Who is a martyr? Can we consider anyone who has been killed in a war as a martyr?
One of the most important principles that make Muslims superior to their enemies is the belief, I would be martyr if I were killed or would be blessed veteran if I survived. This situation is described as one of two glorious things in the verse. (Al-Tawba Surah, 52) In other words, there is one of two glorious outcomes for a believer: he will either defeat or die as a martyr. (1)
The words that Haleed Bin Waleed told the commander-in-chief of Persia are a fine example as to show what the desire for martyrdom gains Muslims:
I have come here with an army that loves death as much as you love life and wine. (2)
A martyr is one who gives his life through the way of Allah. Some ask the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), O Allahs Messenger! Some fight for heroism. Some fight for patriotism. Some fight for hypocrisy. Which one of them is through the way of Allah? Allahs Messenger (PBUH) responds: Whoever fights in order to exalt the name of Allah, he is on the path of Allah. (3)
Intention is of great importance in Islam. The degrees of actions are determined by their intentions. (4) The good intention of someone is better than his good deed. (5) The story of Kuzman is a good example of this. Kuzman is a brave man. He fights bravely in Uhud war. Allahs Messenger already foretells his being one of the people of Hell. While he is in a severely wounded state, someone says, By Allah, today you fought so bravely. Be blessings upon you. Kuzman replies: Blessing? I fought only for my tribes honor. Or else, I would not. Then, when his wound becomes aggravated, he can no more endure it and kills himself. (6)
Just as Kuzman, some did not die martyr although they are in the Prophets (PBUH) army; on the other hand, some are considered martyrs although they die at their homes. The Prophet (PBUH) declares, Whoever wishes martyrdom sincerely, Allah takes him to the destination of martyrs although he dies in his bed. (7)
Apart from those dying in the war, the Prophet (PBUH) also announced that such believers are also martyrs as the women who die during giving birth, believers who are drowned, and burn to death. (8)
There are some comments on why those who die making jihad for the sake of Allah (SWT) are called martyrs:
1- Those who are to go to Paradise do not witness Paradise in their graves, but martyrs do. Therefore, they are called martyrs. (Here we deem it necessary to put a note to make the meaning of the word martyr clear. Arabic word for martyr is Shaheed, which means Witness. In order to prevent any confusion of meanings we need to indicate it here)
2- Allah (SWT) and angels witness that they are the people of Paradise.
3- On the Judgment Day, they will be witnessing together with prophets and saints. Hence, they are called martyrs. (Witnesses) (9)
The life of martyrs is a spiritual one, or rather is a true life. (10) The martyr thinks he is still alive. He finds himself in a better realm without feeling the pain of death. The Prophet (PBUH) told of the 70 martyrs who lost their lives in Uhud war: When your brothers have become martyrs in Uhud, Allah (SWT) has put their spirits into the bodies of birds. They drink from the rivers of Paradise and eat from its fruits. They reside in the golden oil lamps in the shade of Allahs Throne. On seeing the beauty of their foods, drinks and pleasures, they will wish that somebody would inform their brothers in the world about their welfare and their being granted bounties so that they would not run away while fighting. Allah Almighty says that I am going to let them know about your situation and announces it with these verses. (12)
Think not of those, who are slain in the way of Allah, as dead. Nay, they are living. With their Lord, they have provision. Jubilant (are they) because of that which Allah hath bestowed upon them of His bounty, rejoicing for the sake of those who have not joined them but are left behind: that there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. They rejoice because of favor from Allah and kindness, and that Allah wasted not the wage of the believers. (Al-i-Imran Surah, 3:169-171)
Martyrs are the ones selected from among the ones who make jihad. The Allah Almighty selects them and takes them close to Himself. (13) When Allah mentions the wisdoms of the defeat, He also wants this to be considered: He may take to Himself from your ranks martyr-witnesses. (Al-i-Imran Surah, 3:140)
One of the martyrs of Uhud is Enes bin Nadr, the uncle of Enes. He says, I could not participate in the Battle of Badr. You will see how I will fight if Allah would grant a war side by side with the Messenger (pbuh).
In The Battle of Uhud, when the enemies shout, Muhammad was killed, the believers become scattered. Enes bin Nadr passes by a group of people who laid down their arms. He asks them Why are you sitting? They say: The Prophet (PBUH) got killed! Enes bin Nadr tells them: If he is dead, what is the use of a life without him? Get up; die on the same way that he died for! Then he rushes onto the enemy and loses his life. After the battle, they count eighty or so wounds of arrows and spears on his corpse. (14) This verse praises those who are like Enes bin Nadr:
Among the Believers are men who have been true to their Covenant with Allah: of them some have completed their vow (to the extreme), and some (still) wait: but they have never changed (their determination) in the least. (Al-Ahzab Surah, 33:23)
The principle purpose of participating war is not to become martyr but to exalt the True One, to make the religion more superior. (15) Receiving the rank of martyrdom is a great attainment on ones way to the target. Therefore, some persons have always kept praying as follows:
O Allah (SWT)! Take our lives only as martyrs and with full of faith for you.
1-Ibnu Kesir, IV, 102; Nesefi, II, 130
2-Abdu rabbih, p., 387
3-İbnu Mace, Cihad, 13; Tirmidi, Fedailü'l-Cihad, 16
4-Bukhari, Bed'ül-Vahy, I; Tirmidi, Fedailu'l-Cihad, 16; İbnu Mace, Zühd, 26
5-Acluni, II, 324
6-Ibnu Hisham, III, 93-94; Also see. Bukhari, Cihad, 77
7-Ibnu Mace, Cihad, 15; Tirmidi, Fedailul-Cihad, 19
8-Ibnu Mace, Cihad, 17
9-Razi, IX, 17
10-Yazır, I, 547
11-Nursi, Hutbe-i Şamiye, p., 122
12-Ebu Davud, Cihad, 25
13-Kutub, I, 481
14-Ibnu Hisham, III, 88; Tirmidi, Tefsir, 33/2
15-Beydavi, I, 224
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- What is martyrdom? Will you give information about the levels of martyrdom? Who are martyrs? Is a person who is burnt and who is drowned a martyr?
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- Does martyrdom eliminate major sins as kaffarah (atonement)?
- How is Jihad (holy war) encouraged in the Quran?
- They say a woman who gives birth is purified of her sins. Is it true?
- I think about death a lot and I'm afraid of dying. What should I do?
- What are the purposes of wars that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) fought?
- Why is the war against the evil-self called the great jihad?
- Why does God prohibit people from consuming alcohol and pork though there are more important things like wars?