January 20th, 2011
09:24 PM ET

Afterlife inflation: Have jihadists had to raise martyrdom incentive?

By Adam Levine, CNN

The promise of 70 or 72 virgins upon martyrdom has become a familiar expression in discussions among Islamic extremists, but a recent terror indictment raises the peculiar question of whether the incentive has been increased.

The case involves a man suspected of conspiring with a terrorist network responsible for the deaths of five U.S. soldiers in Iraq. He was arrested Wednesday in Canada, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York.

Faruq Khalil Muhammad, 38, was charged with conspiring to kill Americans abroad and providing material support to a terrorist network that conducted suicide bombings in Iraq, the statement said.

The complaint quotes from wiretaps of conversations between the defendant and the potential suicide bombers he is alleged to having aided.

In one snippet of conversation from March 2009, the defendant is encouraging a reluctant "Fighter 5" who is concerned about his mother. In the course of encouraging "Fighter 5," the complaint shows an inflation in the promise of virgins after martyrdom.

"May God give you 74 to marry. We want virgins of paradise, not the ones here," said "Fighter 5," according to the criminal complaint.

"You come short, brother," the complaint quotes Muhammad as responding. "God is more generous than that. It's supposed to be 76."

The promise of 76 is higher than even the defendant believes is traditionally due. In October 2009, according to the complaint, the defendant explains to his own mother the rewards of jihad.

"Do you know mother that when a martyr dies, he would have 7 characteristics. First, he receives forgiveness for all his sins, then he gets to see his own seat in paradise," the complaint alleges Muhamad said. "Also he gets to have 70 virgins."

So is the promised reward of martyrdom suffering from some sort of spiritual inflation? Is 70 no longer enough incentive?

"It seems to be an inaccurate and carelessly cited figure," said Dr. John Esposito, a professor at Georgetown University and author of The Future of Islam.

There is nothing in the Quran that rewards a suicide bomber, or martyr, with virgins, Esposito said.

"This has become a popular belief in some circles but is not based on scripture," Esposito explained.

The Quran does speak of "houris," dark-eyed or black-eyed virgins, noted Esposito, as a reward for men in paradise, but not specifically for martyrdom.

The number, typically 70 or 72, is not in the Quran, said Esposito, but rather comes from the oral tradition.

The focus on virgins as a reward for martyrdom is a modern phenomena said Salah Hassan, an associate professor at Michigan State University and coordinator of the school's Islam, Muslim and Journalism Education project. Interestingly, Hassan said, the virgin promise is one that is used both by jihadists to entice recruits and on the other side by those critical of Islam.

"It is polarized views sharing a particular image for different ends," Hassan said.

"They are in a way tapping into a public discourse in the U.S. because it is not widely cited by Muslims to promote jihad. It is more recent usage," Hassan said. "My sense is that is very often cited in the U.S. as a way of basically showing how vulgar Muslim piety is. To a degree that these images mean anything, they are interpretable. It is a metaphor. There is obviously not 72 virgins waiting for anybody in paradise."

Hassan said that inflated rhetoric is a hallmark of jihadist discourse, noting that the defendant is alleged to have written in an e-mail message "he is not just 100% but 1,000,000% with you. He is with you on the doctrine, the loyalty and the enmity and everything one million percent."

"These guys are obviously inflating and I am sure the rhetoric is inflated," Hassan observed. The promise of 76 is part of that exaggeration.

"The act itself is exaggerated. The idea you would blow yourself up is excessive. So it is all in excess. How would you justify an excessive thing?" said Hassan. "Muslims think (of) suicide bombing as unacceptable. It is not Muslim. It is weird extremism that looks for justification within extremism for rationales and recruits."

Brian Fishman, a terrorist analyst at the New America Foundation and researcher for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, said, "They are rhetorically upping the ante to convince a guy who is wavering."

Fishman said the promise of virgins in exchange for martyrdom continues to be a common recruiting element in the online jihadist forums he monitors. Fishman said a much less talked-about incentive is the promise that a martyr can name 70 family members to heaven. But Fishman said the real recruiting pitch is to defend an Islamic country from an infidel force.

"Once you do that, you did a wonderful deed, you get the rewards," said Fishman.

Raising the number of post-martyrdom virgins to 76 does not reflect "a real ideological shift," concluded Fishman.

In the end, "Fighter 5" was stopped before he could complete his mission, turned back by the Tunisian government trying to cross into Libya, according to the complaint.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam

soundoff (137 Responses)
  1. Muneef

     "There is a fine line between genius and insanity"

    All through history of mankind but if we will be starting by Noah when was calling upon his people as a reminder and a warner as to become into belief and repent,stop the wrong doings..those with vast interest either called him a madman or a bewitched man,they have laughed at him and only the poorest of them believed in him and followed.
    Again they laughed at him when he warned that earth would drown in waters upon the eruption of the volcano and warned that waters would be coming from all over, from unerground,over ground and pouring from the skies and that there would be no salvation for the disbelievers from drowning and that only who had  believed and had faith in the messenger would see salvation provided that they worked hard with him for it to save their lives after having saved their souls in believing the man of God the prophet and Messenger.
    Basis their  belief they had planted the right trees.served it,trained it,harvested it and made the gaint ark to carry believers and followers with all their foods,waters,animal feed and fodder. 
    He was inspired to take from each pair of animals (male and female) to take Two pairs of each pair (Domesticated animals and Wild animals) which could have been used as tools,transport or as defense ?! 
    Any way when the promised Date and Hour came after few signs for those some to be ready on the Ark for when water came pouring heavily were the Ark and Waters exceeded the highest peaks of mountains on the whole of earth as nothing was supposed to remain alive other than those saved by the Ark.. It was the day when all sweet,bore and salty waters driven by heavy winds has united forces against mankind and all creatures on earth??

    The Question here is who to blame God, prophets,messengers,
    or to blame those wrong doers for their acts that are attracting adverse reactions that they could have been saved from by repentance and work hard towards salvation ones self,followers,believers.
    The needs as meant by the example of planting ,serving,training and number of years taken between when it was inspired and when it finally took place for real. The number of years we are told Noah out lived were above 900years ?!

    We as a modern mankind do not have that much of time to live by...but at least we have the technology,tools,equipments that earlier mankind had not, the earlier man had nothing other than hugely built bodies, longer time of living and some help by heavy wild animals to serve.!? 

    But what are those trees which we need to work hard for planting,serving,training in order we can build out of the Ark of salvation from another promised days and hours that had to come before the final Day and Hour would take place that time of which is not known to any other than God.

    There are good trees and bad trees, when only good and solid generous trees are wanted for such task.... 
    Messenger told even if you were told being the final day and hour for earth and you had a plant or palm tree in hands, you are not to hesitate from planting it.!

    Now could those present religions be considered as the good right trees for building the Ark of salvation? Or maybe we should say they are the right trees but need to be serviced and trained to give the required shapes for building the Ark of salvation for those who want to be saved and work hard towards being saved and not by worship prayers only but by both hard work and worship prayers just to get the physical and spiritual strength for their patience and diligence.!?

    Sure many would laugh as did ones before them and prophets and messengers were warned not to listen to their disbelief or try to compromise the pure belief.?!
    What is required to be done to get those trees of faiths allow us to make an Ark out of them to be able to save those who believe and want to save and be saved??

    Earth is our Space Ark floating in this universe, while faiths are our trees which we should make an Ark out of for our salvation on Earth!

    Ark inside Ark and only God knows how many Arks inside Arks in this universe of the Seen and the Unseen, each lives in an orbit floating !? 


    January 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  2. Muneef

    Actually I read some where that the martyrdoms become to be the green birds of paradise...and not about having any or as much hoor al ains as mentioned.

    January 23, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
  3. NL

    Muneef, perhaps you can clarify for me who these 'virgins' are supposed to be? Are they especially created for the pleasure of Muslims, are they the souls of actual Muslim women who are thought to enjoy being made virgins and placed in this situation, are they the souls of damned women who are being punished with being put in this situation, or are they something else altogether?

    January 23, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Muneef

      The paradise is levels of seven levels each has different pleasures the seventh is for Men of God( Prophets&Messengers of God) the sixth is for those who pass with merits and so on down to lowest level for those who just pass...
      The Houri-Elain are creatures of the paradise that God has created for the pleasure and service of those who worked hard to get there and they look as human look although have the beauty that no eye seen on earth like it...there are males and females all as if I can remember are at the age of 23 years and even believers all would be in paradise at that age...
      But reading from the Quran the description of those you would want to die before time to reach them...it is said they are in the look of best of pearls...females are for male believers and males are for female believers...although as well I am not sure if the bodies of our would be flesh although possible for God to have us this way but as understand there would be no need for rest rooms that means no matter how much you eat or drink you need not a rest room to discharge...nor I would know if the pleasure with those would be flesh to flesh as earthly pleasures...but says never you get bored or angered or upsets nothing but joy...

      January 23, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • Muneef

      Paradise is for all believers on which ever faith they are all together there is nothing as Paradise for each faith but are in levels for who did most to deserve higher level of paradise.

      January 23, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • NL

      Ah, so they would be created beings, and would I be correct in as.suming that they are without souls and free will? Well, that certainly is better than imagining them to be the souls of actual people committed to performing this task. They would be roughly akin to the holographic characters that the crew took pleasure in on Star Trek, right?

      January 24, 2011 at 8:08 am |
    • Muneef

      They are un-aging and fresh untouched by men or jinn.. Brand new people that are just as angels do what they created for..will try to find verses about them for you..

      January 24, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Muneef

      Some thing I was forgetting is that we were told that those die after been given birth or die very young before the age where they will be held accountable for their errors...those at after life who become to be the servants in paradise for the believers.

      January 24, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Muneef


      As-Saaffat sura 37:
      In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
      Ye are requited naught save what ye did – (39) Save single-minded slaves of Allah; (40) For them there is a known provision, (41) Fruits. And they will be honoured (42) In the Gardens of delight, (43) On couches facing one another; (44) A cup from a gushing spring is brought round for them, (45) White, delicious to the drinkers, (46) Wherein there is no headache nor are they made mad thereby. (47) And with them are those of modest gaze, with lovely eyes, (48) (Pure) as they were hidden eggs (of the ostrich). (49).

      At-Tur sura 52:
      Lo! those who kept their duty dwell in gardens and delight, (17) Happy because of what their Lord hath given them, and (because) their Lord hath warded off from them the torment of hell-fire. (18) (And it is said unto them): Eat and drink in health (as a reward) for what ye used to do, (19) Reclining on ranged couches. And we wed them unto fair ones with wide, lovely eyes. (20) And they who believe and whose seed follow them in faith, We cause their seed to join them (there), and We deprive them of nought of their (life's) work. Every man is a pledge for that which he hath earned. (21) And We provide them with fruit and meat such as they desire. (22) There they pass from hand to hand a cup wherein is neither vanity nor cause of sin. (23) And there go round, waiting on them menservants of their own, as they were hidden pearls. (24).

      Ar-Rahman sura 55:
      Therein are those of modest gaze, whom neither man nor jinni will have touched before them. (56) Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? (57) (In beauty) like the jacynth and the coral-stone. (58) Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? (59) Is the reward of goodness aught save goodness? (60) Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? (61) And beside them are two other gardens, (62) Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? (63) Dark green with foliage. (64) Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? (65) Wherein are two abundant springs. (66) Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? (67) Wherein is fruit, the date-palm and pomegranate. (68) Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? (69) Wherein (are found) the good and beautiful – (70) Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? – (71) Fair ones, close-guarded in pavilions – (72) Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? – (73) Whom neither man nor jinni will have touched before them – (74) Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? (75) Reclining on green cushions and fair carpets. (76) Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny? (77) Blessed be the name of thy Lord, Mighty and glorious! (78).

      January 24, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • NL

      So, are you saying that children, babies and toddlers, who have died get to be servants in paradise for believers? Well, I guess they would be still too young to worship God, and they never learned how to in the first place, but doesn't that seem a little harsh?

      I wonder what kind of place our Christian friends have envisioned for their children too young to have learned how to worship God before dying , and too immature to learn after death?

      January 25, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • NL

      For an atheist, when a child dies they simply are gone forever but in our memories. Would you consider this worse, or better than them being servants for all eternity?

      January 25, 2011 at 8:24 am |
    • Muneef

      Please don't get excited,what I said was children dying have no sins made being young and therefore become as angels in paradise with those who entered paradise and become as theirs husbands and wives .as you may have read the sura I posted closely you would have found it written...but why and if right or wrong is not mine or yours to tell God?!

      January 25, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Muneef

      Those died young when are in paradise they would be as the rest at the age of 23 years old...and since no test for them to pass not sure if need to know how to worship since they already have the faith being in paradise?!

      January 25, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  4. Muneef

    Some thing wrong with the education systems;


    January 23, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
  5. Reality

    The "merciful" Allah in action:

    1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

    1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

    2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

    3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US Troops killed in action, 3,481 and 924 died in non-combat98,691 – 107,707
    Iraqi civilians killed as of 11/9/2010, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and

    4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

    5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

    6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

    7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

    8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

    9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

    10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,116 killed in action, 902 killed in non-combat situations as of 08/10/2010. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

    11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

    12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

    13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

    14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

    15) Followed by the daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings every day in the terror world of Islam.

    16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

    17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

    January 23, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  6. Muneef

    Al-Tawba sura 09:
    In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
    O ye who believe! Choose not your fathers nor your brethren for friends if they take pleasure in disbelief rather than faith. Whoso of you taketh them for friends, such are wrong-doers. (23) Say: If your fathers, and your sons, and your brethren, and your wives, and your tribe, and the wealth ye have acquired, and merchandise for which ye fear that there will be no sale, and dwellings ye desire are dearer to you than Allah and His messenger and striving in His way: then wait till Allah bringeth His command to pass. Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk. (24)

    January 23, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Muneef

      For example if you have a brother that disbleifs in all Good and Right becoming a wrong doer by such acts as spreading corruptions,terrorism and you failed to straighten to righteous ! What would you do? Join him or reject him or fight him??
      The Prophet of God Noah had given his son up when he rejected the faith of his father and refused to board the Ark!?
      Prophet and Messenger of God Luka has given his wife up because she did not listen in full belief when was told not to look back but she did and was gone cursed with the rest of the wrong doers who favored earthly pleasure over faith !?

      January 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  7. Muneef


    Another one for you;

    The Prophet  said:
    The best (Muslim) believer according to his practice of Islaam is one from whose tongue and hand (Muslims) Believers are safe
    [Collected by At-Tabaraanee in Al-Kabeer (S.J.S. 1129). Also collected by Al-Bukharee, Vol 1 No 9, Muslim Vol 1 No 64 & Abu Dawud No 2475. Also see Mishkat Al Masaabih Vol 1].

    January 22, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Reality

      And on and on and on goes the koranic-based drivel !!!!!

      January 23, 2011 at 12:36 am |
  8. Muneef

    For those who are bored and want to know who is Allah?


    January 22, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • Muneef

      For those accusing Muhammed SAW with out knowing more about him to judge him?


      January 22, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  9. Christine La Vasseur Helrigel

    When these guys show up at the gates of hell, and the king of hell gives them a seat somewhere near Muhammed and a bunch of other angry jihadis, they are going to be really angry. Tough.

    January 22, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  10. Muneef

    To those who are bored find a resourceful link for all your religous questions and prophets stories as in the Holy Quran that would interest you to read one by one;


    January 22, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  11. Muneef

    To those who are bored find a place to enjoy reading and benefit knowldge of stories told in the latest and final Holy Book inspired by God to his final Prophet and Messenger sent to Earth over 1,400 years ago and still the same unchanged.

    Read about the stories of the Prophets and Messengers of God as told in the Holy Quran at this valuable address;

    January 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  12. Andrew

    Even tho Ive spent years in Afghanistan and Iraq... it still amazes me that blind ass fools still for for this... Keep on rockin the VBIEDS and vest sukkas.

    January 22, 2011 at 6:34 am |
  13. deepwater805

    The problem with islam is that all their virgins are butt ugly, and most of them have four legs and say baaahhhhbaaaahhhh bahhhh....

    January 22, 2011 at 5:02 am |
  14. IronRider

    Ahem – It doesn't mention anything about the virgins being female either. Look, honestly we can end this war by spraying cop dusters full of pig fat around the country.

    January 22, 2011 at 2:42 am |
  15. towlie

    these towel heads should go back and blow up there camels after fornicating with them and then they can dream of their 72 virgins

    January 22, 2011 at 2:14 am |
  16. Carlos

    There is no deity. He is a figment of the imagination of primitive minds. Anyone killing in his name is a fool.

    January 22, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      next thing you will be trying to convince us that you were created by a loud far t.

      January 22, 2011 at 2:20 am |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      I meant big bang, excuse me.

      January 22, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  17. jaysunstar

    What if the 76 virgins turn out to be computer geeks playing world of warcraft?

    January 22, 2011 at 1:21 am |
  18. Descarado

    After Muslim losers on earth get through with those maidens, they'll still be virgins.

    January 22, 2011 at 1:05 am |
    • (B)iraq Hussein Osama

      actually, there is only one virgin, she is reset after the defrocking using the memory erasing device featured in the MEN IN BLACK movies. Afterall, what is virginity, it is simply a state of the mind. As long as the woman's memory is reset and she thinks she is a virgin, the pleasure to the man is exactly the same as the last time. Cause physically, he cannot tell. Down there a virgin tastes the same as one has been had a thousand times. Its the way she acts and who she thinks she is that makes her a virgin.

      January 22, 2011 at 2:28 am |
  19. dan

    i see we have morons posting here.

    January 22, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  20. Mr. Sniffles

    Well, Muneef, you are still a cut-and-paste bore.

    January 21, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.