The Meaning of Shaheed
By Mufti Taqi Usmani
|Q.) The word "Shaheed" has been frequently used in the books,
newspapers, and magazines for different types of people. I am sure that this word should
have a specific connotation in the Islamic Terminology. I will be grateful if you please
explain the true meaning of this word and the categories of persons for whom this term may
be applied in Shariah.
A.) In fact "Shaheed", is a specific term, used in
the Holy Quran and Sunnah. It has certainly a specific meaning and one should be careful
before applying this term to a person and you should ascertain whether he is really
qualified to be called a "Shaheed."
According to Islamic Jurisprudence, "Shaheed" is of two kinds:
- Shaheed in the real sense.
- Shaheed in the constructive sense.
Shaheed in the real sense is a Muslim who has been killed during "Jihad" or
has been killed by any person unjustly. Such a person has two characteristics different
from common people who die on their bed. Firstly, he should be buried without giving him a
ritual bath. However, the prayer of the Janazah shall be offered on him and he shall also
be given a proper kafin (burial shroud). Secondly, he will deserve a great reward in the
Hereafter and it is hoped that Allah Almighty shall forgive his sins and admit him to
Jannah. It is also stated in some of the traditions that the body of such a person remains
in the grave protected from contamination or dissolution.
As compared to this kind of "Shaheed" a Shaheed in a constructive sense is a
person who has been promised by the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam to get a
reward of a Shaheed in the Hereafter but is not taken as Shaheed with regard to the rules
of burial. It means that the dead body has to be bathed like a dead body of any other
person. The Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam has included in this category of
Shaheed a large number of persons such as a person who has died in a Plague or who has
died in an unexpected accident, like a fire or a traffic accident or who has been drowned
in the water or a woman who has died during the delivery of her child etc.
Allama Jalaluddin Suyuti, a well-known scholar of Islamic disciplines, has collected
all the Hadiths relating to this kind of Shaheed and has come to the conclusion that there
are thirty categories mentioned by the Holy Prophet Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam who can
deserve to be called Shaheed in this sense. But in the normal course, the word
"Shaheed" is applied only for the first kind. However, it is not prohibited to
use the word for a person who falls in any of the categories mentioned in the second kind.
It is evident from the above discussion that the word "Shaheed" can only be
used for a Muslim and cannot be applied to a non-Muslim at all. Similarly, the term cannot
be used for a person who has been rightly killed as a punishment of his own offence.