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Martyrdom has it basic roots in religious beliefs and writings from antiquity. Those of Nordic origin relate little but herosim by the pagan gods. At the battle of Thermopylae, the Spartan heroes fought to the last man with religious fervor. As a cult of heroes, martyrdom predates Islam. The Jewish Zealots, a well-recorded terror group, retreated eventually to the Dead Sea where they committed collective suicide in the tradition of hero martyrs. Muhammed was a copier, not a founder of martyrdom.

While suicide is forbidden by the Qur'an, martyrdom is glorified as a religious duty, at least as interpreted by the fundamentalist sects of Islam.

In modern times, it was in prison that Sayyid Qutb made his lasting mark on Islamic martyrdom. He created a philosophical vision where death, piety, wisdom, and immortality are one and the same. With help from his followers he smuggled five volumes, piece by piece, out of his prison. His "In the Shade of the Qur'an" has been called a gigantic study and one of the most remarkable works to be produced in prison.

Sayyid Qutb and his brother, Muhammed, were part of The Muslim Brotherhood during Nasser's time. When Nasser first cracked down on the brotherhood, Muhammed emigrated to Saudi Arabia where he became a distinguished professor of Islamic Studies. Sayyid was made of more stubborn stuff and wound up serving two terms in prison in Egypt. He was hanged by Nasser in 1966 a few months after his second release from prison.

Qutb published his famous book, Mallem Fittareek (Milestones) in 1965. For that he was hanged in spite of great protests from other Islamic nations.


"Sayyid Qutb will always be remembered for his legacy of clearly defining the basic ideas of the Oneness and sovereignty of Allah, the clear distinction between pure faith and the association of partners with Allah (Shirk) overt and hidden, and the only hope for salvation of humanity. Sayyid Qutb was smiling when he was executed, showing his conviction of the beautiful life to come in paradise a life he definitely and rightfully deserved."

Significantly, bin Laden studied under Muhammed Qutb in Saudi Arabia.

Qutb's playbook provides the philosophical basis for Islamic terrorism by martyrdom.

If your goal is to understand suicidal terror in the larger scope of terror, see Jessica Stern; "Terror in the Name of God." Ms Stern makes clear that there are motives beyond religion. She also makes clear that religion is too often a central component.


Volker Hildebrandt offered the following before our renovation:

"Practically all terrror that involves suicide comes from people who believe that they will be rewarded in heaven. Without such religious belief not many would blow themselves up to kill others. All religions are invented by the human mind and are the most dangerous thing to life on earth because they are able to eliminate human reason by claiming to do "god's" will"

Posted by RoadToPeace on Friday, October 28, 2005 at 18:09:06

Carol La Rock wrote before we moved:

"I do not know dot one about bombs. I would, however, like to respond in some measure to "Harry's" question about what makes a suicide bomber. You, sir, have also instructed one who answers to identify their source of info. My answer is only myself, from a life where I have had to face some choices, which at the time bore the significance of life and death. It does provide cause for some insights, though far from all.

First, one would probably accept that it is a pretty profound statement being made. It is a statement not only of intent, but also of some irretrievable belief about both the nature of life, and of death. Suicide bombings have occured often enough that there are not many misgivings that those who participate are doing so with the notion that they are going to survive the event. It is also possible that to survive, may to them, mean they have failed in their mission. Therefore, some part of the rationale must include, on some level, that the highest offering I, as a human being, have to offer, i.e. my own life, must be being raised to some higher level through my death, far and above what I may STATE by my life. So, if the highest harm I can committ against what I perceive to be the - hated one - is to take life, which the other holds dear, Have I not accomplished the most my life can offer(?). Then if, added to this scenario, the current, physical state of my life on earth is to be destitute, insignificant, aimless, and in all signigicant matters, unglorious, then at least my death will not be. The ""mechanics"" of Terrorism at that point are wholly irrelevant. They are only a means to what promises to be a Divine end.

Two great tragedies of this profile, unfortunately, are, one: those with intent cannot ask of those who have gone before if, in fact, that which they sacrificed their life for was indeed REAL; two, have those who have made this ultimate, self-inflicted sacrifice succeeded in communicating their otherwise unannouced STATEMENT(?), or are they otherwise satisfied that they have fulfilled a mission of hate(?). Truly, only those who submit themselves can answer those questions.

One other quick insight that has come to me is the distinction between those who are martyred for what they believe and those who deliberately put themselves in Death's pathway for what they believe. The first being an utlimate statement of surrender of one's being to or for what/ Whom they believe. The second is more a statement of what "I" am giving/doing to or for what/Whom I believe. Perhaps the difference is akin to the difference between salvation by grace through faith; and, salvation by works.

It can be said that what humans believe is of no great import. BUT what they DO BELIEVE determines what they will/and are willing, to DO.

Just some thoughts. Take very good care. Sincerely, Carol."

Posted by RoadToPeace on Thursday, November 02, 2006 at 16:36:44

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