The gonosradho (mass respect) ceremony for the martyrs, who were Hindus, scheduled on October 4 has been cancelled, seemingly, due the case filed against it by Awami Ulemma League chief Mujibur Rahman Chishti. Shahbagh police station officials have verbally asked the organisers to back away from it.
According to Chishti, “no Hindu can be called a ‘shaheed’” and perhaps that’s why the government had to stop the organisers to stage such a prayer ceremony.
We have no language to condemn such an explanation for the word “shaheed” and the mentality of a certain section towards our martyrs. A question could also be raised as to why the government had to bow down to that section who has seemingly no respect to our valiant freedom fighters belonging to Hindu community.
If the government truly had been scared away by AL’s ulemma chief, it, perhaps, should have asked the Islamic Foundation for the interpretation of the word.
To our minds, anyone who has sacrificed his/her life for our freedom is shaheed, no matter which religion they might have belonged to. The Oxford Dictionary says: shaheed is a noun meaning “a Muslim martyr.” And I quote from Wikiepedia: “The word ‘shaheed’ originates from the Qur’anic Arabic word meaning ‘witness,’ which is used in the context of ‘those who bear witness.’ Its application to Muslim martyrs originates from the context of the martyr having died in the way of Islam and, therefore, having become a ‘witness’ to the ‘shahada,’ ie, ‘I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammod is the Messenger of Allah’.”
The Wiki further adds that the word “shaheed” in Qur’an is used to denote “witness,” not martyr. An example is verse 16:89 of the Qur’an: “And on the day when We will raise up in every nation a witness against them from among themselves, and We will bring you (Muhammad) as a witness against these (your people or the other witnesses); for We have revealed (sent down) to you a Book (Scripture) expounding all things clearly, and a guidance, and a mercy, and glad tidings for those who have Surrendered unto Allah (Muslims).”
Then again, in verse 3:98, Allah calls Himself a ‘shaheed:’ “Say, ‘O People of the Book, why do you reject the word of Allah when Allah is a witness to all that you do?”
So, we see that the etymology of the word “shaheed” suggests that it primarily means “witness” and the same word began to be used by Muslims as an respectable title for Muslim martyrs who died fighting for Islam. As a result, and over time, the same word was adopted by non-Muslims in the Middle East and South Asia such as Arab Christians, South Asian Hindus and Sikhs to denote their martyrs.
Interestingly, according to the Wikiepedia, the English word “martyr” originates from the Greek word “martur,” which also means “witness” in Greek. So, in both Arabic and Greek languages, the origin for the word “martyr” is “witness.”
Now, if we, in several countries across the world, have adopted the word to honour the humans who died for a great cause, such as a liberation war, we shouldn’t apply the word only for the Muslims. Limiting the word’s meaning only to Muslims would, to our minds, reveal ourselves as religious bigots.
This could also mean a murky attempt politicise our society on the basis of religion, which we whole heartedly don’t want. Chishti’s act and interpretation are clear evidence of that attempt.
As a secular political party that had led the nation during the war of independence - we believe - needs to rethink whether it should nurture think-tanks such as Mujibur Rahman Chishti, who would be doing more harm than good to the party itself.
People like him want to create a divide through religious hypes and give the country a bad name. They would always want to hide the true spirit of religion. They would only try to exploit religion as a political tool for their own earthly gains.
As the party that has miles to go for this country needs to be careful about these elements; it needs to be courageous enough to weed out the characters who might misguide it and the people on religious issues. At the same time, we also urge the government to reorganise the gonosradho programme and pay respect to our Hindu martyrs.