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Martyrdom in Islam (Themes in Islamic History) [Paperback]

David Cook

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Book Description

15 Jan 2007 Themes in Islamic History (Book 4)
In recent times Islamic martyrdom has become associated with suicide missions conducted by extremists. However, as David Cook demonstrates, this type of martyrdom is very different from the classical definition which condemned suicide and stipulated that anyone who died a believer could be considered a martyr. Ideas about martyrdom have evolved to suit prevailing circumstances, and it is the evolution of these interpretations that Cook charts in this fascinating history. The book covers the earliest sources on martyrdom including those from the Jewish and Christian traditions, discussions about what constituted martyrdom, and differences in attitudes between Sunnis and Shi'ites. A concluding section discusses martyrdom in today's radical environment. There is no other book which considers the topic so systematically, and which draws so widely on the literary sources. This will be essential reading for students of Islamic history, and for those looking for an informed account of this controversial topic.

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'This is a lucid, well-researched book which addresses an issue of pressing interest and relevance to everyone on this planet at the present time. The book is admirably comprehensive, and being a scholarly work, does not fall into the trap of regarding the subject as a monolith.' The Muslim World Book Review

Book Description

Ideas about Islamic martyrdom have evolved across the ages to suit prevailing circumstances. It is the evolution of these different interpretations, from the time of Muhammad to the present, that David Cook charts in this fascinating history of the role of suffering and peoples' willingness to die for their faith.

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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Muslim Islam Shahid Martyr Theology 7 Dec 2008
By William Garrison Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
This book reviews many old Islamic tracts in the author's fine attempt in trying to explain the energy that Islamic terrorists have in committing deadly Islamikazi attacks of martyrdom; attacks that non-Muslims view as being more of purposeless suicidal assassination than being constructive `in the way of Allah.' Part of the book is a history of some individual Muslims who are listed as dying as a "shahid" or a "martyr" in some militant jihad action, whether it was during a religious dispute amongst Muslim sects, on a medieval battlefield, during the 1980s Iran-Iranian War, or during the Israeli intifadas since 1990. Now, this is not a list of the names of hundreds of "shuhada." No, it is a research into how different Islamic writers viewed the theory of the use of a shahid in the killing of other Muslims or non-Muslim kafirs. The author raised the question of "if martyrdom through jihad is in the `way of Allah', how can a Muslim know if his attack or martyrdom is `just' and will be accepted by Allah when he attacks another Muslim?" The author poses the question, but acknowledges that Muslim theologians have yet to provide a satisfactory answer to this conundrum. The author provides the briefest review of the Quran in analyzing how Mohammad's book justifies jihad. (For more detailed analysis, for a start, one needs to read Robert Spencer's `Religion of Peace" or Mark Gabriel's `Islam and Terrorism'.) Instead, the author spends much more time in reviewing the hadith and numerous other ancient Muslim tracts that analyzed how Allah might approve of a warrior's death in a martyrdom event, but not in a mere suicidal-battle event that had no lasting consequence. The author's inquiry is more into understanding the Islamic beliefs of the usefulness of martyrdom during jihad operations, rather than of jihad itself. Most of the book extensively reviews the historical development of Islamic martyrdom theology during the Middle Ages. It also reviews how the concept of what constitutes a legitimate martyrdom event, as espoused and expanded upon by Egypt's Qutb, Iraq's Qassam and Iran's Khomeini, during the last half of the Twentieth century. Although the author is very aware of the extended militant campaigns of the Islamic armies following the death of Mohammad, he seems to downplay their impact as to why conquered peoples converted to Islam (chapter 5). The author wrote: "The Ottoman Empire...was beginning a long, slow retreat from the walls of Vienna..." (p.135), leaving the impression that Muslims were passively tilling farmlands outside of Vienna when they were surprisingly attacked by Austrians - whereas, in reality, the Austrians were repulsing an attack by an invading Muslim army that was attempting to conquer and loot the city. Nonetheless, this is really a very informative book in revealing many ancient Islamic documents discussing the theology of martyrdom. Chapters: (1) Martyrs in religions. (2) Martyrdom in the genesis of Islam. (3) Legal definitions, boundaries and rewards of the martyr. (4) Sectarian Islam: Sunni, Shiite and Sufi martyrdom. (5) Martyrs: warriors and missionaries in medieval Islam. (6) Martyrs of love and epic heroes. (7) Patterns of prognostication, narrative and expiation. (8) Martyrdom in contemporary radical Islam. (9) Martyrdom in Islam: past and present.
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