What Religious Reasons Are There for Growing Hair?

by Nicole Seaton

Hairstyles can tell you a great deal about an individual's religious beliefs. For most people, a haircut is a simple form of self-expression, but for pious individuals belonging to certain religions, the way their hair is worn expresses the depth of their adherence to their faith. In some parts of the world, the decision to grow the hair long is holy, not hippie.

Sikhs Leave Hair Unshorn as a Sign of Piety and Faith

Growing dreadlocks is a time-consuming, spiritual practice.

In Sikhism, a religion founded in the Punjab region of South Asia, adherents follow The Kesh, one of the physical articles of faith. The Kesh, one of the most important symbols of spirituality in Sikhism, reminds the faithful to comport themselves as a Guru would. Both as a sign of dedication to the religion and belief in God's will, Sikhs wear their unshorn hair to represent the perfection of God's creation. Hair is a gift from God, the Sikhs reason, so why would anyone reject God's gift by cutting it? Sikhs never cut their hair, and they keep their long locks in check by carefully rolling their hair on top of their head and covering it with a turban.

A Rastafarian Neither Shaves Nor Cuts His Hair

Male Hassidic Jews wear sideburns, or peyos, to demonstrate their faith.

Followers of the Rastafarian movement prohibit cutting or brushing their hair in accordance with the Bible's mandate in Leviticus 21:5: "They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh." A Rastafarian neither shaves nor cuts his hair, in adherence to a strict interpretation of this biblical reference. Dreadlocks have also become a symbol of rebellion against authority, representing the Lion of Judah's mane. In Rastafarian philosophy, dreadlocks should form naturally, without the intervention of a brush or a pair of scissors.

Jewish Kabbala Tradition Says Hair Contains Energy

Beards are popular in the Muslim world, but not mandatory.

According to Jewish Kabbala teachings, hair contains incredible energy, and can also demonstrate one's character. According to the Zohar, an ancient Kabbalist text, "...from the hair of a person you can know who he is" (Zohar, Naso, Idra Rabba 129a). Male Hassidic Jews wear long sideburns, called peyos. Although the sideburns satisfy the Torah's peyos requirements, some Jews grow their peyos long as a symbol of religious piety, while others curl them or tuck them behind their ears. The Torah has 613 commandments, and only one of them applies to facial hair. Today, the absence or presence of facial hair is still a fervently debated issue among Jewish biblical scholars.

To Beard or Not to Beard in the Muslim World

Many devout Muslims do not have beards.

Although there is no specific mandate in the Koran that Muslim men must don beards, many Muslim men do so in accordance with a hadith, or words spoken by the Prophet Muhammad. In more conservative Muslim communities, it will be more common to see men wearing beards, but it's more of a cultural aesthetic than a religious doctrine. However, religious clerics are still splitting hairs as to whether wearing a beard should be mandatory for all Muslim men.

About the Author

Nicole Seaton has been a freelance writer since 2001. Her work has appeared in "The Reno News and Review" and "The Flow," a trade publication for the flame-working community. Seaton earned a Bachelor of Arts in international relations and Spanish, and has studied in Argentina and Spain.

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