Q. There are some Muslims (both male and female) who shave their private areas every 21 days or so, following the ahadith that mention this tradition. How did this tradition come about and is it still necessary? This is also done as a hajj ritual, is it a hajj obligation?

A. Even though we may question, for academic purposes, the authenticity of the hadith, the general tenor seems that it was a sunna of the early community, and therefore, unless proven otherwise, taken to be a practice of the Muslims of the Prophet's time. Although there may have been environmental factors at the time, the hygienic benefits are obvious, and considering that Islam places a lot of emphasis on physical as well as spiritual cleanliness, it would seem a meritorious act at the very minimum. However, it cannot be considered as that which distinguishes between an "observant" or "non-observant" Muslim, since, as mentioned earlier, the authenticity of the hadith may be questioned. I think that it is up to the individual to do what he or she feels is best in their circumstance.

Regarding the hajj, the Qur'an talks about shaving the head (see Q2:196 for more information). On the exit from ihram, presumably when one may resume sexual relations with his/her spouse, if such spouse is present, a traditionalist may choose to shave.

Posted October 5, 1999