Thanks to PISAI
Études Arabes is one of the publications of Rome’s Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI), along with Islamochristiana and Encounter. The latter two periodicals deal with different aspects of Muslim-Christian discourse—Islamochristiana printing research articles and Encounter having a more pastoral scope. Études Arabes, on the other hand, focuses on a single topic, which is treated as a monograph. As such, it aims to be a resource for students and scholars of Arabic and Islamic sciences, by providing a wide introduction to the chosen topic, enriched by an updated bibliography and a series of texts in Arabic (with translations provided in either English, French, or Italian).
Études Arabes’ upcoming issue is devoted to the concept of “Šahīd.” It explores if and how the meaning of the term evolved from the initial Qur’anic occurrence to the current use—both in common and journalistic language as well as in the juridical debate, where the legal status of the “Šahīd” does not seem to reach a consensus among the ‘ulamā and Muslim religious authorities.
Special attention is devoted to the “legal” status of the “Šahīd.” On one hand, such a status is analyzed with reference to its mention in several different places in the Qur’an as well as in the hadith, where the principal meaning is that of witnessing/giving evidence (both in the juridical sense of giving witness in trial, as well as in the eschatological sense belonging to prophets). On the other, the term seems to recur mainly in association with reasons for death, certainly on the path of God (fīsabīl Allāh) and possibly in battle (šahīd al-ma‘raka), but also for many other causes (šahīd al-dunyā wa-l-āẖira): certain illnesses, fires, etc. We recall, for example, that according to a very famous tradition, death while giving birth entitles a women to be “Šahīd” (not “Šahīda,” and this is something to think about). Consequences of being acknowledged as “Šahīd” were mostly related to mourning and burial rituals.
On the other hand, whether or not one is legally “Šahīd” seems to have assumed a much greater importance in these troublesome times, when suicidal attacks have greatly increased and the consequences of a death being considered martyrdom (‘amaliyyāt istišhādiyya) or suicide (‘amaliyyāt intiḥāriyya) can be very crucial for political choices and popular support, as well as for the families of the supposed “Šahīd.”
Keeping in mind its mainly didactic character, Etudes Arabes 110 includes a basic but comprehensive overview of its specific theme. To this end, both the introductory essay and the texts offered in translation are organized in the following way:
- Definition of the term “Šahīd” (classical grammar, ancient common use)
- The meaning of the term “Šahīd” from the classic Muslim tradition to the contemporary common use
- “Šahīd” as a legal status
- Contemporary debate: “Šahīd”—martyrdom or suicide (and, as such, condemned)
- All themes are treated with ample reference to the Qur’an, classical and “modern” Tafsīr, fiqh, and contemporary jurisprudence.
For more info on PISAI, its activities and how to subscribe to its publications, see
www.pisai.it, which features pages in Arabic, English, French, and Italian.
 Taken from ‘Abd al-Raḥmān b. Ġurmān b. ‘Abd Allāh al-Karīmī al-‘Umarī, Aḥkām al-šahīd fī l-fiqh al-islāmī, Dār al-bayān al-ḥadīṯ, al-Ṭā’if (al-Mamlaka al-‘arabiyya al-sa‘ūdiyya), 1422/2001, pp. 379.
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