The Holy Fighting in God's Cause and Martyrdom
Importance of the Holy Fighting in God’s Cause
It is related in the narrative ascribed to The Prince of the Believers Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb (God’s peace bestowed upon him) that he said, “The holy fighting in God’s Cause is one of the doors of Heaven which God opened for his elite men. And it is God’s impenetrable armor and His sure Heaven. He who turns away from it has God putting on him the cloth of disgrace and surrounding him with affliction.”
It is doubtless that the holy fighting in God’s Cause requires a lot of anguish and tiredness on the worldly level and in the short term. The holy fighting in God's Cause may cause the loss of money, destruction of houses, economical stasis, etc. As a result, the human being may conceive it to be an evil and a loss and may deal with it hatefully.
This view towards the holy fighting in God’s Cause is, however, a naive and a shallow one, and it is supported by the fancy of the soul and the insinuation of the devil. Nevertheless, in the divine world, things are different; The Most High God says, ﴾Holy fighting in Allah’s Cause is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.﴿1
What is, then, the good aspect of the holy fighting in God’s Cause?
Impacts of the Holy Fighting in God’s Cause
First: With Respect to the Hereafter
The holy fighting in God’s Cause is a door opened for the elite men as is manifested in the narrative ascribed to The Prince of the Believers (God’s peace bestowed upon him). The human being suffers a lot in this life in confronting its embellishments, the fancy of the soul, and the insinuation of the devils of the humans and the jinns. He faces all of that in order to open a hole in the wall of darkness that is surrounding him, so that the light of divine mercy may penetrate it.
Therefore, the holy fighting in God’s Cause is an open door which the human being can enter through not to become an ordinary human being upon whom divine mercy is bestowed to a certain extent but to become one of God’s men and, what is more, one of God’s elite men! Then, what benefit will be of more importance and of more sublimity than this benefit is characterized with?!
Second: With Respect to This Life
The incomprehensive view gives an impression that the holy fighting in God’s Cause results in the economical problems or in insecurity, etc. however, it is on the contrary of this in the long term. The holy fighting in God’s Cause achieves security; and had it not been for it, the human being would have always been under the mercy of the enemies and would always beg their affection, so that they may sympathize with his weakness and may procure for him his interests. Has such begging achieved any interest or security at any day throughout the history of humanity?!
The oppressor cares for nothing but for his own interests, and the transgressor finds an ecstasy in humiliating and suppressing the others. Consequently, the holy fighting in God’s Cause is in fact a guarantee for the security, economics, and all the worldly interests even before the interests of the hereafter.
The Most High God says in His fixed verses, ﴾O you who believe! Do your duty to Allah and fear Him. Seek the means of approach to Him, and strive hard in His Cause as much as you can, so that you may be successful.﴿2 On this basis we comprehend the narratives which talk about the merit of the one fighting in God’s Cause and about his being distinguished from all the others in everything.
The Merit of the Holy Fighting in God’s Cause
The Most High and Glorified God says, ﴾Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame, etc.), and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home). Unto each, Allah has promised good (paradise), but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight above those who sit (at home) by a huge reward.﴿3
The merit of the one fighting in God’s Cause by which he is distinguished from the others is manifested in several points, among which are the following:
1- The Best among the People: It is ascribed to The Noblest Prophet Mohammad (God’s prayers and peace bestowed upon him and his Household) that he said, “The best among the people is a man who dedicated his soul for God’s sake, thus fighting His enemies and asking to die [i.e. to martyrize] or to kill [God’s enemies] throughout.”
2- His Prayer Is Better: It is related in the narrative ascribed to The Noblest Prophet (God’s prayers and peace bestowed upon him and his Household) that he said, “The prayer of the man while girding himself with his sword is better seven hundred fold than his prayer while not girding himself [with his sword].”
3- His Invocation Is Answered: From the divine honor which The Most High God bestowed upon the men who are fighting in God’s Cause is that He made their invocation answered. It is ascribed to Imam Al-Sadik (God’s peace bestowed upon him) that he said, “Three have their invocation answered: …the fighter in God’s Cause, so consider how to substitute for him [when he is absent].”
The Characteristics of the Fighter in God’s Cause
It is absolute that the just talk and pretense do not prove that the human being is a fighter in God’s Cause because the holy fighting in God’s Cause lies in the work and not in the talk. In order that the human being will be a real fighter in God’s Cause, he must be qualified by major characteristics, at the head of which is the honesty in work which represents the base and the standard for The Most Glorious and Reverent God’s acceptance of all the worshiping deeds. There are also other major characteristics which must be available in the fighter in God’s Cause. Here, we are going to discuss some of these characteristics.
Courage is the strength of the heart when the battle is at its most intense point and is the soul’s ability of endurance when the resistance approaches the moments of kill and martyrdom. It is ascribed to Imam Abou Abdullah Al-Houssein (God’s peace bestowed upon him) that when he was asked about courage he said, “It is to face the enemies and to be patient at the fight.”
Courage is as well from the characteristics which The Most High God likes in His servants. It is related in the discourse ascribed to The Noblest Prophet (God’s prayers and peace bestowed upon him and his Household) that he said, “…and He likes the courage even in the killing of a snake.”
The root of courage is the strength of the heart and patience: He who is impatient is uncourageous. It is related in the noble discourse ascribed to Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (God’s peace bestowed upon him) that he said, “Courage is an hour of patience.”
The Most High God determined altruism to be one of the characteristics of the righteous ones which He mentioned in His Noble Book: ﴾…and give them (emigrants) preference over themselves, even though they were in need of that. And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are those who will be the successful.﴿4
Altruism is a psychological characteristic which indicates the depth of the morals and their fixedness in the heart of the human being because it is a denial for the self and a melting for the selfishness. It is related that Imam Ali (God’s peace bestowed upon him) said, “Altruism is the loftiest moral.” It is also related that he (God’s peace bestowed upon him) said, “Altruism is the disposition of the righteous ones and the attribute of the good ones.”
Accordingly, we notice altruism in the attributes by which the great men in history are characterized, such as: The Prophet (God’s prayers and peace bestowed upon him and his Household) and his pure Household (God’s peace bestowed upon them). Altruism was most sublimely manifested in Abou Al-Fadel Al-Abbas [Imam Al-Houssein's brother] (God’s peace bestowed upon both) about whom Imam Al-Sadik (God’s peace bestowed upon him) said, “May God’s Mercy be bestowed upon my uncle Al-Abbas, for he preferred others to himself and fought courageously. And he sacrificed himself on behalf of his brother till his hands were cut. Therefore, God replaced them for him by two wings by means of which he flies in the Heaven with the angels, as He did with Jaafar bin Abi Taleb [Imam Ali's brother]. Al-Abbas has with The Most High and Glorified God a prestige for which the martyrs on the Day of Judgement will envy him.”
3- Keeping the Secrets
Many narratives confirmed the importance of secrecy and assured that the talk in its improper place is a reason for failure. It is related in the discourse ascribed to The Prince of the Believers (God’s peace bestowed upon him) that he said, “The most successful affairs are those wrapped by secrecy.”
It is also ascribed to him (God’s peace bestowed upon him) that he said, “Success is based upon resoluteness. And resoluteness is based upon contemplation. And contemplation is based upon keeping the secrets.”
The believer must always preserve this secrecy and must not talk unless there are practical fruits and benefits from the talk, thus not adding to this one word even to the friends and to the kins. It is related in the discourse ascribed to Imam Abou Abdullah Al-Sadik (God’s peace bestowed upon him) that he said, “Do not reveal from your secret to your friend but what you have revealed to your enemy, so that you will not be hurt. For the friend may turn out to be your enemy one day.”
The Merit of Martyrdom
Martyrdom is the sacrifice of the soul and the abandonment of this life along with all the elements of seducement, attraction, and attachment it contains. Accordingly, martyrdom for the sake of The Most Glorious and Reverent God’s Cause is one of the means through which the human being can get close to The Most High God and can gain the lofty ranks with Him.
The life of the human being who offers his soul for the sake of a certain case in which he believes does not end when he is killed. It is at that moment [i.e. the moment of death] that he becomes deserving of real life. The martyrs are verily the real alive ones: they are alive with their God, and they are alive in the conscience and in the heart of their nation: ﴾Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive with their Lord, and they have provision﴿.5
The prestige of martyrdom in God’s Cause is of a great reward and of a great merit. It is ascribed to The Prince of the Believers (God’s peace bestowed upon him) that he said, “Blessed be the fighters in God’s Cause and those who are killed in His Obedience.” It is also ascribed to God’s prophet (God’s prayers and peace bestowed upon him and his Household) that he said, “The martyrs will be with God on pulpits of corundum in the shade of God’s Throne on a day when there will be no shade but His, and they will be on dunes of musk. Then, God will ask them, ‘Did not I fulfill [My Promise] to you and was not I true with you?’ They will answer, ‘Yes, oh our God, You were!’” 6
The Prestige of Martyrdom
It is doubtless that the martyrs are endowed with a special merit and a special prestige with The Most High God: ﴾…and the martyrs with their Lord, they shall have their reward and their light…﴿.7 The fact that martyrdom was the wish of The Master of the Creatures Mohammad Al-Moustafa (God’s prayers and peace bestowed upon him and his Household) is enough to indicate the loftiness of the martyrs’ prestige. It is related that God’s prophet (God’s prayers and peace bestowed upon him and his Household) said, “I like that I would fight in God’s Cause and be killed, then fight in God’s Cause and be killed, and then fight in God’s Cause and be killed.” The Prince of the Believers (God’s peace bestowed upon him) expressed his love for martyrdom in saying, “By God! I am on the right, and I am a lover of martyrdom.”
In order that the believer will reach the prestige of martyrdom in God’s Cause, he has to go on through a path different from that of the others i.e. the path of valor, the path that knows neither mildness with respect to the truth nor bargain on the divine rules. Faithfulness to The Most High God is the beginning of the path. And the submission to His decrement, commitment to the religious responsibility, constant watchfulness of the self, determination, will, patience, and all the other lofty moral characteristics are a premise by means of which the human being gains the divine successfulness to martyrdom.
Next to all of this, the human being needs to invoke and ask The Most Glorious and Reverent God to grant him martyrdom. Then, even if he does not gain it in this life, he is not going to be deprived of its reward in the hereafter. It is ascribed to The Noblest Prophet (God’s prayers and peace bestowed upon him and his Household) that he said, “He who honestly asks God for martyrdom will have God lifting him to the ranks of the martyrs even if he dies on his bed.”
Malek Al-Ashtar’s Morals
It is related in the biography of Malek Al-Ashtar that one day he was passing by a market in Al-Kufa. His walk was characterized by quietness, reverence, and humbleness, and he was putting on ordinary cheap clothes.
One youth looked at him and, having not recognized him, despised him and threw at him a melon peel that was in his hand, thus aiming at disgracing him. However, Malek Al-Ashtar, even though he was tough with the enemies of the religion, was compassionate and merciful with the believers. Accordingly, he went on walking and did not even look at that youth.
At that, one man asked that impolite youth, “Do you know who that man was?” The youth answered, “No I do not know him.” Then, the man said to him, “He is Malek Al-Ashtar, the leader of the army of The Prince of the Believers (God’s peace bestowed upon him).”
After that, the youth went afraid looking for Malek Al-Ashtar in order to apologize for him. He found him in the mosque, so he sat beside him in order to offer his apologies. Then, Malek said to him, “I came to the mosque in order to invoke God to forgive you.”
At that, the youth revered that high moral leader for his patience, morals, and humbleness.