In This Article Martyrdom (Shahada)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Legal Discussions of Martyrdom
  • Scholarship on Martyrdom
  • Scholarship
  • Contemporary Martyrdom Operations
  • Debates Concerning Martyrdom Operations
  • Martyrdom and Theater Production

Islamic Studies Martyrdom (Shahada)
by
David Cook
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 October 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0124

Introduction

The word shahid (plural shahada) has the meaning of “martyr” and is closely related in its development to the Greek martyrios in that it means both a witness and a martyr (i.e., a person who suffers or dies deliberately for the sake of affirming the truth of a belief system). Although shahid in the first sense occurs frequently in the Qurʾan, in the latter sense only once is it attested (3:141). In the Hadith literature, and most especially in the subset of the jihad literature that was parallel to it, the term is frequently used, and it gradually makes an appearance in the historical and literary texts as well. Martyrdom in Sunni Islam, other than the very earliest period of persecution by the polytheists of Mecca, has been closely associated with death in battle. Other forms of death or suffering, such as enduring plagues, suffering persecution for theological issues (the mihna, 833–861 CE, for example), and a wide range of other less-accepted circumstances have also been considered to generate martyrdom. In general, the attitude of the Sunni Muslim toward martyrdom has been a positive one, and inside the literature on martyrdom there are rewards that are specific to the martyr as opposed to other Muslims. However, the balance of martyrdom literature and narratives has not been created by Sunnis, but by Shiʿites who hark back to the violent and tragic deaths of many of the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad during the first three centuries of Islam and most especially to the martyrdoms of the fourth caliph ʿAli ibn Abi Talib (reigned 656–661) and his younger son al-Husayn (d. 680). The martyrdom of al-Husayn near the Iraqi town of Karbala at the hands of Umayyad governmental forces sent to kill him is the single most dramatic martyrdom in Islam. For Shiʿites it is the epitome of the cruelty of the opponents of Muhammad’s blood descendants, and it is a stain that can never be fully removed from the collective consciousness. Every year this guilt is expiated to some degree on the anniversary of al-Husayn’s martyrdom during the tenth of the Islamic month Muharram—an event that is frequently dramatized by Shiʿite communities worldwide. Although Sunnis do not fixate upon the martyrdom of al-Husayn, many consider him to have been unjustly slain, and they have also preserved a rich literature concerning his death. After the classical period, most martyrdom material focuses upon the role of Sufis, who were occasionally martyred for their beliefs (achieving their goal of mystical union with God, their beloved). Additionally, Sufis frequently proclaimed Islam in the regions bordering upon the world of Islam, and they were sometimes slain by those they sought to convert. If the region in which they were killed eventually converted to Islam, then those early Sufi missionaries would be remembered by the new Muslim community as martyrs, as frequently happened in India, central Asia, and Africa. Sufis oftentimes referred to themselves as “martyrs of love,” as they were willing to be martyred for the sake of their beloved (God), but there was a whole category of love martyrs that were of a literary nature, based upon the tradition “whoever loves truly, keeps chaste, and dies for it, is a martyr.” Literary martyrdoms of this type, the most famous of which was that of Majnun and his beloved Layla (historically during the 8th century), often through repeated retellings became associated with Sufism. Contemporary martyrdom is closely associated with nationalistic resistance movements in the Muslim world and most especially with that of the Palestinians (1948–present). However, there exist martyrologies associated with specific groups on the Internet in great quantities (only a few will be surveyed here). Most contemporary discussions of martyrdom cover its most problematic manifestation, which is the suicide attack. The legal literature discussing this phenomenon—either its pros or cons—is extensive, and it has attracted more outside analysis and polemic than any other subject within the overall genre of Islamic martyrdom.

General Overviews

There has been very little work done on general overviews of the subject of martyrdom. Cook 2007 provides the principal general survey. The best concise overviews are articles in encyclopedias, such as Kohlberg 1997, while Raven 2003, in the Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān, focuses more upon the Qurʾanic references to martyrdom. Madelung, et al. 2004 focuses exclusively upon the figure of al-Husayn. Musabbihi 2008 gives a traditional overview of the Hadith literature.

  • Cook, David. Martyrdom in Islam. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511810688E-mail Citation »

    A general survey of the topic of martyrdom in Islam until the early 21st century.

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    • Kohlberg, Etan. “Shahid.” In Encyclopedia of Islam. Vol. 9. 2d ed. Edited by P. Bearman, T. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs, 203–207. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1997.

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      A very competent introduction primarily aimed at the specialized audience knowing Arabic.

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      • Madelung, Wilferd, Jean Calmard, and Peter Chelkowski. “Ḥosayn B. ʿAli.” In Encyclopaedia Iranica. Vol. 12. Edited by Ehsan Yarshater, 493–506. London: Routledge, 2004.

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        A series of articles on al-Husayn, his martyrdom in the classical period, how the cult associated with him developed, and how he is remembered in the early 21st century.

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        • Musabbihi, ʿAdil Jasim. Al-Shahīd fī al-sunna al-Nabawīyah min wāqiʿ al-kutub al-sitta. Kuwait: Maktabat al-Imam al-Dhahabi, 2008.

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          A good overview of the martyr through the Hadith literature.

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          • Raven, Wim. “Martyrs.” In Encyclopedia of the Qurʾān. Vol. 3. Edited by Jane Dammen McAuliffe, 281–287. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

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            A very well-written introduction to the concept of martyrdom as it relates to the Qurʾan.

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            Classical Works on Martyrdom (Jihad)

            For Muslims, martyrdom was largely a subset of the overall genre of jihad, or warfare with divine sanction. Most classical works on Hadith (tradition) contain some materials on the subject of martyrdom under the rubric of jihad; however, these citations are extremely abbreviated.

            Jihad Collections

            These collections, especially that of Ibn al-Mubarak 1971, are fundamental in the creation of the martyrdom mythology in classical Islam, which is vastly expanded by Ibn al-Nahhas al-Dumyati 2002. Al-Biqaʾi 2002 is very traditional and merely gives the citations with minimal commentary.

            • al-Biqaʾi, Ibrahim. Al-Istishhād bi āyāt al-jihād. Cairo: Dar al-risala, 2002.

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              A collection of the Qurʾanic verses on jihad and martyrdom.

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              • Ibn al-Mubarak, ʿAbdallah. Kitāb al-jihād. Edited by Nazih Hammad. Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risalah, 1971.

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                The earliest collection of jihad materials and fundamental to the study of martyrdom, albeit without any organization of the material.

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                • Ibn al-Nahhas al-Dumyati, Ahmad b. Ibrahim. Mashariʿ al-ashwaq ila masariʿ al- ʿushshaq fi al-jihad wa-fadaʾilihi. Edited by Durish Muhammad ʿAli and Muhammad Khalid Istambuli. Beirut: Dar al-Basha ʾir al-Islamiyya, 2002.

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                  The largest collection of classical jihad traditions with extensive sections on martyrdom and discussions of the legal ramifications and rewards for martyrdom.

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                  Specific Works on Martyrdom

                  Works specifically on martyrdom from either the classical or the contemporary period are comparatively rare. Al-Suyuti 1987 is the best classical collection of Hadith on the subject. ʿAbd al-Rahim 1985 is a classicizing collection along the traditional lines of “forty traditions” on a given subject.

                  • ʿAbd al-Rahim, Muhammad. Arba’un hadithan fi fadl al-shahid wa-l-shahada. Damascus: al-Halbuni, 1985.

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                    A general collection of classical Hadith by a modern author bringing together a great many important traditions.

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                    • al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Din. Abwāb al-saʻāda fī asbāb al-šahāda. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1987.

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                      A general collection of Hadiths pertaining to martyrdom in all of its manifestations. Essential but elliptical for the first-time researcher.

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                      Classical Martyrologies

                      Martyrologies, or works devoted to the enumeration and hagiography of martyrs, are comparatively rare in Islam outside of the works devoted specifically to the figure of al-Husayn. In general, the conception of martyrdom that is revealed by these books is much broader in Sunnism, where one finds material concerning those who were persecuted for their beliefs but did not actually die (such as Ahmad b. Hanbal), while in Shiʿism the focus is almost exclusively upon the family of Muhammad. There exists no general list of all of the martyrs of Islam, and because of the sectarian divide, there is no consensus as to who exactly is a martyr.

                      Sunni Martyrologies

                      Sunni martyrologies are usually closely related to the historical material (e.g., al-Azdi 2000, al-Azdi 2010), or they are praise literature designed to highlight the virtues of the martyr under discussion, such as Ibn al-Jawzi 1931. Al-Maliqi al-Ashaʾri 1985 gives the story of the murder of the caliph ʿUthman (from a Sunni perspective). Al-Tamimi 1988 is by far the largest Sunni martyrology, although not all of the people listed in it were actually killed. Ibn Abi al-Dunya 2001 follows the pattern of Lut ibn Yahya ibn Mikhnaf al-Azdi and tells the story of the assassination of ʿAli ibn Abi Talib (661), while al-Tabari 1997 gives the account of the murder of al-Husayn (from a Sunni perspective), and Ibn Hanbal 1997 tells the story of the trials of his father, Ahmad b. Hanbal. Lahham 1978 is a modern and unique account of the first female martyr in Islam.

                      • al-Azdi, Lut ibn Yahya ibn Mikhnaf. Kitāb Akhbār al-Mukhtār ibn Abī ʿUbayd al-Thaqafī. Edited by Kamil Sulayman al-Jaburi. Beirut: Dar al-Mahajja al-Baydaʾ, 2000.

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                        A short account of the martyrdom of the avenger of al-Husayn.

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                        • al-Azdi, Lut ibn Yahya ibn Mikhnaf. Kitāb maqtal al-imām al-Husayn ibn ʿAli. Cologne: Manshurat al-Jamal, 2010.

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                          A Sunni account of the murder of al-Husayn in a scholarly edition. Originally published as Kitab maqtal al-Husayn, edited by al-Hasan al-Ghifari (Qom, Iran: Chapkhan-i ‘Ilmiyya, 1342 AH/1923 CE).

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                          • Ibn Abi al-Dunya, ‘Abdallah b. Muhammad. Kitāb Maqtal Amīr al-muʾminīn. Edited by Ibrahim Salih. Damascus: Dar al-Bashaʾir, 2001.

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                            A Sunni account of the martyrdom of ʿAli ibn Abi Talib.

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                            • Ibn Hanbal, Salih b. Ahmad. Sīrat al-Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal. Edited by Muhammad al-Zaghli. Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1997.

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                              A hagiographical account of the life of Ahmad b. Hanbal, including his torture at the hands of the mihna.

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                              • Ibn al-Jawzi, Abu al-Faraj ‘Abd al-Rahman. Manāqib al-Imām Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal. 2d ed. Edited by Muhammad Amin al-Khanji al-Kutbi. Beirut: Khanji wa-Hamdan, 1931.

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                                A later hagiographical account of the torture of Ahmad b. Hanbal.

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                                • Lahham, Hanan. Sumayya bint Khayyat: Al-Shahida al-ula. Damascus: Dar al-Thaqafa, 1978.

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                                  A contemporary summary of the classical material on the first woman martyr.

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                                  • al-Maliqi al-Ashaʾri, Muhammad ibn Yahya. Al-Tamhīd wa-l-bayān fī maqtal aš-šahīd ʿUṯmān. Edited by Muhammad Yusuf Zaʾid. al-Dawha. Ad-Dauha, Palestine: Dar al-Thaqafa, 1985.

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                                    An account of the martyrdom of the caliph ʿUthman (d. 656) from a pro-Umayyad point of view.

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                                    • al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir. Istishhād al-Husayn. Beirut: Dar al-Kitab al-ʿArabi, 1997.

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                                      An early collection of the martyrdom of al-Husayn. Published with Ibn Taymiyya’s Ra’s al-Husayn.

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                                      • al-Tamimi, Muhammad ibn Ahmad. Kitāb al-Miḥan. Edited by Yahya al-Juburi. Beirut: Dar al-Gharb al-Islami, 1988.

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                                        The largest collection of Sunni martyrdom narratives (not all of them involving death), focusing upon the persecution of prominent religious leaders by the Umayyads and the Abbasids.

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                                        Shiʿite Martyrologies

                                        Shiʿite martyrologies are designed with more ritualistic and hagiographic needs in mind, such as that of al-Kashifi 2000–2001, and they often serve as the basis for the taʿziya (passion play) commemoration ceremonies. Al-Isfahani 1987 is the basic martyrology for the descendants of Muhammad, and al-Isfaraʾini 1960 focuses on the killing of al-Husayn at Karbala, which is vastly expanded in al-Kashifi 2000–2001 (probably the most important medieval source for contemporary Shiʿite piety regarding al-Husayn) and al-Darbandi 2009. Al-Tarsusi 2001 gives a popular account of the martyrdom of Abu Muslim from the Safavid period, which although not strictly speaking important in Shiʿism was influential during the 16th and 17th centuries. Günther 1994 is a scholarly discussion of this type of literature.

                                        • al-Darbandi, Agha b. ʿAbdin. Iksīr al-ʿibādāt fī Asrār al-shahādāt. 3 vols. Edited by Muhammad Jumaʾ. Beirut: Dar al-Safwa, 2009.

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                                          A late collection of popular tales concerning the martyrdom of al-Husayn.

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                                          • Günther, Sebastian. “Maqâtil Literature in Medieval Islam.” Journal of Arabic Literature 25.3 (1994): 192–212.

                                            DOI: 10.1163/157006494X00103E-mail Citation »

                                            A summary and discussion of the genre of martyrdom literature and its problems from a literary point of view.

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                                            • al-Isfahani, Abu al-Faraj. Maqātil al-Ṭālibiyyīn. Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Aʾlami li-l-Matbuʾat, 1987.

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                                              Probably the most comprehensive account of the martyrdoms of Muhammad’s family and descendants. Although not written by a Shiʿite, the viewpoint is extremely sympathetic to Shiʿism.

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                                              • al-Isfaraʾini, Abu Ishaq Ibrahim b. Muhammad. Nur al-ʾayn fi mashhad al-Husayn wa-yalihi Qurrat al-ʾayn fi akhdh tha’r al-Husayn. Tunis: Matba’at al-Manar, 1960.

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                                                A fundamental account of the martyrdom of al-Husayn.

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                                                • al-Kashifi, Mullah Husayn Va’iz. Rawz̤at al-shuhadāʾ. Edited by Hajj Shaykh Abu al-Hasan Sh’irani. Qom, Iran: Daftar-i Nashr-i Navid-i Islam, 2000–2001.

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                                                  One of the most influential books on martyrdom in the Shiʿite tradition, it forms the basis for many taʿziya (passion play) narratives. Contains a wealth of material on the martyrdom of al-Husayn in Farsi.

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                                                  • al-Tarsusi, Abu Tahir. Abū Muslimnāma. 4 vols. Edited by Hossein Esmaili. Tehran: Institut Français de Recherche en Iran, 2001.

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                                                    A popular hagiographic account of the martyrdom of Abu Muslim (d. 754), the great Abbasid general, who is turned into a Shiʿite and made into the hero of Iran. Important during the Safavid period for the conversion of Iran to Shiʿism.

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                                                    Legal Discussions of Martyrdom

                                                    The classical and contemporary material on the legal issues of martyrdom is sparse, and it is never the subject of an entire book. Abedi and Legenhausen 1986 provides selections from the relevant literature. Comparatively speaking, legal discussions of martyrdom are much more plentiful.

                                                    • Abedi, Mehdi, and Gary Legenhausen, eds. and trans. Jihad and Shahadat: Struggle and Martyrdom in Islam. Houston, TX: Institute for Research and Islamic Studies, 1986.

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                                                      A collection of translated articles by major Shiʿite religious figures (Ayatullah Mahmud Taleqani, Ayatullah Murtada Mutahhari, ʿAli Shariʾati) on the subject of martyrdom.

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                                                      Scholarship on Martyrdom

                                                      Most scholarly work on martyrdom has focused upon Shiʿism, such as Kohlberg 1976, or has analyzed the classical pedigree for contemporary suicide attacks, such as Freamon 2003. Ayoub 1978 and Wensinck 1921 are the most comprehensive and groundbreaking discussions of martyrdom. Kohlberg 1976 gives the Shiʿite legal background, while Kohlberg 1997 provides general discussions and Kohlberg 2005 thematic discussions concerning the development of interesting lines of martyrdom legends concerning Muhammad. Morabia 1993 and Denaro 2006 are general discussions that focus upon jihad and martyrdom, respectively. Rosenthal 1946 is the only serious work on suicide in Islam.

                                                      • Ayoub, Mahmoud. Redemptive Suffering in Islām: A Study of the Devotional Aspects of the ʿĀshūrāʾ in Twelver Shīʿism. The Hague: Mouton, 1978.

                                                        DOI: 10.1515/9783110803310E-mail Citation »

                                                        A basic work on the subject of martyrdom and its meaning in Shiʿite Islam.

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                                                        • Denaro, Roberta. Dal martire allo šahid: Fonti, problem confronti per una martirografia islamica. Rome: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 2006.

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                                                          A general history of Islamic martyrdom.

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                                                          • Freamon, Bernard Kenneth. “Martyrdom, Suicide, and the Islamic Law of War: A Short Legal History.” Fordham International Law Journal 27 (2003): 299–369.

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                                                            One of the most impressive surveys of the legal literature on martyrdom ever penned.

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                                                            • Kohlberg, Etan. “The Development of the Imami Shiʿi Doctrine of Jihad.” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 126 (1976): 64–86.

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                                                              A fundamental discussion of Shiʿite jihad containing a great deal of valuable material about martyrdom. Reprinted in the author’s Belief and Law in Shiʿite Islam (Aldershot, UK: Variorum, 1991).

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                                                              • Kohlberg, Etan. “Medieval Muslim Views on Martyrdom.” Mededelingen der Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen 60 (1997): 281–307.

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                                                                A summary of classical perspectives on martyrdom mainly focusing upon Shiʿism. Also published as “Martyrdom and Self-Sacrifice in Classical Islam,” Pe’amim 75 (1998): 5–26 (in Hebrew).

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                                                                • Kohlberg, Etan. “The Image of the Prophet Muhammad as a shahid.” In ‘Iyyunim ba-Islam ha-kadum: Devarim she-ne’emru bi-yom ‘iyyun li-kvod Meir Y. Kister bi-melaot lo tishi’im shana. By Etan Kohlberg, 45–71. Jerusalem: Ha-Akademiya ha-Leumit ha-Yisraelit la-Mada’im, 2005.

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                                                                  A groundbreaking article on the transformation of the Prophet Muhammad into a martyr according to some legends. In Hebrew.

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                                                                  • Morabia, Alfred. Le Ğihâd dans l’Islam médiéval: Le “combat sacré” des origines au XIe siècle. Paris: Albin Michel, 1993.

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                                                                    A very comprehensive and thoughtful discussion of the development of jihad.

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                                                                    • Rosenthal, Franz. “On Suicide in Islam.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 66.3 (1946): 239–259.

                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/595571E-mail Citation »

                                                                      A fundamental article collecting a great many accounts of suicide from the classical literature.

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                                                                      • Wensinck, A. J. “The Oriental Doctrine of the Martyrs.” Mededeelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen, Afdeeling Letterkunde 53.6 (1921): 147–174.

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                                                                        Dated but still useful summary of the dogma of martyrdom.

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                                                                        Classical Works on Martyrdom (Non-jihad)

                                                                        Nonviolent martyrdom has a good many classical sources, but it has not attracted very much scholarly attention. The martyrdom envisioned here is either of a personal nature (those who have perished on account of love) or a passive nature (those who have died in plagues). In the early 21st century individuals in these categories are not often considered to have been true martyrs, and with the exception of literary figures such as Layla and Majnun they are mostly forgotten.

                                                                        Martyrs of Love

                                                                        The classical collections on martyrdom are mostly of an anecdotal nature, the most popular being al-Antaki 2002, which includes a vast collection of anecdotes, and al-Kharaʾiti 2001 and al-Sarraj al-Qari 1998, which are smaller and older. All of these have the basic theme that love is attained through struggle and suffering. Mughaltay 1997 is focused upon literary anecdotes. Al-Ghumari 1996 reflects the contemporary skepticism concerning the martyrs of love from a religious point of view.

                                                                        • al-Antaki, Daʾud ibn ʿUmar. Tazyīn al-aswāq bi-tafṣīl ashwāq al-ʿushshāq. Edited by Ayman ʿAbd al-Jabir al-Buhayri. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 2002.

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                                                                          The largest collection of classical love stories containing a number of martyrs of love.

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                                                                          • al-Ghumari, Ahmad ibn al-Siddiq. Darʾ al-duʾf ʿan hadith man ʿashiqa fa-ʾaffa. Edited by Iyyad Ahmad al-Ghawj. Cairo: Dar al-Mustafa, 1996.

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                                                                            A contemporary scholar attacking the idea of the existence of the martyr of love.

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                                                                            • al-Kharaʾiti, Muhammad b. Jaʾfar. Iʿtilāl al-qulūb fī akhbār al- ʿushshāq wa-al-muḥibbīn. Edited by Gharid al-Shaykh. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 2001.

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                                                                              Stories of lovers including a selection of love martyrs from an early period.

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                                                                              • Mughaltay ibn Qulayj al-Hakari al-Hanafi. Al-Wāḍiḥ al-mubīn fī dhikr man istashhada min al-muḥibbīn. Beirut: al-Intishar al-ʿArabi, 1997.

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                                                                                A fundamental and very readable selection of more than 150 martyrs of love.

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                                                                                • al-Sarraj al-Qari, Jaʾfar. Maṣāriʾ al-ʿushshāq. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1998.

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                                                                                  A good selection of the stories of lovers struggling to be with their beloved.

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                                                                                  Martyrs of Plague

                                                                                  Plague martyrs are those who were willing to stay in an area afflicted by the plague and die as a result. Plague studies, such as Van Ess 2001, are in their infancy, although Conrad 1996 gives a thorough survey. Al-Suyuti 1997 is a major classical source.

                                                                                  • Conrad, Lawrence. “Die Pest und ihr soziales Umfeld in Nahen Osten im frühen Mittelalters.” Der Islam 73 (1996): 81–112.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1515/islm.1996.73.1.81E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    The fundamental article on the plague and its martyrs.

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                                                                                    • al-Suyuti, Jalal al-Din. Mā rawāhu al-wāʿūn fī akhbār al-ṭāʿūn. Edited by Muhammad ʿAli al-Baz. Damascus: Dar al-Qalam, 1997.

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                                                                                      The major classical plague treatise covering martyrs in plagues.

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                                                                                      • van Ess, Josef. Der Fehltritt der Gelehrten: Die “Pest von Emmaus” und ihre theologischen Nachspiele. Heidelberg, Germany: Winter, 2001.

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                                                                                        The fundamental study on the subject.

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                                                                                        Sufi Martyrs

                                                                                        Sufi martyrs such as al-Hallaj (see Massignon 1982) are the primary foci of the broader Muslim world’s martyrologies. Discussions such as Çelebi 1984 and Jones 1985 provide hagiographical accounts, while Bianquis 1974 and Tortel 1997 provide scholarly discussions of the significance of these martyrdoms. Lewisohn 1999 is more theoretical and discursive concerning martyrdom, while Pathan 1985 and Damant 1874 give historical background to South Asian martyrologies.

                                                                                        • Bianquis, Thierry. “Ibn al-Nabulusi: Un martyr Sunnite au IVe siècle de l’hégire.” Annales Islamologiques 12 (1974): 45–66.

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                                                                                          An important Sunni-Sufi martyr of the late period.

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                                                                                          • Çelebi, Elvan. Menâkıbu’l-kudsiyye fî menâsıbi’l-ünsiyye: Baba İlyas-ı Horasânî ve sülâlesinin menkabevî tarihi. Edited by Ismail Erunsal and A. Yasar Ocak. Istanbul: Edebiyat Fakultesi Matbaasi, 1984.

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                                                                                            A Turkish hagiography of Sufi martyrs.

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                                                                                            • Damant, G. H., ed. and trans. “Risalat ush-Shuhada’ of Pir Muhammad Shattari.” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (1874): 215–240.

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                                                                                              Indian martyrdom in Farsi.

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                                                                                              • Jones, Russell, trans. Hikayat Sultan Ibrahim ibn Adham: An Edition of an Anonymous Malay Text with Translation and Notes. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985.

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                                                                                                A Southeast Asian text on martyrdom.

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                                                                                                • Lewisohn, Leonard. “In Quest of Annihilation: Imaginalization and Mystical Death in the Tamhidat of ʿAyn al-Qudat al-Hamadhani.” In The Heritage of Sufism. Vol. 1, Classical Persian Surism: From Its Origins to Rumi (700–1300). Edited by Leonard Lewisohn, 285–336. Oxford: Oneworld, 1999.

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                                                                                                  One of the lesser-known Sufi martyrs from the middle Islamic period.

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                                                                                                  • Massignon, Louis. The Passion of al-Hallāj: Mystic and Martyr of Islam. 4 vols. Translated by Herbert Mason. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982.

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                                                                                                    Probably the best-known work on the most famous Sufi martyr containing a thorough discussion of the sources and analyzed from a comparative point of view. Although dated in some regards, it is still valuable and provocative.

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                                                                                                    • Pathan, Mumtaz Husain. “Sufi Shah ʿInayat Shahid of Sind.” Islamic Culture 59 (1985): 65–70.

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                                                                                                      Discussion of a little-known Sufi martyr.

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                                                                                                      • Tortel, Christiane. “Loi islamique et haine impériale: Sarmad Shahîd Kâshânî, poéte mystique et martyr (d. 1659).” Revue de l’histoire des Religions 214 (1997): 431–466.

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                                                                                                        A later Iranian martyr.

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                                                                                                        Literary Martyrdom

                                                                                                        The story of Layla and Majnun in its original form (Ibn al-Mibrad 1994) forms the basis for this Romeo and Juliet–like popular tale that has been translated into Persian (Nizami Ganjavi 2001) and Turkish (Fuzuli 1987). Gelpke 1997 analyzes the story in Nizami.

                                                                                                        • Fuzuli, Mehmet b. Sulayman. Hadikatü’s-sü’eda. Ankara, Turkey: Kultur ve Turzim Bakanligi, 1987.

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                                                                                                          A Turkish hagiography closely related to the author’s Leyla and Mejnun, translated by Sofi Huri and Alessio Bombaci (London: Allen and Unwin, 1970). A fundamental text.

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                                                                                                          • Gelpke, Rudolf, trans. The Story of Layla and Majnun by Nizami. In collaboration with E. Mattin and G. Hill. New Lebanon, NY: Omega, 1997.

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                                                                                                            Discussion of the well-known Layla and Majnun story. Reprint.

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                                                                                                            • Ibn al-Mibrad, Yusuf b. Hasan. Nuzhat al-musāmir fī akhbār majnūn Banī ʿĀmir. Beirut: ʿAlam al-Kutub, 1994.

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                                                                                                              Literary anecdotes concerning Majnun.

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                                                                                                              • Nizami Ganjavi, Abu Muhammad Ilyas b. Yusuf b. Zaki Muʾayyad. Layla va-Majnun. Edited by Hasan Vahid Dostgirdi. Tehran: Qatra, 2001.

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                                                                                                                The Persian version of the Layla and Majnun story. English version translated by Colin Turner as Layla and Majnun (London: Blake, 1997).

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                                                                                                                Anticolonial Martyrdom

                                                                                                                Suicide attacks against European colonialists have been little explored, but Dale 1988 provides one of the few analyses of the subject. Al-Tibi 1994 combs Sayyid Qutb’s vast Fi Zilal al-Qurʾan to find the materials on martyrdom.

                                                                                                                • Dale, Stephen Frederic. “Religious Suicide in Islamic Asia: Anticolonial Terrorism in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 32.1 (1988): 37–59.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/0022002788032001002E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  One of the few discussions of martyrdom during the colonial period.

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                                                                                                                  • al-Tibi, ʿUkasha ʿAbd al-Manan. Al-Shahada wa-al-istishhad: Fi Zilal al- Qurʾan lil-Shaykh Sayyid Qutb. Cairo: Maktabat al-Turath al-Islami, 1994.

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                                                                                                                    A study of martyrdom in the work of Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), one of the major ideological influences of contemporary radicalism.

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                                                                                                                    Scholarship

                                                                                                                    Analysis of the tropes of martyrdom and its symbolic meaning, involving speculation as to the cultural significance of martyrdom, is probably best exemplified by Giffen 1971. Not all of the theories expounded by the scholars listed below have found general acceptance, however. Arberry 1969 is a classic discussion of Ayn al-Qudat, a major Sufi martyr, while Khairullah 1980 provides a revolutionary discussion of Layla and Majnun, and Seyed-Ghorab 2003 similarly analyzes the Persian version of the story. Jarrar 1999 gives an interesting and controversial reading of martyrs of love as warriors.

                                                                                                                    • Arberry, Arthur, trans. A Sufi Martyr: The Apologia of ʿAin al-Quḍāt al-Hamadhānī. London: Allen and Unwin, 1969.

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                                                                                                                      A fundamental but a bit dated text.

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                                                                                                                      • Giffen, Lois Anita. Theory of Profane Love among the Arabs: The Development of the Genre. New York: New York University Press, 1971.

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                                                                                                                        One of the only scholarly works on the issue of the martyrs of love.

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                                                                                                                        • Jarrar, Maher. “The Martyrdom of Passionate Lovers: Holy War as a Sacred Wedding.” In Myths, Historical Archetypes, and Symbolic Figures in Arabic Literature: Towards a New Hermeneutic Approach; Proceedings of the International Symposium in Beirut, June 25th–June 30th, 1996. Edited by Angelika Neuwirth, Birgit Embaló, Sebastian Günther, and Maher Jarrar, 87–107. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1999.

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                                                                                                                          An important work analyzing the symbolic significance of the martyrs of love.

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                                                                                                                          • Khairullah, Asʾad E. Love, Madness, and Poetry: An Interpretation of the Mağnūn Legend. Wiesbaden, West Germany: Franz Steiner, 1980.

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                                                                                                                            An interesting discussion of Majnun and Layla.

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                                                                                                                            • Seyed-Gohrab, Ali Asghar. Laylī and Majnūn: Love, Madness, and Mystic Longing in Niẓāmī’s Epic Romance. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003.

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                                                                                                                              A very important contribution to the Majnun and Layla research.

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                                                                                                                              Contemporary Martyrdom Operations

                                                                                                                              As stated previously, the issue of contemporary suicide attacks has attracted more scholarly and popular interest than any other aspect of martyrdom in Islam. The selection of sources cited here cannot be said to be exhaustive, as there are many articles in the field that have not been included, especially from important journals such as Studies in Conflict and Terrorism and Terrorism and Political Violence. Abu Diya 1986 is a fundamental work analyzing suicide attacks as they were being carried out, while Pape 2005 is the most popular work on the subject and is critiqued in Moghadam 2008. Bloom 2005 and Berko 2004 present interviews with would-be suicide attackers and their handlers, and Brunner 2005 proposes theories as to the prevalence of female suicide attackers. Hafez 2006, Shay 2004, and Pedahzur 2005 all analyze suicide attacks from a political science point of view and focus upon the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while Hafez 2007 continues on this path with regard to Iraq.

                                                                                                                              • Abu Diya, Saʿd. Dirasa tahliliyya fi al-ʿamaliyyat al-istishhadiyya fi janub Lubnan. Beirut: Jami’at al-ʿUmmal al-Matabiʿ al-Taʿawuniyya, 1986.

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                                                                                                                                A serious survey of the results of suicide attacks against Israeli targets in South Lebanon until 1986.

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                                                                                                                                • Berko, Anat. Ba-derekh le-Gan ha-’Eden. Tel Aviv: Yediot Ahronot, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                  In Hebrew. A selection of interviews with would-be suicide attackers in Israeli prisons. Translated by Elizabeth Yuval as The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and Their Dispatchers (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007).

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                                                                                                                                  • Bloom, Mia. Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                    A collection of the author’s articles on the subject. Provocative but a bit disorganized.

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                                                                                                                                    • Brunner, Claudia. Männerwaffe Frauenkörper? Zum Geschlecht der Selbstmordattentate im israelisch-palästinensischen Konflickt. Vienna: Wilhelm Braumüller Universität-Verlagsbuchhandlung, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                      Discusses women’s involvement in Palestinian suicide attacks.

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                                                                                                                                      • Hafez, Mohammed. Manufacturing Human Bombs: The Making of Palestinian Suicide Bombers. Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                        A quantitative and political science analysis of suicide attacks.

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                                                                                                                                        • Hafez, Mohammed. Suicide Bombers in Iraq: The Strategy and Ideology of Martyrdom. Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                          A fundamental work on the mass suicide attacks in Iraq and their ideology.

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                                                                                                                                          • Moghadam, Assaf. The Globalization of Martyrdom: Al Qaeda, Salafi Jihad, and the Diffusion of Suicide Attacks. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                            An excellent overview of contemporary radical Muslim suicide attacks.

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                                                                                                                                            • Pape, Robert. Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                              Far and away the most popular work on suicide attacks. Pape proposes the theory that they originate as a result of occupation (or perceived occupation) and continue because they work. Very controversial.

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                                                                                                                                              • Pedahzur, Ami. Suicide Terrorism. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                A good introduction to suicide attacks from a political science point of view.

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                                                                                                                                                • Shay, Shaul. The Shahids: Islam and Suicide Attacks. Translated by Rachel Lieberman. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                  Focuses on suicide attacks in Israel.

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                                                                                                                                                  Debates Concerning Martyrdom Operations

                                                                                                                                                  Suicide attacks or martyrdom operations are very controversial in Sunni Islam, as they are associated with indiscriminant killing of noncombatants. Al-ʿAmaliyyat al-fidaʾiyya: Shahada am intihar? and al-ʿAyyiri 2001 are the two earliest basic fatwa (religious opinion) discussions on the legitimacy of suicide attacks, while al-Takruri 2003 and Tuʾmat al-Qudat 2001 provide a large selection of fatwas taken from all over the Muslim world. Samudra 2005 applies that material to the Indonesian context. Qaradawi 2002 and Çapan 2004 give Muslim critiques of suicide attacks, which are discussed in Cook 2002. Imam 2000 gives a discussion concerning the distinction of martyrs and martyrdom.

                                                                                                                                                  • Al-ʿAmaliyyat al-fidaʾiyya: Shahada am intihar? Gaza: Markaz al-Quds li-l-Dirasat wa-l-I’lam wa-l-Nashr, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                    An early discussion of the legitimacy of suicide attacks.

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                                                                                                                                                    • al-ʿAyyiri, Yusuf ibn Salih. “The Islamic Ruling on the Permissibility of Martyrdom Operations.” 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                      The first major discussion of the permissibility of suicide attacks outside of the Palestinian arena.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Çapan, Ergün, ed. Terror and Suicide Attacks: An Islamic Perspective. Somerset, NJ: The Light, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                        A Turkish antimartyrdom operations work giving a wide range of reasons why such attacks are not permitted.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Cook, David. “Suicide Attacks or ‘Martyrdom Operations’ in Contemporary Jihad Literature.” Nova Religio 6.1 (2002): 7–44.

                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1525/nr.2002.6.1.7E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          An analysis of the literature supporting suicide attacks.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Imam, Ahmad ʿAli. Al-Shahada wa-hayat al-shuhada. Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                            Discussion of martyrdom.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Qaradawi, Yusuf. Shubhāt ḥawla al-ʿamalīyāt al-istishhādīyah. Miknas, Morocco: Alwan Maghribiyya, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                              A basic statement by one of the preeminent scholars on the issue of suicide attacks.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Samudra, Imam. Aku Melawan Teroris. Solo, Indonesia: Jazeera, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                Justification by the ideological leader of the Bali bombings of October 2002 (also known as Abdul Aziz) based upon radical Muslim texts.

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                                                                                                                                                                • al-Takruri, al-Nawwaf. Al-ʿAmaliyyat al-istishhadiyya fi al-mizan al-fiqhi. 4th ed. Damascus: N. al-Takruri, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                  The most important discussion of suicide attacks listing a great many fatwas (legal opinions) concerning their legitimacy. Easily the most voluminous contemporary text and the one cited the most in the debate about suicide attacks.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Tuʾmat al-Qudat, Muhammad. Al-Mughamara bi-l-nafs fi al-qital wa-hukmuha fi al-Islam. Amman, Jordan: Dar al-Furqan, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                    On the issue of self-sacrifice.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Contemporary Martyrology

                                                                                                                                                                    There is surprisingly little contemporary martyrological literature. Most of the available materials fall into four distinct categories: Palestinian martyrologies, Iranian martyrologies (from the Iran–Iraq War, 1980–1988), Pakistani martyrologies, and radical Muslim martyrologies that are available on the Internet.

                                                                                                                                                                    Sunni Published Works

                                                                                                                                                                    Intifadat al-Aqsa 2003–2004 focuses on the Palestinian conflict from a nationalistic point of view, while both ʿAli 2001 and al-Waʾi 2005 are more religious (al-Waʾi 2005 focuses upon Muslim Brotherhood martyrs in general). Barzuq 2001 covers the assassination of an individual, Yahya ʿAyyash, in the Palestinian conflict. Avan 1994 and Janjuʾah 2000 present Pakistani martyrology, while Jawabirah 1993 is more wide ranging (but fairly heavy on Palestinians). Azzam 2009 focuses completely on the Afghan and Arab fighters against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan (1979–1989), while Speckhard and Akhmedova 2006 discusses the Chechen martyrs during the period following 2001.

                                                                                                                                                                    • ʿAli, Ibrahim Muhammad. ʿUshshāq al-ḥūr wa-ṭullāb Dār al-Surūr: Min aʿlām al-istishhādīyīn. Amman, Jordan: Dar al-Nafaʾis, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Descriptions of martyrs, mainly Palestinians.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Avan, Abbas Akhtar. Kārvān-i shuhadāʾ, Kābul se Kashmīr tak. Lahore, Pakistan: Idara-yi Matbuʾat-I Tulbah, 1994.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Pakistani martyrology focusing on Kashmir.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Azzam, Abdullah. The Signs of ar-Rahman in the Jihad of Afghanistan. Edited by A. B. al-Mehri. Birmingham, UK: Maktabah, 2009.

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                                                                                                                                                                          A fundamental hagiographical text on the miracles seen by the mujahideen while fighting during the 1980s.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Barzuq, Yahya. Faḍāʾil al-Shahīd ʿYaḥyá Ayyāsh. London: Filistin al-Muslima, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                            A hagiography of the Palestinian Hamas leader, originator of the suicide attack during the 1990s.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Intifāḍat al-Aqṣá 2000. 9 vols. Amman, Jordan: Dar al-Jalil, 2003–2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                              A major collection that purports to contain all of those Palestinians slain by Israeli forces during the Second Intifada up until 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Janjuʾah, Faridulislam. Jihad, shahadat, jannat. Rawalpindi, Pakistan: Markaz-i Matbuʾat Kashmir, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Pakistani martyrology.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Jawabirah, Basim. Tafrīj al-karb bi-faḍāʾil shahīd al-maʿārik wa-al-ḥarb. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Dar al-Raya, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Collection of stories of martyrs and their virtues.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Speckhard, Anne, and Khepta Ahkmedova. “The Making of a Martyr: Chechen Suicide Terrorism.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 29.5 (2006): 429–492.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/10576100600698550E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    One of the few articles to analyze the Chechen martyrs.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • al-Waʾi, Tawfiq Yusuf. Mawsu’at al-shuhada al-haraka al-Islamiyya fi al-’asr al-hadith. 5 vols. Cairo: Dar al-Tawziʾ wa-l-Nashr, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      A reasonably complete encyclopedia of martyred radical Muslims since the 1940s, although the later volumes focus more on the Palestinians.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      Shiʿite Published Works

                                                                                                                                                                                      Most of the Iranian materials, such as Husayniyya 2003 and Vilawi 2000, are war stories from the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988); Schmucker 1987 and Khosrokhavar 2005 discuss these martyrs and their motivations. Nasiri 2005 presents the theories behind suicide attacks and martyrdom among Shiʿites, and al-Jihad wa-khisal al-muhajidin fi al-Islam gives this material from the perspective of Hezbollah during the period when it was fighting Israel in southern Lebanon.

                                                                                                                                                                                      • Husayniyya, Ahmad. Bayad raft. Tehran: Markaz-i Asnad-i Inqilab-i Islami, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Stories of martyrs from the Iran-Iraq War. See also the author’s Miyan-i khun (Tehran: Markaz-i Asnad-i Inqilab-i Islami, 2003).

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • al-Jihad wa-khisal al-muhajidin fi al-Islam. Beirut: Markaz Baqiyat Allah al-Aʿzam, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          A description of the qualities of martyrs from a Hezbollah perspective.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Khosrokhavar, Farhad. Suicide Bombers: Allah’s New Martyrs. Translated by David Macey. Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            A discussion of martyrdom during the Iran-Iraq War with a continuation to the early 21st century. Originally published as Les nouveaux martyrs d’Allah (Paris: Flammarion, 2002).

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Nasiri, Ahmad. Al-Mawt al-muqaddas: Dirāsah ʿan al-ʾamalīyāt al-istishhādīyah ʿinda al-Shīʿah min al-nāḥiyah al-sharʿīyah wa-al-nafsīyah. Beirut: Dar al-Mahajja al-Baydaʾ, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              A study of the roots of suicide attacks among the Shiʿa.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Schmucker, Werner. “Iranische Märtyrertestamente.” Die Welt des Islams 27.4 (1987): 185–249.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                A discussion of the themes of Iranian martyrs from the Iran-Iraq War period. Translated by Steve Gilbert as “The Testaments of Iranian Martyrs,” in Jihad and Martyrdom: Critical Concepts in Islamic Studies, Vol. 2, Rationality, Nationalism, and Political Islam, edited by David Cook (London: Routledge, 2010), beginning on p. 233.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Vilawi, ʿAli Muhammad. Shāhidān-i shahādat. Tehran: Nashr-i Shahid, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Accounts of martyrs.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  Martyrdom and Theater Production

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Although books on the issue of martyrdom are read, the manner through which many Shiʿites understand their heritage of martyrdom is the taʿziya, the theatrical production often compared to a Christian passion play that is enacted during the Ashura period of mourning. This production is characteristic of major Shiʿite concentrations of population in Iran, Pakistan, India, and parts of Lebanon and is also well represented on the Internet. Chelkowski 1979 is one of the fundamental books on the subject, while Chelkowski and Dabashi 1999 relates the use of the taʿziya to the Iranian Revolution, as does Malekpour 2004. Aghaie 2004 and Aghaie 2005 are both important works on the role of drama in contemporary Iran, while Toufic 2005 gives the graphic bloody history of the ritual. Pinault 2001 and Hyder 2006 present the taʿziya ritual as it is performed in South Asia, especially Hyderabad, by Shiʿites. Husted 1993 discusses the meaning of the martyrdom for Shiʿites.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Aghaie, Kamran Scot. The Martyrs of Karbala: Shiʿi Symbols and Rituals in Modern Iran. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    A first-class description and analysis of the taʿziya in Iran.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Aghaie, Kamran Scot. The Women of Karbala: Ritual Performance and Symbolic Discourses in Modern Shiʿi Iran. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      An important book covering the devotion of women to the taʿziya.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Chelkowski, Peter, ed. Taʿziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran. New York: New York University Press, 1979.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        The fundamental book on the subject of taʿziya, although some of the articles are a bit uneven.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Chelkowski, Peter, and Hamid Dabashi. Staging a Revolution: The Art of Persuasion in the Islamic Republic of Iran. New York: New York University Press, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          A fundamental book on the use to which the taʿziya production was put in creating the conditions for the Islamic Revolution in 1978–1979.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Husted, Wayne R. “Karbalāʾ Made Immediate: The Martyr as Model in Imāmī Shīʿism.” Muslim World 83.3–4 (1993): 263–278.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1478-1913.1993.tb03579.xE-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Analysis of the basis for the taʿziya.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Hyder, Syed Akbar. Reliving Karbala: Martyrdom in South Asian Memory. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Indian taʿziyas observed and analyzed.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Malekpour, Jamshid. The Islamic Drama: Taʿziyah. London: Frank Cass, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                An analysis of the texts of the ta’ziya.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Pinault, David. Horse of Karbala: Muslim Devotional Life in India. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  An analysis of the significance of the taʿziya in Hyderabad and South India.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Toufic, Jalal. Āshūrā: This Blood Spilled in My Veins. Berkeley, CA: Small Press Distribution, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Pictures of Ashura.

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