Does martyrdom eliminate major sins as kaffarah (atonement)?

Details of the Question
Are all of the sins of a person who does not obey his parents, does not perform five daily prayers, etc eliminated when he becomes a martyr? I ask this question because I have heard that martyrdom eliminates all of the sins related to the orders of Allah. How is this issue mentioned in the Quran and hadiths?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Yes, the sins of martyrs are forgiven and they enter Paradise. For, sins or being a sinner does not prevent becoming a martyr.

Shahid (martyr) lexically means “to witness an incident, to testify by telling what one knows, to be present somewhere"; it is derived from the word shahadah (shuhud).

As a religious term, shahid (plural form suhada) means a Muslim who is killed in the way of Allah.

Explaining the connection between the lexical and terminological meaning of the word based on “what is seen, witnessed” (mashhud), some scholars say a person is called shahid because it is witnessed by Allah and angels that the person who sacrifices himself in the way of Allah attains the boons of Paradise at once;

Explaining the connection between the lexical and terminological meaning of the word based on “who sees, witnesses” (shahid), other scholars say a person is called shahid because he sees the boons promised by Allah ready and makes use of them or because he will be asked to witness for the previous ummahs together with the Prophet (pbuh) on the day of Judgment.

The word shahid is mentioned totally fifty-six times in the Quran: thirty-five times in singular form, once in dual form and twenty times in plural form. (M. F. Abdulbaqi, al-Mujam, “shhd” item)

Most of them are used in the sense of “witness”; in some verses, it is used as one of the beautiful names of Allah; in other verses, it is used in the sense of “a perfect man, a model person and leader, who lives in accordance with Allah’s will. (for instance, see al-Baqara 2/143; al-Hajj 22/78)

In three verses, the word suhada (plural of shahid) is used in the sense of the people who attain the rank of martyrdom by sacrificing their lives in the way of Allah (an-Nisa 4/69; az-Zumar 39/69; al-Hadid 57/19) but the singular form of the word is not used in this sense in any verses.

However, Biqai holds the view that the word shahid in verse 72 of the chapter of an-Nisa can be interpreted in this sense. (Nazm ad-Durar, V, 325)

The word shahid is frequently used in hadiths in the senses that we have explained. (Wensinck, al-Mujam, “shhd” item)

In many verses, attention is attracted to the importance of martyrdom and its value in the eye of Allah. Here are some examples:

- “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.”(al-Baqara 2/154);

- “Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay they live finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord.” (Aal-i Imran 3/169);

- “But those who are slain in the way of Allah he will never let their deeds be lost (…) And admit them to the Garden which He has announced for them (Muhammad 47/4, 6) This issue is emphasized in the verses like the ones above; it is stated in some verses that martyrs come after prophets and righteous people in the eye of Allah. (an-Nisa 4/ 69)

Attracting attention to some hadiths that describe the people who are drowned and who die of some illnesses as martyrs, Fakhruddin ar-Razi states that it is not appropriate to interpret the verse suhada in this verse by limiting them to those who sacrificed their lives in wars in order to help the religion of Allah and that the scholars who maintain justice in the community by making efforts to elevate the name of Allah (Aal-i Imran 3/18) should also be included in the scope of the word. (Mafatih al-Ghayb, V, 277)

Hz. Prophet’s explanations about martyrdom are usually included in the chapters of jihad in hadith collections under the heading of "fadl ash-shahid".

In those hadiths, it is stated that

- only those who sacrifice their lives in order to elevate the religion of Allah, not those who have worldly aims, are regarded as martyrs (Bukhari, “Jihad”, 15; Muslim, “Imara”, 149-152; Nasai, “Jihad”, 21; Ibn Majah, “Jihad”, 13),

- a person who becomes a martyr dies without suffering any pains, that all of his sins except violation of personal rights are forgiven as soon as the first drop of his blood falls to the ground, that a martyr will not suffer in the grave and that he will see his rank in Paradise (Tirmidhi, “Fadailul-Jihad”, 25, 26),

- a martyr could intercede for seventy people from his relatives (Tirmidhi, “Fadailul-Jihad”, 25)

- martyrs will be among the first ones to enter Paradise (Muslim, “Imara”, 143; Abu Dawud, “Jihad”, 27),

- and that only martyrs among those who die by attaining a high rank in the eye of Allah will want to return to the world and ant to elevate the religion of Allah until they are martyred again. (Bukhari, “Jihad”, 6, 21; Muslim, “Imara”, 109)

On the other hand, it is stated in some hadiths that there will be other people that will be regarded as martyrs along with those who die in the way of Allah. For instance it is stated that  

- those who die while defending their lives, wealth and chastity (Abu Dawud, “Sunnah”, 29; Tirmidhi, “Diyat”, 21)

- or those who die due to common infectious diseases like plague and cholera (Bukhari, “Jihad”, 30; Muslim, “Imara”, 164-165),

- those who wanted to die as martyrs but died in bed (Muslim, “Imara”, 157) will be given the thawabs of martyrs and that there are other deeds that are equal to the thawabs of martyrdom. (Bukhari, “Jihad”, 1; Muslim, “Imara”, 110, 125; Nasai, “Jihad”, 17; Ibn Majah, “Fitan”, 13)

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