Monday, May 17, 2010

Martyrdom in Palestinian Society

All Palestinians who die for the national cause are honoured as martyrs (shuhada) regardless of their religion. They often receive a picture posted in town honoring them, as well as a gravestone in the cemetery. This means that whether an individual has died as a civilian bystander or as a combatant, they are considered to be a martyr. The word Shahid (martyr) means "witness". Martyrs are thought to receive a two-fold reward: national dignity and spiritual recognition. Contrary to the some depictions of martyrdom, individuals are not encouraged to be martyrs. However, because of the rituals of comfort after the death of a martyr, there is an assumption that martyrdom is encouraged. As one mother I interviewed said, "Do you think that there is a mother who would want to lose her child? And by throwing this stone, there will be freedom and liberation? But what happens is when someone dies, to make her feel better, everyone says that he is a hero, and so I am not sad."Every mourner keeps this comforting verse from the Koran in mind: "All who obey God and he apostle are in the company of those on whom is the Grace of God, of the Prophets, the lovers of Truth, the Witnesses, and the righteous: Ah! What a beautiful fellowship!" (An-Nisa, 69). The bodies of martyrs are neither washed nor changed, thus keeping intact the marks of honour. Their funerals override the family ceremony. The entire population, men and women, accompany the body of the martyr, holding flags and chanting words heavy with emotion that call for the continuation of the struggle: "Al-Shahid habib Allah" (The martyr is beloved by God) and "Allah Akbar" (God is mightiest).

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