Some words have special reverence commonly in all the cultures of the peoples of the world. Scientists, philosophers, inventors, heroes, professors, peace settlers, etc. are personalities that some of them universally, and some of them among Islamic norms have a kind of magnitude and respect.
A person who is familiar with Islamic terms knows that the word “Martyr” is a sacred term, as if it is enfolded in rays of light. From the viewpoint of Islam, a person who has attained martyrdom has attained one of the highest stages possible for man. That is why the Great Prophet (PBUH&HP) says: “Above every virtuous person there is another virtuous person superior to him, until a martyr in the way of Allah. When a person is martyred in the way of Allah, there wouldn’t be anyone higher than him.” (1)
Now with this introduction, we will try to study some aspects of the martyr’s greatness:
Humanity owes to those who serve it. The scientist by his knowledge, the thinker by his thought, the inventor by his invention, and the ethicist by his practical wisdom, each are whom the humanity is indebted to them. But how does the humanity indebt the martyr? The martyr, with sacrifice and burning up, paves the way for others to serve the community. In reality, all the mentioned people use one of their properties for the humanity. However, the martyr puts his all entity at stake, and with his martyrdom injects new blood in the veins of the society. Therefore this movement of the martyr surpasses any other efforts by other servers, and makes everyone indebted. The Great Prophet (PBUH&HP) says in this respect, “For Allah, no drop is worth as the drop which has shed in the path of Allah.” (2)
In fact, the martyr is like the flame which his contribution is from the kind of burning and vanishing, so that the others, under his light that has cost at his fade away, get secured, and serve the humanity. (3)
Yet, we haven’t explained about martyrdom and the source of its sacredness. What is truly the source of sacredness of the martyr? Martyrdom is in two ways different to ordinary death, and we should seek its sacredness in them. First, some forms of dying inevitably come along with an act of crime, whether in case of suicide, or in case of murder in which there wouldn’t be any honor for the murdered. However as the martyrdom is for the sake of a divine goal, and idiomatically “Fi Sabil Allah” (in the path of God) it is admirable and honorable.
Other than that, on the contrary to most forms of death in which the person dies unintentionally, and therefore without honor, the martyrdom is totally willful and deliberate, and that makes it priceless. So martyrdom is the only form of dying that surpasses being alive in superiority and sacredness, and the martyr is revered because he consciously sacrifices his life for the sake of God.
In fact, from one hand, the martyr sees martyrdom as the most superior form of dying, and he seeks it, and from the other hand, the relation of the martyr to death is not from the kind of relation of the bird to the cage; rather it is from the kind of relation of the student to the university. This means although the martyr counts his lifetime as an opportunity for perfection in the university (i.e. the world), but, at the same time, the quest and longing for the afterworld as the final residence burns his heart. This longing is observable in the words of the Amir al-Mu’minin, Ali (PBUH), when after being wounded said, “I swear to God of Ka’ba that I got blessed.” (4)
Therefore, martyrdom is, by all means, the best ending for one’s body, and the most everlasting and precious service to the humanity. The more the martyr has sacrificed his blood purely and knowingly, the more sacred and honorable he gets. That is why the greatest of all martyrs in glory is Imam Hussain Ibn Ali (PBUH). History witnesses that he sacrificed his life in the higher most divine ambition. Even if we don’t consider the traits of an Imam for him, it is enough for his novelty and supremacy to consider how he sacrificed his life, wealth, family, and his head, all for the sake of God. So he really deserves what he is called, as the Master and king of Martyrs; however, he is the king of martyrs of all time and spaces, and the humanity, forever, owes him his pure blood.
(Taken from the article “The Martyr”, by Scholar Murtada Mutahari, with little changes
1. Khisal, vol. 1, p. 9
2. Kafi, vol. 5, p. 53
3. The Holy Quran (33:46) introduces Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) as a lamp spreading light.
4. Manqib ibn Shahr Ashub, vol. 2, p. 119