With a spike in the number of Muslims falling victim to violent crime in South Africa, Sabahul Khair probed the concept of Shahadah(martyrdom) in Islam with Mufti Imraan Vawda of Kwazulu Natal
Q: When does a person get the status of Shaheed and when he reaches this status what happens in terms of Islamic Law?
A: In order to explain the various categories of a Shaheed we will conceptually confront just three categories. The first category is one who is a Shaheed both in this world and the aakhirah. In this world there are specific rules that apply for the burial and in the aakhirah, he is accepted in the eyes of Allah Subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and will receive the rewards of a Shaheed. The second category is a person who is a Shaheed in this world only and not in the aakhirah. As far as we as human beings are concerned we consider the person a Shaheed because of circumstances and accordingly we apply the rules with respect to the burial but in the aakhirah, for whatever reason – Allah Subhanahu wa ta ‘ala knows best, Allah has not accepted his shahaad, that person will not receive the reward for shahaad. The third category is the person who, in this world, is not a Shaheed but in the aakhirah he is. As far as the worldly rules are concerned, related to burial etc, we won’t apply the rules but in the aakhirah Allah Subhanahu wa ta ‘ala will grant him the status and reward of a shaheed.
When do we regard a person a Shaheed and thus apply the rules regarding such a person? There are a number of requirements regarding the first two categories. The person who has passed away must be a Muslim. The person has to be mature and the third requirement is that the person be free of hadath – e – akbar. That is the person must not be in a state of janaabat and ritual impurity. The fourth requirement is that the person must have been killed innocently, that is not through some fault of his own. The fifth requirement is that he must be killed by such an instrument that is normally designed to kill. This killing must not be due to a punishment, for example, if he is convicted of murder. The further requirement is that upon being injured he must not have had some worldly benefit, such as medical attention, or have engaged in worldly conversation or moved from the place of injury, or injured and a considerable time has passed. A person is regarded a Shaheed if their death fulfils these requirements.
A person who passes away in defence of their home and is killed is also regarded a Shaheed. A person who protects his own life and is killed and is regarded a Shaheed. A person who is killed while protecting his family is regarded a Shaheed. The person who is killed while protecting his neighbour is regarded a Shaheed.
The effect of being regarded then as a Shaheed would be: as far as the burial procedure is concerned, the deceased is not given a ghusl. Any extra clothing that he may have been wearing, for example a jacket or armour, will be removed. His basic garment will remain on. The blood of his wound will not be washed and he will be wrapped in the outer kafan – one piece of cloth instead of the usual three for a male. The normal rules of Salaatul Janaazah and burial will follow.
The third category of Shaheed is a blessing upon the Ummah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). On one occasion the sahaabah (radiallahu anhum) approached Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) asked them who we regard as the Shuhadah (martyrs). According to their knowledge they replied, “Oh Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), the person who passes away in jihad, in the path of Allah Subhnahu wa ta ‘ala. He is a Shaheed.” Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said, “In that case the Shuhadah of my Ummah will be limited.” Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) expressed that his Ummah will have a great number of Shuhadah in the aakhirah.
The concept of Shahadah is divided into worldly matter and being accepted in the aakhirah in the eyes of Allah Subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and being granted the reward. Nabi (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) expressed that as far as gaining the reward of Shahadah, this category is very vast. For example Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) explained, the person who passes away from the plague or stomach illness, or in a fire, or when a wall falls upon a person. These categories of Shahadah, as far as the aakhirah is concerned, are regarded as Shuhadah and they will be granted the reward. But as far as worldly rules are concerned, they are not placed in the category of Shahadah and the rules of Shahadah are not applied.
When people are injured in circumstances such as a wall falls on them and crushes them, using a motor car as an analogy, we hope that in the Mercy of Allah Subhanahu wa ta ‘ala that the person falls in that category and regarded as a Shaheed in the eyes of Allah in the aakhirah.