Shahid (شَهيد , plural: شُهَداء ) is an Arabic word meaning "witness". It is a religious term in Islam, meaning "witness", as stated, but most often "martyr." It is used as a title for Muslims who have died fulfilling a religious commandment, or waging war for Islam. The term has also been used in this narrower sense by Arab Christians and by some Hindus and Sikhs. The shahid is considered one whose place in Paradise is promised according to these verses in the Qur'an: Islam's prophet Muhammad is told to have said these words about Martyrs:
The first Martyr in Islam actually was a woman. Ibn Hijr says in his book Al-Isaabah fi Tamyeez al-Sahaabah, where he gives a biography of Sumayyah bint Khayyat:
“The daughter of Khabbaat and the mother of ‘Ammaar ibn Yaasir, she was the seventh person to enter Islam. She was tortured by Abu Jahl who stabbed her in her private parts, and she died. She was the first shaheedah (martyr) in Islaam… Al-Mujaahid said: The first seven to publicly declare their Islam in Makkah were: the Messenger of Allah , Abu Bakr, Bilaal, Khabbaab, Suhayb, ‘Ammaar and Sumaya. The Messenger of Allah and Abu Bakr were protected by their own people, but the others were forced to wear iron shields then were exposed to the burning sun. Abu Jahl came to Sumaya and stabbed her in her private parts, killing her. This was reported by Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shaybah from Mujaahid; it is mursal and its isnaad is saheeh. Ibn Sa’d reported with a saheeh isnaad from Mujaahid: The first martyr in Islam was Sumayah, the mother of ‘Ammaar ibn Yaasir. She was an old, weak woman (according to a report narrated by al-Bayhaqi: Abu Jahl stabbed her in her private parts. Al-Dalaa’il, 2/282). When Abu Jahl was killed on the day of Badr, the Prophet said (to ‘Ammaar): ‘Allah has killed the one who killed your mother.’” (al-Isaabah, 4/327; al-Bidaayah wa’l-Nihaayah by Ibn Katheer, 3/59).
In the 20th century, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran emphasized the importance of martyrdom among Muslims, in the Iranian Revolution he led and later in the Iran–Iraq War his Islamic republic fought against its Arab nationalist neighbor, Iraq. While the sacrifice of lives by large numbers of Iranian youth did not bring victory to Iran, suicide martyrs were much more successful on another occasion, during the devastating civil war between Muslim and Christian militias in Lebanon.
In October 1983 a suicide truck bomb blew up the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Americans. American president Ronald Reagan responding by withdrawing all U.S. troops from Lebanon. Thus the killing is said to have "changed the face of terror" , creating a new type of shaheed in Islam where "the Mujahid's death is a necessary and essential part of his act, not just an incidental cost."
It should also be mentioned that there are many different means by which a Muslim can obtain martyrdom and there are grades of greatness in them. Some pertain specifically to women while others pertain to both men and women.
A woman can obtain martyrdom by the following means: Dying while giving birth, from post natal bleeding, and while the child is still in her womb.
Both men and women can obtain martyrdom by the following means: While guarding the territory of Islam or the territory of Muslims, by falling from his mount while riding to battle or by falling from his mount, on her death bed while striving in the path of Allah, due to the collapse of a building on him while he is still trapped inside, dies by being attacked by a beast, dies while being a stranger in a new land or place, from a stomach ailment.
It is mentioned in a hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah according to which Muhammad said: “The shuhadaa’ are five: the one who dies of plague, the one who dies of a stomach disease, the one who drowns, the one who is crushed by a falling wall, and the one who is killed for the sake of Allah.” This was narrated by Maalik in al-Muwatta’, and by al-Bukhaari.
Raashid ibn Hubaysh narrated that Muhammad entered upon ‘Ubaadah ibn al-Saamit when he was sick and said, “Do you know who is a shaheed (martyr) in my ummah?” The people remained silent, then ‘Ubaadah said, “Help me to sit up.” They helped him to sit up, then he said, “O Messenger of Allah, (is it) the patient one who seeks reward from Allah for his patience?” Muhammad said, “Then the martyrs among my ummah would be very few. Being killed for the sake of Allah is martyrdom, the plague is martyrdom, drowning is martyrdom, stomach disease is martyrdom, and if a woman dies during the post-partum period, her child will drag her to Paradise by his umbilical cord.” The umbilical cord is that which is cut by the midwife when the child is born. The hadeeth was narrated by Imaam Ahmad in his Musnad with a saheeh isnaad. (Al-Musnad, 3/489). There is a corroborating report narrated by Maalik (1/233) and Abu Dawood, 3/482).
‘Ubaadah ibn al-Saamit also narrated that Muhammad said, “Who is counted as a shaheed among you?” They said, “The one who fights and is killed for the sake of Allah.” Muhammad said: “Then the shaheeds among my ummah would be few. The one who is killed for the sake of Allah is a shaheed; the one who dies of plague is a shaheed; the one who dies of a stomach disease is a shaheed; the woman who dies with a child in her womb is a shaheed.” This was narrated by Imaam Ahmad, 5/315, and by Ibn Maajah, and by Ibn Hibbaan in his Saheeh, who said its isnaad is saheeh. A report with a similar meaning was narrated by Muslim, as referred to above.
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