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”).
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.