Watching a documentary from Iraq…I’m wondering how Arabic language translates to the English ‘martyr’. More than one, people were describing bombings etc in a matter-of-fact way…and the subtitles said “blah blah car exploded blah and four were martyred blah …”. Is this likely to be a reasonable translation? Is there cultural connotations to the phrase, comparable to “in a better place”, “meet his maker” (OK, so I’m trying to think of some non-trite examples, but you know what I mean)?
I don’t have the specific answer, but a few years ago I was in Turkey and the guide mentioned something about people who had been “martyred” and she did not mean it in a religious sense at all. I think she was referring to members of the military. She was a native Turkish speaker who was communicating with me in English.
Don’t know the answer myself, bu this is what Bernard Lewis, a well-noted Western scholar on Islam, says about it in The Crisis of Islam: