The Quran about the term “shahid”
In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful
Joint living of people has allowed developing one of the most important instruments of impact – witnessing. Human nature tends to trust any information that is confirmed from various sources. As in ancient times, modern jurisprudence, the judiciary and other spheres of life cannot function in an optimal mode without an institution of confirmation. A similar concept contributes not only to formal relations, but also actively used in religions.
Considering Islam, we are faced with such a concept as “shahada” and “shahid.” The first word refers to the testimony of faith, and the second is traditionally associated primarily with those who died in hostilities.
The root of the word “shahid” is translated as “to be; to be present; to be a witness; something that is obvious.” This notion has been faced by messengers from ancient times:
(Abraham) replied, “Rather your Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth who created them, and I, to that, am of those who testify! (21:56)
Abraham acted as a witness of monotheism, which caused a negative reaction from society. Opponents of Abraham, in order to convict him of a crime (spoilage of stone idols), decided to expose him to the people’s view to identify witnesses:
They said, “We heard a young man mention them who is called Ibrahim (Abraham).”
They said, “Then bring him before the eyes of the people that they may testify.” (21:60-61)
If to be literalist, the witnesses against Abraham are considered “shahids”. Why such a comparison? It is to the fact that the concept of “shahid” is not unique, and stereotypes should not be applied to this phenomenon. It is necessary to understand that this is only an Arabic loan translation, behind which there is a certain meaning, clarified only under certain circumstances.
The historical examples of the Quran provide an opportunity to examine some aspects of the application of the concept of “witnessing”:
Or were you witnesses when death approached Jacob, when he said to his sons, “Who will you serve to after me?” They said, “We will serve your God and the God of your fathers, Ibrahim (Abraham) and Ishmael and Ishaq (Isaac) – one God. And we are humble to Him!” (2:133)
Thus, in faith, personal or popular speculation cannot be a sufficient basis for truth. The messengers always were guides of truth, who brought the Prescription of God to people:
Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets judge by it. As did humble Jews, rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Prescription of God, and they were witnesses thereto.
So do not fear the people but fear Me! And do not exchange My signs for a small price. And whoever does not judge by what God has revealed – then it is those who closed themselves! (5:44)
The Prescription itself is universal, because it stands, among other things, as a contract between the Creator and the believers:
When We made a covenant with you, that you do not shed each other’s blood or evict one another from your homes, then you acknowledged and witnessed it. (2:84)
The agreement with the Most High, observance of which was not accomplished by the most of the people, was inevitably subjected to a trial:
But when Isa (Jesus) felt their closed nature, he said, “Who are my supporters before God?”
The disciples said,” We are supporters for God! We have believed God and testify that we humbled ourselves! Our Lord! We have believed in what You revealed! We have followed the messenger, so register us among the witnesses!” (3:52-53)
And when I suggested to the disciples, that they believe Me and My messenger Jesus, they said, “We have believed, so bear witness that indeed we humbled ourselves!” (5:111)
They said, “We wish to eat from it and let our hearts be reassured and know that you have been truthful to us and be among its witnesses.” (5:113)
In order to justify their rejection, open opponents of monotheism closed themselves from the truth by their gods:
We only say that some of our gods have possessed you with evil!”
He said, “Indeed, I call God to witness! Witness that I am free from whatever you associate with God other than Him! So plot against me all together; then do not give me respite! (11:54-55)
Often confrontation with the messengers reached to the determination to kill the messenger of God:
They said, “Take a mutual oath by God that we will kill him by night, he and his family. Then we will say to his patron, ‘We did not witness the destruction of his family, and indeed, we are truthful!’ ” (27:49)
The messengers of God are the same people as us, so they were tested the same way as everyone. Joseph was tested for chastity:
Yusuf (Joseph) said, “It was she who sought to seduce me!”
And a witness from her family testified. “If his shirt is torn from the front, then she has told the truth, and he is of the liars. But if his shirt is torn from the back, then she has lied, and he is of the truthful.” (12:26-27)
Joseph’s younger brother was tested by a false accusation and testimony of siblings:
Return to your father and say, “O our father, indeed your son has stolen, and we did not testify except to what we knew. And we were not witnesses of the hidden! (12:81)
I would like to remind you that the root of “shahid” means “to be present“:
And David and Solomon, when they judged concerning the field – when the sheep of a people overran it, and We were witness to their judgement. (21:78)
(The Queen of Sheba) said, “O eminent ones, advise me in my affair. I would not decide a matter until you witness with me.” (27:32)
And you were not on the western side when We revealed to Moses the command, and you were not among the witnesses to that. (28:44)
The signs contained in the Quran are clear and understandable to any person and they are an extension of the chain of missions that Muhammad concluded:
So who has clear evidence from his Lord? A witness from Him recites it! And before it was the Prescription of Musa (Moses) as a guide and as a mercy. Those believe in it. But whoever is closed from it from the various parties – the fire is their promised destination! So be not in doubt about it! Indeed, it is the truth from your Lord, but most of the people do not believe! (11:17)
O prophet, indeed We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of good tidings and a warner. (33:45)
Indeed, We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of good tidings and a warner (48:8)
Indeed, We have sent to you a messenger as a witness upon you just as We sent to pharaoh a messenger. (73:15)
Therefore, the resistance of the holders of the Prescription causes perplexity and reproach:
Say, “O holders of the Prescription! Come to a word that is equitable between us and you – that we will not serve except God and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of God!” But if they turn away, then say, “Bear witness that we humbled ourselves!” (3:64)
O holders of the Prescription! Why do you avert from the way of God those who believe, seeking to make it deviant, while you are witnesses? (3:70)
Say, “O holders of the Prescription! Why do you avert from the way of God those who believe, seeking to make it deviant, while you are witnesses? And God is not unaware of what you do!” (3:99)
The controversy between the messenger and his opponents was expressed not just in the exchange of opinions, but in the demand for clear evidence from reliable sources. In faith, such a source can only be the Word of God, as opposed to the words of His creations:
“Eight pairs are forbidden: two sheep, two goats, two camels and two cows.”
Say, “Is it the two males He has forbidden or the two females or that which the wombs of the two females contain? Or were you witnesses when God charged you with this? Then who is more unjust than one who invents a lie about God to mislead the people by other than knowledge? Indeed, God does not guide the obscurant people!” (6:144)
Say, “Bring forward your witnesses who will testify that God has prohibited this!” And if they testify, do not testify with them. And do not follow the desires of those who deny Our signs and those who do not believe in the hereafter, while they equate others with their Lord! (6:150)
Apparently, witnesses (shahids) can be in the negative sense.
Those who believed in the Quran and accepted Muhammad were given certain prescriptions so that they could testify the postulates of the truth:
And proclaim to the people the pilgrimage. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass –That they may witness benefits for themselves and mention the name of God on known days over what He has provided for them of sacrificial animals. So eat of them and feed the miserable and poor! (22:27-28)
There is an opinion that it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God. Proceeding from the etymology of the root “shahid”, it turns out that at least believers should be witnesses to the existence of the Lord. However, in this life we did not meet with Him explicitly. Then how can we testify about Him? According to the Quran, we still met with the Lord, but before our appearance in the present state:
And when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and made them testify of themselves, “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we have testified!” This – lest they should say on the day of standing before God, “Indeed, we were of this unaware.” (7:172)
In this connection, the believers in the Quran with confidence testify about the Almighty, about His prescriptions, about the meaning of life that He put.
And thus we have made you as a head centre that you will be witnesses over the people and the messenger will be a witness over you. We appointed the direction on which you were so that We might distinguish those who follow the Messenger from those who turn on their heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom God has guided. And never would God have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed God is, to the people, Gracious and Merciful! (2:143)
Faith to God, the absence of doubt in His Prescription allows believers to appeal directly to the Creator:
Our Lord! We have believed in what You revealed! We have followed the messenger, so register us among the witnesses!” (3:53)
And when they hear what has been revealed to the messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of what they have recognized of the truth.
They say, “Our Lord! We have believed! So register us among the witnesses! (5:83)
As we see, the Quran was enthusiastically accepted by the sincerely believing in the Prescriptions sent before.
The “Quran” from Arabic means “Literature”. The name of the Prescription defines the action – reading.
Establish prayer at the decline of the sun until the darkness of the night and the Literature (Quran) recite at dawn. Indeed, the Literature (Quran) of dawn and of the night is ever witnessed! (17:78)
But everything comes down not to simple reading, but to the fulfilment of the duties assigned.
If a wound should touch you – there has already touched the nation a wound similar to it. And these days We alternate among the people so that God may make evident those who believe and take to Himself from among you witnesses – and God does not like the obscurantists! (3:140)
And strive for God with the striving due to Him!
He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the duty any difficulty as well as in the community of your father, Ibrahim (Abraham). He named you humble before and in this that the messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people.
So establish prayer and give purifying expenditure and hold fast to God!
He is your Patron!
And excellent is the Patron, and excellent is the Helper! (22:78)
That is, the witnessing presupposes certain actions that must be correlated with the prescriptions. Those who have educated themselves according to the revealed ones can hope for an excellent result.
(Rewarded) those who do not testify to falsehood, and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity. (25:72)
(The punishment won’t touch those) who are in their testimonies upright. (70:33)
Not everyone accepts the truth from God. Most people have a predominant orientation to their traditions and human outlooks. In their opinions, many rely on unproven arguments:
Or did We create the maintainers as females while they were witnesses?” (37:150)
And they have made the mainainers, who are servants of the Gracious, females. Did they witness their creation? Their testimony will be recorded, and they will be questioned! (43:19)
In polemics, it is very important to have solid arguments. Those who doubt the Quran are abound, but no one has succeeded in confirming their doubts so far.
And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our servant then produce “a chapter” the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than God, if you should be truthful. (2:23)
Moreover, the refusal to accept clear evidence does not give a person the chance to find the Divine Light.
How shall God guide a people who closed themselves after their belief and had witnessed that the messenger is true and clear signs had come to them? And God does not guide the obscurantists! (3:86)
Say, “Have you considered: if the Quran was from God, and you closed yourselves from it while a witness from the children of Israel has testified to something similar and believed while you were arrogant?” Indeed, God does not guide the obscurantists! (46:10)
The state of closed nature from the signs of God, the pantheistic worldview does not allow “filling life” with the place of communication with the Creator:
It is not for those who associate others with God to maintain the places for earthly worship before God witnessing against their closed nature. For those, their deeds have become worthless, and in the fire they will abide! (9:17)
The main priority of the struggle of the human mind is the worldview field. It is on this field that the victory of one or another group of interests is forged. In this field, opponents try to refute the ideological basis of each other. In this connection, the opponents of Islam made the Quran the main purpose of discrediting. However, for true believers, the main evidence of the divine nature of the Quran is the testimony of the Creator Himself:
But God bears witness to that which He has revealed to you. He has sent it down with His knowledge, and the maintainers bear witness. And sufficient is God as Witness! (4:166)
Two-faced beings are engaged in discrediting the Prescription, trying to knock people off the truth in different ways:
And of the people is he whose speech pleases you in worldly life, and he calls God to witness as to what is in his heart, yet he is the fiercest of opponents. (2:204)
And those who took for themselves a place for earthly worship for causing harm and closed nature and division among the believers and as a station for whoever had warred against God and His messenger before. And they will surely swear, “We intended only the best!” And God testifies that indeed they are liars. (9:107)
Have you not considered those venal saying to their brothers who have closed themselves among the holders of the Prescription, “If you are expelled, we will surely leave with you, and we will not obey, in regard to you, anyone – ever; and if you are fought, we will surely aid you!” But God testifies that they are liars! (59:11)
When the venal ones come to you, they say, “We testify that you are the messenger of God!” And God knows that you are His messenger, and God testifies that the venal ones are liars! (63:1)
The testimony of God from the very beginning was a cementing factor in the lives of believers. It was the testimony of the Lord that allowed receiving another messenger from Him. Unfortunately, the “priestly” elements resisted the spreading of the truth, trying not to let their followers out of the built up religious system.
Or do you say that Ibrahim (Abraham) and Ishmael and Ishaq (Isaac) and Jacob and the descendants were Jews or Christians?
Say, “Are you more knowing or is God?”
And who is more unjust than one who conceals a testimony he has from God? And God is not unaware of what you do. (2:140)
For true believers, the testimony of their Lord is the highest testimony.
God witnesses that there is no deity except Him, and the maintainers and those of knowledge – persistent in balance. There is no deity except Him, the Exalted in Might, the Wise! (3:18)
When God took a covenant from the prophets, “This is what I give you of the Prescription and judgement. Then there comes to you a messenger confirming what is with you. You will surely believe him and help him”, He asked, “Have you acknowledged and taken upon that My obligation?”
They said, “We have acknowledged it!”
He said, “Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses.” And whoever turns away after that – will be an apostate!” (3:81)
Say, “What thing is greatest in testimony?”
Say, “God is witness between me and you. And this Literature (Quran) was suggested to me that I may warn you thereby and whomever it reaches. Do you testify that with God there are other deities?”
Say, “I will not testify!”
Say, “Indeed, He is but one God, and indeed, I am free of what you associate with Him!” (6:19)
Some people or a group of “intellectuals” take responsibility to explain the meaning of life and being, different from the message of God. In order not to fall into the trap of “beauty” of human arguments, believers need to trust only the witness of the Creator:
I did not make them witness to the creation of the heavens and the earth or to the creation of themselves, and I would not have taken the misguiders as helpers! (18:51)
Witnessing that the Prescription sent is from Him, the Creator has made us understand that the prescriptions given in it serve to us as a guide to actions in various life situations:
The blazing (Ramadan) month in which was revealed the Literature (Quran), a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever witness the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of the counted days. God intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship, that you complete the counted period and glorify God for that He has guided you! And perhaps you will be grateful! (2:185)
…And bring to witness two witnesses from among your men. And if there are not two men, then a man and two women from those whom you accept as witnesses… (2:282)
And test the orphans until they reach marriageable age. Then if you perceive in them sound judgement, release their property to them. And do not consume it excessively and quickly, that they will grow up. And whoever is self-sufficient should refrain, and whoever is poor – let him take according to what is acceptable. Then when you release their property to them, bring witnesses upon them. And sufficient is God as Accountant! (4:6)
O you who have believed! Testimony among you when death approaches one of you at the time of bequest there should be two just men from among you or two others from outside. If you are traveling through the land and the disaster of death should strike you, detain them after the prayer. Let them both swear by God if you doubt, “We will not exchange it for a price, even if he should be a near relative, and we will not withhold the testimony of God. Indeed, we would then be of the sinful!”
But if it is found that those two were guilty of the sin, then they would be replaced by two others, more worthy ones, of those against whom the former transgressed. And let them swear by God, “Our testimony is truer than their testimony, and we have not transgressed. Indeed, we would then be of the obscurantists!” That is appropriate for exposing a given testimony and to fear that you might take your oath back after its confirmation. And beware of God and listen, God does not guide the apostates! (5:106-108)
And when they have fulfilled their term, either retain them according to acceptable terms or part with them according to acceptable terms. And bring to witness two just men from among you and establish the testimony for God. That is instructed to whoever should believe God and in the last day… (65:2)
Undoubtedly, the basis of the testimony is justice, which is strengthened by an active civil position:
…And do not conceal testimony, for whoever conceals it – his heart is indeed sinful, and God is Knowing of what you do! (2:283)
To reach the prescribed state is impossible without the upbringing in oneself the qualities of justice and balance:
O you who have believed! Be persistently firm in balance witnesses for God, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, God is more worthy of both. So follow not passions, lest you not be just. And if you distort or refuse then indeed God is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. (4:135)
O you who have believed! Be persistently standing firm for God, witnesses in balance, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to circumspectness. Beware of God! Indeed, God is Acquainted with what you do. (5:8)
This is very important in situations with a committed crime. Emotions and preferences should not replace justice.
And those who accuse their wives and have no witnesses except themselves – then each of them must witness four testimonies by God that indeed, he is of the truthful. And the fifth that the curse of God be upon him if he should be among the liars. But it will prevent punishment from her if she gives four testimonies by God that indeed, he is of the liars. And the fifth that the wrath of God be upon her if he was of the truthful! (24:6-9)
Why did they not produce for it four witnesses? And when they do not produce the witnesses, then it is they, in the sight of God, who are the liars! (24:13)
Only the presence of witnesses allows us to take appropriate sanctions against criminals:
Those who commit excessiveness of your women – bring against them four witnesses from among you. And if they testify, confine the guilty women to houses until death takes them or God ordains for them a way. (4:15)
The fornicator woman or fornicator man – lash each one of them with a hundred lashes, and do not be taken by pity for them in the duty of God, if you should believe God and the last day! And let a group of the believers witness their punishment. (24:2)
The difference between sincere believers and other people is the belief that God does not even for a moment lose sight of absolutely everything:
And it is He who created the heavens and earth in truth! And the day He says, “Be,” and it is, His Word is the truth! And He has a kingship at the day the horn is blown! Knower of the hidden and the witnessed; and He is the Wise, the Acquainted! (6:73)
They will make excuses to you when you have returned to them.
Say, “Make no excuse – never will we believe you! God has already informed us of your news. And God will observe your deeds, and His messenger; then you will be taken back to the Knower of the hidden and the witnessed, and He will inform you of what you used to do.” (9:94)
And say, “Do for God will see your deeds, and His messenger and the believers! And you will be returned to the Knower of the hidden and the witnessed, and He will inform you of what you used to do.” (9:105)
Omniscience of God is the main quality of the trial of men.
Indeed in that is a sign for those who fear the punishment of the hereafter. That is a day for which the people will be collected, and that is a day witnessed! (11:103)
Those who met the criteria of the Creator will be in a very favorable position:
And whoever obeys God and the messenger – those will be with the ones upon whom God has bestowed favor of the prophets, the steadfast affirmers of truth, the witnesses and the ones who corrected themselves. And excellent are those as companions!(4:69)
And the earth will shine with the light of its Lord, and the book will be placed, and the prophets and the witnesses will be brought, and it will be judged between them in truth, and they will not be wronged! (39:69)
Indeed, We will support Our messengers and those who believe during the life of this world and on the day when the witnesses will stand! (40:51)
And those who have believed God and His messengers – those are the supporters of truth and the witnesses, with their Lord. For them is their reward and their light!
But those who closed themselves and denied Our signs – those are the companions of hellfire! (57:19)
A testimony against people on the Day of Debt can have negative consequences:
Then the factions differed from among them, so woe to those who closed themselves – from the testimony of a tremendous day! (19:37)
An interesting fact is that even the organs of people will testify:
On a day when their tongues, their hands and their feet will bear witness against them as to what they used to do. (24:24)
That day, We will seal over their mouths, and their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will testify about what they used to earn. (36:65)
Until, when they reach it, their hearing and their eyes and their skins will testify against them of what they used to do.
And they will say to their skins, “Why have you testified against us?”
They will say, “We were made to speak by God, who has made everything speak!”
And He created you the first time, and to Him you are returned. And you were not covering yourselves, lest your hearing testify against you or your sight or your skins!
But you assumed that God does not know much of what you do. (41:20-22)
On the Day of Debt, the entire evidence base on criminal activity will force the defendant to fully admit his guilt:
“O company of invisible creatures and mankind! Did there not come to you messengers from among you, relating to you My signs and warning you of the meeting of this day of yours?”
They will say, “We bear witness against ourselves!” The worldly life had deluded them, and they will bear witness against themselves that they were closed ones! (6:130)
And who is more unjust than one who invents about God a lie or denies His signs? Those will attain their portion of the decree until when Our messengers come to them to take them in death, they will say, “Where are those you used to invoke besides God?”
They will say, “They have departed from us,” and will bear witness against themselves that they were closed ones! (7:37)
There is a traditional opinion that someone can intercede before God for someone. This inspires hope for sinners to acquittal. However, the true is as follows:
And those they invoke besides Him do not possess intercession; but only those who testify to the truth and they know! (43:86)
In what sense can intercession take place? Only by testimony:
And who is more unjust than he who invents a lie about God? Those will be presented before their Lord,
And the witnesses will say, “These are the ones who lied against their Lord. Unquestionably, the curse of God is upon the obscurantists!” (11:18)
If a person in his life did good deeds and was guided by the prescriptions of the Almighty, then the evidence of this can be the basis for entering Paradise. In order for witnesses to stand up for you on the Day of Debt, it is necessary to perform actions worthy of evidence for the justification and reward of the Creator.
The analysis of the topic of the testimony allows us to critically treat the traditional understanding of the term “shahid”, which is primitively understood by the majority as a believer who died in battle. Moreover, the reactionary elements manipulate believers with the help of this word, suggesting that self-bombing among civilians or objects is an act of “shahid.”
In the Quran, we will not find such behavior or prescription to do it. “Shahid” is a witness – a capacious concept related to the life position, but not to the destruction of people.