The Quranic meaning of the word 'Shaheed'

The concept of Shaheed, as interpreted by some to mean a martyr, is totally un-Quranic. According to the traditional Muslim scholars, anyone who is murdered, drowns or is killed in a fire becomes a Shaheed (martyr) and goes to heaven. This concept is without any Quranic support.

The Quran stresses the fact that the manner by which the human dies is totally irrelevant to his/her destination in the hereafter. The disbelievers and the idol-worshippers are destined for hell, no matter how they die. On the other hand, the believers who lead a righteous life, go to heaven, once again no matter how they die.

This incorrect belief is the result of the misinterpretation of the following verse:

"Those who immigrate for the sake of God, then get killed, or die, God will surely shower them with good provisions" 22:58

The traditional scholars took the words "get killed" to indicate that the act of (getting killed) is what made them become a martyr, and thus entitles them to go to heaven. They have forgotten that the verse also includes the words "or die" (i.e. a natural death). In other words they are still destined for heaven even if they die naturally. It is the faith and deeds of those believers that get them to heaven and not the way they have died.

In 22:58 God is stating that he will shower these believers with good provisions, not because they were killed, but because they lived for the cause of God.

The word 'shaheed' in the Quran does not mean martyr at all. The word 'shaheed' in the Quran means witness. An example is given in the following verse:

"The day will come when we will raise from every community a 'Shaheed' (witness) from among them." 16:89

In 3:98, God calls Himself a 'Shaheed' which obviously does not mean that God is a martyr!

"Say, "O followers of the scripture, why do you reject these revelations of God, when God is 'Shaheed' (Witness) over everything you do?" 3:98

For the correct meaning of the word Shaheed (Witness) please also see 6:19, 34:47, 16:84, 22:78, 4:41, 4:159, 50:21, 2:143.