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Shaheed vs. Shaheed

26 July, 2007

By Adnan Gill

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Muslims have a long history of backstabbing and killing each other, but the authority and conviction they kill one another these days is outright astonishing. In the old days when a Muslim was killed while fighting the nonbelievers there was no confusion as to who the ‘Shaheed’/Martyr was. Regrettably, the distinction is not that obvious when one Muslim kills another. Regardless of the circumstances under which one dies, it seems, these days whenever a Muslim loses his life to another Muslim in a fight, fashionably we tend to bestow the honor and title of Shaheed upon the dead. For people, like me, with a very basic knowledge of practices and principles of Islam such a scenario is nothing short of paradoxical. The paradox becomes even more complex when two Muslims effectively kill each other and we hastily title both of them as Shaheeds.

In Islam, ’shahadat’/ martyrdom is one of the most revered ambition and honor that true believer can hold. This is because shadat entitles the Shaheed with one of the highest rewards possible for such persons in the hereafter. Abdullah-Ibn-Umar quoted the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him/PBUH) as saying, "Martyrs are forgiven their sins, except debts”. Muslim scholars opine, the phrase “except debts” also relates implicitly to the abuse of people’s rights, unjustified killing, and so on.

It suffices here to quote the ultimate stature Allah has promised for the martyrs. Almighty Allah says:  “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 wasteth not the wage of the believers.” (Al-Imran 3: 169-71)

The magnanimity of the rewards for a Shaheed is very obvious, but what is not so obvious is who deserves to be called a Shaheed? Similarly we do not want to disgrace and disrespect a worthy titleholder by ignoring to remember him as a Shaheed.

Deeds are judged according to one's intention. We can only judge them according to what is apparent to us, but only Allah can judge their intentions. It may happen that sometimes we may regard someone a Shaheed while Allah knows that he is otherwise. 

Common sense dictates when two Muslims reach a point of conflict where they end up using deadly force against each other one has to be on the right side, and the other on the weaker or wrong side. In this life there is no way for us to know for sure who will be awarded the shadat, so all we can do is go over the teachings of Quran, and Sunnah to educate ourselves, to the best of our abilities, so we could come up with an educated guess as to who may quantify as a Shaheed. 

The Quran and the Sunnah are abundant with provisions that crystallize and emphasize one of the important objectives of Islam of safeguarding people's life, property and honor. In light of this objective Islam prohibits aggression against innocent people. Al-Bukhari reported "A woman (was made to) enter (Hell) Fire because of a cat which she tied, neither giving it food nor setting it free to eat from the vermin of the earth." If we risk entering the hellfire for the cruelty to animals then imagine, what will be the fate of the suicide-bombers who often shed innocent's blood and violate their rights?

When a suicide-bomber kills himself in the process of taking lives of other Muslims, oddly the Muslim group which sent him calls the bomber a Shaheed; despite the fact, majority of times the victims of these bombers happens to be unsuspected Muslim civilians, including women and children. Ordinary Muslims often find themselves at loss as to how a suicide-bomber whose victims are also Muslims could be called a Shaheed?

However, in Islamic jurisprudence self-defense is legal, even if it leads to manslaughter, as it would then be forced, not optional. For example, unlike a suicide-bomber whose intention is to kill as many people as he can, a policeman could shoot to kill a suicide-bomber in an attempt to defend himself and the innocent people he has sworn to protect. Muslim scholars suggest that not everyone who is killed in this disorder of fighting between the two Muslim parties will be destined to the hellfire. Surely, there is a difference between a person who is killed when illegally attacking another, and a person who kills his attacker in self-defense or in the defense of innocent. Jurists are of the opinion that people should defend themselves with the lightest possible means, but if these means fall short of repelling the danger, stronger force can be used, even if it leads to the death of the assailant(s).     

Recently, in a standoff between the Pakistani military and Islamic militants holed up in the ‘Lal Masjid’ dozens of lives were wasted on both sides. Lo and behold! Both sides conferred their fallen ones with the ultimate title of Shaheed. Most distinguished examples are of Lt. Col Haroon Islam and Maulana Abdul Aziz Ghazi. To an ordinary Muslim it has to be the most paradoxical riddle that how could a Muslim responsible for the deliberate death of another Muslim could enjoy this ultimate honor?  In order to solve this riddle first we need to make a distinction between the offender and the defender.

The Holy Quran says, “O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger, and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority. (And) if you differ in anything amongst yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.” (An-Nisa: 59) This verse hardly leaves any doubt that Muslims are instructed to obey the state's authority.  Following hadith reinforces this principle: “It is your duty to listen and obey your rulers whether you are in difficulty or at ease, whether willingly or unwillingly and even when you do not receive what is your right.” (Muslim: No. 1836)

Some may argue, what if the rulers have questionable character?  If faced with such a scenario prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has advised, “He who sees something despicable in his ruler should bear it, for he who even slightly disassociates himself from the state system and dies in this condition shall die the death of ignorance.” (Bukhari: No. 7054)

Allah and his messenger (PBUH) have ordered us to respect and obey even our questionable Muslim rulers and have strongly advised us not to undermine state's authority. Forcibly interfering in the government's business can break our collectivity apart, and can disrupt the governance, which can result in the break up of a Muslim state. Cognizant to the fact that Islam entrusts the state with the duties of policing, it can very well be argued that those who may lose their lives while assisting the state in dispensing its policing duties holds a special stature, perhaps of a Shaheed.

Allah says: “Allah commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion: He instructs you, that ye may receive admonition.” (An-Nahl 16: 90) An eminent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi further elaborated these instructions of Allah: “No doubt, aggression against innocent people is a grave sin and a heinous crime, irrespective of the victim's religion, country, or race. No one is permitted to commit such crime, for Allah, Most High, abhors aggression. Unlike Judaism, Islam does not hold a double-standard policy in safeguarding human rights.”

Unity among Muslims holds a paramount status in Islam. Islamic principles are crystal clear about how the Muslims are obligated to obey the orders of their rulers, because Islam understands and emphasizes in the concept of collectivity which naturally gets undermined and compromised when certain group(s) disrupt this concept by spreading violence through fiery sermons calling to pick up arms against the government. Only exception for taking down a government is provided if the ruler orders Muslims to commit a sin. There are no other exceptions to this rule even if we don't agree with our government’s domestic or foreign policies. Allah’s messenger Muhammad (PBUH) said, “Whether they like it or not, it is obligatory on the faithful to listen and to obey their rulers except when they be ordered to commit a sin. If they are ordered so, they should neither listen nor obey.” (Muslim: No. 1839)

Henceforth, it is difficult to imagine how a Muslim who intended to harm the interests of the state through injustice and/or rebellion could be the viewed as a Shaheed vs. a government official who lost his life in the process of executing his duties of defending the state and its citizens.

When certain elements challenge state’s authority by taking it upon themselves to set the world straight through their own vision they commit a grave sin. In fact, anyone who tries to undermine the principle of collectivity has been ordered to be killed by Allah’s messenger (PBUH), “You are organized under the rule of a person and someone tries to break your collectivity apart or disrupt your government, kill him.” (Muslim: No. 1852)

Only Allah knows the best, but if we are to look at the recent examples of suicide-bombings and attacks on the government forces, in the light of the Quranic verses and ahhadith quoted above, we could dare to come up with an educated conclusion, that people who spread indiscriminate violence and mischief/shur in an Islamic state stand guilty of committing grave sins.

From the Islamic point of view, it is haram (forbidden) to kill civilians and innocent souls or to destroy or burn plants, trees, etc. The Qur’an says, “…Take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.” (Al-Anam: 151)

The mischievous elements who had been dividing Muslims at the barrel of gun also try to undermine the state by assassinating the foreigners who are supposed to be the guests of the Muslim state. Clearly, the intent is not only to harm the government domestically, but also to put it at odds with other nations too. Islamic jurisprudence known as Ahd al-Aman is very clear about providing protection of life and safety to non-Muslim civilians and the foreigners in Muslim countries. Hence any attacks against their life or property are forbidden in Islam.

For those who engineer conflicts to take shortcuts to the heavens through shahadat are advised to read Quran, which says, “Nor take life, which Allah has made sacred, except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, We have given his heir authority (to demand Qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the law).” (Al-Isra: 33)

Instead of resorting to violence Muslims are instructed to resolve their differences through peaceful means.  Quran is quite clear about how Muslims should resolve their differences.  It says, “And if two parties of believers fall to fighting, then make peace between them” (Al-Hujurat 49:9) Then Allah further elaborates in the next verse, “The believers are naught else than brothers. Therefore make peace between your brethren” (Al-Hujurat 49:10).

In light of Allah’s commands, it becomes incumbent upon each and every Muslim to shun the extremists who try to divide Muslims and impose their views them through fear and bloodshed, we need to counsel them by showing them how Allah has ordered us to resolve our differences through peaceful means and certainly not through violence.

Finally, for our benefit, Allah commands us not to let the mischievous ones force us to depart from the path of brotherhood, “Do not let your hatred of people who would debar you from the Sacred Mosque lead you into aggression; but rather help one another in furthering righteousness and piety, and do not help one another in furthering evil and aggression. Have fear of God, for God is severe in retribution.” (Al-Maidah 5:2)

Verily, Allah sees and knows all. He will certainly distinguish the true Shaheed from the wannabe.

Reader Comments:


Who is Shaheed Part 6
Cruelty on account of public
I came to A'isha to inquire something from her. She said: From which people art thou? I said: I am from the people of Egypt. She said: What was the behavior of your governor towards you in this war of yours? I said: We did not experience anything bad from him. If the camel of a man from us died, he would bestow on him a camel. If any one of us lost his slave, he would give him a slave. If anybody was in need of the basic necessities of life, he would provide them with provisions. She said: Behold! The treatment that was meted out to my brother, Muhammad b. Abu Bakr, does not prevent me from telling you what I heard from the Messenger of Allah. He said in this house of mine: O God, who (happens to) acquire some kind of control over the affairs of my people and is hard upon them-be Thou hard upon him, and who (happens to) acquire some kind of control over the affairs of my people and is kind to them-be Thou kind to him. (Book 20, Number 4494: Sahih Muslim)

Missing peoples, massacre of Karachi, destroying and demolishing Mosques while peoples were inside the Mosques and religious schools, is a cruelty or coward act. You will find no kindness right from economics to welfare; a total number of peoples killed from Oct. 1999 to date are more then Sept 1965 war.

Use of Public wealth
The Messenger of appointed a man in charge of Sadaqat. When he came (back), the Messenger of Allah asked him to render his account. He said: This wealth is for you (i.e. for the public treasury) and this is a gift (presented to me). The Messenger of Allah said: You should have remained in the house of your father and your mother, until your gift came to you if you spoke the truth; then he addressed us. He praised God and extolled Him, and afterwards said: I appoint a man from you to a responsible post sharing with the authority that God has entrusted to me, and he comes to me saying: This wealth is for you (i.e. for the public treasury) and this is a gift presented to me. Why did he not remain in the house of his father and his mother and his gift came to him, if he was truthful? By God, any one of you will not take anything from (the public funds) without any justification, but will meet his Lord carrying it on himself on the Day of Judgment. (Book 20, Number 4511 Sahih Muslim)
say: Whoso from you is appointed by us to a position of authority and he conceals from us a needle or something smaller than that, it would be misappropriation (of public funds) and will (have to) produce it on the Day of Judgment. (Book 20, Number 4514 Sahih Muslim)
What present Government is doing? Receiving loans and aid from foreign countries and not utilizing that money fairly. Ranking of Pakistan in corruption very high and it is considered un-civilized state. All the appointments on civilian post filled with retired Fauji’s are a kind of corruption by force. Sale of country’s assets and foreign visits on state expenses, even umra is performed on state expenses. This is worst example of misuse of sate funds etc. etc.
Authority is answerable to his affairs
Holy Prophet said: Beware. Every one of you is a shepherd and every one is answerable with regard to his flock. The Caliph is a shepherd over the people and shall be questioned about his subjects (as to how he conducted their affairs), (Book 20, Number 4496: Sahih Muslim)
Authority is answerable for his conduct, in Pakistan if any body may raise a question in public, next day agencies abduct the entire family. There is fear among citizens and humiliation to peoples is so high that NATZI Germany’s score is almost equal to atrocities committed by present Sheppard. Dictator considers him un-answerable to any other institution in the country by imposing fake laws.

Earthman, Pakistan - 31 July, 2007


Who is Shaheed Part 7
Hypocrite, liar, treacherous and impudent
The Prophet said, "Whoever has (the following) four characters will be a hypocrite, and whoever has one of the following four characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy until he gives it up. These are: (1) Whenever he talks, he tells a lie; (2) whenever he makes a promise, he breaks it; (3) whenever he makes a covenant he proves treacherous; (4) and whenever he quarrels, he behaves impudently in an evil insulting manner." (See Hadith No. 33 Vol. 1)
Who has above four characteristics? Think who showed two dogs to west? Who wrote in his book that his mother was a prize winner dancer? The person who has worst morale character could not be an authority in any sense.
Human life is sacred
and do not slay the soul sanctified by Allah except in just cause; this He has enjoined upon you so that you may understand; (Al-An'am: 151)
This means that human life, which has been declared inviolable by God, can only be destroyed for just cause. As for what is meant by 'just cause', we ought to remember that three cases are embodied in the Qur'an whereas two additional cases have been stated by the Prophet. The cases mentioned by the Qur'an are the following: (1) Tthat a man is convicted of deliberate homicide and thus the claim of retaliation is established against him.
(2) That someone resists the establishment of the true faith so that fighting against him might become necessary.
(3) That someone is guilty of spreading disorder in the Domain of Islam and strives to overthrow the Islamic order of government.
The two cases mentioned in the Hadith are:
(1) That a person commits illegitimate sexual intercourse even after marriage.
(2) That a Muslim is guilty of apostasy and rebellion against the Muslim body-politic.
Except for these five reasons, slaying a human being is not permissible, regardless of whether he is a believer, a protected non-Muslim (dhimmi) or an ordinary unbeliever.
Present regime is not an Islamic state, so item number 3 does not apply to any person neither present ruler has any Islamic authority. Now question is what law permits extra judicial killings, state terrorism and barbaric actions, no civilized society permits such type of killings. Peoples who are acting on behalf of state are equally responsible for their involvement in state terrorism for a few dollars of monthly salary or ranks. Such as extra judicial killing of Nawab Akbar Bugti, massacre of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa is the worst example of state terrorism. More over who burnt and tear off Quran, books of Ahadis and Islamic books with RPG and canons could not be Muslim. Later damaged Quran was thrown in dirty nullah, seen by thousand of peoples.
Invaders on House of Allah fired on the walls where sacred Ayah and names were printed. Minarets of Masjid were destroyed and excessive use of explosive caused Jamia Hafsa entirely ruined. Today on July 28, 2007 ARY showed images of bones of small children and their belongings on the heap of ruined Jamia Hafsa. A doctor is a witness who confirmed bones of minor children. So who committed above acts could not be Shaheed according to Islam, but state could count him killed in official duty. However each had a choice not to attack on a mosque and refuse order. There are many examples when Muslims refused to kill their own brethren or refused to attack on holy places.
Said, "A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection. "(Volume 3, Book 43, Number 639)
Muslims were so sold in the greediness of bounty; many innocent persons were sold for the sake of money to disbelievers. Victims are powerless and have no say to fight their case, however we have trust in God that one day each has to stay in queue for screening, it is also seen that God punished peoples in this world too.

Earthman, Pakistan - 31 July, 2007


Who is Shaheed Part 8
Who is true Shaheed according to Islam
Almighty Allah says: “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 wasteth not the wage of the believers.” (Al-Imran 3: 169-71)

Here “who are slain in the way of Allah”, surely there is no doubt that students of Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa, who is slain for Allah and others slain for Taghut. More over according to secular teachings religion is a personal matter; it is not a public, present regime which is flag bearer of vulgarism on the name of moderation, has no morale value to consider any body Shaheed because according to them religion is a personal matter. Then why only vulgarize columnist are pleading agressors as Shaheed.
Neither present regime has any ability to represent Islamic state as an authority over Muslims as referred in Al-Nisa: 59. It is illegal government without any constitutional backing in Pakistan, except imposition of some orders on gun point. More over this government has committed serious crimes against humanity, any international charter of Human Rights.
Students and teachers who are killed were innocent and Martyr (Shaheed) according to true Islamic spirit.
Invaders who blocked water, electricity, humiliated dead bodies, burn bodies and used nerve gases, chemicals, abducted and imprisoned innocent students, thousand still missing. Invaders are not being Shaheed at all according to Islamic and teachings of any religion, their actions are immoral, illegal and those will be thrown in hell by obeying illegitimate orders of the Dictator.
Peoples who are praying for them are hypocrites and tyrants who are saying students were militants are also trangressors.

Earthman - Pakistan

Earthman, Pakistan - 31 July, 2007

Adnan Gill's article from Thursday July 26, 2007 ; Shaheed vs. Shaheed must be read by all those religious leaders and self styled custodians of Islam who are the real cause of extremism coming from diverse movements. I have often wondered why a religious authority in the Muslim world would not tell the ordinary people and media that no one can be called Shaheed until and unless a life is lost in the noble cause of resisting aggression. I am shocked at the liberity Muslims take in pronouncing those persons Shaheed who died in road accidents, blew themselves in terrorist actions or died in a fight against police or army. I think that there is wide soread ignorance among the Muslims about their own faith. They do read holy scriptures but do not know, what it means and thus are victim of half literate scholars who have their own political agenda. "Keep the masses ignorant if you want them to listen" seems to be the order of the day. Since this is the reality of the day, no wonder, non-Muslims dislike our norms and even are afraid of our religion. It is painful to say but as long as we Muslims do not wish to face the cruel facts, it would be difficult to convince others that Islam means Peace.

Bashy Quraishy, Czech Republic - 31 July, 2007

Great article

Great article on Shahadat. Really liked it , very fair, to point and brief.
Could you also shed some light on "The Infidel and Islam"

Johar, Pakistan - 21 August, 2007

Congratulations and Thanks Intnl Professor

Wonderful piece of work!
You said all what should have been said.
Quba-e-noor se saj kar
Lahoo se ba wadoo ho kar
Wo pohnchay bargahe Haq Main
kasay surkhroo hokar

Amjad, Pakistan - 03 September, 2007

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