[ by Charles Cameron -- dying more than once in hadith, in press reports, in Rumi and John of the Cross ]
The American mujahid in Somalia, Omar Hammami [see his Wikipedia bio], who has been tweeting back and forth with various “U.S. national security professionals” [see this Wired piece], reported yesterday that he had been shot in the neck “by Shabab assassin” [see this piece by Clint Watts at Selected Wisdom]. JM Berger, who has been in close correspondence with him, tweeted:
Omar has indeed been in dispute with Shabab, the group he originally joined [see this LWJ post], and his own most recent tweets, sent eighteen hours ago as I write this, were these:
Omar Hammami may or may not still be among us, although recent reports suggest with caveats that he survived the attack…
That’s the background.
From my point of view, the most interesting discussion anyone had with Hammami in the last day or two was this exchange between Hammami and Jeremy Scahill, whose book Dirty Wars has just hit the stands:
Characteristically, Omar has a light tone — yet speaks to the issue in the context of his theology…
There are, it seems to me, basically three ways that one might imagine dying more than once. The first — and it’s the one Hammami himself was referring to — is found in the hadith in Bukhari [Volume 4, Book 52, Number 54]:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, “… By Him in Whose Hands my life is! I would love to be martyred in Allah’s Cause and then get resurrected and then get martyred, and then get resurrected again and then get martyred and then get resurrected again and then get martyred.
Let the intensity of that hadith — and Hammami’s reference to it, a little earlier [?] on the same day he was shot — sink in.
The second, “secular” way to have “died” more than once is through faulty intelligence and / or journalism — and that’s what JM Berger is on about when he tweets:
Indeed, such reports led to the 2011 release of a nasheed in his name, though he may not have sung it himself:
Now Hammami has apparently resurfaced, with two new a cappella songs that appeared on the web earlier this week. In “Send Me A Cruise,” Hammami begs to be plastered by a tank shell, a drone attack or a cruise missile, so that he can martyred like some of the heroes he names, including Al Qaeda leaders Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Abu Laith al-Libi. In his trademark tuneless drone, he claims “an amazing martyrdom” is what he “strive(s) for and adore(s).” “Send me a cruise like Maa’lam Adam al Ansari/ And send me a couple of tons like Zarqawi,” chants Hammami. “Send me four and send me more, that’s what I implore.”
More generally, false reports of AQ leaders dying hither and yon have become so common that I posted a DoubleQuote about it last year:
Here’s where it get’s most interesting…
For a third view of dying more than once, we can turn to the mystical tradition. Thus the Prophet Muhammad is credited with the hadith “Die before death” by Jalaluddin Rumi, who in his Mathnawi, VI, 3837-38 writes:
The mystery of “Die before death” is this, that the prizes come after dying (and not before).
Except dying, no other skill avails with God, O artful schemer.
The death before death here is the death of the nafs, the “self” — the true martyrdom of the greater jihad. As Peter Lamborn Wilson puts it in his Introduction to the Sufi Path:
Man’s authentic existence is in the Divine; he has a higher Self, which is true; he can attain felicity, even before death (“Die before you die,” said the Prophet). The call comes: to flight, migration, a journey beyond the limitations of world and self.
Of course, St John of the Cross wrote in much the same vein:
This life I live in vital strength
Is loss of life unless I win You:
And thus to die I shall continue
Until in You I live at length.
Listen (my God!) my life is in You.
This life I do not want, for I
Am dying that I do not die.