Those who follow the Guantanamo trials will have noticed that Khalid Sheikh Muhammed started dying his formidable beard red a while back. Apparently he is using berries because he does not have access to henna.
As most readers know, dyeing one’s beard red with henna as it goes grey is quite common in the Muslim world, because the Prophet Muhammad reportedly approved of it. There is, for example, a hadith according to which
A man who had dyed his hair with henna passed by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and he said: “How handsome this is.” Then another who had dyed his hair with henna and katam passed by and he said, “This is more handsome.” Then another who had dyed his hair yellow passed by and he said: “This one is more handsome than all the others.” [Abu Dawood (4211) ]
Whether the Prophet himself dyed his beard red, has been debated for centuries. (For the specially interested, there is an interesting academic article on this: “Dyeing the Hair and Beard in Early Islam A Ḥadīth-analytical Study”
KSM is of course not the first jihadi to dye his beard red. Below I’ve put together a small cavalcade of militant henna enthusiasts from the early 1990s till today. (I’ve excluded fighters with natural red hair, of which there are quite a few. Some have even claimed that redheads are overrepresented, but I don’t buy that until I see quantitative evidence.)
Most ageing jihadis assume their grey beards and don’t use henna.
I have no idea why some – and not others – go for the red; presumably it is just a matter of personal taste.
Abd al-Rahman al-Dawsari, aka Barbaros
Abd al-Majid al-Zindani
Abu al-Hussain al-Libi
Abd al-Karim Tunda
Hassan Dahir Aweys
Abd al-Qadir Mu’min