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The word shahid in Arabic means "witness". Its development closely parallels that of Greek martys (Greek: μάρτυς – "witness", in the New Testament also "martyr"), 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 for his faith"; this latter sense acquires wider use in the hadiths.
The term is commonly used as a posthumous title for those who are considered to have accepted or even consciously sought out their own death in order to bear witness to their Islamic beliefs. Like the English word martyr, in the 20th century, the word shahid has come to have both religious and non-religious connotations, and has often been used to describe those who have died for non-religious ideological causes. This suggests that there is no single fixed and immutable concept of martyrdom in the Muslim world.
The Quranic passage that follows is the source of the concept of Muslim martyrs being promised Paradise:
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 be 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.
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.
Furthermore, 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 five 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.
In the course of the eighteenth 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.
During the Islamic Revolution (1978/79) and the subsequent Iran-Iraq war (1980–1988) the cult of the martyr in Iran has had a lasting impact on the dynamics of revolution and war. 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.
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|Notable jihadist organisations|
|Jihadism in the East|
|Jihadism in the West|
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.
Islamic extremists have used the term "shahid" in their efforts to make "legitimate the use of violence, warfare, and terrorism" against Western groups of "unbelievers".
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".
A Muslim who is killed defending his or her property is considered a martyr. In Pakistan the word "shahid" is used to denote martyrs who have died in the way of Islam or in the defence of Pakistan.
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. 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. 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.
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 "hutātmā" (हुतात्मा in Devanagari and হুতাত্মা in Bengali; हुत् and হুত্ hut = sacrificing, आत्मा and আত্মা ātmā = soul, thus hutātmā = sacrificing soul / martyr), to denote Hindu martyrs. The Sikhs also adopted the word to denote their martyrs; examples include shahid Bhai Mati Das and shahid Bhagat Singh.
The term was borrowed from the Islamic culture in Punjab when Sikhism was founded, and before the start of the British Raj it referred to the Sikh people who met death at the hands of Muslims. Another related term is shahid-ganj, which means a "place of martyrdom".
The most discussed shahid in Sikhism have been two of their Gurus, namely Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur for defying Islamic rulers and refusing to convert to Islam. Guru Arjan was arrested under the orders of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and asked to convert to Islam. He refused, was tortured and executed in 1606 CE. Historical records and the Sikh tradition are unclear whether Guru Arjan was executed by drowning or died during torture. His martyrdom, that is becoming a shahid, is considered a watershed event in the history of Sikhism.
Guru Tegh Bahadur's martyrdom resulted from refusing to convert and for resisting the forced conversions of Hindus in Kashmir to Islam because he believed in freedom of conscience and human rights. He was publicly beheaded in 1675 on the orders of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi. Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib in Delhi marks the shahid-ganj, or place of execution of the Guru.
The Sikh have other major pilgrimage sites, such as the shahid-ganj in Sirhind, where two sons of Guru Gobind Singh were buried alive by Mughal Empire army in retaliation of their father's resistance. In Muktsar, near a lake is a shahid-ganj dedicated to forty men who died defending Guru Gobind Singh.
This second martyrdom helped to make 'human rights and freedom of conscience' central to its identity." and "This is the reputed place where several Kashmiri pandits came seeking protection from Auranzeb's army.