The image is a signature .gif file that was preceded by the caption (in translation): “O God, have mercy on him with Your compassion O God, and place him in the most spacious of your heavenly gardens; the Arab nation has lost one of the forerunners of the Arab revolution, and so hopefully, Bin Ladin, you will have produced a million avengers in your wake, O God have mercy on him with Your compassion.” The post appeared in a thread eulogizing Usama bin Ladin and mourning his death. The phrase in the image reads: “waht al-shuhada’” (“martyrs’ arena”), and it appears against a background of an orange/yellow sky with light rays emanating from the sun that is setting behind the Dome of the Rock. The latter is recognized and revered by all Muslims, but it is a particularly powerful symbol of Palestinian self-determination. It was built in 692 A.D. by the Umayyid caliph ‘Abd al-Malik on the site where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven in his mi‘raj (night journey), and it is considered the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and al-Madina. Because of its status in Islam, the Dome of the Rock is often used to code a message of inspiration for jihadi activism. Furthermore, its appearance in the image conjures up the idea of a martyr’s shrine or tomb and reminds the viewer of the importance of martyrdom in Islam. It should be noted that light rays are usually used to illuminate other symbols or text (the Dome of the Rock in this case) in order to give the images an aura of divinity and/or afterlife.
Doves are flying over the body of an armed fighter whose blood brightly colors the earth where he lays. 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 green headband on the fighter is the mark of the ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (military wing of Hamas).