Will you explain verses 169 and 170 of the chapter of Aal-i Imran? Do martyrs die?

The Details of the Question
That is, are martyrs given sustenance like normal people and do they eat and drink?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Yes, if martyrs wish, they can eat and drink. 

"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."

"They rejoice in the Bounty provided by Allah: and with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the (martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve." (Aal-i Imran, 3/169 and 170)

The interpretation of the verses is as follows:

O anybody that can be addressed; O Muhammad!

"Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead." (Aal-i Imran, 3/169)

In a hadith that Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal and many other scholars reported from Ibn Abbas, the Messenger of Allah stated the following:

"When your brothers were smitten at the battle of Uhud, Allah put their spirits in the crops of green birds; they went down to the rivers of Paradise, ate its fruit and nestled in lamps of gold in the shade of the Throne. Then when they experienced the sweetness of their food, drink and rest, they asked: 'Who will tell our brothers about us that we are alive in Paradise provided with provision, in order that they might not be disinterested in jihad and recoil in war?'

Allah Most High said: 'I shall tell them about you' So Allah sent down these verses."(Muslim, Imama 121; Abu Dawud, Jihad 25; Tirmidhi, Tafsiru Surah, 3/19)

The following is stated in a hadith reported from Jabir b. Abdullah by Tirmidhi as "hasan", and by Hakim and others as "sahih":

"Jabir (r.a.) said: The Messenger of Allah came across me and said,

'O Jabir! You look sad. What happened? 'I said,

'O Messenger of Allah! My father was martyred; he left his family and a lot of debts behind. 'He said,

'Shall I tell you how Allah accepted your father?'

I said, 'Yes.' He said,

'Allah did not talk anybody in any way except behind a veil. However, He revived your father and said to him,

'O My slave! Make your wish.' He said,

'O Lord! Give me life again so that I will be killed for your sake again.' Allah Almighty said,

'They will not return from me again.'He said,

'O Lord! Inform my relatives and friends about this.'

Thereupon, Allah sent down the verse above."(Tirmizi, Tirmidhi, Tafsiru Sura, 3/18; Ibn Majah, Muqaddima 13)

It is possible that both of the narrations took place; there is no contradiction between the narrations in terms of one of them being about one verse and the other about more than one verse. It is clear that those verses were sent down due to the martyrs of Uhud. As a matter of fact, verse 154 of al-Baqara was sent down due to the martyrs of Badr.

Verse 170:They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah: and with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the (martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve. Thus, the continuation of the religious and worldly salvation and happiness of those who remained in the world is one of the causes of the welfare and joy that the martyrs are given.

From another viewpoint, they receive the glad tiding and become happy that the prospective martyrs who struggled after them but who have not joined them yet by being martyred will become martyrs consequently despite the pains and agonies that they suffer, that they will be saved from the fears and sorrows of the world and the hereafter and that they will be happy like themselves.  

Then, if the martyrs become aware of the situation of those who remained behind, who lost the war, who were deprived of being martyrs, who were invaded by the enemy and especially who faced the danger of the elimination of their religion, they will become sorry. That is, Allah will either not inform the martyrs about their situation or will inform them but will protect them from feeling sorry and will please them with His grace. For, those who are martyred in the way of Allah "have no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve".

The fact that it is stated in the Quran that martyrs do not die does not mean they do not go to the life of grave. It means they are not aware that they are dead. They think they are still alive. For instance, think of two men. They are in a very nice garden in their dream. One of them knows that it is a dream but the other is not aware that it is a dream. Which one takes more pleasure? It is definite that the one who does not know it is a dream takes more pleasure. The one who knows it is a dream thinks that he will lose the pleasure when he wakes up. The other takes full and real pleasure.

Normal dead people do not have full pleasure since they are aware that they are dead. However, the pleasure the martyrs take is complete because they do not know that they are dead.  

(see Elmalılı. Hamdi YAZIR, the interpretation of the relevant verse)

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