News ID: 187683
Publish Date: 15 December 2008 - 07:31

What Is the Culture of Self Sacrifice and Martyrdom?

There, a tumult had risen that history had seen such turmoil just once! It was the land of enthusiasm and wisdom. It was the land of need and prayers. There were tears of thousands of candles and burnt wings of thousands of butterflies. There was one sky of destroyed tulips. There, the earth smelled of heaven. God was there and lanes of sincerity. Unkindness had left there since many years ago. The hearts were kind, very kind. Every day was celebration there. And God never became sin there. Selfishness was eliminated there. And the lust had dies of grief; because it was not noticed anymore. Sin and rebellion were captured by “praising and thanking God”?. There, every one prayed. Everyone said “Allah Akbar”? (God is the Great) there and every one went to mosque for saying prayers. No star darkened there. The suns recited Quran on spears and under tanks there. The heart of life was beating in wells of “pain”? there. And tear was the only ointment for eyes there. There was no gap there. Every one was united. Every one wore similar cloths; all of them were earthly and khaki, very earthly.
There, sin was a stranger whose feet never reached to the gate of that city. Sin was the black evil in their legends and fictions. It was not a place for staying there. All tents were made temporarily there. All men sang the song of “satisfaction”? there and applauded “Allah Akbar”?. It was the land of legends and myths; it was the land of self sacrifice; and it was the land of martyred witnesses. It was the land of God there. And here….?
Today, we live in a transforming society and consequently, many of existing structures are changing almost in a tangible way. These structures include efforts for make a living, job relations and types of occupations, values and culture and also the things which are taught both formally and informally. All these structures are changing.
The above mentioned changes are rooted in different elements a part of which is interior and a part of which is exterior. Development of communications and transferring information as well as mass media are one of the most important factors in cultural change. This factor has resulted in gap between generations. According to this gap, teenagers and young people become stranger with traditional values and customs. And they become far from these traditional customs and values (Crisis of identity). In current situation, we may however say that we need to find our values and know ourselves again more than any other periods of time. And it should be done far from mottos and considering realities of the society. We also need practical cultural planning; therefore, we can not doubt about the necessity of focusing on the sector of culture more seriously and more realistically. Culture has obviously deep relations with other fields such as economy, politics, social affairs, etc. culture has many characteristics and functions. And knowing these characteristics and functions will help us in choosing cultural solutions. Culture is transferred through becoming social; hence, we should study social acceptance mechanisms in order to propagate the culture of self sacrifice and martyrdom. And we should know the fact that people communicate with each other through foundations. The concept of “Self sacrifice and martyrdom”? is a symbol that is the result of cultural values. And symbol is a sign that can represent an ordinary thing or a valuable thing.

Meanings and Definitions of Culture:

Culture is a subject that many thinkers and social sciences theorists have talked about it. Here, I refer to Imam Khomeini’s speeches about the importance of culture. He said: “Doubtlessly, culture of a society is the highest and most important element that plays fundamental role in existence of every society. Basically, the culture of every society indicates identity and existence of that society.”? 1
Many definitions have been presented for “Culture”? such that they are categorized based on different functions. We can categorize these definitions as follows: 2
1: Historical Definitions: This definition is based on social heritage during the history of a society.
2: Psychological Definitions: This definition relies on model and method of easing adaptation with the environment and society.
3: Structural Definitions: This definition emphasizes on things created and established by human being society.
4: Explanatory Definitions: These definitions emphasize on the elements that form the culture and …

By mentioned categorization, we aim at achieving to an important result. And that is the fact that vastness of territory of culture is as great as social life. And as the most important characteristics of culture, I can refer to the fact that culture is not an accidental phenomenon; but human being learns it while he lives with other people. Human is not born with culture; but savings of thought and spiritual heritage are formed while human is growing inside a particular culture. And human learns this culture during years.
If we close the topic of definitions of culture, we should refer to three important characteristics of culture as follows:
1: Being General
2: Being Acquired
3: Transferability
Considering extraordinary ability of human in learning, anthropologists and sociologists all agree the two recent characteristics of culture. They also agree the fact that learning and transferring culture are carried out through becoming social and by foundations.
In a conceptual categorization, we can categorize the culture of self sacrifice and martyrdom as follows: 3
1: Learnt and common activities like self sacrifice and devotion
2: Thoughts such as devoting life in the way of God and standing in front of unbelief, jihad, etc
3: Social and common products such as cloths, tombs and tombs of martyrs
4: Technology, the instruments that make materialistic products related to martyrdom and self sacrifice
5: Social organization, foundations such as “Martyr Foundation and Isargaran Affairs”? that is active in this field
6: Ideology such as values and beliefs that support the culture of self sacrifice and martyrdom

Meaning and Definition of the Culture of Self Sacrifice and Martyrdom:

“Isar”? (Self sacrifice) means selecting, giving, preferring other’s wills to someone’s own wills, attaching priority to other’s profit rather than some one’ s own interests (4). And “Shahadat”? (Martyrdom”? means a collection of beliefs, knowledge, customs, opinions and actions that cause achievement of human to the highest degree of perfection; it means aware death in the way of God (5).
Self sacrifice which is a general word exists in all schools of thought and cultures; but it has a special superior meaning in Islam. Self sacrifice is not said to any types of efforts, self sacrifice or giving things to other people; but in Islam, self sacrifice has backgrounds such as sincerity in the way of God and being in the way of God.
Self sacrifice shows and expresses growth and insight of human. And this is achieved when human reaches to a spiritual improvement and growth. Self sacrifice has become a holy phenomenon for us; because it includes messages such as wanting God, believing in religion, searching and finding God, liking other people, martyrdom, bravery, devotion, honor, respect, greatness and…
And we feel safe that self sacrificed people live with us. It should be mentioned that the characteristic of self sacrifice appears in the social life too. And it has positive functions. Self sacrifice causes social unity and solidarity of the society. And it is not just to ignore these aspects of self sacrifice. Self sacrifice is not an instant excitement. It is not appearance of an immediate feeling; but it is the completion of wisdom which appears in one selection.
Self sacrifice is devoting one’s life in order to find a better and superior concept in operational field. Self sacrifice is on earth while the self sacrificed person looks at the skies. According to characteristics of self sacrifice (Being general and being unaware), this definition can be criticized and studied.
Behavior, characteristic or a belief is considered as a part of people’s culture when it is done intentionally and being aware of doing that. Although all elements of culture have been first intentional and based on knowledge; but they were included in culture when they became fixed in unconscious parts of people’s minds. (6)
Some of the mentioned characteristics of self sacrifice and martyrdom do not have characteristics of culture. Although they are very valuable, they can not be discussed in the subject of culture.
Besides, we should know that “Self Sacrifice and Martyrdom”? is different with “Culture of Self Sacrifice and Martyrdom”?.
We can not develop self sacrifice and martyrdom in cultural and sociological ways; because knowledge, wisdom and considering God as the center of our attention and prior to our wills are the most important elements of martyrdom and self sacrifice. And these characteristics can not be propagated as self organized behaviors.
But we intend to develop values, customs, rules and regulations related to the culture of self sacrifice and martyrdom such that acting based on this culture becomes fundamental for people. And this is possible through cultural and sociological ways.
This definition lacks the characteristic of “Being General”?. We consider something as “Culture”? when it exists among majority of people of a country, city or tribe.
Being wise and aware of self sacrifice and martyrdom decreases its power of being general. Besides, some of the characteristics mentioned in this definition can not be evaluated. And their values decrease if they are evaluated; because people usually decline to express their opinions in this regard. And those who express their opinions in this regard may have told them to achieve to other interests.
Characteristics such as considering God as the center of attention and preferring God’s orders in life, moving towards moral and spiritual growth and preferring God’s satisfaction to opinions of people and other definitions which is mentioned above do not need further explanation and definition.
Existence Philosophy of the Culture of Self Sacrifice and Martyrdom in the View of Islam

The holy religion of Islam is the religion of monotheism, wisdom, nature, growth, perfection, peace, sincerity, kindness. And Islam is the religion of teaching and training.
Islam loves to erase hearts of people from relations with polytheism, blasphemy, unbelief, idol, worshipping idols and worshipping other people.
Islam starts its invitation with reasoning, preach and good actions. And this way, Islam wants to bring back the human to the straight path; the human who is deviated from monotheistic nature. Islam does not like taking position against monotheistic nature of human. This position makes loss for the people who take these positions and at the same time disturbs innocent believers. If a believer sees that a knowledgeable enemy or ignorant enemy creates obstacles for growth of human and humanity, he/she considers himself/herself to be forced to involve jihad (Fighting in the way of God). What matters for the believer person is cleansing life of human from monotheism, blasphemy, unbelief, corruption, and idol and worshipping idols. (1)
Now that we clarified for what high objective Islam has talked about jihad and fighting, it is essential to study values of self sacrifice and martyrdom in custom of jihad and fighting.
Self sacrifice and devotion are religious, moral, humanitarian, and very good and admired phenomena which have been admired in every custom and religion. And all religions have advised people to act based on them.
In social, political and economic culture of Islam, self sacrifice is considered as the top point of moral growth of a believer and the obvious sign of being connected to God and Islam. Self sacrifice has been mentioned in Quran for evaluating leadership competency of imams.
Before reaching to the position of “Imam”?, Hazrat Ebrahim was tested with self sacrifice. Imam Ali (The first imam of Shiite) and Hazrat Fatemeh (The wife of Hazrat Ali and the daughter of Hazrat Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam) were admired in Quran due to self sacrifice. Hazrat Ali devoted his life such that he took the lead in self sacrifice even to Gabriel and Michael (Two angels). Hazrat Ali surprised angels and heavenly world. And God of the whole worlds became pride of him.
As another event, I can refer to “Ashoura”? (The 10th day of Moharram, the Arabic Month, on which Imam Hossein was martyred). Ashoura was the top point and peak of self sacrifice and martyrdom during the history of Shiite. This event is full of cautionary points for all Shiite people and Muslims of Islam World.

The Culture of Self Sacrifice and Martyrdom from the Point of View of Imam Khomeini

Hazrat Imam Khomeini attached such importance to martyrdom that he described it in his written works and speeches.
Imam Khomeini described martyrdom as great success, success in honor, eternal respect, everlasting happiness, leading light of nations, everlasting pride, top point of worshipping God and growth in spiritual world, a gift for people who deserve the best, freedom of soul, releasing from prison, factor of victory, seeing the beauty of God and his greatness, sweeter than honey and …
Imam Khomeini describes self sacrifice and martyrdom as a valuable heritage which has come down by inheritance from imams and prophets of God.
According to what we mentioned above, we can consider self sacrifice as a type of divine test for believers and followers of the way of truth who answer to the invitation of their God positively and obey orders and rules of God. These results are achieved through studying speeches of imams and stories narrated about imams.

Internalizing Values of the Culture of Self Sacrifice and Martyrdom

Values and objectives ruling on the society should become fundamental and be internalized by social foundations of that society. Education system and family are two of the most important social foundations that directly carry out activities in line with making the new generation social and identifying suitable roles for them.
While discussing about making the values fundamental, we should pay attention to the point that the young generation faces with contradiction and contrast if families and school teachers do not approve objectives and performances of each other. In this situation, the young generation will avoid establishing interactions with these objectives and performances.
Here, Internalizing the values and objectives faces with problems. And durability and existence of idealistic society will not be guaranteed. I should add the fact that making fundamental values of the culture of self sacrifice and martyrdom which are ruling on the society requires studying characteristics of objectives and values in order to be carried out favorably.
Our social and value system will be able to influence on all members of the society when this system has some objectives which can answer to all authorized needs of members of the society.
The most favorable way for transferring these objectives and ideals is a method in which there is no force, anger, violence as well as illogical and unreasonable reasoning.
Using the element of wisdom, reasoning, believing by heart and spiritual insight, satisfying and persuasion mixed with good morality as well as respecting teenagers and young people plays the most important role in achieving to these objectives.
In addition to mentioned factor, we should pave grounds too. And as for the most important factors in paving grounds, we can refer to freedom of thought, respecting personalities of people, propagating the behavior of public participation in social affairs, bilateral and reasonable relations between the young people and officials as well as presenting a serene and beautiful face of religion to them.
We require long term programs in order to transfer objectives and internalize them among the new generation.
To this end, the following conditions are essential to achieve these objectives. And lack of these conditions results in not fulfillment of internalizing the values and objectives of the society.
These conditions are as follows:
1: Before any thing, officials of the society should be idealist and believe in objectives and ideals of the society. They should be responsible for carrying out and following up required activities. They should discuss problems of the society with people honestly and avoid hiding realities of the society.
2: We should not decrease the values of sacred defense from a national, popular level to the level of a particular group such as the group of combatants. We should not consider these values belonging exclusively to a particular group. We should pave grounds to attach importance to these values through explaining them logically.
3: We should make sacred defense values believable. It can be done through avoiding seriously making these values advertising. And we should consider the audiences of these values.
4: We should use new symbols in order to rebuild values of sacred defense culturally while preserving their total spirit.
5: There should be coordination between cultural sector and other sectors of the society.
6: Appropriate information dissemination about different issues and problems of the society
7: The contradiction between thinkers in defining different cultural and social values and issues should be eliminated.
8: Eliminating the greed for reaching to power and the history of using religious and thought models of the society for reaching to power
9: Eliminating appearances of anti-value in different levels of the society
10: Providing indirect and attractive teaching and training in line with teaching practical and touchable topics of the culture of self sacrifice and martyrdom such as naming advantages of martyrdom and its difference with natural death, explaining the rule of religious defense which is a general, reasonable and humanitarian rule, explaining the fact that people have rights and have duties among each other and reasonable reasoning for the claim that people have duties among each other, explaining the necessity and rule of existence of safety and its connection with the culture of self sacrifice and martyrdom, using narrative literature, attractive films, camps and visits to war regions in order to strengthen spirit of balance, interaction and compromise of the young people and teenagers in social life and ….
The collection of mentioned factors will organize solutions. And studying these solutions precisely and explaining them in details as well as finding their functional aspects should be carried out by cultural researchers of the country.

1: Sahifeh Nour, Volume 15, Page 160
2: Dr Mohammad Hossein Panahi, Nameh Pajouhesh, Issue No 23, “Cultural System and Functions and Changes”?, Page 93
3: Vahid Hossein-zadeh, “Farhang-e Omoumi”? Quarterly Magazine, Issue No 37, “Pathology of the Culture of Self Sacrifice and Martyrdom”?, Page 6
4: Dehkhoda, Ali Akbar, Dictionary, Publication of Tehran University, 1377 (1998-1999) Tehran, Volume 3, Page 368
5: Ma’dani, 1378 (1999-2000), Page 28 and 29 quoted from “Shahed”? Magazine, Issue No 1, The Article of the Editor in Chief
6: Internalization
7: Ansaarian. Hossein, “Diaar-e Aasheghan”? (Land of Lovers), the comprehensive commentary on “Sahifeh Sajjadieh”? of Hazrat Imam Zeynol abedin, Volume 7, Islamic Propagation Organization, 1373 (1994-1995), Pages 43 and 50
8: Sahifeh Nour, from Volume 9 to Volume 18
Mohammadali Shamani – Sayed Amir Roo
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