Christian vs. Islamic Martyrdom
24 August 2013
While writing my five-article review of the book "Crucified Again," I brought up the subject of Christian martyrdom a number of times. I have a lot more that I want to write on this crucial topic, but I feel that I need to study the subject in more depth, as well as the corresponding topic of Islamic martyrdom. Yet even though I have temporarily set aside my plans to write about martyrdom, thoughts keep rolling around in my head regarding the differences between Christian martyrdom and Islamic martyrdom. So before I fill my brain with the study of martyrdom, I felt I should get my own thoughts and insights about it down on [virtual] paper, so they can stop rolling around in my head.

Although there exists the concept of wartime martyrdom in both Islam and historical "Christianity," for my discussion today I am not referring to this form of martyrdom, for two reason. First, the most common type of Islamic martyrdom encountered by the West for the past decades has been in the form of suicide attacks, and not in a full-scale, traditional war. Secondly, the concept of "Christian" violence, even in self defense, is so fundamentally contrary to the teachings of the New Testament that I would not at all regard such warfare deaths as Christian martyrdom, but the result of ignorance, delusion, willful stupidity, pagan thinking, and/or following the unbiblical example of Islam.

Also, please note that when I refer to a martyr as "him" or "he," I could just have easily written "her" or "she." In the final analysis, martyrdom is gender neutral, and there are many examples of female martyrs, especially in the history of Christianity. I'm simply referring to martyrs as males in this article so I don't have to write him/her, and so forth, all the time.
Because the primary means of martyrdom in modern Islam seems to be suicide attacks, therefore it logically follows that common Islamic martyrdom is not something that is inflicted upon the martyr by others, but rather something that the martyr inflicts upon himself. In other words, the Islamic martyr is not killed by some enemy for his faith, but chooses to kill himself in some sort of perceived act of martyrdom. Unlike Islam, Christianity has absolutely no ideology nor history of "suicide martyrdom." The traditional concept of Christian martyrdom centers on peaceful Christians being killed, because of their faith, by enemies. As mentioned above, violent Christians who are killed as a result of that violence, even in self defense, cannot be considered martyrs, but merely casualties of war or crime.
Because Islam is a works-based religion, Muslims can never know for sure during this life whether they are righteous enough to gain entrance into heaven when they die, or not. Islamic theology clearly teaches that a sure-fire method to guarantee a place in heaven is to die as a martyr in jihad. Therefore, out of a fear of hell, and a desire to escape that doom, some Muslims choose the path of suicide martyrdom in an attempt to gain eternal salvation. Because Christians have been made righteous through faith in Yeshua (Isa, Jesus) their Savior, and not by their own religious works, they are already assured that they will spend eternity in Heaven with Him. Because of that sure destiny, they can freely follow in the footsteps of Yeshua, who laid down His life to bring eternal salvation to all mankind, by also laying down their lives as martyrs in order to bring Yeshua's message of salvation to each individual human.
Besides being motivated by a fear of hell, Muslim suicide martyrs are also strongly motivated by hate. They are not dying to save anybody (except supposedly themselves). On the contrary, they are dying in order to kill as many "infidels" as possible. They are acting to bring Allah's vengeance and wrath upon the enemies of Islam — Allah hates the infidels, and so do they. In return, Allah promises guaranteed entrance into heaven for such martyrs. Christian martyrs are not motivated by hate, but by love. They are not trying to kill anyone, but rather they are letting themselves be killed in order to help save the eternal lives of those who are killing them. Yahweh, the God of the Bible, the God of Israel, loves all people, even those who hate Him, and desires that they all be with Him in heaven through faith in Yeshua. Christian martyrs willingly lay down their lives in order to help bring this desire of God into reality.
Through their suicide attacks, Islamic martyrs bring death and destruction, causing observers of this martyrdom to fear, hate and even reject Allah. There is nothing attractive about it, except a perverse attraction for those who want to selfishly use the deaths of others in order to secure their own eternal salvation. However, some people eventually do submit to Islam in an attempt to avoid being a victim of future suicide attacks. But seeing how Muslims often attack other Muslims, this is obviously no guarantee. Through their deaths as witnesses, testifying of the message of Yeshua's salvation, observers begin to admire, love and even follow Yahweh, through His Son Yeshua. In the first couple centuries of early Church history, many more people became followers of Yeshua through Christian martyrdom than the number of Christians martyred. In other words, the more Christians were martyred, the more the Church grew, mostly because the observers were very impressed with how well and lovingly the Christians died for their faith.
Through this brief comparison and contrast of Islamic and Christian martyrdom, we can see the vast difference between Allah whom Muslims worship and Yahweh whom Christians worship. The character and quality of the martyrdom clearly reflects the character and quality of the God those martyrs are dying for. Yeshua Himself explained it like this:
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." (John 10:10-11)
As I study the topics of Christian martyrdom and Islamic martyrdom during the weeks and months to come, I may revise and expand this article to reflect my new-found understanding. But for now, I believe it clearly and accurately explains the enormous difference between the two.