O Muslims! Achieving noble and lofty objectives require enormous sacrifices in proportion. There can be no doubt that the higher an objective is, the greater its sacrifice must be. Therefore, if ones ultimate objective is to please Allah and hope to be granted Paradise, then defending Allah's religion and protecting His Book and sacred places ranks highest in attempting to attain His pleasure.
Sacrifice comes in many shapes, forms and levels, it can be performed through many different channels, but there is no doubt that the sacrificing of one's soul for the sake of Allah in order to defeat His enemies and support Islam is the very highest level. This is of course Shahadah, or martyrdom. The Prophet(SAW) exerted maximum effort to instil the magnitude of Shahadah as well as the concept of Jihad deep into the hearts of his companions and his followers who were to come after him. He(SAW) used two methods in order to achieve this objective:
Firstly: By repeatedly declaring his deep love and fervent wish for Shahadah. Abu Hurayrah(RA) narrated that the Prophet(SAW) said: "I swear by the One in Whose Hands my soul is, I wish that I would fight for the sake of Allah (i.e., Jihad ) and get martyred, then return and fight again and get martyred, then return and fight again and get martyred" (Bukhari & Muslim) What a wonderful wish coming from the purest of hearts! This is nothing except a reflection of deep love and overwhelming desire; a desire to attain Shahadah, which is one of the greatest paths to Paradise.
Secondly: By explaining the virtues of Shahadah and the ranks of the martyrs in Paradise as well as descriptions of their bounties, such as in the Hadeeth when Marwan said: "We asked 'Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud(RA) about the following verse: (which translates as): "And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision." (Aal-'Imran: 169).'He(RA) replied: "We asked the Prophet(SAW) about this verse and he replied: "Their (i.e., the martyrs souls) will live inside green birds that dwell in designated lamps which hang on the throne of Allah, they will roam freely in Paradise as they please, then return to these lamps"" (Muslim).
The pain that a martyr feels at the time of death will be reduced so greatly that he will only feel as if he was stung by a mosquito. Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet(SAW) said:
Moreover, the finest dwellings in Paradise are those of the martyrs. Samurah Ibn Jundub(RA) narrated that the Prophet(SAW) said:
Also, the angels spread their wings over the body of a martyr as a form of honour, dignity and respect. Jabir Ibn 'Abdullah(RA) narrated:
Among all the dwellers of Paradise, only the martyrs would wish to return to this life. This is due to the immense rewards and respect that have been mentioned in the previous Ahadith. Anas bin Malik(RA) narrated that the Prophet(SAW) said:
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that these poignant prophetic words had such a great impact on the hearts of the pious chosen generation of the companions of the Prophet(SAW). It deeply instilled the concepts of Shahadah into their hearts along with the fervent wish of achieving this exalted status, so they toiled continuously to achieve it. There are a multitude of stories that demonstrate this, for example: Anas bin Maalik(RA) narrated:
Just look at how this companion viewed the few moments needed for eating dates as being too long a time to live! The words of people like these at the time of their martyrdom were as powerful as earthquakes, so much so that in some cases, words like these resulted in their enemies embracing Islam such as in the following narration:
Haraam Ibn Malhan(RA) was one of a group of companions of the Prophet(SAW) who had memorised the Qur'an and were experts in it. The Prophet(SAW) dispatched seventy of this group to inform a group of polytheist tribes about Islam and recite the Qur'an to them. However the tribes of Ra'l and Dhikwan from among these polytheist tribes betrayed and slaughtered the whole group of companions near a well called Ma'unah. As Haram(RA) was being killed, he screamed in front of his killer: After this, his killer went about asking people what these words meant (i.e., that Haram had won) until he was told that what Haram(RA) meant was that he had attained martyrdom. Due to this, the killer embraced Islam. This narration was mentioned in the book of Bukhari.
Some of the companions of the Prophet(SAW) would smell the scent of Paradise and it would make them unable to control their desire to fight strongly and valiantly to the death. Anas Ibn Malik(RA) said:
Shaddad Ibn Al-Haad(RA) narrated: "A Bedouin came to the Prophet(SAW), accepted Islam and said: 'I wish to migrate (to Madinah)'. So the Prophet(SAW) asked some of his companions to take care of him. Then after a battle, the Muslims had gained some booty so the Prophet(SAW) divided it and gave the Bedouin's share to some of his companions to look after, as the Bedouin was still at the rearguard. When the Bedouin returned, they gave him his share, so he asked them: 'What is this?' they replied: 'It is your share from the booty which the Prophet(SAW) gave us to hold on to for you.' So the Bedouin took the booty and went to the Prophet(SAW) and asked: 'What is this?' The Prophet(SAW) replied: "Your share of the booty." The Bedouin said: 'This is not why I believe in you and follow you; rather, I follow you so that I can get shot by an arrow right here, (and then he pointed to his throat) then die and enter Paradise.' The Prophet(SAW) said: "If you are sincere then Allah will grant you your wish."After a short while, fighting resumed and the Bedouins body was brought to the Prophet(SAW) with an arrow in his throat at exactly the spot where he had pointed to the Prophet(SAW). Thereupon The Prophet(SAW) said: "He was sincere so Allah granted him his wish." Then using his own garment, the Prophet(SAW) shrouded the Bedouin, prayed the funeral prayer over him and was heard by his companions to say during the prayer: "O Allah! This is Your slave who migrated for Your sake and was killed as a martyr - and I testify to this".
Which testimony could ever be more honourable, sincere and truthful than this great one given by the Prophet(SAW)?
There are abundant examples from the lives of the companions of Prophet(SAW) which illustrate their burning desire to achieve martyrdom - and what a noble objective this is!
Also, in our time, many of the shining stars from the righteous of the Muslim nation have joined the caravan of martyrdom. These are the people whose blood testifies to their heroism and immense sacrifice; they are the martyrs of Bosnia, Kosova, Chechnya and before them Afghanistan, as well as many other Muslim lands.
Today we Muslims and indeed the entire world can witness the greatness of martyrdom being illustrated in the uprising of Palestine in general and Al-Aqsa in particular. This kind of stance, which revives the magnitude and virtues of martyrdom in the heart of the Muslim nation, is exactly what we need at this time. It is vital that the Muslims exert every effort to spread the love for achieving martyrdom just like the pious early generations of Muslims did. We must continue on the same road that they were on, which is that of our Prophet(SAW) and indeed all the prophets before him, in order to support our religion and defeat our enemies.
O Muslims around the world! It is obligatory on you to support your brothers and sisters in every country where they are oppressed. Do not forsake them, rather listen to the saying of your Prophet(SAW):