Latest Palestinian textbooks show increased indoctrination to jihad and martyrdom

An examination of the middle-school books for Islamic Education shows a significant increase in focus on the early Islamic tenets of “shahada” (martyrdom), “fidaa” (self-sacrifice) and “tadhiya” (sacrifice) as part of jihad for the sake of Allah and their modern manifestations as part of the Palestinian struggle against Israel.

Boys at an UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip, September 2011. Credit: Shareef Sarhan/U.N. Photo.
Boys at an UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip, September 2011. Credit: Shareef Sarhan/U.N. Photo.

In July 2017, the Palestinian Authority schoolbooks for the 2017-18 school year were published. Some of the books are new, and some remained unchanged. An examination of the middle-school books for Islamic Education, some of which have been replaced, shows a significant increase in focus on the early Islamic tenets of shahada (martyrdom), fidaa (self-sacrifice) and tadhiya (sacrifice) as part of jihad for the sake of Allah and their modern manifestations as part of the Palestinian struggle against Israel.

The books present the historic context of these tenets, portraying jihad, shahadafidaa and tadhiya as acts that that brought the Muslims victory over their enemies in the early days of Islam.

The texts include descriptions of the rewards in the world to come, as promised by Allah to Muslims who carry them out. To this end, the books quote Koranic verses and traditions from collections of hadiths that set out these rewards. However, the study material does not present only historical context. The conclusions of the chapters discussing fidaa and tadhiya ask pupils to give examples of them both from the time of the Prophet Muhammad and from contemporary times by Palestinians in the fight against Israel.

In addition to glorifying the sacrifice of life, the books also note other types of sacrifice, such as of property, time and effort. In a few places, the books also mention aspects of religious tolerance in Islamic tradition.

The books note that P.A. Education Minister Sabri Saidam is the head of the P.A. curricula planning committee, and that their content is approved by Religious Endowments Minister Yousuf Ida’is.

This report will review the values of jihad, shahadafidaa and tadhiya, and the aspects of religious tolerance in Islam, as they appear in the new Palestinian schoolbooks for Islamic Education for the middle-school grades.

Encouraging Jihad and ‘Shahada’ by Showing the Rewards Promised to the Shahid (Martyr) in the World to Come in the Koran and ‘Hadith’

The Islamic Education books for the P.A. middle schools place a central focus on shahada (martyrdom) and the rewards for those who carry it out (shahids), citing verses from the Koran and hadiths pertaining to the Muslim wars in the early days of Islam, and presenting shahada as a supreme value and a noble act of sacrifice whose rewards are immediate.

The Prophet Muhammad Encourages the Muslims to Wage Jihad in Order to Attain Paradise

The Islamic Education book for grade seven (Part 1) describes the Muslims’ victory over their enemies, the Quraysh tribe, in the Battle of Badr (624) which is established in Islamic tradition as a battle of the few against the many (300 Muslims against 900 non-Muslim enemy fighters). The book stresses that the Muslims won thanks to their determination to achieve martyrdom (istishhad): “When the fighting got tough. … the Messenger of Allah [the Prophet Muhammad] encouraged the Muslims to fight by saying: ‘Rise up [and fight, to attain] Paradise, which is as wide as the heaven and the earth.’ The Muslims attacked the polytheist army with full force, as their strong faith and honest desire spurred them to sacrifice their souls. As a result the polytheists were defeated, and the Muslims achieved a great victory …”      

Text about the Prophet urging the believers to fight and attain Paradise

Quran 47 (Surat Muhammad): War on the Infidels, Rewards of the Shahid

The Islamic Education book for grade nine (Part 1) places much emphasis on jihad and shahada for the sake of Allah. A section devoted to the 47th surah of the Koran (Surat Muhammad) presents the surah in its entirety and focuses in detail on Allah’s distinct treatment of “believers” versus “infidels.” The surah states that Allah kills the infidels and urges the believers to fight them, and that those who martyr themselves in His cause are rewarded with Paradise, just like “the righteous.”

The introduction to the surah states that it is also called “The Surah of Fighting” because it describes “the war against the infidels.” It also notes that “the main topic of this surah is jihad for the sake of Allah,” and that “verses in it promise those who follow the Prophet, as well as those who wage jihad for the sake [of Allah] and defend His religion, every reward in this world and eternal life in the world to come.”

The Rewards of the ‘Shahid,’ According to the ‘Hadith’

In the following section, the book states: “Allah the Almighty wishes to take shahids from among the believers in order to grace them with martyrdom, forgive their sins and exalt them in Paradise.” It then quotes the hadith that lists the six rewards of the martyr: “Allah rewards the shahid with six rewards: with the first drop of blood, his sins are forgiven; he sees his place in Paradise; he is spared the torments of the grave; he is spared the horror of the Day of Judgment; he is crowned with the crown of glory, whose precious stone is better than all of this world and what is in it; he marries 72 black-eyed women; he vouches for 70 of his family members [to be accepted to Paradise].”

The hadith about six rewards of the shahid

The full report can be read on the MEMRI website here.

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