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"Shaheed" redirects here. For other uses, see Shaheed (disambiguation).
Main article: Istishhad

Shahid or Shaheed (Arabic: شهيد,šahīd, plural: شُهَدَاء šuhadāʾ ) originates from the Qur'anic Arabic word meaning "witness" and is also used to denote a "martyr." It is used as an honorific for Muslims who have died fulfilling a religious commandment, especially those who die wielding jihad, or historically in the military expansion of Islam.

The word shahid in Arabic means "witness". Its development closely parallels that of Greek marturos "witness", the origin of the term martyr. Shahid occurs frequently in the Quran in the generic sense "witness", but only once in the sense "martyr; one who dies deliberately for his faith"; this latter sense becomes standardized in the hadiths.[1]

Quranic references[edit]

A shahid is considered one whose place in Paradise is promised according to these verses in the Qur'an:

وَلاَ تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُواْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ أَمْوَاتًا بَلْ أَحْيَاء عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ

Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord; They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah: And with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the Shuhada's [martyrs'] glory is in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve.

—Qur'an, Sura 3 (Al-i-Imran), Ayat 169 – 170[2]

Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur'an: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme.

—Qur'an, Sura 9 (At-Tawba), Ayah 111[3]

The Quranic passage that follows is the source of the concept of Muslim martyrs being promised Paradise:

Those who leave their homes in the cause of Allah, and are then slain or die,- On them will Allah bestow verily a goodly Provision: Truly Allah is He Who bestows the best provision.

—Qur'an, Surah 22 (Al-Hajj), Ayah 58[4]

In Ahadeeth[edit]

The importance of faith is highlighted in the following Hadith

It has been narrated on the authority of Anas b. Malik that the Messenger of Allah (may peace he upon him) said: Who seeks martyrdom with sincerity shall get its reward, though he may not achieve it.

It is thus not the outcome that determines the placement in Heaven but rather the intention.

Nonetheless, Paradise for a Shahid is a popular concept in the Islamic tradition according to Hadith, and the attainment of this title is honorific.

The prophet Muhammad is reported to have said these words about martyrdom:

By Him in Whose Hands my life is! I would love to be martyred in Allah's Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred.

The Prophet said, "Nobody who enters Paradise likes to go back to the world even if he got everything on the Earth, except a Mujahid who wishes to return to the world so that he may be martyred ten times because of the dignity he receives (from Allah).

Several Hadith also indicate the nature of a Shahid's life in Paradise. Shahids are thought to attain the highest level of Paradise, the Paradise of al-Firdous.

Haritha was martyred on the day (of the battle) of Badr, and he was a young boy then. His mother came to the Prophet and said, "O Allah's Apostle! You know how dear Haritha is to me. If he is in Paradise, I shall remain patient, and hope for reward from Allah, but if it is not so, then you shall see what I do?" He said, "May Allah be merciful to you! Have you lost your senses? Do you think there is only one Paradise? There are many Paradises and your son is in the (most superior) Paradise of Al-Firdaus.

Further more, Samura narrated

The Prophet said, "Last night two men came to me (in a dream) and made me ascend a tree and then admitted me into a better and superior house, better of which I have never seen. One of them said, 'this house is the house of martyrs.'

There are at least 5 different kinds of martyrs according to Hadith.

Allah's Apostle said, "Five are regarded as martyrs: They are those who die because of plague, abdominal disease, drowning or a falling building etc., and the martyrs in Allah's cause.

One who dies protecting his property is also considered a martyr according to Hadith:

I heard the Prophet saying, "Whoever is killed while protecting his property then he is a martyr.

While the Qur'an does not indicate much about martyrs' death and funeral, the Hadith provides some information on this topic. For example, martyrs are to be buried two in one grave in their blood, without being washed or having a funeral prayer held for them. The following Hadith highlight this:

The Prophet collected every two martyrs of Uhud in one piece of cloth, then he would ask, "Which of them had (knew) more of the Quran?" When one of them was pointed out for him, he would put that one first in the grave and say, "I will be a witness on these on the Day of Resurrection." He ordered them to be buried with their blood on their bodies and they were neither washed nor was a funeral prayer offered for them.

Death in warfare[edit]

Early modern usage[edit]

In the course of the 18th century, there were several wars of independence within the colonial territories of the Muslim World. Many of the soldiers who died during these conflicts were given the title Shahid upon their burial.[13]

20th century conceptions[edit]

Malcolm X, who was assassinated by the Nation of Islam in 1965 is considered to be one of the most prominent martyrs of the 20th century. The soldiers, clergy, and other individuals who died during the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran were regarded as martyrs and have often been buried in special martyrs' cemeteries. In the 1980–88 Iran–Iraq war, commanders of both the Sunni Iraqi and the Shi'ite Iranian forces in particular commonly used martyrdom as a source of motivation for their fellow combatants. Tens of thousands of Iranian youths—many motivated by the religiously-based ideas of Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution—volunteered to serve in the armed forces during the conflict, sometimes participating in human wave attacks against the Iraqis. Those who died in battle were considered martyrs.[14]

Twenty-first century jihadism[edit]

In contemporary jihadism, it has become common for Islamic militants to portray themselves as martyrs; especially the perpetrators of suicide bombings typically record "martyrdom videos" to inspire emulation in others.

Militants responsible for terrorism in the Gaza Strip and West Bank of Palestine have referred to their suicide bombers as martyrs. Whether suicide bombings are a valid practice of jihad has been disputed, as the Qur'an explicitly prohibits suicide.[15] Few Muslims believe that suicide bombing can be justified.[16]

In a martyrdom video from 18 January 2000, titled ’19 martyrs’, the hijackers in the September 11 attacks justify their beliefs and profess their last will and testament.[17]

Afghans in the Taliban heartland claim Osama bin Laden to be al-Qaeda's "number one martyr".[18]

Recent years[clarification needed] have seen many Islamic extremists use the term "Shahid" in their efforts to make "legitimate the use of violence, warfare, and terrorism" against Western groups of "unbelievers."[19]

As a consequence, the most prevalent use of the term in western media is with respect to Islamic terrorism. Nerina Rustjomi has argued, "Americans" have used a skewed perception of the Islamic "Shahid" and "Houri" to depict Islam as "a religion characterized by sensuality, violence, and irrationality."[20]

Other uses[edit]

A Muslim who is killed defending his or her property is considered a martyr.[21]

In Pakistan the word "shahid" is used to denote martyrs who have died in the way of Islam or in the defence of Pakistan.

Over a period of time, the word "shahid" began to be used by non-Muslims such as Arab Christians to denote their own martyrs. In South Asia, Hindus adopted the word "shahid" as a synonym to the Sanskrit word "hutaatmaa" (हुतात्मा in Devanagari and হুতাত্মা in Eastern Nagari; हुत् and হুত্ hut = sacrificing, आत्मा and আত্মা aatmaa = soul, thus hutaatmaa = sacrificing soul/martyr), to denote Hindu martyrs. The Sikhs also adopted the word to denote their martyrs;[22] examples include Shahid Bhai Mati Das and Shahid Bhagat Singh.


Main article: Shaheeda

A woman is considered "Shahida" (شَهِيدَة šahīdah) if she dies during the fulfillment of a religious commandment. A woman can also be considered a martyr if she dies during childbirth.[23] There are examples of women fighting in war such as Nusaybah bint Ka'ab. The first martyr (male or female) in Islam was Sumayyah bint Khayyat, who was executed for her conversion to Islam. She died after Abu Jahl, an anti-Muslim leader of the Quraysh stabbed her in the abdomen.[24] Though her name is not common in the modern Muslim dialogue, ancient Islamic literature makes note of the events at the end of her life.[25]

See also[edit]

  • Shahada, the Islamic creed
  • Shahid (name)
  • Istishhad, in Islam, the act of martyrdom or the seeking of martyrdom
  • Jihad, an Islamic religious duty, meaning struggle
  • Shahidka, a term for Islamist Chechen female suicide bombers
  • Martyrdom video, a video recording the acts of Islamic martyrs

References & Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ "The word shahid (plural shahada) has the meaning of “martyr” and is closely related in its development to the Greek martyrios in that it means both a witness and a martyr [...] in the latter sense only once is it attested (3:141)." David Cook, Oxford Bibliographies
  2. ^ Quran 3:169–170
  3. ^ Quran 9:111
  4. ^ Quran 22:58
  5. ^ Sahih Muslim, 020:4694
  6. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:54
  7. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:72
  8. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 5:59:318
  9. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:49
  10. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:82
  11. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 3:43:660
  12. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 2:23:427
  13. ^ "Martyrdom." In The Islamic World: Past and Present. Ed. John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. 05-Dec-2012. <http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t243/e209>.
  14. ^ "Martyrdom." In The Islamic World: Past and Present. Ed. John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. 05-Dec-2012. <http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t243/e209>.
  15. ^ Cook, David 2004. "The Implications of 'Martyrdom Operations' for Contemporary Islam." Journal of Religious Ethics, Vol. 32 No. 1, 129–151
  16. ^ http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/07/01/concerns-about-islamic-extremism-on-the-rise-in-middle-east/
  17. ^ Popkin, Jim, and NBC News. "Video Showing Atta, Bin Laden Is Unearthed." MSNBC.com. MSNBC Digital Network, 1 October 2006. Web. accessed 5 December 2012.
  18. ^ ""Afghans Describe Bin Laden as Al Qaeda's "No 1 Martyr""". Reuters.com. (Reuters). 2 May 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2012. 
  19. ^ Esposito, John L. (2011) Islam: The Straight Path. Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195396003 (237)
  20. ^ Campbell, Robert A. (2010). Women, War, & Hypocrites: Studying the Qur'an. Cape Breton University Press. ISBN 1897009543 (167–170)
  21. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 3:43:660
  22. ^ Mahmood, Cynthia Keppley (1 January 2011). Fighting for Faith and Nation: Dialogues with Sikh Militants. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812200171. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  23. ^ Lumbard, Joseph E.B. (2004) Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition. World Wisdom Publishing, ISBN 0941532607 (30)
  24. ^ Cook, David (2007) Martyrdom in Islam. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521615518
  25. ^ Cook, David (2007) Martyrdom in Islam. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521615518 (14)

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