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.
In this image, the figure, Abu al-Bara’ al-‘Utaybi (whose name appears on the left), is shown against a light blue and white background that evokes notions of death (in the state of purity), shrouds, grief, mourning and the attainment of martyrdom. Al-‘Utaybi was an operative of Ansar al-Sunna who purportedly carried out a suicide attack on 9 September 2003 in Irbil, Iraq. The caption reads: “sawfa yamdi al-ra’s fa-la yartadi du‘fan bi-qawl aw jawab; sawfa tahduni dima’u ‘abiqat qad anarat kull fajj lil-dhahab” (“the head could be destroyed but it wouldn’t approve of weakness in words or response; sweet smelling blood will drive me to follow as they have illuminated every mountain path to take”). The words are a verse from a famous poem written in eulogy for Sayyid Qutb by his sister. The crossed rifle is a common motif in jihadi imagery, indicating engagement in violent activity. While the word “musk” is not mentioned here, the phrase “sweet smelling blood” in the caption is no doubt a reference to this popular motif in jihadi propaganda. Musk is associated with martyrdom, since in the Islamic tradition, the bodies of martyrs are believed to exude a sweet and aromatic smell after death. This fragrant smell is considered the sweet smell of paradise (Qur’anic verse 83:23), and is juxtaposed with the putrid odor of enemy bodies.