I grew up seeing my ancestors’ orange beards or hair. It is so common in our culture that I was hardly curious to know why older Muslim people colour their hair, beards or moustaches. With time I learned and found out that it was very natural to know about the importance of henna in Muslim Culture.
But for the first time I realized and wanted to know about the real motivation of different individual Muslim men and women for dyeing their grey hair. The first time I started asking the question was when many of my foreigner friends asked me about it frequently during their visits in Bangladesh. Then I started noticing that this colour is making this older generation different. So I started asking the Muslim older generation why they colour their grey beards or hair and what is it that they are so fond of?
This series consists of portraits of men and women in Bangladesh who have dyed their hair or their beard using the orange-red colour produced by the flowering Henna plant. They shared with me why they use this henna in particular. It’s very common in Bangladesh to see one older person in five old people with orange hair (male or female), and men with orange beards or orange moustaches.
During Ramadan dying hair or beards is a very common practice as Henna dying comes from religious beliefs too. It has been believed that the Prophet Muhammad (SM) dyed his beard and hair as well. Some men and women who have returned from the Haaj, the Islamic pilgrimage also practice Henna dying. Not only in Bangladesh, but many Muslims across all continents apply Henna dye and coat their hair to get this bright coloured look.
For those who did not reference religion as playing a role in their decision to color their hair, they consider it admirable to do so. They believe, Henna covers their head and body and makes them look good in their old age. Therefore, for some other elderly people, especially women, Henna is mostly used as a cosmetic thing for their grey hair. A lot of men also see a red beard as preferable to a grey or white beards. Besides this reason many older persons usually follow this practice for cultural or traditional reasons, as they saw that older generations always prefer henna dying.
Why did you use Henna dye?
Answers of question:
‘I am not old. We all eat polluted food and that causes hair loss and greying is faster. Henna helped to hide my grey hair. Grey means old’ – Mohamaad Sagir
‘It’s our Sunnat. Our Prophet Muhammad used it’ – Gias Uddin
‘Henna helps to clam down my head and body. I dye my hair every month.’ – Abdul Majid
‘I use henna dye because I love to do it. What else!’- Yusuf Haulader
‘I love color more than grey. It’s my fashion. Ha ha ha’ – Mohammad Oli
‘It distinguishes Muslim. It is our culture’ – Obaidullah
‘Who likes grey hair? I want to be young. Ha ha ha’ – Kashem
‘Most of my friends do henna dying. For the last two years I am doing it also’ – Gias Uddin
‘Since I have come from the Haaj I started applying Henna to my hair. It has religious value’- Abdul Samad
‘Not only have I, but my wife has dyed her hair to hide the grey. Both of us want to remain young. Ha ha ha’ – Abdul Kader
‘It’s our tradition, our Muslim tradition’ – Amina
‘My grandfather did it, my father did it and now I am doing it. All older Muslim people love to practice this generation after generation.’ – Mohammad Alam