Okay, well what about the ‘Witness' and ‘Mantis' ones?
If you wanna read something into this that isn't there, then we don't know what to say.
Some of you may notice that it carries the word ‘shaheed’ in Arabic; which is sometimes translated as ‘martyr’ . A further translation of the word in Arabic and Islamic text is someone who: ‘bears witness (to God)’. ‘Shaheed’ shares the same root word as ‘shahadah’ which is the term for the declaration of faith of a Muslim when they state: ‘There is only one God worthy of worship and Muhammad is his messenger’. Shaheed and Shaheedah are also common Arab and Muslim names.
In everyday use it has the same equivalent interpretation as in English; namely, A person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle'.
In the current climate we have a problem, where this word is being exclusively associated with someone who detonates explosives amongst themselves and civilians as a political strategy. We do not believe that these strategies are the way forward.
We would like to offer out our heart felt emotions, sincere condolences, and support to anyone who has suffered bereavement in recent events, regardless of race and creed.
A ‘shaheed’ is someone who loves life, but accepts death as a part of existence, with dignity. They are at peace with their maker having sought forgiveness; and their life, having ended, is witness to this fact. The concept is a means by which it can offer reason to questions such as ‘why?’. It serves to give purpose to existence and incentive to make a worthwhile contribution; because there is more to life. Every action and intention has an effect, from which one will be judged accordingly.
Bearing this in mind, casualties of wars, bombings, famines, tsunamis and other events are ‘witnesses’ to truth. Whilst their lives have moved on, those around them now become witnesses; and the responsibility lies upon those in turn to live with honour and purpose. In Islam it talks about women in childbirth, those at the hands of domestic violence, those having endured a terminal illness, children, or the mentally ill that pass away as also having the status of ‘shaheed’.
Historically Christian saints, people such as Joan of Arc and Malcolm-X have been and are referred to as martyrs.
The media and wider community have a responsibility to acknowledge the existence of these victims as being ‘shaheed’. Families that have suffered bereavement should be reminded that God willing, their loved ones have been taken away from this pain and suffering to a place much greater. This current approach of restricting definitions , is leading to the distortion of concepts, the demonisation of communities, a change in perceptions, an erosion of human rights and civil liberties. It also takes society away from the association of these terms with worthy role-models, such as Malcolm-X.
The quote on the t-shirt is taken from a prayer book, written hundreds of years ago, which advises that these words should be mentioned at the start of each day as a means of positive reflection and remembrance .
We ask that people take this shirt in the spirit that it was designed - for contemplation rather than incitement or triviality. We understand that this is becoming increasingly difficult in a world filled with intolerance and suspicion.
We also live in a world which is subject to the polarisation of thought and different groups being able to find reason to justify almost any action. People are able to legally justify torture; sanctions can be imposed which lead to millions of children dying with deformities; or maybe some might choose to end their own lives as a result of depression, having been sexually or mentally abused. More importantly we should seek to explore the reasons and circumstances surrounding many of these instances and offer support and guidance for all of humanity.
Death is something that none of us can escape. Every belief system – be they a religion, philosophy, martial art, ideology or anything else encourages us to seriously contemplate this reality. In doing so it reminds us of our futility; to live our lives with caution, sincerity; to make provision for the inevitable and to treat every day as if it were our last. Death brings with it an end to any opportunity for further self improvement - but our actions may live to improve the lives of others.
When all is said and done; we are but artists like any other painter, photographer or musician.
Here are some verses from the Qur’an which talk about witnesses to truth and use the word ‘shaheed’
Al-Qasas (The Narration) 28:75
And from each people shall we draw a witness , and we shall say: "Produce your Proof": then shall they know that the truth is in God alone, and the lies which they invented will leave them in the lurch.
All who obey God and the apostle are in the company of those on whom is the grace of God - of the prophets who teach, the sincere lovers of truth, the witnesses who testify and the righteous who do good: Ah! what a beautiful fellowship!