By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
5 October 2015
The Quran uses the term Shuhada
in its ordinary sense as a witness and also in an exalted sense. It depends
upon what is being witnessed.
Consider the verse:
(143) Thus, have
We made of you an Ummat justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses (Shuhada)
over the nations, and the Messenger a witness (Shaheeda) over
The Messenger’s function as a witness over
the Muslims is to provide evidence to God on the Day of Judgment that His
message was delivered. For an example, read verses 5:109 to 118 which describe
how Jesus Christ (pbuh) will provide such evidence on the Day of Judgment.
Those who do Dawah among the Ummat or followers of the Messenger in turn will
provide evidence of having spread this message to the rest of the world.
Trumpet will (just) be sounded, when all that are in the heavens and on earth
will swoon, except such as it will please Allah (to exempt). Then will a second
one be sounded, when, behold, they will be standing and looking on!
(69) And the Earth
will shine with the Glory of its Lord: the Record (of Deeds) will be placed
(open); the prophets and the witnesses will be brought forward and a just
decision pronounced between them; and they will not be wronged (in the least).
(70) And to
every soul will be paid in full (the fruit) of its Deeds; and (Allah) knoweth
best all that they do.
The Shuhuda communicate the message through
words as well as by example. Their life, deeds and every action is in
accordance with the religion of Allah. They provide evidence to the people
about Allah, His attributes and His religion by what they say and by what they
do. They also provide witness or evidence to God that His message has been
properly communicated. They are exemplars par excellence. The highest category
of the Shuhada is the prophets and the people who do Dawah in an
exemplary manner by word and deed.
The second category of Shuhada is those who
render perfect secular justice. This has been discussed in my article:
Importance of Rendering Justice in Islam
The third category is those who remain
constant in their devotions and follow the straight path with patience and
perseverance all through the trials and tribulations of life. They never waver
or lose heart when distress strikes. These people provide clear evidence of the
power of faith and the truth about the promise of Allah when they are made to
finally prevail as they must. The best example is Job or Prophet Ayyub (AS) and
the very small number of Muslims who prevailed against the powerful Meccans
against all odds and in fulfilment of God’s promise made in the very early
Meccan period itself, when the number of Muslims were less than half a dozen.
The Shuhuda will be among the foremost
ranks on the Day of Judgment.
Will Those Slain In The Cause Of Allah
Join The Ranks Of The Shuhuda?
Those slain in the cause of Allah are not
in the category of the Shuhada unless they also fall in one or more of the
three categories of Shuhuda described above. There are 11 verses in the Quran
where the subject is those slain fighting in the cause of Allah. In none of
these verses, the slain are referred to as Shaheed or Shuhada. The terms used
are Qutelu for slain or Qutelu fi Sabilillah for those who are
slain in the cause of Allah. The verses are: 2:154, 3:144, 3:157, 158, 168,
169, 195, 4:74, 9:111, 22:58, and 47:4
How then the slain are referred to as Shaheed? - by misinterpreting verse 3:140!
(3:140) if a wound hath touched you, be
sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days (of varying fortunes)
We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may know those that believe, and
that He may take to Himself from your ranks Shuhada (witnesses to Truth). And
Allah loveth not those that do wrong.
The subject of the verse is not the slain
but the wounded in the battle of Uhud who were in a state of despair at the
turn of events in the battle and some of them were on the verge of losing their
faith. They are advised to remain constant and not lose heart through the
difficult times. It is those who remain firm on the right path even when
disaster strikes who can ultimately bear witness to the truth of God’s promise
when Allah makes them prevail over their enemy. It is these who will join the
ranks of the "Shuhada" (and not the slain). The dead do not bear any
witness. What is there to distinguish between your dead and the dead of the
enemy? It is those who press on against all odds in patience and ultimately
prevail who provide evidence that God’s promise never fails. Verse 3:140 therefore
talks about the third category of Shuhuda described above.
Those slain fighting in the cause of Allah are
rewarded but they are not called Shuhada unless they have also suffered in
patience and fortitude all the travails, tribulations and vicissitudes of life,
and attained the position of Shuhuda in the sight of Allah, before death. It is
in life that one can attain the position of Shuhuda and not in death.
Many of the translators have however
translated Shuhada in verse 3:140 as “martyr witnesses” following perhaps the
opinion of scholars. It is indeed sheer chicanery to put the slain in the
category of Shuhada and it is easy to see why this deception has been carried
out by the unholy nexus of the politician and the Mullah to achieve political
ends. Perhaps it was only to compete with the concept of martyr in other
cultures since such a concept is missing in Islam. This is not a simple matter
either as the Ulema have disfigured the religion by glorifying any kind of
violent death. Even if a person dies in an accident he/she is considered Shaheed.
If a tooth falls they say "Danth Shaheed Ho Gaya"!
The terminology used in the Quran for those
who are slain is simply "Qutelu". And if someone was slain in
the cause of Allah then this is described as Qutelu Fi Sabilillah. The
rewards are not for the Qutelu but for the Qutelu Fi Sabilillah
but even then they are not among the Shuhada.
By misinterpreting a single verse which is
not even discussing the slain, and by ignoring eleven other verses where the
subject is the Qutelu Fi Sabilillah(slain in the cause of Allah) in which
they are not called Shuhuda, the Ulema without any authority from God, and
against reason, upgraded the slain to the level of the Shuhuda. Not only that,
but the concept has been further diluted by referring to any slain Muslim as
"Shaheed". When even a person
who dies in an accident is "Shaheed", the cause no longer remains
relevant in popular imagination. No one now asks or considers what cause of
Allah is being served when he resorts to fighting. It can be seen how misusing
the term Shaheed for all slain Muslims has made it easy to raise ranks of young
men ready to die. The Ulema bear responsibility for this and must take steps to
correct the position.
MaulanaWahiduddin Khan writes: “During the
Battle of Uhud, in the year 3 A.H., 70 companions of the Prophet were killed.
This is recounted in a tradition in the Sahih Bukhari, which says: ‘On the day
of Uhud, seventy among the companions of the Prophet were killed.’ (Sahih
Bukhari, 4078). This example again shows that during the Prophet’s period, one
who was killed in God’s cause was referred to as Maqtul and not Shahid,
After the age of the Prophet, the age of
his companions and the generation after them are regarded as authentic periods
of Islamic history. The very same manner of referring to people who had been
slain in the path of God as Maqtul Fi Sabil Allah continued to be
followed in this period, too. But after this period, a change gradually emerged
in the use of the term Shahadah, in the same way as changes began being made in
the understanding of several other Islamic teachings, so much so that Muslims
almost forgot that the term Shahadah meant Dawah and instead began to use the
word as synonymous with martyrdom.
In later times, a new practice developed of
people who had died in battle being called Shahids or ‘martyrs’….”
In conclusion, there are only three categories
of the Shuhuda, and these will be among the foremost ranks on the Day of
Judgment. Those slain even in the cause
of Allah are not among these. They may not thus be called Shaheed as it amounts
to a lie and distortion of the message of the Quran with evil consequences.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an
independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private
sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent
contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.