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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

The word shahid (pl. shuhada) is derived from the Arabic verbal root shahada, meaning to see, witness, testify or become a model and paradigm. In different grammatrical forms the words used in the Koran are ish'had, shahid, shahadah, shuhadam shahud, mashud, mashad, etc. A shahid is a martyr, who witnesses as if a martyr witnesses and see the truth physically and thus stands by it firmly. The English word martyr comes from the Greek martyrs, meaning witness. The word shahid occurs no less than 56 times in singular, plural and adverbial forms in the Koran.

There are two types of martyr, the difference between them being marked by the fact that martyr of the first type have special burial rites, while those of the second do not. The first type are shuhada al-ma'raka (battle-field martyr). They are referred to as martyrs both in this world and the next (shuhada al-dunya wa'l akhira), meaning that they are treated as martyrs both in this world and in the next. There is widespread agreement among the Muslims that the martyr's body should not as a rule be washed. This is based on the Prophet's actions at Uhud. There are conflicting views of the Prophet's behaviour at Uhud. According to some he prayed over the martyrs and according to others, he did not. It is also argued that the martyrs are alive (ahya), while funeral prayers are performed only for the dead.

The second type of martyr are the martyrs in the next world (shuhada al-akhira). They are those who were killed other than in battle-field, such as defending good cause, service of God or belief.

The Prophet also said, "There are seven kinds of martyr other than those killed in the way of God. Someone who is killed by the plague is a martyr, someone who drowns is a martyr, someone who dies of pleurisy is a martyr, someone who dies of a disease of the belly is a martyr, someone who dies by fire is a martyr, someone who dies under a falling building is a martyr and a woman who dies in childbirth is a martyr" (Muwatta, 16:36)

Zamakhshari and Fakhruddin Razi have quoted in their Tafsirs the Prophet as having said, "He who dies adhering to the house of the Prophet, will die the death of a martyr; his sins will be forgiven and his death will be regarded as perfect."

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