Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Denis MacEoin: "Suicide Bombing as Worship"

Denis MacEoin

I read an insightful article yesterday by Denis MacEoin on suicide bombing as a form of worship, and since I want to share it -- and keep a link for myself -- I'm interrupting my posts on Hwang Sok-yong to briefly blog about MacEoin's article this busy morning.

In "Suicide Bombing as Worship: Dimensions of Jihad," Middle East Quarterly (Fall 2009, pp. 15-24), MacEoin tells us:
Preeminently, the bombers are referred to as "martyrs" (shuhada', sing. shahid) or "those who sacrifice themselves" (fida'iyun, sing. fida'i).
The latter term especially interests me, for I don't recall seeing this term "fida'iyun" translated before as "those who sacrifice themselves," and -- not knowing Arabic -- I didn't realize the religious connotations of the term, though I've posted a couple of entries specifically on Islamist praise for martyrs as sacrifices:
The Muslim Shahid as Sacrificial Intercessor

Al-Liby on Jihad as Blood Sacrifice
Or search my website for "sacrifice" for more on this issue. I'm curious to know, by the way, if the term "fida'i" is ever used by Christian Arabs in a theological sense to describe the crucified Jesus.

Be that as it may, MacEoin's article is very interesting, albeit rather depressing, for it places the "suicide bomber" squarely within the jihad tradition of Islam in order to make sense of the act, an analysis implying that this form of 'worship' might be difficult to discourage.

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At 12:16 PM, Anonymous erdal said...

FIDAI (or, more often, fidawi), one who offers up his life for another, a name used of special devotees in several religious and political groups. Among the Nizari Ismailis it was used of those members who risked their lives to assassinate the enemies of the sect. They acted also on behalf of political allies of the Nizaris, sometimes at a price. At Alamut they may have become, in later years, a special corps; but normally tasks of assassination seem to have been assigned to anyone who was fit. The mediaeval Western tradition developed an elaborate account of them as highly trained specialists, evidently based partly on Muslim tales, partly on imaginative deduction. Mediaeval Muslim legends gave rise later to the idea that hashish was used in motivating the fidais, but there is no evidence for this (see M.G.S. Hodgson, The Order of Assassins, The Hague 1955).

In Algeria, fidawi means a narrator of heroic deeds, and fidawiyya a tale or song of heroic deeds. During the Persian revolution fidawi was applied in the first place to the adherents of the republican party, later to the defenders of liberal ideas and the constitution.

Fidai was also the pen-name of Shaykhzada Lahidji, who was sent by the Safawi Shah Ismail as ambassador to Muhammad Khan Shaybani and afterwards retired to Shiraz where he died (Rida Kuli Khan, Madjma al-fusaha, ii, 27). It was also the pen-name of Sayyid Mirza Said of Ardistan, who lived at Isfahan and was the favourite poet of Muhammad Shah Kadjar (Rida Kuli Khan, ii, 383).

(Cl. Huart* [M.G.S. Hodgson])

Source: Encyclopaedia of Islam II, Vol.2, Leiden 1965.

Special characters lost while copy&pasting

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Erdal, for the helpful details. I'm still wondering if the term can be used for the Christian understanding of Christ's sacrifice . . . but that wouldn't be especially relevant to Islam.

Jeffery Hodges

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