By Daniella Talmon-Heller
Al-Masaq, Vol. 14, No. 2 (2002)
Abstract: Etan Kohlberg ends his comprehensive article on “Medieval Muslim views on martyrdom” saying that: “Modern ideas about martyrdom [shahada] cannot be understood in isolation; they draw their inspiration from the past”. This article deals with shahada and talab al-shahada, namely with the quest for martyrdom, an idea just as modern and as medieval as martyrdom itself. Here it is studied within the historical framework of the conflict between Muslims and Franks in the Levant, in the context of Muslim memory, propaganda and piety.
The first Muslims who lost their lives because of their commitment to the new Islamic faith, were killed fighting their pagan enemies on the battlefield – that is, in a very different manner than the Christian martyrs of late antiquity, martyred for clinging to their faith, or later Christians, propagating their faith in the early Middle Ages.