Believing in Jihad and Martyrdom
OP - September 05, 2013, 08:41 AM
Believing in Jihad and Martyrdom
I lived my younger years wanting only one thing: martyrdom.
I wanted to die in battle, in the name of Allah.
I wanted the peaceful happy death that martyrs appear to experience with a smile on their face.
I didn't care who I fought or why, as long as I was fighting for Allah under Islamically justifiable conditions.
Everything in this world was worthless in comparison. You die in the name of Allah, and you get a free pass from all the pain and suffering that awaits everyone else on Judgement Day. You go straight to heaven, and all your sins are forgiven. You believe there is nothing in Islam that's praised as much as Jihad and martyrdom. In fact, it is said in a Hadith that the only person who would ever wish to leave heaven would be the martyrs, who would rather come back to this world only to be martyred again and again.
I was conditioned from a very young age to think like this. My father believed that there was nothing nobler than to fight and be killed in Jihad.
Almost everything he talked about would lead me in that direction, whether directly or indirectly.
Talking about the worthlessness of this life and the impending destruction that awaits civilization made me lose interest in having a normal life.
Talking about the suffering and torment that awaits the unbelievers in the afterlife made me live in complete terror of losing my faith.
And finally, talking about the joys of martyrdom made it seem like the only thing in life that's worth fighting for.
This all happened over the course of the first 18 years of my life, in which I lived with my parents.
It left me with nothing to live for, except the hope that an apocalyptic war would break out, opening the doors to Jihad, and giving me the chance to fulfil my destiny.
This was all about my selfish desire for martyrdom, but there is another aspect of my personality that this ideology took advantage of, which is my empathy.
My sense of empathy was twisted to suit these views.
A lot of radical Muslims, especially the Jihadists among them, would cheer at the idea of unbelievers being sent to hell. I wasn't like that. I didn't even want to believe in the existence of hell, but I never dared to question it. Yet still, I would cheer when I heard about a terrorist attack, such as the 9/11 atrocity. The death of innocent people didn't matter. We're all going to die one day, and these people might as well die now in the name of a great cause. The suffering of their families is nothing compared to what awaits in the afterlife.
Think about it like this: the eternal fate of just one person is a far more important matter than the temporary suffering of the thousands of people that are killed in these attacks. I would rather save one person from being tortured in the worst way possible for trillions and trillions of years than to prevent the premature death of the thousands of lives that are lost in these attacks. The idea of eternal hell was so terrible that everything else paled in comparison.
But who exactly would we be saving through these actions? I didn't know, but I trusted that God's plan had to be a merciful one. In this view, Jihad is the only way of establishing Islam's dominance, and Islam's dominance would be the ultimate salvation for mankind.
More people would go to heaven, and fewer people would go to hell.
Isn't that the greatest possible kindness I could do for mankind?
It also helped that I believed that Islam's dominance would bring peace and prosperity to all of mankind, and whatever the price was, it'll be worth it.
It doesn't take a genius to see how extremely fragile the logic of it all is, but I had to believe it. That is how I justified the morality of the Jihadist ideology, but the truth is, the purpose of Jihad is not meant to be mercy. The official purpose of Jihad, as stated in the Hadith, is so that Allah's word would be dominant.
The scary thing is that, even though most Muslims don't think like that, there are traces of this deadly ideology in more Muslims than you'd think, because it is taught in the Quran and the Hadith.
I've seen children talking about murdering unbelievers, and their parents thinking it's cute. I've heard clerics praying for death and destruction upon all unbelievers, as everyone in the mosque says "Amen". I've seen that even level-headed Muslims may go berserk when their religion is insulted, and call for the death of the blasphemer.
It's also worth mentioning that a significant percentage of Muslims would say that they would rather see their children die than apostate, and the extremes they might go to stop that from happening are dreadful.
Jihadists are also often obsessed with Islam's version of the end-of-days scenario, particularly the appearance of the Mahdi (the Sunni version), since that's supposed to be the first of the major signs of Judgement Day.
The Mahdi is supposed to show up when things are most difficult for Muslims. He will lead Jihad, and bring peace to the world. The worse things get for believers in this ‘dunya’, the more hopeful they become that the time for the Mahdi's appearance is just around the corner. It's a very clever device that prevents them from despairing. I remember hearing people talk about how their dreams imply that the Mahdi was already born, and speculating that he had already arrived in the form of various living Muslim figures.
It was exhausting, resisting reality that way, but I was willing to hold on to my beliefs. I believed that Allah has made it clear for us that we're on the right path.
One of the most compelling aspects of Jihadism is the miracles of Jihad and martyrdom. There are so many stories about them. The people who survived Jihad have all kinds of stories to tell, about miracles they experienced in battle. The corpses of martyrs are often said to be immune to decomposition. Some martyrs are said to smell of musk as their blood is spilled. Some die with a peaceful smile on their faces.
Sometimes all it takes to 'convert' someone is to show them pictures of smiling martyrs, or a video using them to propagate martyrdom. They tend to have an impact powerful enough to make a lot of people say: "I wish I were in their place".
My worldview only started changing after I left home and became part of a more diverse community, and more so after regular exposure to various non-Islamic cultures through the internet.
The more time I spent with people from ‘the other side’, the harder it became to believe the things I did.
It took about 8 years for me to finally rid myself of all that brainwashing.
I could have easily gone a different way had the wrong people stayed in my life.
I was lucky to have found my way out of that darkness. It's not always the case, but sometimes all it takes for a person to recover from such destructive beliefs is to be given the chance to appreciate the humanity of non-believers, and the beauty of life, which is probably why the founders of Islam did their best to discourage that.
Islamic extremists are continually told that disbelievers are inferior to believers, that they are less than animals, and that life is ugly. When we begin to see things differently, when we are exposed to the diversity of the world, the humanity of others, the free exchange of ideas, the extremist world view starts to fall apart.