11 September 2001 in New York; 11 March 2004 in Madrid; 7 July 2005 in London: these dates remind us that suicide bombings, or 'martyrdom operations', have become the common coin of international politics in the West. What exactly is meant by 'martyrdom' today, whether in Islam or Christianity? This book tries to give an answer. Muslim and Christian scholars come together to find a common understanding, based on the scriptures and traditions of each faith, of martyrdom in today's violent world. Part One presents the historical background and contemporary relevance of each tradition. Part Two asks whether martyrs from one tradition could be recognized as such by the other, as well as discussing the practice of 'venerating' martyrs and examining two dramas of martyrdom by twentieth century writers. Part Three includes a study of martyrdom in Shia Islam and some short studies of past and present suicidal operations. Three appendices reproduce some classic discussions of martyrdom frequently referred to in the book, plus a plea for non-violent options within the Muslim tradition.
’…much in this collection of studies is important…Afsaruddin’s study on jihad and martyrdom in early Islam, for instance, stands out for its keen and insightful analysis…For those interested in the question of martyrdom in the two principal monotheistic faiths, especially in the light of post-9/11 perspectives and concerns, this collection of essays…will be useful…Recommended.’ Choice 'This book tackles a timely, even urgent, subject… In such a disturbed situation, this book is essential, unpacking what each tradition says about martyrs… Anthony Harvey and his fellow contributors offer a comprehensive view of early Christian martyrdom… The Islamic view is similarly varied, and includes not only the Sunni understanding, but also Shia and Sufi ones. The Christian contributors are rigorous in taking a self-critical view of the Christian tradition. The Muslim ones are learned and eirenic…' Church Times ’This is an impressive and important volume of essays… the volume as a whole is a welcome and humane contribution to the literature on the subject… Witnesses to Faith? is a worthwhile volume, not least in its creative attempt to find common ground between two religious traditions which are too often presented as violently and inevitably clashing civilisations.’ The Way ’It is very helpful for other people to be able to share in the results of such sustained joint discussion of these themes by a group of Christians and Muslims.’ Journal of Contemporary Religion
Contents: List of contributors; Foreword by Richard Harries; Preface; Acknowledgements; Part One: Introduction, Brian Wicker; Competing perspectives on Jihad and 'martyrdom' in early Islamic sources, Asma Afsaruddin; Christian martyrdom: history and interpretation, Anthony Harvey, Richard Finn and Michael Smart; What is martyrdom?, Harfiyah Haleem. Part Two: Still a 'noble army' after 11 September 2001?, Brian Wicker; The veneration of martyrs: a Muslim-Christian dialogue, Harfiyah Haleem and Brian Wicker; The drama of martyrdom: Christian and Muslim approaches, Brian Wicker. Part Three: The concept of martyrdom: a Shia perspective, Ali Ezzati; Martyrdom and murder: aspects of suicidal terrorism, Brian Wicker, Peter Bishop and Maha Azzam. Appendices: Thomas Aquinas on martyrdom; Broadening the classical concept of martyrdom, Karl Rahmer; Non-violent options for conflict resolution in Islam, Harfiyah Haleem; Index.