The issue of suicide bombings, in which Muslim youngsters are often involved, recently raised some fundamental questions on the extent that such operations accommodate Islamic ethics and morals of jihad. One of the most acute religio-legal queries placed on the table of Muslim jurists and religious scholars has been whether suicide bombers are martyrs (shuhadaʾ, sin. shahīd) who have earned eternal bless in the next world, or simply killers who will suffer the fire of hell. This paper explores the means by which contemporary Muslim scholars and jurists distinguish between these two opposing views. An analysis of the relevant treatises of jurists - mainly those related to 9 /11 and Palestinian suicide bombers - indicates that for most contemporary Muslim jurists, defensive jihad is a key precondition for endorsing martyrdom. That is to say that while a Muslim who blows himself up defending his land, property, or family is likely to be determined a shahīd, others whose operations do not meet such preconditions are liable to be simply determined killers.
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