It is believed that Muslim martyrs will be highly rewarded in the afterlife for their sacrifice and that they hold a special position in heavenly paradise. It is therefore not surprising that martyrdom is a central theme in jihadi visual propaganda. Furthermore, women hold a powerful symbolic value in Islamic culture, as they are considered the bastion of their family’s honor. Frequently the image of a Muslim woman driven to sacrifice through militant activism aims to create an intense sense of shame in a male viewer and jihadist pundits frequently cite the sacrifices of women as a challenge to the rajulla (manhood) of their readers, using shame and pride as motivations for joining the jihadi struggle. Moreover, images of Muslim women in many cases are designed to evoke sympathy for victims of enemy violence, and to provoke men into responding against the perceived injustice by joining the ranks of a given group.
This specific image is a representation of a figure with her last will and testament. Such images almost always include a weapon, a Qur’an and other symbolic items. The combination of symbolic elements highlights the religious importance of martyrdom and its violent nature, while also facilitating the group’s efforts to emphasize its commitment to the cause. The figure is Rim Riyashi, the first Hamas female suicide bomber, who died at age twenty-eight while carrying out a suicide attack on 14 January 2004. She is standing against a typical Hamas/Qassam Brigade background, while clutching an automatic rifle in her right hand and holding her son, ‘Ubayda, in the left. The captions on the green headband and body banner are the shahada (Islamic testimony of faith holding that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger). Above her head is the text of the takbir (the words “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great”).