This Is Why You Need To Stop Calling Everyone Who Dies A Shaheed

By Sajeer Shaikh | 12 Dec, 2016

There is not a single soul on this planet that sends off their loved one for a short trip to come back in a body bag – if the body is ever found, that is. There is not a single soul who sends off their child to school to be gunned down in an act of utter brutality.

There are a handful of people who willingly send their children to die in the line of duty – those children are the soldiers patrolling our borders and our cities.

Source: @ThePakistanArmy/Twitter

Those people are the lion hearted families who have accepted that their child may embrace death in the line of fire. These individuals, who willingly put their lives on the line, can rightly be termed martyrs. When they are martyred, their families can be consoled with the idea that their child is a shaheed.

None of these people are children we send to school to receive education. None of these people are families enjoying a picnic at a park on the day of a festive occasion. None of these people are family members we see off on airports, praying for the safety of their return.


Our deceased are not martyrs.

Source: Arif Ali / AFP

The dictionary defines a martyr as one who is killed for their beliefs. A shaheed is a Muslim martyr – someone who is killed for Islam.

None of the passengers on PIA’s flight 661 were killed for their beliefs. They were not killed for any belief at all. They are not martyrs. Consoling their families by telling them that their children, their mothers, their fathers or their sisters have embraced martyrdom is, in no way, helpful.

They did not choose to die. They did not want to die. Their families wanted them back safely.

There were children on board who had an entire future ahead of them. There were fathers on board who had families to take care of. There were mothers on board who had children waiting for them to come back.


None of them chose to die. None of them wanted to die. None of them are martyrs.

As a whole, this country and its alarmingly insensitive media needs to pipe down while shoving the martyr narrative down the throats of those who have lost their loved ones.


The idea here is not to undermine the tragically unfortunate deaths of these individuals. No, the idea is to fully fathom the fact that you cannot declare them to be martyrs and glorify them as martyrs when they had no intention for their lives to end as tragically as they did. They wanted to make it back. They did not choose this.

Their families would trade that title in for them to come back in one piece. Their families are inconsolable – glorifying their loved one’s death, creating a hype on social media and making a hero out of people who wanted nothing more than to make it back safely, does not serve as any form of condolence or consolation.

As a nation, we are all too ready to make martyrs out of individuals who are slain in targeted attacks or in such tragic accidents. The media – our beloved media, with its cameras pointing into faces of mourning families, callously stabbing fresh wounds and televising them for the world to see – is all too quick to latch onto such stories as well.


What if you had lost a loved one and you had some jackass you don’t know from some channel trying to convince you that your loved one – whose body has still not been recovered – is a martyr?

What if it is your child who has still not returned from school? What if it is someone you love?

Via: Express Tribune

Romanticising these deaths by creating heroes of these people who wanted nothing to with this title in the first place is wrong. It is too easy. You, behind your television screen, feel like you’ve done your job. You, after reciting your short prayer, feel like you’ve played your part in caring about the entire ordeal. You do it time and again, for these deaths keep increasing and are reduced to mere numbers by news outlets. And each year, there’s a new number.


It is all too easy to comment on someone’s social media status and say that your loved one will receive the highest rank in heaven.

It is all too easy to thrust out your chest when questioned and say that you would willingly accept such a death as it would make you a martyr. It is all too easy, because we have lost all form of empathy. We pass statements without weighing their repercussions. We put forward ideas without feeling any emotion.


But the next time you’re seeing someone off at the airport, or dropping your child off to school, really ask yourself – are you alright with that being the last time you see your loved one? Are you alright with your loved one being a number on a television screen? Are you alright with the idea of mourning their loss, only to be told that they have embraced martyrdom?

Put yourself in those shoes. Empathise. Because, in all honesty, it’s high time we did.


Cover image source: Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

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