While participating in jihad gives a jihadist important religious credibility, death in battle provides immortality, as the deceased is ranked a martyr. It is believed that Muslim martyrs will be highly rewarded in the afterlife for their sacrifice and hold a special position in heavenly paradise. It is therefore not surprising that martyrdom is a central theme in jihadi visual propaganda.

This specific image contains several elements that together express notions of martyrdom and jihad. The caption at the top of the image follows the typical formula for honoring the dead. First, following common Muslim funerary epigraphy, the inscription opens with the basmalah (i.e. the words “bi-smi allahi al-rahman al-rahim,” or “in the name of God the merciful and compassionate”), and contains quotes from the Qur’an. Most often, the inscription will also include the name of the deceased and the date of death. Here, the Qur’anic quote (Q 57:19) reads: “wal-shuhada’ ‘inda rabbihim lahum ajruhum wa-nuruhum” (“and the shuhada’ are with their Lord, they have their reward and light”). The name of the deceased appears under the figure (“the martyred fighter Salim Muhammad Abu Zubayda (aka Abu Ma‘adh)”). To the left, another caption reads: “sa-yabqa damukum muhrik al-umma nahwa al-quds” (“may your blood continue to propel the umma [nation] toward Jerusalem”). Located lower in the image is a common jihadi phrase “damukum al-wasiyya” (“your blood is the will/ injunction”).

More Information
Group Name Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) - Saraya al-Quds [al-Quds squadrons] aka Shqaqi faction; the logo indicates under it the words: al-i`lam al-harbi [military media]
Group Type Jihadist Group
Group Affiliation Local Jihad (Independent entities with limited or no ties to international / external movements)
Dominant Colors Blue, Orange
Secondary Colors Red, White, Black
Language Arabic
Isolated Phrases / Mottoes / Slogans 1) basmalah 2) Q 57:19 wal-shuhada' `inda rabbihim lahum ajruhum wa-nuruhum 3) shahada 4) damukum al-wasiyya
Image Number 0276
Groups Region of Operation Middle East
Groups Country of Operation Israel/Palestine
Date Image Created Online 22/02/2008
Weapons Firearms, Automatic / Assault Rifle, Rockets, RPG
Body Parts Pointer Finger, Face / Bust
Air Analysis Blue sky
Air Clouds / Fog, Sky
Fire Light Rays / Light
Geopolitical Symbols Non-country Flag, Symbol of party, movement or company, Slogan
Geopolitical Analysis Black flag with the text of the shahada. PIJ logo - Qur'anic verse 2:191 arched over a takbir and the Dome of the Rock sitting on two yellow fists with two crossed rifles jutting out in the back; a red map of Israel/Palestine down the middle; the phrase saraya al-quds is arched under the logo, completing the circle with the top arch.
People Operative / Warrior (=mujahid), Man / Men, Horse Rider
People Analysis Salim Muhammad Abu Zubayda (aka Abu Ma`adh)
Religious Textual References Quranic Text, Quranic Citations, Shahada, Basmala, Use of Calligraphy
Religious Textual References Analysis 57:19. La ila illa Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah
Religious Symbols Holy Site, Black / White / Green Banners
Religious Symbols Analysis Dome of the Rock. Black banner with the text of the shahada
Fauna Horse, Dove / Default Bird
Topography Man-made Structure / Landmark
Topography Analysis Two minarets
Visual Themes The image also contains the bird motif and the horse and rider motif. The world of birds in general is very important in the symbolic language of Islam. Pre-Islamic Arabs imagined soul birds fluttering around the grave of the deceased, and the bird continues to symbolize the flight of the soul beyond the confines of this world. Doves in particular are considered sacred, since they are believed to have protected Muhammad during his nocturnal journey. It is in this manner that the dove can be linked to the notion of martyrdom and the rise of a martyr’s soul to heaven. The dove is also a symbol of loving fidelity, which is manifested by the collar of dark feathers around its neck, called “the dove’s necklace.” The horse and rider motif is also common in jihadi visual propaganda.The rider emphasizes the element of human agency in jihad, and is a way to enhance the traditional symbol of a horse and flesh out notions of aggression and the call to jihad. The horse--an important symbol in both pre-Islamic Arabia and Islamic culture--has been ascribed with the positive qualities of chivalry, bravery in battle and victory, as evidenced in pre-Islamic poetry, the Qur’an, hadiths and other genres of literature. For example, the beginning of the Qur’anic sura 100 talks about “running horses” that appear as galloping through the world toward the final goal, namely, Judgment Day. Horses are also symbolic of the first generation of Muslims and that generation’s successful military campaigns.

The black banner in the bottom left corner is the joint symbol of vengeance and revolt that traces its roots to prophetic times. According to prophetic tradition (hadith), the black flag was the battle flag of the Prophet Muhammad and it was carried into battle by many of his companions. The image of the black flag has been used as a symbol of religious revolt and engagement in battle (i.e., jihad). In the contemporary Islamist movement, the black flag with the shahada (Islamic testimony of faith holding that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger) is used to evoke notions of jihad and of reestablishing the Islamic Caliphate.

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