I am told that it is wrong to shave, trim, clip hair or nails if we are intending to offer an Eidul Adha sacrifice. I want to know whether we ought to observe certain restrictions similar to those in ihram if we are intending to sacrifice? I want to know what is the evidence to support such a ruling?
This is only one of the views on the issue.
There is another view, which states that such restrictions only apply to those in Ihram. This is what we learn from Aishah, the beloved wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him). She said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) never observed such restrictions while offering sacrifice in Madinah. It is inconceivable that he would do the opposite of what he instructed.
Consequently, Imam Abu Hanifah and Malik, as well as many other scholars from the early generations, found no reason to support such prohibitions. They stated that those who have the intention to offer a sacrifice are free to clip their nails, cut their hair and perform other personal grooming routines unless they are in a state of Ihram for Hajj or Umrah.
To explain the issue in detail, allow me to explain the differences of opinion on this issue – there are three views on the matter.
1. As you mentioned above, one group thinks it is forbidden for those offering a sacrifice to trim their nails or hair, but that there is no restriction on conjugal relations. They base their opinion on a report attributed to Umm Salamah in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) is said, “If the crescent of Dhul hijjah is sighted, those who intend to offer the sacrifice should not shave or trim or remove their hair or nails.” Based on this, Imam Ahmad and Dawud al-Dhahiri and also Imam Shafi (in one report) consider it forbidden to do so. While some apply this statement generally, others say it is only for men and not women – but they do so without evidence for such distinction.
2. The second group believes that while the trimming of nails or hair is makruh or undesirable, it is not forbidden. In other words, one would be rewarded for refraining from such practices but would incur no sin for engaging in them. This opinion is mostly held by Shafities and others who try to strike a middle position in order to reconcile conflicting reports in the Islamic sources.
3. The third view is that of the Hanafi and Maliki schools: they believe the trimming of nails or hair is permissible since these restrictions only apply to pilgrims in a state of Ihram. This view is based on explicit evidence from Aishah. She says, “I placed garlands (to mark) the camels dispatched by the Prophet for sacrifice to Makkah and yet the Prophet (while remaining in Madinah) never abided by any of the restrictions (mentioned above).” In other words, he continued his grooming practices as usual without any inhibition.
Abu Hanifah, Malik, Laith, and many other scholars, including Ikrimah, Ata b. Abi Rabah, Salim b. Abd Allah, Taus, Qasim b. Muhammad, Ata b. Yasar, Jabir b. Zayd, etc.. all consider the hadith of Aishah to be more reliable than that of Umm Salamah. They classify the latter as somewhat weak or questionable.
When Aishah was told that Ibn Abbas was ordering people not to cut their nails or hair if they intended to offer sacrifice, she wrote to him saying to stop issuing such rulings as it contradicted the practice of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Her clear argument was: How could the Prophet have ordered people not to do so when he practised differently?
When the Caliph Mu’awiyah wrote to Aishah asking for clarification on the issue, she reiterated her refutation of restrictions on personal grooming for those intending to offer a sacrifice.
The scholars who support the position of Aisha also offer the following arguments:
The report from Aishah is well attested and transmitted through reliable sources that are beyond doubt. As opposed to this, Imam Ibn Abd al-Barr states that most scholars consider the report attributed to Umm Salamah as weak. Imam Malik did not even deem it worthy of transmission. Imam Layth (Imam Malik’s colleague who also studied under scholars in Madinah), when asked about the same, stated: “There is a report to that effect; however, we did not see people acting upon it.” He meant that the people of Madinah did not act upon the report since there was more persuasive evidence against it. We would do well to remember that Imam Malik considered continuous practices of the Madinan community as a proof for or against isolated hadith reports.
They also use a convincing rational analogy:
On being told of the view that one may not clip nails or hair while intending to sacrifice, Ikrimah (the student of Ibn Abbas, and an eminent scholar) said, “Then why don’t they also stay away from spousal relations and perfume?”
In other words, it does not make sense that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would prohibit the clipping of nails and hair while permitting spousal relations and perfume when we know that violating sanctions against the latter entail higher penalties in a state of Ihram.
Furthermore, in Islamic jurisprudence, a general rule of permissibility applies when there is no clear evidence of restriction.
The scholars who support this view also point out that Aishah’s report relates to a later period in Prophet’s life (peace be upon him): the 9th year of Hijrah, when he sent Abu Bakr as the Amir of Hajj on his behalf.
Once again, it is inconceivable that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would forbid something for others while engaging in it himself. Aishah said about the Prophet (peace be upon him): “If he were to forbid something, he would be the first to stay away from it.” This is one of the statements on the Prophet (peace be upon him) in the Qur’an: “I would not be the one forbidding you something and then doing it myself.”
Before concluding, I must point out that those who support the position of permission in this matter include – besides Abu Hanifah and Layth – the following eminent scholars: Ikrimah, Ata b. Abi Rabah, Salim b. Abd Allah, Taus, Qasim b. Muhammad, Ata b. Yasar, Jabir b. Zayd, etc.
In conclusion, the ruling allowing the clipping of hair and nails is far more reliable, reasonable and convincing.