Surah 61 (Al-Saff/The Ranks): 10-12

10. O You who believe! Shall I guide you to a commerce that will save you from a painful torment?

11. That you believe in Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad, blessings of God be upon him), and that you strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives, that will be better for you, if you but know!

12. (If you do so) He will forgive you your sins, and admit you into Gardens under which rivers flow, and pleasant dwelling in Gardens of Eden:
Eternity, that is indeed the great success.



{61.12} is one of several verses, that promise forgiveness and entry to Paradise to those who fight in God’s way, and which express this in the language of a commercial transaction:

{2.244-245}: ‘So fight in the way of God … Who shall lend God a goodly loan which He will multiply for him many times over…. And unto Him shall you be returned


{4.74}: ‘Let them fight in the way of God those who would sell the life of this world for the hereafter…’


{9.111}: ‘Truly God has purchased from the believers their souls and wealth in exchange for the Garden … And who is truer to his pact than God? So rejoice in the bargain you have made…’

In {3.157-158 & 195} 〈37.〉 and also {22.58-59}, Paradise is again promised to ‘mujahedeen’ but in theses verses the promise extends not to all fighters but only to those who die or are slain.


{2.154-157}, {3.169-171} and {3.195} go further than these simple promise of eventual admission to Paradise, as seen in the following:

{3.169} And deem not those slain in the way of God to be dead. Rather they are alive with their Lord provided for,

{3.170} Exulting in what God has given them of His Bounty, and rejoicing in those who have not yet joined them from among those who remain behind – that no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve,

{3.171} Rejoicing in Blessing and Bounty from God, and that God neglects not the reward of the believers.


The traditional Islamic interpretation of this verse is that whilst most people will be raised and judged by God on the Last Day 〈96.〉, a person ‘slain in the way of God’, commonly called a ‘shahīd’ will have their sins instantly forgiven them and gain immediate entry to Paradise.


In these verses, the Qur’an seems to contain an echo of the Christian teaching concerning martyrdom. The word ‘martyr‘, from the Greek ‘martus’, like ‘shahīd’ literally means ‘witness’. However, in Christianity this correlation to being a witness has a more specific connotation than does ‘shahīd’ in Islam, since during the persecutions of Christianity by the Roman Empire it was the proclamation of one’s faith at trial that typically led to a martyr’s execution. In the Book of Revelations 6.9-11 a vision of ‘the spirits of those who were martyred’ is seen by St John the Divine beneath God’s altar where they have been given white robes and he hears them call out: ‘How long will it be O Master, holy and true, before you judge our cause and avenge our blood among the inhabitants of the earth?’ Based upon this passage of scripture the early church concluded that these martyrs, by voluntarily forsaking the world to participate in Christ’s suffering, must have had all their sins absolved at the moment of their death and therefore be alive and conscious, awaiting the Day of Judgment. A similar idea appears to lie behind the Qur’an’s assurance that those slain in the way of God similarly avoid death and judgment in {2.154-157} and {3.169-171 & 195}, although the Christian martyrs are invariably recorded going peaceably and cheerfully to their death for proclaiming their faith, whereas in the Qur’an martyrdom is presented as dying in battle for jihad with sword in hand.


The ‘commerce’ or ‘exchange’, sometimes ‘bargain’, that the Qur’an offers to jihadis is sometimes thought to explain the appeal to modern jihadis of suicide and ‘death by cop’ missions, especially those who have undergone adult conversion to Islam or an intensification of their faith after having previously lived unislamic lives. For such people, martyrdom offers, on the face of the Qur’an, the only guarantee for avoiding eternity in the Hellfire for their past sins; see also 〈97.〉