“He liked to use kohl”

While I am on the topic of grooming, I figured I should post this extract from a martyrdom biography from 1980s Afghanistan that I came across recently. (It’s from Basil Muhammad’s al-ansar al-arab fi afghanistan, p. 336.)

My translation:

“(2) Martyr Ali al-Libi: Barely 20 years
old. He obtained a high school diploma before joining the Jihad in 1986. He got
to know Hussein and they never parted. He was very righteous and had a sharp
temperament. He refused to fight anywhere other than in the front ranks. When
the young men at al-Mas’ada were ordered to withdraw the day before he was
martyred, he protested and refused, but complied in the end.  After dawn prayers he turned back with
Hussein, Saifallah, and other brothers. He acquired the love of the Qur’an from
Hussein, and served as mu’azzin of the camp he was in. He liked to use kohl [my emphasis]. He
participated in the Sha’ban battle and was lightly injured before being
martyred. He was buried with his brothers in the ‘Zikoyak’ site.”

Kohl, as you may know, is a type of eyeshadow that women have worn in Africa and Asia since ancient times. What you might not know is that in the Muslim world, it is perfectly fine for men to wear it too, because it is Sunna, i.e., something that the Prophet Muhammad used to do. 

In this fatwa on iktihal (the wearing of kohl) from the salafi website IslamQA, we can read that the Prophet recommended a particular type of kohl called ithmid: “The best of your kohl is ithmid (antimony), for it makes the vision clear and makes the hair  grow.” Ithmid is the term for kohl made of stibnite, the mineral form of antimony. People make kohl in many other ways, including from charcoal, lead, and almonds, but grinded stibnite is widely considered pure kohl. 

We can also read that

“the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to apply kohl to his right eye three times, and to his left eye twice”. This has apparently given rise to a debate among scholars about whether it is best to apply it an odd number of times on both eyes or an odd number on one eye and an even number on the other.

I don’t have any pictures of jihadis where I can tell for sure that they are wearing kohl, but there are plenty of pictures online of ordinary muslims wearing and applying kohl. 

Here’s one from GettyImages:

And I’m pretty sure this guy is wearing some:

(picture source: The Muslim Vegetarian)

If you feel like trying it out for yourself, you can buy some here.

On sale now: Jihadi beard shampoo

In response to my earlier post on red beards, Joanna Paraszczuk tweeted this advertisement for a beard shampoo developed by pro-jihadi Daghestani women: 

I asked Joanna for a translation, which she kindly provided:

Dry shampoo for beards

Desire to Jannat

for the growth, thickness, and “taming” of beards

(ingredients: Aloe-vera gel, jojoba oil, palm butter, olive oil, glycerine, vitamins)

with oil and black cumin seeds, kist al hindi, vitamins, cobra oil, usma oil, helba oil, shea, decoction of herbs, D-panthenol.

Additional ingredients – Desire to Jannat recipe.

In an email, Joanna also provided some background information about the ad and the women who produced it:

“The beard shampoo was advertised last year [in 2014] on an account on the Russian social networking side VKontakte run by a North Caucasian woman or possibly group of women  named “Bely Sneg” (“White Snow”), thought to be from Dagestan. The account posted propaganda for the Caucasus Emirate and pro-Caucasus Emirate militants in Syria. The image was posted with an note that proceeds from sales would go toward supporting jihad. Bely Sneg stopped posting around May this year. There were rumors that she had gone to Syria. In November, Russian media reported that a “the Soap Gang,” a group of Dagestani women, had been arrested on charges of selling homemade soap and children’s items to fund the IS group (but Russia calls all militant groups in Syria “IS”). One of those arrested was named as Saida Khalikova and the leader of the group was named as Darya Itsankova who was believed to have escaped to Syria. I don’t know if Darya Itsankova is Bely Sneg but I suspect that she may be.”

This is the first time I have heard of militants producing grooming products “in-house”, but it is certainly not the first indication that radical Islamists are interested in such products. In the  documentary “My Brother the Islamist”, for example, we meet a 17-year old British convert named Ben who has an inferiority complex about his facial hair and uses beard serum to improve it. 

(From My Brother the Islamist, at 32′18′’)

This is not to mention perfumes, which are a big deal in the salafi and jihadi worlds and a topic I will return to in future posts. 

Famous jihadi red beards

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

Hafiz Saeed

Abu al-Hussain al-Libi

Abd al-Karim Tunda

Nasir al-Ansi

Hassan Dahir Aweys

Abd al-Qadir Mu’min