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Islamic Martyrdom and Talibani ‘Martyrs’



By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam

November 20, 2013

The ongoing Islamic month of Muharram marks a turning point in the history of Islam. It is the auspicious month when the saviour of Islam from the clutches of evil, Imam Hussain ibn Ali (r.a) attained martyrdom in its truest and fullest sense. But today, with the Islamist terrorists rearing their ugly head in the disguise of Mujahideen (jihadists), randomly killing and beheading innocent civilians, launching suicide attacks on both Muslims and non-Muslims, and yet loudly claiming to be “martyrs”, the very noble Islamic doctrine of martyrdom faces a plethora of questions. One is aghast at the wanton killing of innocent children, women and old citizens, most of them being Muslims, in almost all the Muslim countries in a crazy bid to earn martyrdom and get free entry to paradise.

We moderate Muslims have been strongly condemning these mindless acts of terror and violence perpetrated in the name of jihad and martyrdom, but there seems to be no halt to the series of indiscriminate killing and unabated bloodshed. The more strongly we condemn them, the more deadly attacks the Jihadist terrorists launch. The reason why the jihadists and Talibanis turn deaf and dumb to the mainstream Muslims of the world and are getting more dangerous than ever before is that their theological ideologues keep them going. These fanatic theological goons, rather, provide them with more provoking doctrinal basis and religious stimuli and, thus, keep boosting them up to go berserk.

One such recent obnoxious instance baffled us Muslims when Jamaat-e-Islami Chairman Munawwar Hasan and the JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman remarked that TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud was a “martyr”. Rehman had even gone to the extent of saying anyone killed by the US would be considered a “martyr”, even dogs. Such nefarious statements issued by the hardcore Muslim clergy have starkly defamed and greatly damaged the entire concept of martyrdom in Islam.

Thank God, the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) along with a coalition of numerous religious groups hailing from the Sufi Sunni tradition of Islam issued a timely fatwa denouncing the title of martyr for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s slain chief, saying he had killed thousands of innocent people and cannot be called a martyr. It is truly laudable that these Sufi Sunni groups immediately issued two fatwas based on the collective opinion of around 30 moderate muftis (Islamic Jurists) who categorically stated that calling a man responsible for the loss of so many lives a “martyr” went against the teachings of the holy Quran and Sunnah. We Muslims should extend deep gratitude to SIC Chairman Hamid Raza Rizvi (interestingly, his title “Rizvi” is attributed to Maulana Ahmad Raza Khan Barailvi, one of the ideologues of Sunni-Barelvi strain in Indian sub-continent) who took the courageous initiative to launch a timely and hard-hitting fatwa against the JI’s and Taliban’s pseudo-Islamic martyrdom.  

Today, Imam Husain’s martyrdom serves as a reminder to speak up and tell the people that the present day Islamists/Jihadists/Talibanis who make false claims of being Mujahidin (fighters in the path of Allah) and commit the barbaric acts of violence calling themselves martyrs, are terrorists and just “Terrorists” as these acts go completely against the true essence of Hussain’s Jihad.

Imam Hussain strongly refused to surrender to the unjust and tyrannical ruler Yazid, who walked away from the Islamic concept of leadership through consensual democracy and created a completely dictatorial dynasty. Therefore, the sacrifice of Imam Hussain is looked up as the revival of the true Islamic doctrines and principles of freedom, democracy, fairness and justice.

In a sermon while proceeding towards Karbala, Imam Hussain said to his followers," O' people, The Prophet of Islam has said that if a person sees a tyrannical ruler transgressing against Allah and oppressing people, but does nothing by word or action to change the situation, then it will be just for God to place him where he belongs. Do you not see what low level the affairs have come to? Do you not observe that the truth has not been adhered to and falsehood has no limits? And, as for me, I look upon death but as a means of attaining martyrdom. I consider life among transgressors an agony and affliction."

This is the true essence of martyrdom in Islam, as epitomized by the noble grandson of the Prophet (PBUH), Imam Husain. In early Islamic era, the Prophet’s uncle Hazrat Abbas and his father-in-law Hazrat Ameer Hamza who were killed in defensive battles are held to be the greatest examples of Islamic martyrs by both the Sunni and Shiite  schools. Those were the greatest martyrs of Islam about whom the Quran says:

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

Think not of those who are slain in God's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord” (3:169)

The Quran also calls those martyrs as “Shuhadaa”. This word is plural of “Shaheed” and has derived from the Arabic verbal root Shahada, which means: to 'see', to 'witness', to 'testify', to 'become a model and paradigm'. The Qur'an has used the word Shaheed (witness) primarily for "those who bear witness to truth” (16:89 - the Qur'an) and those who lay down their life fulfilling a divine commandment, and secondarily for those who have died fighting and defending their faith or family. In Islam, a Shaheed (in the sense of a martyr) is a person who witnesses and sees the truth physically and thus stands by it firmly, so much so that not only does he testify it verbally, but he first struggles peacefully and then, if the situation does not change for the better, he gives up his life for the truth, and thus attains martyrdom.

There is no denying the fact the martyrdom has great place in Islam. But the true Islamic martyrdom is completely different from the Talibani concept of martyrdom which is synonymous with suicide bombing and wanton killing of innocent civilians. For quite some time, terrorist organizations like Taliban, Al Qaida, and Boko Haram and their theological ideologues belonging to radical Wahabi/Salafi/Ahle Hadeesi strains have been misusing the Islamic doctrine of martyrdom in a bid to further their nefarious ends. They lure the poor, naive and gullible Muslim youth and indoctrinate them into believing that serving as human bombs against non-Muslims in general and non-Wahhabi Muslims in particular will earn them the lofty position of martyrdom in the sight of God and, thus, they will be accorded the same great rewards as promised for the martyrs of Islam in the Quran. Their ideologues have provided them a mobilizing religious stimulant by coining a term ‘Istishhad’ to give legitimacy to suicide bombing which is not only Haram (strongly forbidden) but also akin to Kufr (infidelity) in some cases.

Scores of articles are written in jihadists’ organs and magazines detailing the rewards for martyrdom mentioned in the texts of Quran and Hadith and grossly misinterpret them by linking the Islamic martyrdom for a noble cause to suicide bombing and blowing oneself up to slaughter innocent and non-combatant Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Full of these poisonous tentacles,  the Jihadist militant journals are freely distributed in almost all cities of Pakistan, some of them being accessible even online such as “monthly Al-Shariat”, "Azaan", “Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad”, “Hateen”, “Murabetoon”, “Al-Qalam”, “Zarb-e-Momin”, “Al-Hilal”, “Sada-e-Mujahid”, “Jaish-e-Muhammad” and “Rah-e-Wafa. The terrorist mouthpiece Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad (whose extremist ideas has refuted) carries one such article penned by a Wahabi ideologue Maulana Yousuf Binori titled ‘The Place of Martyrdom in Islam’. Upholding the Talibani cause of martyrdom, the writer seeks to justify the horrendous acts of this terror outfit by cherry-picking the Qur’anic verses and misplacing the Prophetic sayings.

We should take a look at how blatantly the Talibani-minded writer misguides the naive Muslim readers to take them on the path of suicide bombing in the name of martyrdom. He writes: “Martyrdom has the highest place in Islam….Martyrdom ensures an eternal life and makes a permanent mark in the world and its impacts are seen in the times to come. The Quran and Hadiths accord the highest place to martyrdom…… Nothing can be more motivating to do jihad than this. God is the buyer of the life and property of his slaves and says this promise has been mentioned not only in the Quran but also in the Torah and the Gospel…. These martyrs offer their life before God and in return they get the highest honour and respect from God. Their souls are carried on the wings of green birds and they are allowed to go anywhere in the Heaven they wish, enjoy all the bounties as per their choice and wish…. one who dies and gets peace, honour and rewards after death, he does not want to come back to the world. However, when a martyr is shown the rewards and honour for martyrdom, he has the desire to be sent back to the world again and again so that he can attain martyrdom.’’  (Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad, May 2013)


The Holy Prophet had very often insisted upon his Umma not to forget Hussain. This insistence of Prophet suggests out that those who tend to forget Karbala and the martyrdom of Hussain will cause compromises in his mission. Today, Muslims who loudly claim to be devotees of Imam Hussain and custodians of Islam and yet silently see the radical Islamists and jihadists go on killing and bombing innocents in the name of Istishhad (martyrdom) are doing gross injustice to the soul of Imam Hussain as well as the cause of his martyrdom.

A regular contributor for New Age Islam, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (classical Islamic scholar) with a Sufi background. He has graduated from a leading Sufi Islamic seminary of India, Jamia Amjadia Rizvia (Mau, U.P.), acquired Diploma in Qur'anic Arabic from Al-Jamiat ul Islamia, Faizabad, U.P., and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies, Badaun, U.P. He has also graduated in Arabic (Hons) and is pursuing his M. A. in Comparative Religion from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.