From IGNACE GOLDZIHER MEMORIAL VOLUME
HAIRS OF THE PROPHET
A Valuable Remembrance
At my arrival in
He was lamenting the home-going of his second wife. Now living all alone
in his attractive
The piece which I am sending you does not seem to be copyrighted. Therefore, Lila and I felt the liberty first to scan it through the assistance of a friend. Then we put it in modern format. We are sure you will enjoy reading it and learning some important points about the religion in which the element of superstition is always present.
Sincerely yours, Thomas Cosmades
From IGNACE GOLDZIHER MEMORIAL VOLUME
HAIRS OF THE PROPHET
When we recall pre-Islamic life in Arabia, it is not surprising that a great deal of Animism persists in popular Islam even today) Snouck Hurgronje, in his work on the Achenese, calls attention to the numerous animistic customs among the Sumatra Moslems and not condemned by their orthodox leaders because they find parallels in early Islam (pp. 287-288). While Johannes Warneck and Gottfried Simon go so far as to agree that "Islam is naturally inclined to Animism and easily entangled in its meshes" (Simon, Islam in Sumatra, pp. 157-109). "It would seem that Animism is the primitive form of paganism maintaining itself amid all the refinements of civilization. The study of Greek and old German religions exhibits the same animistic features as we find in Hinduism and in Islam" (Warneck, Living Christ and Dying Heathenism, p. 7).
And Frazer remarks: “Brahmanism, Buddhism and Islam may come and go, but the belief in magic and demons remains unshaken through them all, and if we may judge of the future from the past is likely to survive the rise and fall of other historical religions.” Aberglaube seems to have a vitality surpassing Glaube and Unglaube even in Christendom.
In his large volume, Het Animisme, A. C. Kruijt, the Dutch missionary, analyzes the origin of animistic beliefs by showing that personal soul-stuff is regarded by all animists as residing in parts of the human body, especially blood, hair, teeth, saliva, etc. This soul-stuff with its potency for good or evil can then be transferred or appropriated by others in various ways.
Among the interesting details recorded in Moslem tradition are
those relating to the hair and beard of the Prophet Mohammed during his
lifetime and after his death. Tradition is very specific regarding
Mohammed's hair. It was neither curling nor smooth but had four curled
locks. He used to clip his mustache and allow his beard to grow. He
frequently oiled his hair and perfumed it and his beard. The Prophet is
related to have said: "Do the opposite of the polytheists and let your
beard grow long" (Mishkat
The sanctity of Mohammed’s beard as token of manhood and dignity is
recognized in common oaths. Even as the Arabs swear by their own lives
or by their beards (walahyeti),
so more solemnly the Moslem community swears by the beard of their
Prophet (lahyet al-nabi). One
hears this oath everywhere in the
Moreover, these hairs of the Prophet were not only sacred from
the outset but remained so down the centuries to our own day. In the
spring of 1946 a Moslem ‘mela’
was held near
We read in Ahmad Zaini Dahlan's biography of Mohammed: "When the Prophet had his beard shaved and his companions surrounded him, they never suffered a single hair to fall to the ground but seized them as good omens or for a blessing. And since his Excellency had his hair cut only at the time of the pilgrimage, this had become sunna, so it is related in the Mawahib, and he who denies it should be severely punished.")
We read that Muhammad ibn Darain said: "I have a few hairs of the
Prophet which I took from Anas and when I told it to 'Obeid al-Suleimani
he replied, 'if I had a single hair it would be more to me than all the
world.' " There are many similar traditions telling how Mohammed's hairs
distributed among his followers after he was shaved at Mina,)
used against the evil eye)
and the value attached to a single hair from his head or beard.)
Furthermore, we are told whether and how and when he dyed his hair and
beard; also how he first dressed it like "the people of the Book" but
afterwards gave this up. ('For details see Wensinck,
Handbook of Early Muhammedan
Tradition, pp. 35, 91, 160, 169.) The great number of references to
this subject both in the standard traditions and in popular lives of
Mohammed indicates its importance in early and later Islam. Ignace
Goldziher touched the subject in writing on
Relic Worship in Islam and
pointed out that three particular relics of the Prophet lent themselves
"to multiplication almost without limit — his shoes, his manuscripts,
and his hair." But down the centuries the relic which was the object of
the most diligent search is hair from Mohammed's head or beard. "The
hair", said Dr. Goldziher, "was worn as an amulet, and men on their
deathbed directed by will that the precious possession should go down
with them and mingle with the earth. Ja'far ibn Khinzabu, the vizier of
an Egyptian prince, had three such hairs which at his death were put
into his mouth, and his remains, according to his last testament, were
The statements made in books of Moslem law leave no doubt that in a sense all human hair is considered sacred and may not, therefore, be sold or in any way dishonored. We read in the Hedaya, a standard commentary on Moslem law, — "The sale of human hair is unlawful, in the same manner as is the use of it, because, being a part of the human body, it is necessary to preserve it from the disgrace to which an exposure of it to sale necessarily subjects it. It is moreover recorded, in the Hadith Sharif, that God denounced a curse upon a wasila and a mustawasila.) (The first of these is a woman whose employment it is to unite the shorn hair of one woman to the head of another, to make her hair appear long; and the second means the woman to whose head such hair is united). Besides, as it has been allowed to women to increase their locks by means of the wool of a camel, it may thence be inferred that the use of human hair is unlawful".)
It is recorded in Ibn Sa'ad that on his last pilgrimage, Mohammed after having saluted the Black Stone and performed the sacrifice, slaughtering sixty-two camels with his own hand to correspond to the years of his life, "had his head shaved and distributed his sacred hair, one-half of it to Abu Talha and the other half to his chaste wives; also one or two hairs to everyone of his friends according to his rank.")
Khalid, the famous warrior, received some hairs "from Mohammed's forehead which he fixed in his skull-cap as a talisman" and was always victorious.)
The reliques of the Prophet included more than the hairs of his
head so carefully numbered. A list of those sent to Sultan Selim the
First and preserved by him in the palace at Constantinople, included
some of his hair, a tooth, a pair of shoes, his mantle, prayer-mat, a
hilt of his sword, a stone bearing imprint of his foot, an arrow and the
Hairs of the Prophet are found as relics today at
And to bring this cult of the Prophet up-to-date, we have the
following from the press in
We see from these examples how in the history of Islam these reliques of the Prophet, once objects of individual solicitude and piety and by which the early companions of Mohammed hoped for a blessing, became articles of public exhibition. They are now more than relics, and lodged in mosques or sacred tombs, are elevated to the status of objects of adoration and magical power.
Of course, there have been protests against this species of
shirk (associating in
worship) on the part of austere, orthodox Moslems. We read that at the
Sixth Congress of Orientalists “a theologian of
But superstition and relic-worship die hard. The Reformation under Luther and Calvin, for example, was not able to exterminate relic worship in Medieval Europe; nor did the Counter-Reformation and the enlightenment of modern education do away with all relics of the saints: hair, bones, garments, etc., even in European churches.
Jean Calvin in 1543 wrote a remarkable treatise on the subject which reveals his sense of humor as well as his sarcasm and displeasure. In it he tells of hairs of the Virgin Mary and of saints, as well as of blood, bones, napkins, the wood of the Cross, its nails etc., preserved as objects of worship in churches.) Perchance some Moslem Reformer with a sense of humor and indignation, will arise lo write a treatise on the traces of idolatry (shirk) in modern relic worship, including the hairs of Mohammed.
SAMUEL M. ZWEMER Prepared by Thomas and Lila Cosmades
 The title of this paper, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of Dr. Ignace Goldziher, is not intended as a pun on my recent study, ‘Heirs of the Prophet.’ It is rather a footnote to the vast subject of the influence of Animism on Islam. Students of Dr. Goldziher's writings know that his footnotes were often gateways to wide areas of thought. l recall a postcard he wrote to me about 1906 on an obscure Arabian custom.
Frazer’s The Scapegoat,
p. 89, cf. Wensinck's
Animismus... im Untergrund...
Der Islam, Band IV.
pp. 220-235: Zwemer's The
lnfluence of Animism on Islam,
 Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, pp. 40 and 389.
 See Index: Hair, Beard, Aqiqah, Saints etc., in Westermarck's Ritual & Belief in Morocco, 2 vols.
 Wellhausen, Reste Arabischen Heidentums, pp. 139, 140.
 M. H. Mazzeni, Daum in Central Asia, Aug., 1946, p. 17.
 Al-Halabi, Insan-al-'Ayun, Vol. 2:222. Cairo.
 Margin of Sirat-al-Halabi, Cairo, 1308 A. H., Vol. III, pp. 238, 239.
 Bukhari 79:41, Ibn Sa'ad I: 135-139; etc. (Wensinck)
 Muslim 15: 324, Al-Darimi 2 :78; Ibn Sa'ad 135.
 Bukhari 77:66.
 Bukhari 4:33; Ibn Mäja 744 sq.
 Relic Worship in Islam. Translated from the German of Professor Goldziher. The Moslem World, Vol. I, pp. 306, 307.
 Zwemer's The Influence of Animism on Islam, p. 76.
 S. W. Koelle's Mohammed, p. 355.
 Ibid., p. 222.
18) The list was given in
 Das Christliche Orient, September, 1911.
 The Moslem World, Vol. I, p. 307.
Traite des Religues, by Jean Calvin, Paris, 1921, pp. 95, 101, 144, etc.