The designer of the image put together a number of pictures from different jihadi theaters, including the deceased Chechen leaders al-Khattab and Abu al-Qurtasha’i, Usama bin Ladin and Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. While participating in jihad imbues an individual with important religious credibility, death in battle provides immortality, as the deceased is ranked a martyr. This is particularly true for widely recognized jihadi leaders. With martyrdom, their personalities are elevated to the status of mythical heroes, on par with famous historical warriors and the martyrs of Islamic tradition. Indeed, their martyrdom not only further legitimizes their cause and their actions, but in many cases, the individuals become motifs in their movement’s visual propaganda.
In this specific image, the text of the shahada (Islamic testimony of faith holding that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger) appears at the top. At the bottom is a slogan that reads: “sarim ‘ala riqab al-tawaghit” (“a sword on the necks of the tawaghit [evil idols]”). The name of the group responsible for the image is written diagonally from top right to bottom left: “Majmu‘at al-sarim al-maslul al-baridiyya” (“the al-Sarim al-Maslul web forum”). The phrase “al-Sarim al-Maslul” (“the unsheathed sword”) is a clear reference to a very famous treatise written by the Hanbali scholar Ibn Taymiyya entitled “al-Sarim al-Maslul ‘ala Shatim al-Rasul.” Ibn Taymiyya is one of the medieval sources most cited by jihadi ideologues.