The Misunderstanding of Martyrdom By The Religious Extremist



Witkiewic termed Man as an “animal that lies to himself”. The truth of this saying is borne out of human desire to acquire reputation and position in the society, the easy means to these lies is through deception. Deception has always been imbued in religion by religious leaders or fanatics as the best strategy to attract people’s attention toward a set objectives, be it negative or positive.

Today, our world is face with terror from the so-called believers of Supreme Being called God, these people kill other people through several means,  believing that they are rendering services to God, and that through the act to achieve martyrdom, this article aims at revealing the fallacies of religious extremist.

Terminological Preamble

The term ‘martyr’ in English derives from a Greek word (μάρτυς) meaning ‘witness’. A martyr is someone who bears witness to something, or someone who witnesses another person doing something. It is a word that is used in court, in legal proceedings. In the Greek language it only means witness in this sense.

True martyrdom in Christian and Islamic religion

In Christian religion martyr as used in the New Testament means “witness”. A martyr is a witness not to an idea but to an event, to the faith in the crucified and risen Christ.

Thus, the author of John wrote “………… that which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands. We proclaim also to you” (John 1:1). Therefore in Christianity, Martyrdom was/is considered to be an individual work of piety and resistance to evil. The martyr dies in a spirit of forgiveness and demonstrates with his or her death that it is always possible to love and to resist the temptation of reciprocal violence, even in the most extreme circumstances. The model par excellence, once again, is Christ and the way in which he forgave his enemies and remained faithful to the non-violent love of the Father, who ‘makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good’, to the very end.

On the other hand in Islam, the Arabic word ‘shahīd’ is translated as ‘martyr’; Qurʼān 3:169–170 plays a very important role in the understanding of Islamic concept of martyr:

Count not those who were slain in God’s way as dead, but rather living with their Lord, by Him provided, rejoicing in the bounty that God has given them, and joyful in those who remain behind and have not joined them, because no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow, joyful in blessing and bounty from God, and that God leaves not to waste the wage of the believers.

Therefore those who live, fight and die for God, fi sabil Allāh, are witnesses of the true religion and will surely achieve salvation. Although the Islamic teaching condemn murder, killing becomes permissible when it is in the name of fi sabil Allāh. The Hadith (sayings and acts of the Prophet) traditions show that Muhammad’s own position on martyrdom was not as clear as those of Muslim radicals today. One day, the Prophet asked some soldiers whom they believed to be a real martyr. They answered: those who fight and get killed in battle. The Prophet said that they were wrong, and that a woman who dies in childbirth could be more of a martyr than someone who fights and dies in battle. From the example, Islamic martyrdom cannot be limited to a particular battlefield; those who are firm in their belief and bear witness are martyrs in the Islamic teaching (Al-Muwatta 16: 12).

Elements of Martyrdom

There are two essential elements to true martyrdom: love and truth. As to the first, the necessity of love, the Apostle Paul declared that even if “I give my body to be burned but have not love it profits nothing (1 Cor 13:3).” A sacrifice that does not have as its motivation a pure love that is both selfless and God-honoring can be called many things, but not martyrdom. As to the second element of true martyrdom, the necessity of truth, those who would kill themselves and others to promote their faith are in no way to be admired, for, whatever one may say about their intensity, it is rooted in a fundamental lie. This is why we must proclaim that Truth is indeed absolute. As historian John Gerstner has written, “A true martyrdom or a martyrdom that is admirable must be death for truth. If death is incurred for something other than truth, necessary truth, it is not admirable but pitiable, not courageous but foolhardy.”  [John H. Gerstner, Reasons For Faith (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publishing, 2004), p. 179.]


Federal authorities arrested a Bangladeshi man who attempted to blow up the Federal Reserve building in Manhattan sometime ago. Just prior to his arrest, Quazi Nafis told an undercover officer, “We will not stop until we attain victory or martyrdom.” These suicide bomber must not be viewed as “martyrs” or “courageous.” but they are certainly not objects of divine pity, but objects of divine wrath and enemies of God. The act is not martyrdom; it is murder. It is not commendable in any sense of the word; it is reprehensible. It is not excusable in the context of religious expression; it is a willful act of hostility against people of God.  There are absolutely no admirable qualities to the behavior of the suicide bomber because he is not a hero of his religion; he is a fool for a lie. He may seem courageous, but there is no valor where there is no virtue. There is no truth to his conviction; therefore, there is no merit in his sacrifice. Finally the true martyrs did not seek, but rather accepted martyrdom; they did not die cursing, but forgiving; they were passive, not active in their deaths; they were driven by love, not hate; and they were enlightened by truth, not blinded by lies.

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