Martyrs are alive – Example of Hazrat Jafar al-Tayyar (a.s.)

Critics of mourning (azadari) claim that once dead, all Muslims, including the martyrs, are as lifeless as stones and do not retain any hearing, sight or capability for that matter.

Hence, they allege that to visit the martyrs, like the Chief of Martyrs – Imam Husain (as), weep over them, recite Quran or supplications at their graves, is an innovation (bidah). In fact, since the dead is like the stone, it amounts to visiting / worshipping a stone and is like idol-worship.


The charge that the martyrs are lifeless like the earth they are buried under, is baseless and in fact goes against the Holy Quran.

Martyrs in the Holy Quran

Martyrs are alive but the critics do not perceive it.

وَلاَ تَقُولُواْ لِمَنْ يُقْتَلُ فِي سَبيلِ اللّهِ أَمْوَاتٌ بَلْ أَحْيَاء وَلَكِن لاَّ تَشْعُرُونَ

‘And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead; nay, (they are) alive, but you do not perceive.’ (Surah Baqarah (2): 154)

Martyrs are sustained by their Lord.

وَلاَ تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُواْ فِي سَبِيلِ اللّهِ أَمْوَاتًا بَلْ أَحْيَاء عِندَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ

‘And reckon not those who are killed in Allah’s way as dead; nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord’ (Surah Ale Imran (3): 169)

Martyrs are very much alive and are in a very happy place. Just because we do not perceive it, doesn’t alter this reality.

Martyrs in the Sunnah – Jafar al-Tayyar (عليه السلام)

The Sunnah is replete with stories of martyrs and their position in front of Allah. Let us review one martyr in particular whose status is accepted by all Muslims viz. Hazrat Jafar ibn Abi Talib al-Tayyar (عليه السلام).

Hazrat Jafar al-Tayyar (a.s.) is ذُو الْجَنَاحَيْن ‘the owner of a pair of wings’, a title given to him by the Prophet of Allah (صلّى اللّه عليه و آله‏ و سلّم) himself.

It is narrated that when his arms were severed on the Day of Motah (battle), Allah granted him two wings with which he soars.

Abu Hurairah relates – The Holy Prophet (صلّى اللّه عليه و آله‏ و سلّم) informed about Jafar (عليه السلام) – I saw Jafar (عليه السلام), soaring in Paradise along with the angels.

  • Jami al-Tirmizi Book 49, trad. 4,130
  • Al-Isabah v 1 p 238
  • Musnad of Abi Yaala v 11 p 350
  • Zakhair al-Uqbah p 216
  • Usud al-Ghabah v 2 p 286-289
  • Majma al-Bahrain v 2 p 347, 385

It is clear from the example of Hazrat Jafar al-Tayyar (عليه السلام) that:

  1. Martyrs are alive, not dead, according to the Holy Quran
  2. They cannot be compared to lifeless stones based on our weak understanding of Islam
  3. They enjoy an elevated status near Allah
  4. Rather than being deaf and dumb, they have capabilities that rival those of angels like soaring in the skies with wings
  5. Visiting martyrs therefore, cannot be equated with idol-worship – far from it, it’s the best way to pay respect to a faithful servant of Allah and has much reward if we go by the Sunnah of the Prophet (صلّى اللّه عليه و آله‏ و سلّم) in incidents related to martyrs like Hazrat Hamzah (as), Uthman Ibn Mazoon (r.a.), etc.
  6. Imam Husain (As) being the ‘Chief of Martyrs’ enjoys a far higher status than other martyrs like Hazrat Jafar al-Tayyar (عليه السلام) and Hazrat Hamzah (عليه السلام). Hence, whatever is permissible / recommended for others is permissible / recommended many times over for Imam Husain (عليه السلام).

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