Bismillahi Al-Rahmani Al-Rahim
Is this true (see below) that in the hanbali madhab it is mukruh for a woman to cut her hair?
Cutting One's Hair
Question: What is the ruling concerning a woman cutting her hair?
Response: Among the Hanbalis, it is disliked for a woman to cut her hair. But if the haircut is like that of men, it becomes forbidden. This is based on the Prophet's saying, "Allah has cursed those women who imitate and be like men."
Similarly, if she cuts her hair in such a way as to resemble the disbelievers, it is also forbidden. It is not allowed to imitate the disbelieving, Godless women. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon
him) said, "Whoever resembles or imitates a people is one of them."
If it is neither an imitation of men or of the disbelievers, then it is disliked among the Hanbali scholars.
Shaikh ibn Uthaimin
The basic ruling is that it is offensive [makruh] for women to shave their head or trim their hair when there is no excuse for doing so. Valid excuses include, but are not limited to, medical and marital. The reason for the prohibition of women shaving their heads is based on explicit textual evidence that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) forbid women from shaving their heads. [Kashshaf al-qina`, 1.78]
As for the issue of men resembling women and women resembling men, there is a difference of opinion with the madhhab of whether this is unlawful [haram] or offensive [makruh]. Ibn Jawzi mentions the hadiths in Ahkam al-nisa' without any commentary, a clear implication that he considered it unlawful [Ahmad al-nisa, pp93-94]. Ibn Muflih writes in Al-Adab al-shar`iyah that it is offensive, though Ibn Qudamah considered it unlawful; here Ibn Muflih adds that -given the evidence- this is the more obvious position [azhar] [Al-Adab al-shar`iyah, 4.186]. It is easy to see why it is more obvious for it to be unlawful, since the hadiths are explicit that such a person is cursed. Indeed, such a phrase indicates that it is a grave sin, an enormity [kabirah]. And yet there is no mention of this being an enormity in Safarini's commentary on enormities, Al-Dhakha'ir li sharh manzumat al-kaba'ir. In the verse form version of Al-Adahb al-sha`riyah, the terms "uhzur" and "akrihanhu" are used, strongly indicating prohibition [Al-fiyat fi al-adab al-shar`iyah, p87]. But Ibn Al-Mibrad considers it offensive in his condensed version of Ibn Muflihs' Adab [Mughni dhowi al-afham, via Al-Qadi `Ubaykan's commentary Ghayat al-maram, p63].
What we should take note of here is that Ibn Muflih considered it offensive even though he considered it more obvious -in light of the evidence- that it be unlawful. Later scholars agreed with Ibn Muflih's conclusion that it is offensive (see Ibn al-Mibrad above, namely: that it is offensive), and that the ruling is contrary to what is most obvious from the evidence (see Al-Safarini above, namely: not including it as an enormity). In situations like this, my sheikh points out that we must differentiate between legal decisions [fatwa] and personal godfearingness [tawqa]. What is more precautionary with regards to one's own practice is to consider it unlawful, while what is more precautionary with regards to what others do is to consider it offensive.
We should also take note that what is meant by "resembling" the other sex or non-Muslims is doing something that is specific to them. Ibn Muflih mentions some examples of this, such as women wearing turbans and wearing khuff of the same type that men wear. This goes back to the local custom [`urf], which largely depends on culture, time, and place. [Al-Adab al-shar`iyah, 4.187]
For a large list of sunnahs of the body, please see the message titled "Re: Questions for Lesson 01 and 02", posted on the 28th of September, 2002.
And Allah knows best.
Wa al-salamu `alaykum,