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Zaynab with the body of Husayn

On Martyrdom

Added Feb 22, 2004 (2nd Muharram)

The word "shahid" (martyr) means "witness", in the sense of one who is a witness to the Truth of God as manifested in the Qur'an, in history, in the world, and within one's own self. It describes a type of person who has clearly understood the deep distinction between truth and falsehood and who, by the example of his life and the manner of his death becomes a criterion (furqan), a standard of judgement between right and wrong. By fulfilling the principles of The Criterion (that is, the Holy Qur'an) in his life, he becomes an example of principle put into practice, of ideology transformed into reality. Both his life and his death witness to the Truth of the Qur'an as both are a reflection of the principles found therein. "Surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are (all) for Allah, the Lord of the worlds." (Qur'an 6:162)

The heart of the word is in the act of witnessing. Yet a man cannot be a witness to Truth unless he has recognized, understood, and made it a part of himself, of his personality and of his very being. So hand in hand with the concept of shahid there is the unavoidable implication that one has achieved a "consciousness" (taqwa) of God and of what he has commanded. This consciousness then leads to an awareness of existing conditions in the world and the will, the perserverance, the patience, and the knowledge to transform these conditions and bring them into a balanced confluence with Truth.

It is a movement from inner realization of Truth to the outer fulfillment of it. Without the first, there cannot be the second. A person cannot be an accurate witness to a process or event of which he has no understanding. The deeper the understanding, the greater the value of the Witness becomes. And the greater the value of a thing, the more keenly its loss is felt. Yet the paradox is that it is precisely those who have the greatest worth (in the sense of knowledge, correct understanding, and correct practice) who are the most acutely aware of their responsibility as Muslims...and these are the ones who carry out their submission even to death.

There are few men in history who had a greater right to live, a greater worth than Imam Husain (a.s.) yet it was he who made the sacrifice and fulfilled the duty of witnessing to the truth in a time when the truth was being distorted and twisted by a regime (the Umayaads) who wore Islam as a mask (using it only as a means to power and wealth) and used the Qur'an as a wrapping to conceal their inner corruption.

The lesson taught by the martyrs of history is one of vital importance to the ummah of today. The actions of a shahid are a microcosm of the principles found in the Qur'an. It is the martyrs who bring these values into focus and who, through their blood, revitalize a stagnant and fearful ummah. This is why the Qur'an bestows upon the martyr such a high and noble standing within Islam and before God. They have lost their lives, their physical bodies but have given fresh impetus to the Truth of Islam and have themselves become a standard and ideal for future generations.

- Irshaad Hussain

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Commemorating Martyrdom

Remembering the Martyrs

Battle of Badr

Mourning Husayn (On Matam)

Tawil of Karbala


Martyrdom (Looking in the direction of God)

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