Muslims Behead Men Over Haircut — But Why?

By Theodore Shoebat

Islam calls for the death of anyone who has a tonsure, or the standard hairstyle for a monk.

Monk with tonsure

Monk with tonsure

The case of Islam’s ‘rules of engagement’ is fancied by Muslim apologists as the example of restraint and equity in warfare which was revealed during the seventh century, when Abu Bakr, the successor to Muhammad, was about to conquer Syria, that he gave his troops a set of precepts to uphold, such as not to burn down trees, kill women and children, and other moral prohibitions to even sparing monks and hermits:

You will meet people who have set themselves apart in hermitages; leave them to accomplish the purpose for which they have done this. (1)

No one was to be killed, except for one, men with the dreaded hairstyle–the tonsure:

“You will meet people who have shaved the crowns of their heads, leaving a band of hair around it. Strike them with the sword.” (2)

Monk receiving tonsure

Monk receiving tonsure

Who would ever think that a hairstyle could reveal a mystery on the war between good evil?

Indeed, it was a hairstyle that was the mark for Muslims as to whom they should kill, a clue that was missed by so many scholars, orientalists, and even critics of Islam.

Why would the Muslims want to kill someone for having a tonsure while sparing others who don’t?

What symbolism can a hairstyle have that would provoke a religion to specifically punish anyone who exhibits it by death?

To find out, I had to dig deep into historical records to see how far the tonsure goes back in Christianity, and what meaning it had to the ancient Christians — indeed, it had to have had theological significance.

According to some traditions, the tonsure was observed by St. Paul when he shaved his head in Cenchrea:

“So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.” (Acts 18:18)

During my search, I came across one of the oldest documents ever written on the tonsure; it was a letter from the year 710 AD, written by an abbot named Ceolfrid, to Nechtan, the king of the Picts in England, in which he explained the tradition and significance of the tonsure:

But we are not shaven in the form of a crown solely because Peter was shorn in this way, but because Peter was shorn in this way in memory of our Lord’s Passion. Therefore we who desire to be saved by Christ’s Passion like Peter wear this sign of the Passion on the crown of the head, which is the highest part of the body. … Similarly, those who have taken monastic vows or are in Holy Orders should bind themselves to stricter self-discipline for our Lord’s sake, and wear their heads tonsured in the form of the crown of thorns which Christ wore on His head in His Passion, so that He might bear the thorns and briars of our sins and thus bear them away from us. In this way their own appearance will be a reminder to them to be willing and ready to suffer ridicule and disgrace for His sake, and a sign that they are always hoping to receive ‘the crown of everlasting life which the Lord hath promised to those that love Him’, and in order to win this crown regard both adversity and prosperity as of equal insignificance. (3)


So, the tonsure represented the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head, and this would have been, to the Muslim spirit, a thing worthy of death since Islam teaches that Christ did not suffer.

probably about 1470-5

But, in my quest to solve the mystery of why tonsures was the only exception, I found no one who commented on Islam’s command to destroy them, since it was embedded into a myriad of other commands on restraint, tolerance to even sparing the trees. In fact, most even avoided it. Muslim sympathizer, Fred M. Donner, renders this verse with a more watered down translation that when Muslim warriors “meet a people who have shaven the middle of their heads” to simply “tap them lightly with the sword”. (4)

Fred M. Donner

Fred M. Donner

But in reality, Abu Bakr was differentiating between two different types of orders: the Catholic, and the heretical, the former were to be killed, and the latter spared. The trait which determined which ones were to be beheaded was the specific tonsure shaped as a crown, since they were indeed distinctly Catholic.
Priests and monks that were spared were the ones who denied Christ’s divinity, His humanity, and His Crucifixion: Manichaeans, Nestorians, and Arians. These were spared because they had a direct link with Islam, and all four of these cults were specifically focused on the destruction of the Catholic Church.

While Manichaeanism has a great many blasphemous tenets, it is in agreement with Islam in that both deny the crucifixion, the suffering of Christ, the Holy Trinity, and both hated the tonsure.



In fact, there is a story of a Manicahean, or Cathar (another name these heretics adopted, which means “puritan”) murdering a man for having a tonsure. In the Middle Ages, when Manichaenism became the dominant religion in Southern France, a whole mob of Cathars attacked a Catholic commune in Montgey, and one of the heretics, named Roger-Bernard, approached a priest who was taking refuge in a church and asked him who he was. “I am a crusader and a priest”, he said. “Prove to me that you are a priest.” He removed his clerical hood from his head and showed his tonsure. Roger-Bernard, like a devil before a cross, plunged his knife into the priest’s head and killed him. (5)

Raymond VI, murderer of Christians

Raymond VI, murderer of Christians

This violent rage is seen in that spirit of Islam, in the same indignation which Abu Bakr harbored against those of the Catholic tonsure. There was a gruesome murder which took place in 16th century Spain, in which a band of Muslims seized twenty Catholic friars and cooked them alive in oil, (6) and of course these martyrs had their tonsures, by which their killers would have been wroth.

Even today, we have examples of Muslims killing men because they are Catholic monks or priests, such as the murder of the Franciscan priest Francois Murad, which can be seen in this horrific video:

Cathar art

Cathar art

In fact, in history we have numerous occasions in which Manichaeans and Muslims allied together to kill Christians. Just to give one example, the Muslim leader Walid had St. Peter of Damascus’ tongue cut off because he publicly denounced the heresy of Manichaeism and Islam. (7)

Manichaeanism’s connection with Islam is found in the Quran, when it states:

Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Surah 2:62)



While the Christians here mentioned are of course the heretical ones, or the ones who reject the Trinity, the Sabians were a gnostic sect called the Mandaeans, (8) which intermixed Christianity with Zoroastrianism, or the religion of the prophet Zoroaster which dominated ancient Persia.

Mandaeanism affirmed the belief in duality, or that there were two co-eternal powers, one of light and the other of darkness, continually struggling with another.

Modern day Mandaean

Modern day Mandaean

Manichaeanism’s founder, Mani, intermixed his heresy with this gnostic sect, since his mother was a Mandaean. But, this does no explain the full origins of Manichaeanism; for like Islam, this heresy had an Arabian founder; an Arab named Scythianus, and Mani was simply his disciple. Scythianus the Arab lived so far back, that he was in the time of the Apostles, and founded the gnostic cult which believed that God and the devil were both deities and were both co-eternal, and amongst other blasphemies, that Christ did not come in the flesh.

What few are aware of, in a most amazing correlation, is that when St. John wrote that “every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist,” (I John 4:3) and that “many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist”, (2 John 1:7) he was speaking against an Arabian heresy, since Scythianus was living in his time.

It is no wonder that Arabia is the Harlot of Babylon.



Both the Muslim and the Manichaean ardently believe that Christ did not suffer on the Cross, and this is connected with Abu Bakr’s declaration against the tonsure of the Catholic monks:

You will find people who have shut themselves up in cells. Leave them alone; it is for the sake of God they have shut themselves in. You will also find others, whom Satan has branded on the tops of their heads. Cut their heads off, wherever you find them. (9)

Abu Bakr

Abu Bakr

Abu Bakr described the Catholic tonsure as satanic, and this is because it represented the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head, and Muslims are utterly wrathful of this because they believe that Jesus did no suffer, but ascended to heaven.

The vitriol which Islam has for Catholic monks can be seen right in the Koran wherein Muhammad generalizes them as thieves who rob from the people:

O you who have believed, indeed many of the scholars and the monks devour the wealth of people unjustly and avert [them] from the way of Allah . And those who hoard gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah – give them tidings of a painful punishment (9:34).

Muhammad had a well-known saying, “There is no monkery in Islåm”.

Enmity for monasticism is also innate within Islamic theology in which it is deemed as a man made invention, and not of Allah’s will:

And We placed in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy and monasticism, which they innovated; We did not prescribe it for them except [that they did so] seeking the approval of Allah . But they did not observe it with due observance. So We gave the ones who believed among them their reward, but many of them are defiantly disobedient. (Surah 57:27)

Now, the other heresies which have a direct link with Islam, Nestorianism and Arianism, will be made established, showing as to why Islam demands the heretics to be spared, but the monks with Catholic tonsures to be killed without mercy.

Nestorius, influencer of Muhammad

Nestorius, influencer of Muhammad

Nestorianism (founded by Nestorius) is essentially the rejection that God, the Word, became flesh, a sentiment which Islam as well upholds:

Say, “He is Allah , [who is] One, Allah , the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.” (Surah 112:1-4)

Jacobus de Voragine

Jacobus de Voragine

There is most definitely a Nestorian influence to this heretical belief; the 13th century medieval scholar Jacobus de Voragine, made this very correlation through siting history:

Elsewhere, however, we read that it was a monk named Sergius who instructed Magumeth [Muhammad]. Sergius had fallen into the Nestorian heresy and been expelled by the monks, whereupon he went to Arabia and joined company with Magumeth. (11)

From this we have another explanation as to why the Muslims thirsted for the blood of Catholic monks; they were the ones who drove out the heretic Sergius, and the monks of the Nestorian ilk would become the ones favored by the Muslims.

Arius, influencer of Muhammad

Arius, influencer of Muhammad

Islam’s link with Arianism (founded by Arius), which is the denial of Christ’s divinity, was affirmed by one of the oldest non-Muslims writers on Islam, St. John of Damascus, when he, in the 8th century, wrote:

This man [Muhammad], after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy. (12)

Again, we have an account of Muhammad being influenced by a heretical monk in order to form a religion to kill orthodox monks.

St. John of Damascus

St. John of Damascus

When Islam first arose, it came specifically for the purpose of destroying the Catholic Church, and uniting all of the Christian heresies under its sway.

As I have said in a prior article, Vatican as Harlot of Babylon: Debunked, Islam was before the East-West Schism, and before the Protestant Reformation, and therefore when Islamic scriptures command for the death of Christians, it is specifically targeting Catholics.

The Catholic Church today may not be declaring on Islam, but it needs to, because Islam, from Muhammad till now, is declaring war on the Catholic Church.

Theodore Shoebat is the author of the book, For God or For Tyranny

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(1)*Quoted in Gérard Chaliand, The Art of War in World History*

(2) *Quoted in Gérard Chaliand, The Art of War in World History*

(3) *Quoted by St. Bede, History of the English Church and People, 5.21, trans. Leo Sherley-Price, revised by R.E. Latham*

(4) *From Donner’s translation of al-Tabari*

(5) *Peter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, 219, 530, 582*

(6) *Mendoza, 2.9*

(7) *Theophilus of Edessa’s Chronicle, section 2, p. 242*

(8) *Muir, Life of Muhammad, ch. xxix, p. 454, n. 1*

(9) *Quoted in Tor Andræ, In the Garden of Myrtles: Studies in Early Islamic Mysticism,*

(10) *From Theodore G. Tappert’s The Selected Writings of Martin Luther, vol. i*

(11) *De Voragine, The Golden Legend, vol. ii, 181, trans. William Granger Ryan*

(12) *St. John of Damascus, On Heresies, 101, trans. Frederic H. Chase, Jr., brackets mine*


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