Imaam Muslim, Imaam Tirmidhi and others have narrated the Hadith of Umme Salma (Radhiallahu-anha) wherein she asked Nabi (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
"I make the plaits of my hair tight. Should I loosen it at the time of taking ghusl from Janaabat (impurity)?" Nabi (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) replied: "No, it is sufficient that
you pour water over your head thrice, then pour water over your body". [Tirmidhi pg 29]. This Hadith indicates that it is sufficient that water reaches the roots of the hair.It is
not necessary to loosen the plaits and wet all the hair.This is the ruling of the Ulema as well.
N.B. From the above Hadith we learn that women at the time of Nabi (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) used to keep long hair and plait it. The incident of Hadhrat Ayesha
(Radhiallahu-anha) appears in Bukhari Sharif (pg 45) that when she was in Ihraam she used to loosen her hair which indicates that she used to plait it (when not in Ihraam).
Many other incidents also prove the above. This is also from where the law of keeping long hair and of plaiting it is derived. Women have been prohibited from shaving their
heads. [Nisaai and Mishkaat pg 384]. Even at the time of Haj and Umrah the ruling is that a little bit of hair be cut. It is not permissible to shave it. Also, we learn from the hadith
in Bukhari, the woman who imitates a man is accursed, and it is permissible for men to lengthen their hair up to the shoulders and below it also. Thus, if a woman cuts her
hair up to the shoulders or below it, it, will amount to her imitating men. This is prohibited and an accursed action. Therefore, it has been mentioned in the books of fiqh that
if a woman cuts her hair she will be sinful and worthy of curse.
[Durre Mukhtar with Shami Vol 5 pg 288]
Nowadays, women cut their hair for the sake of fashion and in order to imitate non-Muslim women. It is in imitating these women, that this practice has become common
amongst Muslim women also. Therefore it is completely forbidden. It is mentioned in a Hadith:
"Whosoever imitated a nation will be from amongst them".
[Abu Dawood pg 559]
It is of paramount importance that women save themselves from imitating men as well as non-Muslim women, as learnt from the Ahaadith. Nabi (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam)
has cursed those women who don men's clothing as well as those men who wear women's clothing. Hadhrat Ayesha (Radhiallahu-anha) was once asked to rule regarding a
certain lady who wore shoes (like that of men). She replied that Nabi (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) has cursed that woman who imitates men. [Abu Dawood pg 566]
The above makes it abundantly clear that it is forbidden for women to cut their hair, to wear clothes like that of males, to wear shoes like that of men and to behave like men.
[Dhari aur Ambiyaa ki Sunnate pg 96]
It is permissible for an old woman who is a widow, and who does not need to beautify herself due to old age, to shorten her hair a little. There is scope for it. The action (of
cutting the hair) of the blessed wives of Nabi (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) will be analyzed as above. However, it should he remembered that it is only permissible in the
above mentioned instance. To do so specially because of fashion, is completely impermissible. Allaah Ta'aala is aware of the deceit within the heart.
[Dhari aur Ambiyaa ki Sunnate pg 97]
Regarding the Hadith in Muslim Sharif in which it is stated that the blessed wives of Nabi (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) used to cut their hair, the commentators of Muslim
Sharif, Qadhi Ayaaz(RA) and others explain the very same meaning as above (i.e. it is permissible for an old widowed woman who does not beautify herself). Qadhi Ayaaz
writes that the Arab women used to tie plaits. The blessed wives of Nabi (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) did so after his demise as they stopped beautifying themselves, hence
no longer needing to lengthen their hair. Imaam Nawawi(RA) states that this is the only reason. This action cannot even be imagined during the lifetime of Nabi (Sallallahu
[Muslim Sharif with the commentary of Imaam Nawawi pg 148 Vol