Despite being young, I have started to grow a few grey hairs. Is it permitted to pluck these out from my head and beard?
Classical scholars and jurists (fuqaha) generally agree that it is disliked (makruh) to pluck out grey or white hair from one’s head, beard or moustache for the purpose of beautification and appearing young.
This is due to the following hadiths:
1) Amr ibn Shu’ayb relates from his father, from his grandfather, that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Do not pluck out grey/white hair. A believer’s hair does not turn grey in Islam, except that it will be a light (nur) for him on the Day of Judgment” and “for each grey hair, Allah will write one good deed (hasana) for him and pardon one wrong of his.” (Sunan Abi Dawud, no: 4199)
2) Amr ibn Shu’ayb relates from his father, from his grandfather, that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) prohibited the plucking of grey hair, and said, “It is the light of a Muslim.” (Sunan Tirmidhi no: 2821)
3) Fudala ibn Ubayd (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Grey hair is a light on the face of a Muslim; so whoever wishes, let him pluck out his light.” (Bayhaqi, Shu’ab al-Iman, with a sound chain)
4) Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) says, “We used to dislike [during the time of the Prophet, Allah bless him & give him peace] that a man plucks out white hair from his head and beard…” (Sahih Muslim, no: 2341)
The meaning of the above and other similar narrations is that having grey/white hair is beneficial both in this world and the next life. In terms of this world, it is a sign of maturity and a means of respect and dignity. It prevents one from being deceived by this temporary life and reminds one of death and the next life (akhira). As a result, one is encouraged to avoid sins and carry out righteous acts – which are full of light. As for the next life, grey hair will be a means of light (nur) on the Day of Judgment for a believer, and a means of being rewarded and relieved from the punishment of Hellfire. (See: al-Mubarakfuri, Tuhfat al-Ahwadhi 8/113; Ibn Allan, Dalil al-Falihin 4/458; and AzimAbadi, Awn al-Ma’bud 4202)
There is much encouragement in the above hadiths to avoid removing or plucking out white/grey hair that may appear in one’s head or beard, and as such scholars generally consider doing so to be Makruh.
Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him), the great Hadith scholar and jurist of the Shafi’i School, states in his commentary of Sahih Muslim, “This ruling [i.e. plucking out grey hair being Makruh] is agreed-upon. Our [Shafi’i] jurists and the jurists of the Maliki School hold that it is disliked (makruh), but not unlawful (haram).” (Al-Minhaj sharh Sahih Muslim, hadith no: 2341)
He also states in his masterpiece Fiqh work titled Al-Majmu, “It is disliked (makruh) to pluck out grey hairs, due to the hadith… Our [Shafi’i] jurists hold that it is Makruh, as stated clearly by Al-Ghazali, Al-Baghawi and others. If it were said that it is unlawful (haram) because of the clear prohibition [in the hadith], it would not be far-fetched, and there is no difference between plucking hairs from the beard or the head.” (Al-Majmu’ sharh al-Muhaddhab 1/292; also see: al-Bhuti, Kasshaf al-Qina’ 1/71 for the Hanbali School)
In the Hanafi School, Imam Ala’ al-Din Abidin – the 19th Century Damascene jurist and son of Ibn Abidin – says in his Al-Hadiyya al-Ala’iyya, “There is nothing wrong (la ba’s) with plucking out grey hair if it is not done for beautification purposes.” (Al-Hadiyya al-Ala’iyya p: 291; also see: Radd al-Muhtar ala ‘l-Durr al-Mukhtar 6/407)
This means that if one plucks out grey hair for medical and other similar reasons of need, it would be permitted. However, it is disliked (makruh) to do so for beautification and adornment purposes.
In summary, classical jurists generally agree that it is disliked (makruh) to pluck out grey or white hair, but not unlawful (haram). As for what type of dislike (karaha) it entails – mild (tanzih) or prohibitive (tahrim) – according to the Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali Schools of Sunni Islamic law, this would be mildly disliked (makruh tanzih), since there is no sub-division of Makruh according to them, and all Makruh acts are considered mildly disliked. According to the Hanafi School, too, it seems that it is mildly disliked; because of the phrase used by Imam al-Haskafi in his Al-Durr al-Mukhtar and others “la ba’s”, meaning it is not haram or makruh tahrim to pluck out grey hair, and hence not sinful, but better to avoid.
Having said that, one should not take the matter very lightly! This is due to the fact that some scholars do consider it to be unlawful (haram), and due to what Imam Nawawi states in the quote above that considering it to be haram would not be far-fetched.
(Please note that the above is solely concerning plucking out grey/white hair. As for dyeing it to a colour which is other than black, it is generally permitted and even recommended to some extent. For more details regarding dyeing, please read the answer titled ‘Using Hair Dye’ already posted on the website).
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK