By Imam Vernon M. Fareed
The reported saying by Muhammad the Prophet that, “the ink of the scholar is more precious than the blood of the martyr” provides a good opening for us to discuss martyrdom! Some Muslims have been convinced that there is a shortcut to PARADISE, and that there will be 70 virgins waiting for them when they get there.
This ongoing myth has been perpetuated and repeated so much until many Muslims and non-Muslims alike believe that this is what the religion of Al-Islam teaches. There is no such teaching in the Qur’an and there is no such saying of Muhammad the Prophet (ppbuh). The idea that “virgins” are the reward for martyrdom suggest that “satisfaction of the sexual appetite is the compensation from G-d for upholding righteousness in this world.” This is an absurd concept and it has nothing to do with the belief system of Al-Islam!
So let’s take a look at this widely misunderstood term “martyrdom” and see what the true meaning is. Martyrdom is acceptable in the religion of Al-Islam while suicide is not! The problem is in the misunderstanding of what constitutes martyrdom. The Quranic word for martyr is “shahid” and it literally means, “to witness.” When this word is applied to faith and religion the meaning is more specific and formal because it emanates from the Revelation called Quran. To witness something infers that you must have seen it with your physical senses (i.e. eyes) or with your mental faculties (intellect).
When one decides that they want to become a (conscious) Muslim and accept the faith of Al-Islam, they have to openly declare what is known as the “shahadatain (confession of faith).” The individual desiring to do this must confess freely and consciously the following: “I witness that there is no god but Allah and I witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.” Making this verbal proclamation is just the beginning of becoming a (conscious) Muslim. By the way, we use the terminology “conscious” Muslim because Muhammad the Prophet said, “every child is born a Muslim.” This implies that every child is created naturally to submit to its Creator.
Much of what we have provided thus far was done to establish the logic to truly understand the term shahid (martyr). So the verbal proclamation comes first and then the life of the individual must further bear witness (to what you vocalized). The Guidance and Authority for how the Muslim must govern his or her life thereafter, is the Quran and the life example and teachings of Muhammad the Prophet (the prayers and the peace be upon him). No one can kill (with intent) innocent human beings and expect to be a true shahid (martyr), because to do so would be going against the Quran and the way of the Prophet. The shahid must live the life that testifies to the Oneness of G-d and to the fact that Muhammad is the Messenger of G-d. He (the Messenger) is not G-d, rather he exemplifies how Muslims must live their lives before Him.
The history of Muhammad the Prophet highlights numerous examples of peaceful relationships with Jews, Christians and others. We are well aware of the false pictures that some writers have tried to paint of him being a warmonger, child molester and moon worshipper. It is in the best interest of people to study the religion of Al-Islam for themselves rather than accept the twisted idea of the faith. Usually when people go to such extremes to turn you away from something, there is some ulterior motive. Countless individuals have been surprised to learn the truth after pursuing it for themselves. Intelligent men and women do not allow themselves to be led by emotions with respect to knowledge, they let the facts lead them to the unknown! As Imam W. Deen Mohammed (raa) once said regarding the pursuit of knowledge, many follow the “unknown seeking the known rather than allowing the known to lead them to the unknown.”
As we continue we will discuss the extent to which Muhammad the Prophet would go for the sake of peace, and we will provide details of the “Treaty of Hudabiyyah” that he entered into to demonstrate the point.
Note: we do not believe in spelling the Name for the Creator that (in reverse) comes out Dog, so we use a hyphen (G-d) as some others do out of respect for the Creator