It is a contentious issue among scholars. One group permits it; another considering it undesirable, and still, a third group forbidding them. On a close study of the arguments of each group, the view of the first group seems to be stronger in terms of textual evidence and reasoning based on analogy.
The first group cites the following report from the Prophet’s wife, Aishah:
“I used to place garlands on the necks of camels that the Prophet would despatch to the Haram for sacrifice. He never observed any such prohibitions.” This hadith is well attested; it is from Aisah. No one can dispute her credentials or close understanding of the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
To dismiss this as an exclusive privilege of the Prophet is untenable: We can only use this if we have supportive evidence. Otherwise, the Quranic principle about the Messengers outweighs: I would not go against or contradict what I am preaching.
It is also well known about the Prophet that he would choose the easier of two options in religions as long as it is not something forbidden. He did so to make the practice of religion easy for his community.
We also know that Aishah never considered this as a privilege for the Prophet, peace be upon him. Instead, she took it as a rule applicable to all. We also know that she corrected Ibn Abbas, who ruled that those who are intending to sacrifice should observe the prohibitions mentioned above. Ibn Abbas deferred to her advice and changed his ruling, accordingly.
Hanafi School holds the mentioned view; some Malikis and other scholars also endorse it. Imam Tahawi defends it by saying: “No one ever said that if one intends to sacrifice ought to stay away from sexual intimacy with their spouses. Isn’t it strange then to say that they must refrain from clipping nails and cutting hair, etc.” It is strange then to say that they must refrain from clipping nails and cutting hair, etc.”
The second group thinks it is merely a recommendation and not strictly forbidden: Yet, they do not find any objection in conjugal relations while doing so.
The third group deems it as forbidden to do so. In support, they refer to a report from Umm Salamah which states that the Prophet (peace be upon him), said: “Upon the arrival of Dhul Hijjah, those who wish to offer sacrifcie should not clip nails or take their hair until the sacrifice is performed.”
The report from Umm Salamah unlike that of Aishah, is not as well attested. Furthermore, since Aishah’s narration refers to the final years of the Prophet’s life, it ought to be given precedence. And it is also more reasonable to think that Umm Salama’s report refers to those who are in a state of Ihram; as such, it does not apply to the non-pilgrims.
To conclude, there is no strong evidence for those who hold the last view. As such, the first and second view is more plausible.
Allah Almighty knows best.
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