Friday, January 8, 2010



I just don't get it.  Why is there so much concern made about hair?

I remember a Naw Ruz celebration a number of years ago that took place in a large hall.  It was a beautiful celebration and everyone was having a great time.  A dear friend of mine, one of the first friends I ever met in Winnipeg, had just dyed her hair bright pink, and she was sitting a few rows in front of me.  Someone behind her commented, in an allegedly quiet voice, that it was disgraceful someone would colour their hair like that.  My friend turned, and I could see the hurt on her face.

I have not seen her at a Baha'i event since that time.

At the next Feast, when everyone was talking about how great the celebration was, I asked the question if we would derogatorily comment on someone's skin colour.  People were aghast that I would even think of such a question.  I asked if we would comment about the inappropriateness of someone's eye colour, and was met with a similar response.  Would we tell someone to change their clothes if we didn't like the colour of their shirt?  That just seemed ridiculous.

"So why", I asked, "did someone criticize another for their hair colour?"  I then pointed out that my friend was missing at the Feast and told how hurt she had been at such a callous comment.

Fortunately, thank God, this is a very rare incident in the community, but it has still stuck with me even after all this time, especially since she still hasn't come to any Baha'i events.

But it gets me back to the question: Why are we so concerned about hair?  After all, it is just a keratin filament with a bit of pigment.  What's the big deal?

The salon / barber industry in the US has an annual revenue of $16 billion dollars, which just seems beyond absurd, but maybe it's just me.  After all, I'm known for only getting one haircut a year, if that.  Oh, by getting a haircut every other year, you can actually cut it off and send it to a charity for a cancer wig, so why not do that?  (There's my social plug for the week)

But there is an issue with that, for us Baha'is.  Baha'u'llah said that we should not have long hair, at least if you're a guy.

"Wait a minute, He did?"

I've been told that by many Baha'is, so it must be true, right?

No.  Not necessarily.  Remember that famous phrase?  "Show it to me in the Writings"?

Let's see what Baha'u'llah says.  In the Kitab-i-Aqdas, He writes, "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... Notwithstanding, it is not seemly to let the hair pass beyond the limit of the ears."  The Guardian also clarified that not shaving the head is applicable to both women and men, but that the thing about the ears is only for men.

So what is this thing about the ears?  Don't let your "hair pass beyond the limit of the ears"?  Does it actually mean that we shouldn't have long hair?

Does that mean that we are to draw an imaginary line from ear to ear, behind our head, and cut off all our hair below this line?  If so, do we draw this line from the top of each ear, or the bottom?  Obviously it doesn't mean to go from the top of one to the bottom of another.  That would just look silly.

But is this really what it means?

Let's look at the Master, 'Abdu'l-Baha.  Please note His hair in this photo of Him as a young man:

Do you see how His hair is long?  And yet, His hair does not go beyond the limits of His ears.  You can clearly see His ears.

This is what I use as my model.

When I allow my hair to grow long, I always keep my ears clear.  After all, the limits of the ear, in my opinion (remember?  This  is all about how I approach the Faith, so all you will get is my opinion), means the actual limits of each ear on its own.  Two "c" shapes on either side of the head.  That is where I keep my hair from, beyond those limits.

After that, all that I have found in the Writings pertaining to hair and hairstyle is to keep it neat and clean. Clean I can do.  Neat?  Well, I'll have to take that up with God in the next world.  He gave me this unruly mop on the top of my head.  I do my best, but sometimes I feel like Harry Potter with the hair always going all over the place, no matter what I do.

They say that God loves laughter, and I often cite my hair as an example.


  1. I like what you said. I really like it. It all made sence to me. Thanks.

  2. Hey, interesting blog. Personally I believe that the cutting of hair at all is only a sign of slavery, to the state or to other men - aka, the military, prison, greeks (belonged to the state), romans (belonged to the emporer). The Nazarite Vow consisted partly of the vow to never cut or deliberately dress your hair, and you can find many many references to uncut hair and even dreadlocks (samsons 7 locks). Also, have a look at baha'ullah's hair cut - ;) I'm almost 60% sure there's a little curled dreadlock coming from his head. "to the limit of his ears" sounds like "until they're so far away you can't hear anything from them" or "as long as you can hear, your hair is fine." which sounds practical and from what I know baha'ullah was practical. Thanks for the good read.

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  4. I am a male Baha'i, living in buffalo, I would just like to know if it's appropriate as a Baha'i to get dreadlocks, thank you ...

  5. Wow. What a great question, Anonymous. Dreadlocks. Why not? They are a beautiful style of hair, and quite appropriate on many people.

    I guess the only things to be aware of are to keep them clean, not let them "pass the limits of the ear" (which would probably happen naturally), not allow ourselves to be the "playthings" of people, and to not shape them in the Greatest Name.

    But that's just my own opinion. Thanks for asking.

    And I'd love to hear what you think about it.


  6. You presented a false comparison of your dear friend's obviously dyed hair color with one's natural skin or eye color. In the Aqdas, it says in paragraph 159, "Let there be naught in your demeanour of which sound and upright minds would disapprove, and make not yourselves the playthings of the ignorant." According to your own narrative, your dear friend's decision to dye her hair bright pink invoked the disapproval of sound and upright minds.

    1. Actually, I don't think the comparison was false at all. I would not consider the judgement of an individual appropriate in these circumstances, regardless. And besides, who is to say that the one who was offended by the use of cosmetics, dye in the hair, was "sound and upright"? I think the very fact that they found such an innocuous decoration offensive is a proof that they were neither sound nor upright. They proved themselves to be judgemental, and offended a young adult who was otherwise fairly close to the Faith. Bad call, in my opinion.