Martyrdom is a cultural worldview in that the ideology of martyrdom builds on an already existing religious framework of interpretation in which the concepts of martyrdom and jihad are intrinsic parts.
El Jadida – Martyrdom is a cultural worldview in that the ideology of martyrdom builds on an already existing religious framework of interpretation in which the concepts of martyrdom and jihad are intrinsic parts.
Fieldwork based on an unstructured list of questions that explores young people’s knowledge about the concept of martyrdom reveals that they are familiar with the concept; they refer to the Islamic texts that legitimate it, and support its activities and its doers under the condition of self-defence, be it the defence of territory or faith (like in the case of Palestinians). Respondents anchor their support of martyrdom in Qur’anic verses and hadiths to uphold their image as bearers of authentic Islam and as followers of divine commandments.
Fieldwork (see Maarouf 2013) has come up with a variety of verses and hadiths, of which we will cite the most recurrent examples. It seems that there is an entire discourse in the Islamic tradition that instigates Muslims to jihad and death in the path of Allah. By believing in this indisputable verity, Muslims may all appear to an outsider to be martyrs in the making or projects of martyrs, whereas such texts merit a different reading; they must be approached from a historical perspective to understand why Muslims waged many wars to save their faith.
Jihad has its own socio-historical roots in the wars about 35 the Prophet waged against the Meccan society that had rejected him, including the battle of Uhud and Khandaq—to say nothing of the rejection he suffered from Christians and Jews in Medina. A doctrine was developed putting a dividing line between the house of peace, meaning the house of Islam, and the house of war, referring to lands not under Muslim control. The historical perspective may thus inspire the dialogue between Islamic East and Christian West.
Most of my respondents believed that jihad is a religious obligation and cited verses from the Qur’an instigating jihad:
Fighting is prescribed upon you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not. (Surat al-Baqarah [the Cow], aya 216)
Therefore, when ye meet the unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind (the captives) firmly: therefore (is the time for) either generosity or ransom: until the war lays down its burdens. Thus (are ye commanded): but if it had been Allah’s will, he could certainly have exacted retribution from them (himself); But (he lets you fight) in order to test you, some with others. But those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost. Soon will he guide them and improve their condition . . . And admit them to the garden which he has made known to them. (Surat Mohammed, aya 4, 5, 6)
Other respondents cited the following verse to justify the killing of Jews, who are declared to recurrently break their bond of peace with the Palestinians:
But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and attack your faith,— Fight ye the chiefs of unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained. (Surat Tawbah, aya 12)
Still others mentioned Surat al-Baqarah (the Cow), aya 190, an abrogated verse (mansukha) by an aya that says to kill unbelievers wherever Muslims find them:
Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress limits; for Allah loveth not transgressors. (Surat al-Baqarah, aya 190)
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); But if they repent, and establish regular prayers. And pay Zakat then open the way for them: for Allah is oft-Forgiving, most Merciful. (Surat Tawbah, aya 5)
There are also Qur’anic verses and hadiths that respondents cited to support their opinion that martyrdom is cherished by God, who will reward adherents committing themselves to spend their wealth or sacrifice their lives while fighting in the cause of Allah.
O ye who believe! Shall I lead you to a trade/bargain that will save you from grievous chastisement—.11 — That ye believe in Allah and in his messenger, and that ye fight in the cause of Allah, with your wealth and yourselves: that will be best for you, if ye but knew!. 12 — He will forgive you your sins, and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow, and to beautiful mansions in gardens of eternity: that is indeed the supreme triumph. (Surat a-Ssaf [Battle Array], aya 10–12)
When the Prophet was asked about God’s favourite, he said: the believer who fights in the cause of Allah with his wealth and himself, and the believer on a reef who fears Allah and shields people from his evil. (Translation mine, from Sahih al-Bukhari)
There were also respondents who drew our notice to the Qur’an making mention of “terrorism”. It is enjoined in Surat al-Anfal (the spoils of war), aya 60, that “you terrorize the enemy of Allah” (turhibuna bihi ‘aduwwa Allah). It is said in the Qur’an:
Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, and ye shall not be treated unjustly. (Surat al-Anfal, aya 60)
Nadia, a twenty-two-year-old university student from al-Gara, in the province of Settat, summed up the common opinion most respondents formulated about jihad: Jihad becomes a religious obligation with the advent of the enemy to the land of Islam. Jihad in this case may be considered fardu ‘ain (personal obligation), a duty imposed on each Muslim able to bear arms to fight. When the enemy does not enter the land of Islam, the Muslim troops can go out for Jihad to spread the call in the land of infidels. In this case, it is fardu kifaya (communal obligation by proxy) in that it is a duty that must be performed by some volunteers from the community of Muslims, and the rest can be exempted.
Nadia underpinned her argument with the Qur’anic verse that goes: Allah says:
It is not possible for all believers to go out (to fight). So a part of each section (of the population) should go (to fight) in order that the others may acquire understanding of law and divinity, and warn their companions on return so that they may take heed of themselves. (Surat Tawbah, aya 122)
To sum up the debate on jihad, we may postulate that the Islamic texts mentioned so far demonstrate that jihad is a religious obligation that has particular conditions and rules. It is not allowed in Islam for someone to declare jihad on his own, or to kill himself or others in the name of jihad or Islam without fulfilling particular conditions. Jihad is defence against the enemy—fighting those who are not under the contract of dhimma to stop their invasion, to save society from chaos (fitna), to free people from sin, to realize peace and security, or to raise the Word of God. Jihad is considered one of the most important Islamic sacred performances.
Respondents’ answers to the questions on martyrdom showered me with verses from the Qur’an on the concept of shahada. Most respondents referred to Surat al-Imran, aya 169: “Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way: They are dead, nay; they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their lord.”
Respondents also referred to Surat Tawbah (Repentance), verse 111: “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 torah, 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.” They also mentioned Surat al-Baqarah (the Cow), verse 154: “And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah: ‘They are dead.’ Nay, they are living, though ye perceive (it) not.”
Respondents were not only citing verses from the Qur’an but also recruiting themselves into the cultural worldview of martyrdom by picturing how the martyr would lead his afterlife. Most of the representations were picked up from cultural representations of the golden destiny of the shahid. The main religious foundation of martyrdom in Islam is the covenant of al-bay‘a (allegiance) that the martyr contracts with God to pave his way toward paradise.
The martyr is a fixed cultural role model held in high esteem, close to sainthood. The heroes and martyrs of Islam are symbols of the umma’s survival and a label for its national and religious dignity. Blood becomes a symbol, a meaning, and a significance and turns into an ideology. Those who participate in self-martyrizing operations in the cause of Islam are said to be rewarded with a place in Jenna, the Muslim paradise. That is, at least, how it is explained to the average Muslim and to the committed fighter.
Paradise being there, paradise is not on earth. The cultural representations pieced together from respondents’ accounts, underpinned by orthodox exegesis to give them legitimacy, rank martyrdom at the apex of faith and portray the martyr’s life in paradise as phantasmagoric, a picture that may lure every Muslim to die in the path of God and accomplish shahada. This representation makes martyrdom more than a limited brainwashing operation or a stage of indoctrination deployed by Islamist organizational ideologues; it rather extends to become a cultural worldview.
According to some of my respondents, Allah tells us that martyrs on their Isthmus ground would be alive and well; Sahih Muslim states that the souls of martyrs would dwell in the gizzards of green birds in paradise. During the day they would roam wherever they wanted, and at night they would go back home to the lamps suspended under the throne of God.
They would look at the Lord, who would ask them, “What do you want?” They would say, “Lord, what do we want and you have bestowed upon us what you have not given to any of Your creatures?” He then would return to them, so when they saw that he kept asking them, from what dignity and reward they have seen from Him, they would say, “We want to go back to earth to fight in your path again, and get killed once more!” and the Lord Almighty said, “I decree that you do not return!” In the prophetic tradition, there is also an indication to the rest of the believers about martyrs’ merits, although in the Qur’an they were already held in high esteem, honour, and veneration.
The Prophet is reported to have listed seven blessings from God to the martyr (shahid): (1) he is forgiven from the moment his blood is first shed; (2) he will be shown his place in paradise; (3) he will be spared the trial of the grave; (4) he will be secure on the Day of the Greatest Terror (the Day of Judgment); (5) there will be placed on his head a crown of dignity, one ruby of which is better than this world and all that is in it; (6) he will be married to seventy-two of al-hur al-‘in (virgins); and (7) he will be permitted to intercede for seventy of his relatives (narrated by al-Miqdaam Ibn Ma‘di Karb, reported in Sunan Tarmdi).
So, let us be clear that Muslims, whether holy warriors/ terrorists, or non-committed religionists, socialize to the cultural worldview of martyrdom and jihad though many of them may repudiate acts of violence against civilians of different faith in the Muslim and non-Muslim world. Let us also be clear that if a western invasion occurs tomorrow in a Muslim land, there will be the call for jihad, and thousands of Muslims will volunteer to defend their co-regionalists from different parts of the Globe activating all sorts of cultural schemata of Jihad. And finally, Let us be clear that before we delve into in-depth research upon Jihadist organizations’ work, we have to bear in mind that the cultural bed in the Islamic socieities is ploughed and structured by the combative ideology of Islam.
To Read Part I click Here
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