What are the natural ways (Sunan al-Fitrah) which the Muslims are encouraged to follow?
The important Sunan al-Fitrah include the following:
Growing one’s beard and trimming one’s moustache:
Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) instructed his followers:
“Grow your beards and trim your moustaches, distinguish yourselves from the pagans, the Jews and others”. 
Beard represents signs of manhood and distinguishes males from females. Growing a beard doesn’t just mean to let it grow in any way. Even though it is permissible to grow the beard in anyway, grooming the beard is strongly recommended in Islam. The beard can be grown to any length as long as it is recognized as a beard. Growing stubble is not sufficient. Along with growing a beard, one must trim his moustache. One can trim the moustache entirely, or the basic trimming is to keep it from one’s mouth. This is good for hygienic reasons, too. Jews don’t trim it, that’s why the Prophet had instructed us to distinguish ourselves from the Jews who grow their beards and their moustache.
Growing the hair on the head is also from the natural way. This applies to both men and women. It is permissible in Islam for men to keep their hair short or long till the shoulders, but shaving a part of the head like the Mohicans (Indians in North America),where in a person shaves the sides and leaves the hair running down the middle is not acceptable, or the Mongol way, where you shave off your all your head and just keep a pony tail at the end, or the way of the monks of certain branches amongst the Christian monastic orders who only shave the upper parts of the head leaving the rest of the hair growing around, or the military cut, the crew cut where you shave off the sides and just leave just the hair on the top of your head. All these are not permissible. The Prophet (ﷺ) forbade it.
Removing the pubic hair:
Pubic hair is the hair around the private parts and the hair that grows in the armpits. We are encouraged to remove this hair. In the case of the beard, men should grow it, and in fact this is their distinguishing feature. So, if a woman has a beard, she is allowed to shave it. Majority of women do not have beard but some do, and it’s a test for them and they are allowed to remove it. Connected to the hair of the head is the hair of the eyebrows. This is an area for women that they like to pluck, either remove it altogether or tattoo a line on their head. They are doing all kinds of things now. The Prophet (ﷺ) forbade it. They can trim it if it is bushy but not shave it or pluck it. The Prophet (ﷺ) also forbade the use of wigs, false hair, extensions for those who are losing their hair or the hair is falling out. If those extensions that women may add to their hair are clearly different from their own hair, then ok, it is some form of beautification but where it looks just like their own hair and gives the impression that their hair is long, then this becomes forbidden. It’s like a wig, functioning in the same way that wigs function. The hair which we are encouraged now to remove is the hair under the armpits and the hair around the private parts which is known as the pubic hair. To shave what is around the private parts, to shave or to remove what is in the armpits was the common practice to do every Friday as one cleans up on the Friday for the major congregational prayer. If one grew one’s hair, he or she is not in sin as this does not have the same weight as the growing of the beard or the prohibition of shaving or plucking the eyebrows. It is recommended, every Friday or at maximum every 40 days to remove hair under the armpits and around the private parts and we know that today if a woman is going to have a baby in the hospital the first thing that they do to prepare her is to remove all that hair because the hair carries certain germs. People might say the same thing must be with the beard, but no, the beard is out in the open, it is not kept in a closed area where there’s little air circulation for germs to multiply etc., so it is hygienic to remove that hair. It’s about hygiene and obviously it is more pleasing to their husbands also.
Trimming the fingernails and the toenails:
The nails must be cut within forty days of the last cutting. We can trim the nails every Friday. Trim means removing most of the white part of the nail, the extra nail which grows past the skin because where it’s connected to the skin it’s pink, it starts to turn white as it goes past the skin as its coming out now like claws. Allah has given us nails that can grow like claws but they are not fundamentally claws. It’s very easy for the germs to accumulate under the nails. So we now know that it is more hygienic to keep the nails short. We know that now, in the 20th century, since the discovery of the microscope and knowing about germs in the 16th-17th century while this was already instituted 1400 years ago by Prophet (ﷺ). As for the toe nails, we do not eat using them so there is no worry about transference of germs from our toe nails to our bodies but with the extended nail germs can collect there. Though we wash our feet regularly, we don’t clean under our nails each time we wash our feet so it is a source of possible harm, development of germs and disease. Women are now using extension on their fingernails. This has become a culture now. It is not forbidden for them to wear these extensions if they wear them for some time and then remove them off because if they wear them for longer periods, they would function just like the nails and the dirt starts collecting under them. As for nail polish, a Muslim woman who is not in her menses should not apply nail polish unless she is prepared to remove it every time she has to make wudhu because one of the conditions of wudhu is that the water must reach all those parts of the body that are being washed. In the same way, if a painter has some paint traces left on his hand, he should remove it from his skin so that when he makes wudhu the water reaches the skin. In the case of nail polish, nail polishes acts as a film over the nail which prevents water from reaching it. In the case of henna it is different. Henna is a dye which is absorbed into the nail, it doesn’t prevent the water from reaching it. So, applying henna to the hands or nails etc., is not included. It is permissible to do so.
Fundamentally, it is circumcision for men. When a child reaches the seventh day of his existence in this world, it is highly recommended for him to be circumcised, that is, the fore skin is removed, which does not harm him. Some people may call it genital mutilation. Yes, it is removal of skin but it is not harmful.
Medicine has proved that those men who are circumcised are less likely to suffer from Penile cancer and AIDS. So, there is a hygienic benefit involved in circumcision and is therefore strongly recommended for Muslim males to be circumcised. However, if someone has just accepted Islam and he is in his 50s, 40s 30s, it is not an obligation upon him to circumcise. If he chooses to do so, he is welcome. It is not an obligation because circumcision at that age is a major operation and could be a matter of life and death and Islam doesn’t require or demand that one must go and do it. This is a very important point because I know of someone who was in his early 50s who declined accepting Islam because he was told that the first thing he would have to do after accepting Islam is to get his circumcision done, and he found it too hard to deal. It was a mistake by the ignorant people. Reality is that it is not a requirement, rather a recommendation. For females, circumcision is permissible but to the degree of circumcision of the male in which case a surplus skin is removed which doesn’t affect the male functions such as his sensitivity, his pleasure. Similarly, a small amount may be removed from the female which surrounds her clitoris in a similar way, not reducing her pleasure in any way. If it involves cutting out parts, cutting of bits and pieces, sewing people up for ensuring virginity, this is not from Islam at all. This is known as the Pharonic circumcision. It existed in lower Egypt 1000s of years ago. Islam reached that area and some of the people of that region accepted Islamic principles and left that whereas others brought it into Islam with them, so it still remains in some parts of east Africa and becomes a source of attack on Islam where Muslims are identified as being involved in female genital mutilation. However if you go into countries like Egypt, you will find that the 20 million or 10 million Christian Egyptians who live there do it too, so do the Christian women in Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya. This practice did not come from Christianity nor did it come from Islam. It existed 1000s of years before, not from the teachings of God and His prophets, but from the practice of human beings.
Reference: [Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5443; Muslim, 600, 602] < Back to Questions