Monday, September 7, 2009

Say What you mean, Mean what you say...

If a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Then logically, it follows that a lot of knowledge can be downright lethal.
For example what do you think of when you hear the word MARTYR?
Some poor soul who lays down their life to further a cause? A person persecuted for a belief?
The word has a fascinating etymology. And today, it depends on who you ask.
(If you need a quick and accurate definition of any word; go to GOOGLE.COM, and TYPE
"define: and the word to be defined" without the quote marks but with the colon(the colon is important), and hit enter.)

The term martyr (Greek μάρτυς martys "witness") originally signified a witness in the forensic sense, a person called to testify in legal proceedings. Today, the term is most commonly used to describe an individual who sacrifices his or her life in order to further a cause or belief for others.

In its original meaning, the word martyr was used in the secular sphere as well as in both the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Bible. The process of bearing witness was not intended to lead to the death of the witness, although it is known from ancient writers (e.g. Josephus) that witnesses, especially of the lower classes, were tortured routinely before being interrogated as a means of forcing them to disclose the truth.

During the early Christian centuries, the term acquired the extended meaning of a believer who is called to witness for their religious belief, and on account of this witness, endures suffering and/or death. In the English language, the term is a loanword, and is often used with the extended meaning of someone who has been killed for his religious beliefs. The death of a martyr or the value attributed to it is called martyrdom.

In the context of church history, from the time of the persecution of early Christians in the Roman Empire, being a martyr indicates a person who is killed for maintaining a religious belief, knowing that this will almost certainly result in imminent death (though without intentionally seeking death). Martyrs sometimes declined to defend themselves at all, in what they see as a reflection of Jesus' willing sacrifice. However, the definition of martyrdom is not specifically restricted to the Christian faith.

Some Christians view death in sectarian persecution as martyrdom. This view is typified by the accounts in Foxe's Book of Martyrs.

Usage of "martyr" is also common among Arab Christians (i.e. anyone killed in relation to Christianity or a Christian community), indicating that the English word "martyr" may not actually be a proper equivalent of its commonly ascribed Arabic translation.

Martyrdom in Judaism is one of the main examples of Kiddush Hashem, meaning "sanctification of God's name" through public dedication to Jewish practice.

Martyr (shahid)
In Arabic, a martyr is termed "shaheed" (literally, "witness," as in the Greek root of the English word). The word shaheed appears in the Quran in a variety of contexts, including witnessing to righteousness (Quran 2:143), witnessing a financial transaction (Quran 2:282) and being killed, even in an accident as long as it doesn't happen with the intention to commit a sin, when they are believed to remain alive making them witnesses over worldly events without taking part in them anymore(Quran 3:140). The word also appears with these various meanings in the Hadith, the sayings of Muhammad.

Despite the promotion of ahimsa within Sanatana Dharma, there is also the concept of righteous or religious war in Hinduism known as Dharmayuddha, where violence is used as a last resort after all other means have failed. Examples of this include in the Mahabharata, where Krishna instructs Arjuna to carry out his duty as a warrior and fight, and in the Ramayana where Ravana is defeated by Rama. Martyrdom in battle is seen as highly noble in Hinduism, which is evident in the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna states

Either being slain you will attain the heavenly worlds or by gaining victory you will enjoy the earthly kingdom; therefore O Arjuna, rise up and fight.

Therefore, it is implied that death in battle will result in the person attaining svarga or the heavenly planets. This is in contradiction to the somewhat erroneous beliefs of many Hindus which regard all violence as abhorrent.

Bahá'í Faith
In the Bahá'í Faith, a martyr is one who sacrifices their life serving humanity in the name of God. However, Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, discouraged the literal meaning of sacrificing one's life, and instead explained that martyrdom is devoting oneself to service to humanity.

Martyrdom, in Sikhism, is a fundamental concept, and represents an important institution of the faith.



Heart2Heart said...

Well that certainly answers a lot of the things that have been keeping me awake all night.

I love the part about the Islam definition of martyrs. I guess it doesn't apply if you are an extremist in which all manner of logic goes out the window in pursuit of the 82 virgin women they are supposed to receive right?

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Kelly Combs said...

Okay, I'm heading to night school now to get my PhD. LOL! No, seriously, I do know how to look up words on google, and I actually did look up the words before I left my last comment.

I can look up french too. ;-)

Denise said...

You are very wise.

Edie said...

I have an aunt who used to used to use the term martyr as an insult referring to someone who is always talking about how bad or difficult their life is. The "woe is me" type.