time being.

regards, ahang.

From: Tony
Date: Sun, 24 Mar 1996
Subject: Re: Long hair on men

Didn't Baha'u'llah change his mind about all this in a later Tablet and say that men are free concerning the cut of hair and beard, as long as they don't make themselves the "playthings of the ignorant"? Or, have I gotten confused, as usual?


Date: Mon, 25 Mar 1996
From: Jackson
To: talisman
Subject: men's hair

It is of interest that Haydar Ali records that 'Abdu'l-Baha told him to stop shaving his head as this was against the law of the Aqdas, yet there was an established 'Baha'i' hairstyle with long hair combed behind the ears. This style was not simply contemporary usage but group specific and identifying.

It is actually physically impossible not to have hair growing below the level of the ears without shaving the head to some extent.

One of the themes of the Aqdas is the abolishing of clerical/lay or 'estate' distinctions. I think this passage probably needs to be seen in the context of abolishing sumptuary expression of such social distinctions.


From: Sen
Date: Tue, 26 Mar 1996
Subject: hair


I think the passage you are thinking of might be The seventh Glad-Tidings:
The choice of clothing and the cut of the beard and its dressing are left to the discretion of men. But beware, O people, lest ye make yourselves the playthings of the ignorant. (Tablets of Baha'u'llah, page 23)

If this is the one, there's nothing here to alter the Aqdas law regarding the cut of the hair.

Date: Mon, 01 Sep 1997
From: John
Subject: Beyond the Lobe of the Ear

Some have interpreted this as meaning Baha'u'llah prohibited body hair for men below the level of the ears. Yet He wrote, "The choice of clothing and the cut of the beard and its dressing are left to the discretion of men." (TB, p. 22) Pictures show 'Abdu'l-Baha with a long beard and hair that rested on His shoulders.

Lawrence Hautz told how on his way to visit the Guardian, he intended to shave off his moustache to obey the Aqdas. He forgot to do so, and discovered the Guardian with the same style of moustache, so he asked about the law of hair beyond the ear. He told us the Guardian explained that this refers only to hair growing inside the ear. In some cultures, such as Chinese, it was stylish not only to let hair grow there, but even to braid it.

Why does this law apply only to men? Maybe because that much hair may be a problem only for men. For example, nobody had to say anything about beard styles for women!


From: Eric
Date: Tue, 2 Sep 1997
Subject: Re: Beyond the Lobe of the Ear
Priority: normal

I hate to put a moist towelette on another of Burl's masterpieces, but I thought the "hair thing" and some other ordinances about personal cleanliness were respnoses to the kind of disgusting appearance (long dirty hair, foul clothing...) and bizarre behavior that some middle eastern mendicant and ascetic sects used as part of their bag of tricks to frighten and scare superstitious commoners and even gain political control over some villages.

Date: Tue, 2 Sep 1997
From: Jackson
To: irfan
Subject: Re: Beyond the Lobe of the Ear

The text pairs this injunction with the one forbidding shaving the head. It has always seemed to me that a possible context for this is the general stress on eliminating clerical status and estate distinctions in society seen in the aqdas/writings. Dress and hairstyle were important indicators of estate (membership in one of the traditional 'classes' of society) in Persia. Shaving the head was associated with the ulama (and paradoxically with the lowest classes), and what were called in 17th century England 'lovelocks' were associated with the higher strata of the laity. The latter had actually gone rather out of fashion by the time the Aqdas was written (although they had been all the rage in Baha'u'llah's youth), but in iconographic usages the style was still used (along with dress) to indicate social standing..

The Baha'i community surrounding Baha'u'llah had developed its own sartorial indicators among which was a distinctive hairstyle for men: longish to long hair carefully combed behind the ears. Haydar-Ali records in his memoirs that he had become used to shaving his head while in exile in the Sudan and that one day 'Abdu'l-Baha came across him while he was doing it. 'Abdu'l-Baha asked him why he was shaving his head as this was forbidden in the Aqdas and he records that he then stopped. Obviously 'Abdu'l-Baha had no problem with the traditional Baha'i hairstyle as he wore it all his life. By the late 1800s many Baha'is in the Holy Land (as many educated and/or higher social strata middle easterners generally) had adopted Western hairstyles and clothes. However, the idea that a western mens hairstyle of c.1900 is legislated by the Aqdas cannot be sustained either on historical grounds nor because of the simple logic that the average human hair line extends below the lobe of the ear no matter how short the hair is cut _unless_ at least part of the head is shaved...and thus we come full circle.


Could it be that the hair is not to flow loosely in front of the ear? From Immerse I copied this quote out of the Aqdas. It says nothing about ear lobes:

Shave not your heads; God hath adorned them with hair, and in this there are signs from the Lord of creation to those who reflect upon the requirements of nature. He, verily, is the God of strength and wisdom. Notwithstanding, it is not seemly to let the hair pass beyond the limit of the ears. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Lord of all worlds.
-- Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p.

Looking at the pictures of the Master in my office and reading this specific verse, I get the feeling He meant not to let the hair go wild. The Master's hair is always neatly brushed off the face and held in check by his turban. I would think, for example, many Native American men wear their hair extremely long, but it is always clean, neat and kept tidy -- in braids on either side of the head -- behind the ear -- or tied at the nape of their neck -- also behind the ear. To me this would be fine according to the Aqdas, as the hair is not "beyond the limit of the ear" -- in other words, the hair is kept neatly in check behind the ear. Does that make sense?

To: Baha'i Discuss
Subject: Re: Hair
Date: Fri, 17 Apr 1998
From: John

From Notes in the Aqdas, pages 197-198: "Shoghi Effendi has made clear that, unlike the prohibition on shaving the head, this law forbidding the growing of the hair beyond the lobe of the ear pertains only to men. The application of this law will require clarification by the Universal House of Justice."

Lawrence A. "Larry" Hautz used to tell about his being the first Western pilgrim to Haifa after World War II. He wanted to shave his mustache before meeting the Guardian, in order to not have hair below the ear. He didn't manage to shave and was embarrassed until he saw that Shoghi Effendi had almost the identical style of mustache. He asked about the law on hair below the ear, and says the Guardian told him that this refers only to hair that grows on or out of the ear.

A year ago we discussed this on Talisman. One person observed that hair grows only on or in men's ears and not on women's ears, just like facial hair. Hence the law does not bother with hair on/in women's ears any more than it would worry about how women trim their beards! :-)

John C.

this topic is closed - post at