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 which includes pictures from al-Furqan Media (the official media arm of the Islamic State of Iraq whose logo is found in the top left corner of the image) commemorates the death of AQI leader Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi. At the bottom right the calligraphic caption reads: “hani’an laka al-shahada ya asad al-zarqa’” [“congratulations (lit. may you enjoy) on achieving martyrdom, O lion of al-Zarqa’” (his hometown to which his nisba refers)]. The larger caption at the top is the first verse of a relatively recent nashid (a capella song) which seems to have surfaced circa 2007 not long after Zarqawi’s death on June 7, 2006.
The verse reads: “hatimta qalbi ya muhajir bil-rahil, wa-tarakta ruhi fi al-zalam bi-la dalil” (“you broke my heart O you who departed on the journey of death, and left my soul in the dark with no guide”). Zarqawi’s hand gesture on the left with raised pointer finger is a gesture used when articulating the shahada (Islamic testimony of faith holding that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger).