Assalamualaikum, I would like for an explanation regarding the ruling of shaving legs for a man or a woman.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Regarding the issue of removing body hairs, jurists had categorized it into three categories as follows:
First: Body Hairs Which Were Commanded to Be Shaved
In Al-Quran or hadith evidences, there are several commands of shaving a few types of human body hairs. This is as stated by the Prophet PBUH:
الْفِطْرَةُ خَمْسٌ ـ أَوْ خَمْسٌ مِنَ الْفِطْرَةِ ـ الْخِتَانُ، وَالاِسْتِحْدَادُ، وَنَتْفُ الإِبْطِ، وَتَقْلِيمُ الأَظْفَارِ، وَقَصُّ الشَّارِبِ
“Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "Five practices are characteristics of the Fitra: circumcision, shaving the pubic region, clipping the nails and cutting the moustaches short."
Sahih al-Bukhari (5889)
Scholars explains the term Istihdad used and said, the term’s meaning is: shaving of the pubic hair. According to Imam al-Nawawi Rahimahullah: “Istihdad is shaving of the pubic hair, and any hairs in the surrounding area.” (See Tahrir Alfazh al-Tanbih, Al-Nawawi, pg. 253).
Imam al-Nafrawi are among the fuqaha from the Maliki school that said hairs in the surrounding area of the rectum also falls under the category of pubic hairs. (Refer Al-Fawakih Al-Dawani, Al-Nafrawi, 2/306).
According to this narration, there are three types of body hairs that are obligatory to be shaved, they are; pubic hair, armpit hair and moustache. And we are commanded to either cut, shave or pluck them.
Second: Body Hairs Which Were Prohibited from Being Shaved
There are body hairs that are prohibited by Islamic ruling from being shaved. One of them is shaving or cutting of the beard for man. This prohibition is stated in a narration by Abdullah Ibn Umar RA, that said the Prophet PBUH said:
أَحْفُوا الشَّوَارِبَ وَأَعْفُوا اللِّحَى
“Shave your moustaches and let the beards be.”
Sahih Muslim (259)
Another narration that is also narrated by Ibn Umar RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
خَالِفُوا الْمُشْرِكِينَ، وَفِّرُوا اللِّحَى، وَأَحْفُوا الشَّوَارِبَ
"Do the opposite of what the pagans do. Keep the beards and cut the moustaches short."
Sahih Al-Bukhari (5892)
Imam Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani said when explaining about this narration: The Prophet PBUH commands using the phrase keep the beards which means, let the beards grow. (Refer Syarah Sahih Al-Bukhari, Ibn Hajar, 10/350)
The Prophet PBUH instruction of letting the beards grow is the same as him prohibiting the act of shaving the beards. This is in line with Islamic legal maxim that is stated by Imam Al-Haramain Abdul Malik Al-Juwaini Rahimahullah: “Command to do something indicates prohibition of anything that disaccords with the command. And a prohibition of doing something indicates a command to leave it,”.
Another type of body hair that is prohibited from being shaved is the eyebrows. The reference for this ruling is taken from a narration from the Prophet PBUH that states:
لَعَنَ اللَّهُ الْوَاشِمَاتِ وَالْمُسْتَوْشِمَاتِ وَالنَّامِصَاتِ وَالْمُتَنَمِّصَاتِ وَالْمُتَفَلِّجَاتِ لِلْحُسْنِ الْمُغَيِّرَاتِ خَلْقَ اللَّهِ
“Allah has cursed those women who practise tattooing and those women who have themselves tattooed, and those women who get their hair removed from their eyebrows and faces (except the beard and the moustache), and those who make artificial spaces between their teeth for beauty, whereby they change Allah's creation.”
Sahih Muslim (2125)
Imam Al-Nawawi said when commenting on this narration, النامصة is a woman that remove hairs on her face. While المتنمصة is a woman asking to have hairs on her face to be removed. These acts are prohibited unless the hairs on the face grow to be moustaches or beards, then it is permitted.
Imam Ibnu Hajar views the issue of woman removing moustaches and beards by saying: It is bound to her husband’s permission and must be done with his knowledge. (Refer Fath Al-Bari, Ibn Hajar, 10/390)
Imam al-Nawawi also said: Our mazhab permits the removal of beards, moustaches and العَنْفَقَةُ (‘anfaqah) which are small hairs that grow in between the lower lips and the chin area (for woman). The prohibition in the narration is for eyebrows and hairs that grow on the face. (Refer Al-Minhaj Syarah Sahih Muslim, Al-Nawawi, 14/285)
Imam Ibnu Hajar al-Asqalani when commenting on this narration said: Al-Nammash means to remove hairs on the face using a shaver. It is said that it is specific for the eyebrows with the intention of heightening or levelling the eyebrows.
Ibn Hajar also wrote the words of Imam Abu Daud in his book Al-Sunan: النامصة is a woman that trims her eyebrows. He also wrote the words of Imam Al-Thabari as follows: It is prohibited for woman to change anything from Allah’s creation by adding or reducing anything with the intention to increase or decrease her beauty. She is prohibited from doing it for her husband or for anyone else, even if she has a unibrow, she is prohibited to shave or remove the hairs connecting the brows in the middle. (Refer Fath Al-Bari, Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani, 10/390).
Third: Hairs Which Were Not Mentioned in The Quran Or Hadith
This refers to hairs that were not mentioned in the Quran or hadith, where there are no commands to keep or remove them. Thus, in this case it goes back to the original ruling of, it is permitted. This is in accordance with a narration from Salman Al-Farisi RA, the Prophet PBUH said:
الْحَلاَلُ مَا أَحَلَّ اللَّهُ فِي كِتَابِهِ وَالْحَرَامُ مَا حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ فِي كِتَابِهِ وَمَا سَكَتَ عَنْهُ فَهُوَ مِمَّا عَفَا عَنْهُ
“What is lawful is that which Allah has permitted, in His Book and what is unlawful is that which Allah has forbidden in His Book. What He remained silent about is what is pardoned.”
Sahih Ibnu Majah (3367)
Al Imam Al-Sindi said when commenting on the hadith: This hadith coincides with another narration:
إِنَّ اللهَ أَمَرَكُمْ بِأَشْيَاء فَامْتَثِلُوهَا وَنَهَاكُمْ عَنْ أَشْيَاء فَاجْتَنِبُوهَا وَسَكَتَ لَكُمْ عَنْ أَشْيَاء رَحْمَةً مِنْهُ فَلَا تَسْأَلُوا عَنْهَا
“Indeed, when Allah commands you to do something then do it and when He prohibits you from something then leave it, and when He remains silent about certain things, that is due to His grace and mercy, don’t ask about them,”
Overall, this narration states that: the original ruling for everything is that, it is permitted. (Refer Hasyiah al-Sindi ‘ala Sunan Ibn Majah, 1/326).
A few examples of hairs not mentioned in the Quran or Hadith are, hand and leg hair, chest hair, hair on the thighs, nose and calves. There are no commands to keep them or prohibition in removing them. Thus, one can choose either to keep or to remove them.
In our opinion, the original ruling of shaving leg hair for either man or woman is permissible. The reason being, there is no commandment for it to be shaved or a prohibition of cutting or shaving said hairs. However, if by shaving leg hair, it could lead to tasyabbuh (resemblance/likeness/conformity) of a man to a woman, then it is prohibited. This is in accordance to a narration from Abdullah Ibn Abbas RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
لَعَنَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم الْمُتَشَبِّهِينَ مِنَ الرِّجَالِ بِالنِّسَاءِ، وَالْمُتَشَبِّهَاتِ مِنَ النِّسَاءِ بِالرِّجَالِ
“Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) cursed those men who are in the similitude (assume the manners) of women and those women who are in the similitude (assume the manners) of men.”
Sahih al-Bukhari (5885)
Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani comments on the above hadith citing the words of Imam al-Thabari: “It is prohibited for man to assume the manners of a woman in terms of clothing and adornment especially to anything which are specific for women and vice versa.” Al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar said: “The same (prohibited to assume the manner) in speech and walk. As for the curse of tasyabbuh (resemblance) in terms of speech and walk is for whoever that commits it intentionally. As for anyone who are born that way (naturally effeminate for a man or rough for a woman), he is asked to try his best to change his mannerism or avoid it.” See Fath Al-Bari, Ibn Hajar (10/345).
However, if the uruf (custom) for a community does not view the smoothness of the legs of a man as a resemblance to a woman, then there is no problem for him to shave his legs for it falls under its original ruling that it is permissible. Wallahua’lam.