Shahid (Arabic: شَهيدšahīd, plural: شُهَداء šuhadāʾ, also anglicized as shaheed) is an Arabic word meaning "witness". It is a religious term in Islam, meaning both "witness" and "martyr." While a martyr may die as a consequence of fighting, a shahid is a "witness" because he gives his life out of passion for truth. The shahid exchanges himself for the divine and thereby becomes divine.[1] It is used as an honorific for Muslims who have laid down their life fulfilling a religious commandment, or have died fighting defending their country or protecting their family.


General use

The shahid is considered one whose place in Paradise is promised according to these verses in the Qur'an:

Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord;
They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah: And with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the (Martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve.
—Qur'an, Sura 3 (Al-i-Imran), ayat 169 - 170[2]
Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur'an: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme.
—Qur'an, Sura 9 (At-Tawba), ayah 111[3]

The Islamic prophet Muhammad is reported to have said these words about martyrdom:

By Him in Whose Hands my life is! I would love to be martyred in Allah's Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred.

Muslims also believe that God grants the reward of istishhad (martyrdom) to those who die in a variety of ways, including death during childbirth, accidents such as fires and drownings, and epidemic diseases such as the plague.[5] The Muslim victims of an earthquake is also believed to be martyrs as narrated in a hadith, and several hadiths also specify that earthquakes are a bane against the disbeliever and a mercy and blessing upon the Believer.[6]

Regardless of how death occurred, Muslims believe that the reward of martyrdom is contingent upon proper belief, sincerity, perseverance and thankfulness to God. More importantly, Shahid or Shaheed means a struggle, whether internal for the betterment of one's self, or external, relating to the betterment of society.[7]

Other uses

The term has also been used in this different sense by Arab Christians and by some Hindus. Sikhs use the term to refer to people who have died in defense of, or borne witness to, a noble cause; examples include Bhagat Singh and Shaheed Udham singh.[8]

A Muslim who is killed defending his or her property is considered a martyr.[9]

In Pakistan the title of Shahid is also used to designate some individuals who have given their lives in defense of Pakistan. Examples include the ten men awarded the Nishan-e-Haider.


A woman is considered "shaheeda" (شهيدة) if she died during fulfillment of a religious commandment. There are examples of women fighting in war such as Nusaybah bint Ka'ab. The first martyr of Islam was a woman, Sumayyah bint Khayyat.

See also

  • Istishhad, in Islam, the act of martyrdom or the seeking of martyrdom
  • Jihad, an Islamic religious duty, meaning struggle
  • Shahada, the Islamic creed
  • Shahidka, a term for Islamist Chechen female suicide bombers

References & notes

External links

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