It’s cold in Jordan, and recent extreme weather threw an icy blanket over my neighbors in Palestine, Israel, Lebanon and Syria. A thaw is expected tomorrow, but how to stay warm today?
Middle Eastern men who follow strict Jewish and Muslim teachings have built-in winter defenses in the form of thick facial hair. I can’t grow a beard (despite those mustaches on my Italian great-aunts), but I can fake it. I’ll show you how too.
Green Prophet archives hold a brilliant story on a handknit sunnah beard. You can buy one online at prices hovering around $35, not bad for a handmade item, but I need a face-warmer now. So I concocted a recipe to make my own. Give it a try?
You can pick up quick knitting skills from YouTube instructional videos. Knock one of these out in a weekend, or hand my The Beard Hat Recipe (patternlink) to a friendly knitter. It’ll take a few balls of yarn and a day’s worth of clicking. Or fast forward to finished product by only making the beard: attach it to a purchased hat and you’ll be looking like a member of the Jordanian ski team in under an hour. If you’re sort-of local to Jordan, I can make one for you.
Keeping a beard is standard practice according to the “sunnah” in Islam. That Arabic term generally refers to ways of the prophet Mohammad: he was fully bearded. Muslim men are encouraged to grow beards when reaching adulthood as a symbol of manhood, purity and maturity.
The Zohar, one of the primary sources of Kabbalah, also attributes holiness to the beard. Beard hairs symbolize channels of subconscious holy energy that flow into the human soul from the Divine. Most Hasidim don’t even trim their beards, and during religious periods such as Passover, Sukkot, the Counting of the Omer and the Three Weeks, traditional Jewish men commonly refrain from shaving.
Parking religion aside, beards make for a provocative scientific subject.
Charles Darwin offered an evolutionary explanation for the furry face in his book The Descent of Man, which hypothesized that the sexual selection process may have led to beards’ popularity.
Modern biologists have reaffirmed the anthropological role of beards in human mating, concluding that there’s evidence that females find bearded mates more attractive than clean-shaven alternatives.
Throughout history, facial forestation has been viewed as a sign of wisdom, manliness, and high social status. But beards also indicate eccentricity, dirtiness and low social rank. Surveys show modern men love them in indirect proportion to women hating them.
Environmentalists now widely accept that beard-growing is “green”. Commenting on the original Green Prophet article, editor Karin Kloosterman posted a link to a Sierra Club story that elaborates on that theme.
The jury may be out as to whether real beards turn up the romantic heat, but the knitted types will absolutely let you lower your thermostats.