Question 527: Do I have to cut my hair to become Muslim? What are the conditions for one to become a Muslim?
Brief Answer 527: The first degree, which is referred to as “Islam”, can be reached when one says the shahadatain (the two statements of “There is no God but Allah” and “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah), admitting to its meaning, resulting in that person officially becoming Muslim. His/her body will be pure (no longer najis) and so will the bodies of his children, marriage with other Muslims will become permissible for him and he/she can have transactions with other Muslims, his/her wealth, life and honor will all be respected etc. Of course, saying the shahadatain and admitting to its meaning necessitates acting and practicing Islam (e.g. performing the wajib acts such as prayer, fasting, Hajj, Khums and Zakat, and believing in the angels, the hereafter, paradise and Hell and accepting all of the divine prophets as messengers of Allah (swt)), which is the next level of faith which is higher than just plain “Islam” and being Muslim.
Therefore, there is no need to cut your hair in order to become a Muslim.
Answer 527: “Islam” literally means submission and obedience. This term refers to the religion brought by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from Allah (swt) as the final divine religion to come, which is a universal and eternal one (meaning that no other religion will come after it that abrogates it until the day of judgment).
The most important thing that sets a difference between this religion and other ones, is the belief of the oneness of the great Lord, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) being the seal of all prophets, and its teachings on true tawhid. Believing in Islam and having faith in it, has different degrees which are as follows:
The first degree and step in Islam, which is the necessary condition to being Muslim, is to admit to the two principles of tawhid (the oneness of Allah (swt)) and nubuwwah (prophethood). The concept of لا اله الا الله (there is no God but Allah (swt)), is the true essence of Islam and its most important doctrine, containing all of the different dimensions of tawhid in it, and admitting to the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), is the acknowledgement that he is the seal of the prophets and that his religion is the final one to come, nullifying all other religions before it (meaning that these religions can no longer be followed, although they might have been the religions to be followed before the advent of Islam). The rest of the degrees of higher faith start from here, which is to follow the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in all of his teachings and decrees without any questioning.
One who bears witness to the two principles mentioned above, has embraced Islam and parted from all other religions. When such takes place, all rulings pertaining to Muslims (such as the permissibility of marrying other Muslims, having transactions with them, the taharah (being pure and not najis) of their bodies and their children’s bodies, will all pertain to him/her as well and his/her life and possessions will be respected and defending him/her will become a responsibility of the Islamic governor and the Muslim society. As was said, this is the least that every Muslim must bear and others can no longer call such Muslims Mushriks or Kafirs anymore, even though their faith is the lowest one can have, but then again, it is faith.
Therefore, what some sects such as the khawarij have done by considering Muslims who don’t completely practice their faith and commit great sins as Kafirs, not respecting their lives and blood and allowing their killing, or what the Mu’tazilah have done by not considering the abovementioned neither kafir nor Muslim, or what the Wahhabis have done by announcing those who prostrate on the turbah during prayer or kiss the holy shrines of the imams or prophet (pbuh) mushriks (polytheists), or those who call anyone who differs with them in their beliefs mushriks, are all wrong and in misguidance!
In addition to what was said above, according to the ithna’ashari sect, considering the different verses and hadiths that imply this matter, accepting all twelve individuals as imams, leaders and successors to the holy Prophet (pbuh) after him is one the most important conditions of faith and the acceptance of our actions and worship from Allah (swt), because accepting the holy Prophet (pbuh) and the Quran as the final revelation to the prophet (pbuh) which hasn’t been changed and falsified till today, necessitates the precise and complete practice of the teachings of the Quran and the prophet (pbuh). One of these teachings and guidelines which is of extreme importance, is for us to obey the imams. Therefore, in reality, disobeying them is equal to disobeying the Prophet (pbuh) and Allah (swt) because they are the ones who have ordered us to follow them. In Quranic terms, the degree of iman comes after the degree of Islam. Thus, the first degree of iman is higher than the degree of Islam. Iman also has different degrees and all degrees of iman aren’t the same. The holy Quran says that the least that is needed to obtain the degree of iman is for one to have faith and belief in five things; 1- Allah (swt) 2- the day of judgement 3- the angels 4- the book (the Quran) 5- the prophets. The Quran also counts hypocracy and shirk (polytheism) as turning away from Islam and the causes of eternal chastisement in the Hellfire. Therefore, one is Muslim who:
1- Has accepted tawhid in all of its dimensions.
2- Believes in the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and him being the seal of the prophets.
3- Accepts all of his commands, including the command to follow the imams and accept their authority.
4- Believes in the hereafter and its details as the Quran, the prophet (pbuh) and the imams have explained (of course, those details that we are sure the Prophet (pbuh) and the imams have described).
Nevertheless, although admitting to all of these things cause one to be considered Muslim, as long as Islam isn’t truly practiced through abiding and acting according to its rulings and teachings, such an Islam won’t do any good to its possessor and will not bring him/her any guidance or prosperity in the hereafter. That is why the Quran says that reaching the prosperous life in the hereafter depends on faith and good acts together.
One who only has one of the two resembles a bird that possesses one wing while lacking the other. Clearly, such a bird isn’t capable of flying to high altitudes, and the same goes with such a person; he/she will never be able to reach the high peaks of eternal prosperity through good deeds only or faith only. The only solution for such an individual is to change his/her course of action and to combine his/her faith and acceptance of Islamic teachings with good actions in order to get nearer to Allah (swt) and abide in His heaven. As the believer’s knowledge of Islam, faith, and the teachings of Allah (swt) and His prophet increases, and as his/her practice in relation to what Islam has asked him also increases and gets purer, his degree of faith will also rise, taking him to higher levels of faith.
For further information in this regards, please refer to the following answers:
Index: Usul al-Din in the Holy Quran, answer 230.
Index: Usul al-Din and Furu al-Din, answer 223.
Index: Cut or take care of the hair, answer 213.
Index: Evidences of the superiority of Shia Islam, answer 383:
Index: The differences and similarities between Shia and Sunni, answer 187:
Index: Abu Bakr and Umar according to Shia, answer 265:
Index: Shia consider Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman as Hypocrit, answer 248:
Index: Shia commit shirk by worshiping Ali (as), answer 215:
Index: Khalifahs according to Shia, answer 214:
Index: Sahih Bukhari and Muslim according to Shia, answer 068:
Index: Shia view of Mutazila and Wasil bin Ata, answer 095:
Index: Shia Beliefs about Aisha, answer 180:
Index: Meaning of the Word Shia in the Holy Quran, answer 108:
Index: Abu Hanifah according to Shia, answer 098:
Index: The term Shia in Quran, answer 129:
 Of course, there is a difference of opinion regarding the purity of the bodies of the people of the book, which you can learn about by referring to the different risalahs of various marjas.
 Baqarah:177 and 285; Nisa:136.
 Nisa:140 and 145.
 Nahl:97; Baqarah:103; Nisa:57 and 122.