Courtesy of

The religious devotion of suicide bombers before they embark on attacks, the joy shown even by children who express their will to become "martyrs," and the customary jubilation of mothers and families when hearing of their sons' deaths -- all this reveals how deeply the concept of "martyrdom" (Shahada) is rooted in Islam, and its affect on the current wave of Palestinian violence.

The Palestinian press repeatedly exalts the religious status of the martyr (Shahid) for the sake of Allah. The Chief Mufti of the Palestinian Police, Sheik Abd Al-Salam Skheidm specified the rewards according to Islamic tradition:

From the moment his first drop of blood spills, he feels no pain and he is absolved of all his sins; he sees his seat in heaven; he is spared the tortures of the grave; he is spared the horrors of Judgment Day; he is married to [70] black-eyed [virgins]; he can vouch for 70 of his family members to enter paradise; he earns the crown of glory whose precious stone is worth all of this world. (Palestinian Authority daily newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, September 17, 1999)


With the outbreak of the Intifada, descriptions of the Shahids' virtues have increased in the Palestinian media: funerals of Shahids are described as "weddings," and thousands come "to congratulate" the family at the "wedding celebration."

A week before the suicide bombing at the Tel-Aviv disco, the Palestinian Authority Mufti, Sheik Ikrima Sabri, discussed this issue in a Friday sermon at the Al-Aqsa mosque, broadcast on Voice of Palestine Radio, May 25, 2001:

The Moslem loves death and martyrdom, just as you [Jews] love life. There is a great difference between he who loves the afterlife and he who loves this world. The Moslem loves death [and seeks] martyrdom.

Sheik Abd Al-Halim 'Ayyash of Jerusalem explained in the Palestinian Authority periodical, Al-Youm Al-Thamin, Al-Ayyam, March 15, 2001:

A Shahid has a high rank and value in Islam, in both this world and the afterlife. The strive for martyrdom is a desired virtue in Islam, but not every soul is capable of it, because someone who strives for martyrdom must have a high degree of faith, religious determination, devotion, and loyalty to supreme religious and national causes

In Islamic history, there are many examples of the jubilation in martyrdom. Writing in Al-Youm Al-Thamin, Sheik Shaker Al-Natsheh from Jerusalem recalled the case of the poet Al-Khansaa who, before converting to Islam, cried until she became blind when hearing of her brother's death. But once she converted to Islam, she rejoiced upon hearing of her four sons' deaths in the battle of Al-Qadesyia.


The religious concept of martyrdom is evident in Palestinian media statements attributed to the martyrs and their relatives.

As reported in the Palestinian Authority periodical, Al-Risala (June 7, 2001), Sa'id Al-Hotari, the suicide bomber at the Tel Aviv disco, left a message expressing faith in the divine reward that awaits him:

There is nothing greater than being martyred for the sake of Allah, on the land of Palestine. Cry in joy, my mother. Hand out candy, my father and brothers, for your son awaits a wedding with the black-eyed [virgins] in heaven...

The belief that a Shahid is rewarded with eternal life next to Allah derives from the Koran:

Consider not those who have died for the sake of Allah as dead, but rather as alive, who are being nurtured by their Lord. (Koran, 3:169)

A mother whose son was killed described her feelings upon hearing the news of his death, as recorded in the Palestinian Authority periodical, Al-Youm Al-Thamin, Al-Ayyam, March 15, 2001:

"I felt deep sorrow, but the fact that my son dies as a Shahid cooled the fire in my heart and alleviated my pain."


Columnist Husam Badran explains (Al-Youm Al-Thamin, Al-Ayyam (PA), March 15, 2001):

Martyrdom is, ultimately, a loss. However, it is a loss through distinction. The Shahid's mother finds in this distinction a refuge, some sort of compensation for her pain and loss. She seems psychologically balanced because she believes the martyr is one of the birds of Heaven, if he dies as a child, or one of the guards of Heaven, if he died as a youth. Therefore, crying is considered shameful for the mother and family of a Shahid. She is required to accompany him with cries of jubilation to his grave, as if he is a groom who did not complete... his marriage.

Farid Hamad, an Arabic language teacher, pointed to the relationship between the matrimonial processions of a Shahid and those of a groom. On his wedding day, the groom is the center of attention for his family and village -- leading a parade toward his bride. So too, the Shahid has an important social status on his day of death -- leading the procession toward his "heavenly bride."

According to Hamad, the mourners’ cries of jubilation are an attempt to rise above the wounds and, possibly, an attempt to upset Israelis. It is as if the Shahid's relatives are screaming in the face of Israel: "We ignore you, we are winning." The calls of jubilation, candies and sweet coffee handed out at the Shahid’s funeral (rather than bitter coffee at other funerals) are all an attempt to rise above the wounds.

I'tidal Al-Jariri, a psychologist and member of the Palestinian Association for Working Women, explains how social pressure has created a climate favoring martyrdom:

Of course, society and the media play an important role as well in establishing these ceremonies... The jubilation and calling Shahids' funerals weddings is a kind of deception of emotions in order to adapt to the common social position. The world must understand that there are certain social criteria that force the Palestinian mother to express [her joy] in this manner...

A culture of martyrdom has clearly permeated the Palestinian populace. The result is the death of many young Palestinian boys, trained from an early age for martyrdom. And of course, there are the tragic deaths of innocent Israeli civilians, the victims of the Shahids.

And on both sides, are the weeping mothers left behind...

Courtesy of