Martyrdom or al-Shahāda (Arabic: الشهادة) is to be killed on the path of God, which is referred to in hadiths as the greatest good and the most honored death. Quranic verses and hadiths attribute effects to martyrdom such as staying alive, having the right for intercession, and forgiveness of sins.
According to jurists, a martyr (shahid) does not need to be given a funeral bath and shroud, and touching his or her corpse does not require ghusl (ritual bath) of touching the corpse. These rulings are specific to martyrs in the battlefield, and do not include those are otherwise killed on the path of God or count as martyrs.
In Iran, Esfand 22/ March 12 or 13, is called the day of martyr.
Martyrdom is to be killed on the path of God. A person killed on the path of God is called a martyr. In Islamic jurisprudence, a martyr is a Muslim who is killed in the battlefield by disbelievers or because of fighting with the disbelievers.
According to Tafsir-i nimuna, martyrdom has specific and general senses. In its specific sense, martyrdom is a jurisprudential notion, and in its general sense, any person who is killed or dies while doing his or her duties is a martyr. Thus, there are hadiths according to which any person who dies while seeking knowledge, any person who dies in his bed while believing in God, the Prophet (s), and his Household, and any person who is killed while defending his property against aggressors count as martyrs.
Appellation of “Shahid”
In Arabic dictionaries, the term “shahada” is said to mean presence, testimony, and observation. Given this, the following grounds for the appellation of “shahid” are noted:
- A martyr is observed by the angels of divine mercy.
- God and angels testify that the martyr goes to heaven.
- The martyr does not die, but is present before his or her Lord.
- The martyr observes things that others cannot observe.
- The martyrs observes the deeds of others on the day of resurrection].
There are many hadiths about the status and virtue of martyrdom. For example, martyrdom is deemed the greatest good and the most honored death, and some other deaths are likened to martyrdom in their rewards. Moreover, in supplications transmitted from the Fourteen Infallibles (a), God is asked for martyrdom, martyrdom under the Prophet’s banner, and martyrdom in the hands of the worst people.
Rewards of Martyrdom
Quranic verses and hadiths point to rewards of martyrdom, including:
- Being alive: according to Quranic verses, those who are killed on the path of God are not dead, but are alive and are provided for near their Lord.
- The right for intercession: along with prophets and scholars, martyrs intercede for other people on the day of resurrection.
- Forgiveness of sins and God’s mercy: according to a hadith from Imam al-Baqir (a), when the first drop of a martyr flows, all of his sins are forgiven, except the rights of people. As for the rights of people, if he had the intention to compensate for it, God would compensate it and satisfy the person of interest.
- Going to heaven: martyrs are first people who go to heaven.
Jurisprudential Rulings of Martyrs in the Battlefield
Jurists have mentioned exclusive rulings for those who are martyred in battlefields:
- A person who is martyred in the battlefield does not need to be given a ritual bath (ghusl). However, a person who is injured in the battlefield and then martyred after the war should be given a ritual bath.
- A person who is martyred in the battlefield is not shrouded. Instead, he is buried with his own clothes, unless he has no clothes on, in which case he should be shrouded.
- Touching a martyr’s corpse does not require the ritual bath of touching the dead body.
- Hanut (wiping camphor on seven parts of the dead body, which touch the ground during prostration) is not obligatory in the case of martyrs, since hanut is done after shrouding, which is not obligatory for martyrs.
These rulings apply to those who have attended a war with the permission of an Infallible (a) or his special deputy.
Moreover, according to the majority of jurists, these rulings also apply to those who are killed while defending against the invasion of enemy in period of Occultation with the permission of a general deputy of the Imam (that is, a qualified jurist). In contrast, while al-Shahid al-Thani believes that these people count as martyrs, he holds that the rulings of martyrs in battlefields do not apply to them.
Martyrdom of Shiite Imams
According to a number of Shiite scholars, all Imams of the Shia were martyred. This is grounded in a number of hadiths, including the following: “I swear to God that all of us are murdered and martyred,” which implies that all Imams of the Shia were martyred. In contrast, in his Tashih al-iʿtiqadat al-Imamiyya, [[al-Shaykh al-Mufid believes that although Imam 'Ali (a), Imam al-Hasan (a), Imam al-Husayn (a), Imam al-Kazim (a), and Imam al-Rida (a) were martyred, there are doubts about the martyrdom of the other Imams.
Martyrs in the Literature of the Islamic Republic of Iran
In the literature of the Islamic Republic of Iran, martyrs are those who are killed in defense of the achievements of the 1979 revolution and the Islamic government, the territorial integrity of Iran, and prevention of threats. According to the laws of the Martyr Foundation of Iran, since the 1979 revolution to the beginning of 2021, about 220 thousand people count as martyrs. In Iran, Martyr Foundation was established to take care of the affairs of the families of martyrs. Moreover, Esfand 22 (March 12 or 13) is named the Day of Martyr.
There are terminologies used about martyrs, including:
- Martyr of altar (shahid mihrab): it refers to imams of Friday Prayer who were assassinated and killed while performing the Friday Prayer.
- Anonymous martyr: those killed in the Iran-Iraq battle whose identities could not be confirmed. In Iran, buildings are often constructed on their mausoleums, and on religious occasions, ceremonies are held on the graves.
- Shrine-defending martyrs: forces organized and sent by the Islamic Republic of Iran to fight ISIS and support the Syrian government, and then killed in the country. These forces are largely from Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
In Iran, Esfand 22 (March 12 or 13) is called the Day of Martyr.
Books have been written about martyrdom and martyrs in Persian and Arabic, including:
- Shuhadayi 'asr payambar (Martyrs of the age of the Prophet) by Abu l-Fadl Banayi Kashi: this is an account of the martyrs of the period of the Prophet (s) in Persian. The chapters include pre-migration martyrs, martyrs of the Battle of Badr, martyrs of the Battle of Sawiq, martyrs of the Battle of Uhud, martyrs of Bi'r Ma'una, martyrs of the Battle of Khaybar, martyrs of the Battle of Ta'if, martyrs of the Battle of Hunayn, and martyrs the dates of whose martyrdom are unknown. The book was published in 2012-3 by Shahid Publications in 248 pages
- Shuhada' al-fadila (Martyrs of virtue): This is an Arabic book by Abd al-Husayn Amini, in which biographies of 130 martyred scholars and the stories of their martyrdom are narrated. They were chosen from figures in the 14th and 15th/20th and 21st centuries. The book was translated into Persian under Shahidan rah-i fadilat (Martyrs of the path of virtue).
- Shuhadayi sadr-i Islam wa-shuhadayi waqi'a-yi Karbala (Martyrs of the early Islam and martyrs of the Event of Karbala) by Sayyid 'Ali Akbar Qurashi: it was published by Navid Islam Publications in 2006-7 in 212 pages.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from شهادت in Farsi WikiShia.