The pedestal of Martyrdom (translit: Shahadat, شہادۃ) is one of the highest and most sacred in Islam. It is a unique award conferred upon a believer who while fighting to uphold Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) cause pays with the ultimate price, i.e. his life. Our beloved Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), by extension, has applied it to include any believer who is killed while protecting his / her life, honor or possessions. In yet other traditions, he has even expanded it to cover believers dying of accidental deaths, plague, or even during childbirths. This extension can be easily understood by recognizing that the actual rank has been carved out for soldiers in the field, but because ‘belief’ was the underlying foundation and ‘a painful untimely demise’ the reason for such a reward, our Lord, through His outrageous mercy, has made any calamity that snatches life from a true believer a source for his sharing the title and some of its perks. While the Holy Quran avidly eulogizes the first type, the others included as a matter of sheer mercy from our Lord, are declared by our Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), the attested truthful (وهو الصادق المصدوق).
Recently, our venerated Munawar Hasan Sahib has conferred this title upon Hakimullah – slain chief of the TTP. Honorable Fazl-ur-Rahman Sahib seems to have hinted the same through a metaphor. The reason for such a verdict – well, simple enough, that he was killed by infidels; and that too while he was engaged in a ‘Jihad’ against tyranny. Let us not challenge the veracity of these claims and accept them as one side of the subject’s personality. But was this the only side? If not, and definitely not, then to such oversimplifications, I humbly state the following…
There are crimes that have been declared as meriting eternal punishment with no chance of forgiveness, even for a believer. Killing a believer is one of them. Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) says:
“وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ أَنْ يَقْتُلَ مُؤْمِنًا إِلَّا خَطَأً ……… وَمَنْ يَقْتُلْ مُؤْمِنًا مُتَعَمِّدًا فَجَزَاؤُهُ جَهَنَّمُ خَالِدًا فِيهَا وَغَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَلَعَنَهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ عَذَابًا عَظِيمًا”
“How can it be for a believer that he kills a believer, except through fault!………for whosoever shall kill a believer deliberately, then his recompense is Hell; he shall abide therein forever; and Allah has laid His wrath upon him; and has damned him; and has prepared for him a mammoth punishment.”
We respectfully ask these two luminaries if, just by happenstance, they have ever read this perilous verse. If they have, then we implore them to inform us that whether they consider Vice Chancellor Dr. Muhammad Farooq Khan, and Colonel Imam, both of whom were murdered by the orders of the “Shaheed” in question, to be Muslims; not to mention those killed during congregational prayers and even children making their way to schools. If they do, then how in God’s name could they have audaciously issued such a skewed verdict in open contravention to the Quran? We very respectfully once again inquire “أَفَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِبَعْضِ الْكِتَابِ وَتَكْفُرُونَ بِبَعْضٍ”! If any believer who killed a single believer intentionally has been decreed to rot in hell for all eternity, we request them to please enlighten us, what changed that.
Well they will have a reply for that; but to comprehend the simplex minds of such political leaders, who moonlight as scholars, and their destitute logics, we need to dial-down our reasoning skills several notches. What they would say is that “hey, Quran is not the only source; there’s hadith as well. And it is clear from that source that all offences of a Shaheed will be forgiven.” Very astute of them. So in their sight, it is a get-out-of-jail-free-card? It is a carte blanche whereby all aspiring Shaheeds are licensed to blatantly disregard Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) boundaries. How mind-numbingly interesting!
While the answer to this has to do with basic skills of comprehension and integration, but since the latter was invented by infidels, it needs to be reduced from our expectations of these “scholars”. So let me put it this way: How the various injunctions are supposed to be placed in relation to each other in order to extract a logical outcome that is consistent with the ethos of religion, though being simple enough, must have been outside the confines of these scholars’ education. I have explained it a little later in the article for those interested, but keeping in mind the simplistic minds of our religious enthusiasts, let me take a different route. Dear Sirs, what about this hadith: “It is narrated on the authority of ‘Umar b. Khattab that when it was the day of Khaibar a party of Companions of the Apostle (صلى الله عليه وسلم) came there and said: So and so is a martyr, till they happened to say it about a man and said: So and so is a martyr. Upon this the Messenger of Allah remarked: No way, I have seen him in Hell for the garment or cloak that he had stolen from the booty, Then the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: Umar son of Khattab, go and announce to the people that none but the believers shall enter Paradise. He (‘Umar b. Khattab) narrated: I went out and proclaimed: Verily none but the believers would enter Paradise.” Not only did the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) strip the title of Shaheed from the person for an offence of petty larceny, he revoked his status as a believer in the sight of the Lord. But I assume, that must not have been important enough for these “scholars” to factor in!
As you can see, I haven’t incorporated the full charge sheet that can be prepared for the “Shaheed” in question, simply because I didn’t need to. Killing a single believer is an unpardonable sin and if someone dies without repenting from it and making necessary amends, that someone has a seat reserved in Hell, forever. If the Holy Quran and our Prophet’s (صلى الله عليه وسلم) sayings are so clear on the matter, I wonder there must be a third source these “scholars” are consulting. I am dying to know, what!
And this brings us to another argument defenders are tendering. It is that since Hakimullah had agreed to talks, this must mean that he repented from all his offences. While whether he did or not agree to the talks is yet a mystery for science fiction writers, whoever said accession to talks is the same as penitence? Religious verdicts are based on facts, not speculations. A killer, abductor, mutilator, destroyer of prayer places, and then brandisher of these menacing offences till his last known breath, has to be judged on these confessed crimes, or on an ostensible conjecture of penance? For anyone remotely familiar with Islamic Fiqh or universal law, it is a no-brainer! Those still uncertain should write a letter to his followers to enquire whether he repented from all these bloody escapades, and they’ll have their answer. But you know what… they’re never going to do that!
Saleem Safi, the reporter who apparently wrung this opinion from these luminaries, is being labeled by some as a conspiracy-monger and castigated to have sparked a non-essential debate. How, for the love of God, is this non-essential? Aspiring “Shaheeds” are coming out in an assembly line blowing-up in our towns, cities and prayer places, and this debate is supposed to be non-essential? If anything, Safi Sahib deserves our gratitude to have offered us a rare glimpse into the esoteric beliefs and simplex interpretations of our scholars that have been eating us alive from the inside, that they had been unwilling to proclaim openly up until now. It must be these very ramshackled interpretations that they must be doling out to their students and followers. No wonder this stormy crimson tide is unwilling to subside!
Unless we are able to bring this debate to a logical close this war will thrive on. Honoring Hakimullah as a Shaheed is tantamount to beckoning to the religiously motivated teenagers and immature activists to plunge into the same activities he was. Shrugging off such a quintessential discussion as unnecessary or divisive will be catastrophic to our much longed for peace and tranquility.
Let this discourse be a foghorn for all those who find themselves confused about indulging into this war. Let it be emblazoned on the wall that there is no salvation, no redemption for anyone who thinks that just because he was killed by an infidel, no matter how gruesome his demeanor was throughout his life, he could still be proclaimed a Shaheed. Let it be clear that no Shaheed is a Shaheed if he disregards the boundaries set out by our Lord. And let it be known, that the offences warranting eternal hell shall only be forgiven by Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) if the offender sincerely repents and mends his ways and keeps to the right path for the rest of his life. Killing a believer, or an unbeliever whom asylum has been granted by the government, or any non-combatant human is the most grotesque and heinous earthly sin. Let our budding zealots be advised that Shahadat and murdering don’t mix.
I hope the message is clear then: Martyrdom is no conundrum; Hakimullah is no Shaheed, period.
Now for the religious explanation I promised…
Any rookie of a religious student knows that whenever great rewards or honorifics are bestowed upon certain virtues in liturgical texts, they are never absolute or unlimited. There is always a hidden “Ceteris Paribus” before it and an implied “*fair usage policy applies” fine print. In plain words, while mentioning rewards or reprimands, religious writings drop the details elaborating a particular honorific or epithet, and use only the basic term to keep the motivation for or against succinct. The simplest and widest known example being the word ‘believer’ itself. Instead of narrating everytime what the word entails, Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) and the Holy Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) both use it as a recognized term while narrating rewards; with the ambit of the word defined elsewhere in the scripture, in a progressive manner. What a scholar does is that he “integrates” all these partial definitions to build a consistent picture the label signifies.
Hence, when Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) and His Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) enumerate the rewards for a “Shaheed” (martyr) they are not uttered to embolden a person to transgress or blatantly overstep the boundaries set out by the Lord Himself. It isn’t an invitation to commit whatever offenses he fancies without any recourse to retribution. I mean what kind of a mind would think that? The Ceteris Paribus, whenever this word is mentioned, entails “If he be a true believer and seeking eternal salvation”, and the fine print would imply “Provided he did not deliberately commit a grave sin (کبیرہ گناہ) and remained unrepentant from it”. Believe you me, the verse cited above is the gravest verse of our scripture in which the Almighty seems to have been angered to an unprecedented extent. It is almost as if the gravity of the offense has outraged Him inordinately. We seek Allah’s (سبحانه وتعالى) refuge from such an offence.