The History and Evolution of Martyrdom in the Service of Defensive Jihad: An Analysis of Suicide Bombers in Current Conflicts


Ali, Farhana, and Jerrold Post. 2008. “The History and Evolution of Martyrdom in the Service of Defensive Jihad: An Analysis of Suicide Bombers in Current Conflicts.” Social Research 75 (2): 615-54.

Authors: Farhana Ali, Jerrold Post


This paper explores the transformation of martyrdom, a legitimate Islamic concept, into suicide terrorism. The authors argue that the original application, meaning, and glory of martyrs (shahid) in Islam is violated by extremists' use of suicide terrorism that is being justified with the misappropriation of Islamic principles, narratives, and themes. That extremists are able to redefine martrydom and jihad--two terms that are hotly debated and a source of controversy in the Muslim world--creates not only tension among the West and Muslims, but seeks to strip Islam of its true authenticity. The question of how to restore the fundamental values of classical Islam as well as the need to revive Islam in an effort to marginalize, if not eradicate, extremists is beginning to occur on a global scale. However, reversing the extremist ideology and strengthening moderate Islam will require a sustained effort and coordination among various Islamic groups, communities and countries to have a lasting effect in defeating suicide terrorists.

Topics: Gender, Women, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-State Armed Groups, Religion, Terrorism

Year: 2008

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