Is it allowed for us to bear witness for anyone who was killed fighting in the path of Allaah with the term: ‘Shahaadah’ (martyrdom) and can we unrestrictedly apply for him the term ‘so and so is Shaheed’ (a martyr) just as some of the people unrestrictedly apply it on some of the callers?
The issue in this case is straight forward; since Al-Bukhaaree mentions in his ‘Saheeh’ in the book of Jihaad: chapter: it is not to be said; so and so is a Shaheed, and then he mentions some hadeeth in that section. So from the Shaheed is the one who is Shaheed in that which is apparent, and from them is the Shaheed in that which is secret/hidden, whilst the people are not aware that he is Shaheed. So the Shaheed in that which is apparent when he is killed in battle may have died upon a bad intention, whilst the secret/hidden one may be killed and it not be known of him – or that it may not be presumed that he reached the level of Shaheed. Then there is the Shaheed who died from other than being killed as the Prophet (Sallaallaahu ‘alaihi wa ‘alaa aalihi wa sallam) said: ((The Shuhadaa (martyrs) are five: The one who dies in a plague, the one who dies of a stomach ailment, the one who drowns, the one who is crushed to death, and the martyr in the path of Allaah)), and the hadeeth is found in the two saheehs of Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim. So if you said: ‘so and so is a Shaheed in accordance with that which is apparent’ then there is nothing wrong with this Inshaa Allaah, and if you fear that he may not have been upon the Sunnah or that he may not have been sincere – since this is because the meaning of Shaheed is that you are ruling for him Paradise, and you would not want to make the ruling upon him of Paradise because ruling out who enters Paradise is not for us, so one does not make the ruling of Paradise for anyone except for one whom Allaah has ruled Paradise for, or Allaahs Messenger (Sallaallaahu ‘alaihi wa ‘alaa aalihi wa sallam) has ruled Paradise for. As for us, then we hope for the doer of good with all good and with Paradise, and we fear for the wrongdoer with punishment and the hell fire.
Shaykh Muqbil bin Haadee
Ghaaratul Ashritah, volume 2, page 284-285
Translated by Aboo Haatim Muhammad Farooq