When shahid is used to mean "martyr" (rather than "witness"), who is considered a shahid?

Does someone who died in a battle qualify? What about suicide bombers?

Does the act of becoming a shahid absolve any sins? E.g., the 9.11 hijackers were seen drinking before the flight.

In Quran, the ones who had died in the way of Allah are called الَّذِينَ قُتِلُواْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ (the ones who died in the way of Allah), and they aren't called shahid in any ayat. In Quran, the word shahid is used in a more general and different way. So, why are we calling the ones who died in the way of Allah as shahid? What is evidence that they are the same? Is there a hadith for this?

  • 2
    whats the proof for - "the 9.11 hijackers were seen drinking before the flight." Who saw it. The media?
    – Ashu
    Commented Jul 27, 2012 at 23:54
  • @Ashu Good point. Added link.
    – Lev
    Commented Jul 28, 2012 at 6:46
  • 3
    911 hijackers (if they were muslims) either they drank or not, they disobeyed Allah by committing suicide which is Haram in Islam. So no question of absolving sins anyway! Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 10:19
  • @xs2bush And by drinking, if they did. And if they ever were Muslims in the first place, but let's not discuss about that here. It is offtopic.
    – user123
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 12:58

3 Answers 3


In Arabic, "shaheed" means witness. Islamically, it means "martyr" -- someone who is generally slain fighting in the way of Allah, or other conditions (eg. dying from abdominal illness). This is well established from the sunnah; see the hadith below, which mentions (in Arabic) the word shaheed.

The benefits granted to shaheed for their self-sacrifice are many, including forgiveness of sins. As Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in one hadith (emphasis mine):

لِلشَّهِيدِ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ سِتُّ خِصَالٍ يُغْفَرُ لَهُ فِي أَوَّلِ دَفْعَةٍ وَيَرَى مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ وَيُجَارُ مِنْ عَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ وَيَأْمَنُ مِنَ الْفَزَعِ الأَكْبَرِ وَيُوضَعُ عَلَى رَأْسِهِ تَاجُ الْوَقَارِ الْيَاقُوتَةُ مِنْهَا خَيْرٌ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا وَمَا فِيهَا وَيُزَوَّجُ اثْنَتَيْنِ وَسَبْعِينَ زَوْجَةً مِنَ الْحُورِ الْعِينِ وَيُشَفَّعُ فِي سَبْعِينَ مِنْ أَقَارِبِهِ ‏"‏


There are six things with Allah for the martyr. He is forgiven with the first flow of blood (he suffers), he is shown his place in Paradise, he is protected from punishment in the grave, secured from the greatest terror [the fear of Day of Judgment], the crown of dignity is placed upon his head - and its gems are better than the world and what is in it - he is married to seventy two wives along Al-Huril-'Ayn of Paradise, and he may intercede for seventy of his close relatives. (Tirmidhi)

However, this does not necessarily mean that all their sins are forgiven. Sins and good deeds are weighed against each other on the Day of Judgement, for everyone.

And Allah knows best.

As for suicide bombing, this is something that is haram (forbidden, and sinful). If someone commits suicide, whether in a situation of war or not, whether they are fighting or not, they will be held accountable for committing that sin. As I mentioned earlier in my answer, being sinful and being shaheed are two separate things that can happen at the same time.

  • maybe you should add the arabic version
    – NesreenA
    Commented Jul 29, 2012 at 11:04
  • @NesreenA done. The link has both.
    – ashes999
    Commented Jul 29, 2012 at 20:25

The some of the different causes through which one attains martyrdom:

  • To lay down ones life while fighting in the way of Allah,
  • To get killed while protecting life and wealth,
  • Getting killed while defending the Muslims

This struggle in the way of Allah is waged for strengthening Islam or to implement its laws. Both are clear instances of struggle in the way of Allah. Regarding this, Allah the High says in the Holy Qur'an:

"And strive hard in (the way of) Allah, (such) a striving as is due to Him; He has chosen you and has not laid upon you any hardship in religion; the faith of your father Ibrahim; He named you Muslims before and in this, that the Apostle may be a bearer of witness to you, and you may be bearers of witness to the people; therefore keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and hold fast by Allah; He is your Guardian; how excellent the Guardian and how excellent the Helper! (Surah Hajj (22) : 78)

Most of us think that only the one who dies in a battle is a shaheed (martyr), but there is even another type of a martyr, which is the one who dies on struggle against himself, ie, with his nafs.

• A great emphasis has been laid on struggle against the self. It is narrated that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) sent the army of Islam for war. When they returned victoriously, Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) while congratulating them said: "Congratulation to the people who performed struggle in the way of Allah. Now bigger struggle is remaining for them. People enquired from Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) about bigger struggle. He (s.a.w.a.) replied: To struggle against the self." (Wasaaelush Shiah, vol. 6, Chapter of Jehaad against the self, pg.122, tradition. 1)

So the answer of your 2nd question about suicide bombers doesn’t come in to any of these situation, at first, he does suicide which is forbidden in Islam & secondly, he kills other innocent people.


The True Meaning of Shaheed

The term "Shaheed" is only applied to those who sacrifice their lives for Allah's (God's) cause. They have no fear; they only fear Allah and want to obey Him and to serve Him. They realize that their lives belong to Allah, the One who created them, so it is a gift and we should not be so selfish about it. To obey Allah and to implement what He has commanded might mean the loss of their loves. They are assured of a great reward in the end for their unselfish act. Their focus is on the next life and on pleasing Allah.

Now a days we see many people who want to terrorize people, whether they are Muslim or no, and kill other by blasting a bomb with themselves and call themselves as Shaheed (actually, suicide bomber). They are just mislead, they don't have anything wih Islam. They commit suiside and this act is prohibited in Islam. Allah will punish them for it. They are also trying to defame the image of Islam. This is not Islam. Now those who did 9/11 were drunk or not, I don't know. Its also strange for me to believe that they were muslims. Allah knows well.

However, in order to earn the title of Shaheed one must have the correct Niat (intention). In Islam intention is important behind every action in the religion. The only One who really knows the true intention of a person is Allah, for He sees their heart and knows their mind. Thus, the reward will rest upon the intention of the person. The Shaheed must have in his intention to risk his life only for Allah and not for anyone else. It can't be for his own ego. It can't be for the title of "hero". It can't be for revenge, for Allah will truly take care of the evildoers. It must be to serve the purpose of Allah and to uphold truth, justice, and liberty as well as to fight against all types of oppression.

Allah states in the Qur'an that "Those who believe, and suffer exile and strive with might and main,, in Allah's cause, with their goods and their persons, have the highest rank in the sight of Allah: They are the people who will achieve (salvation)" (9: 20) To die as a Shaheed is an honour. Some people desire this title if they must die because of the great reward. Other people can achieve equal reward as a Shaheed: those who die from terminal illnesses like cancer, the woman who dies as a result of childbirth or those who are murdered.

An incentive to be a Shaheed is found in the Hadeeth that states: "No one who enters Paradise will want to come back to the world and have anything on the earth except the 'Shaheed.'. He will wish to return to the world and be killed ten times because of the honour he sees" (Bukhari and Muslim).

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