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Shahid (Arabic: شَهيد shaheed, plural: شُهَداء shuhada) literally means "witness" usually a a martyr for the Islamic faith. The place of the shahid in paradise is supposedly guaranteed by the Quran:   

Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord; They rejoice in the bounty provided by Allah. And with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the (martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve.

—Qur'an, 2:214

Allah has purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the Garden (of Paradise): they fight in His Cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in Truth, through the Torah, the Gospel, and the Quran: and who is more faithful to his Covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme. 

—Qur'an, 9:111

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran emphasized the importance of martyrdom among Muslims. During the Iran–Iraq War squads of young boys were formed into Republican Guard units and sent on suicide missions. Later, the Iranian National Guard trained the Lebanese Hezbollah, which used suicide bombings against American targets in Lebanon and with less success, against Israeli targets. The practice was then taken up by the Hamas in Israel, and by Al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan and the United States.

A lively controversy exists in Islam over whether or not one may became a Shahid through suicide bombing, and whether a Shahid will get a reward of 70 (or 72) "black eyed"  hura'yn, usually considered to be virgins.

For example, during the Second Intifada there were many such announcements in Palestinian newspapers

"The mother of Wail 'Awad of Dayr Balah, did not plan on holding a second wedding for her eldest son, following his marriage on August 10, 2001 to his fiance in a simple ceremony attended only by the family. But yesterday was Wail's real wedding day, and the angels of the Merciful married him, together with the martyrs, to 'the black-eyed,' as all around rose the cries of joy that his mother dreamed of on the day of his wedding. (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, October 4, 2001.)

Before suicide bombings, Shuhada often pose for special pictures to be used in their funeral procession, such as the one below of Basil Qawasmi. Often the guns are fake wooden mockups that are kept in photographer's shops.

According to some authorities however, suicide bombing is condemned in Islam.  According to others, all believing Muslims will be rewarded with 72 virgins, while yet others insist that the sex of the "hur'ayn" (black eyed) is indeterminate.  

Synonyms and alternate spellings:  Shaheed.

Further Information: See   Islam

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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