The Sounds of the Shuhadāʾ: Chants and Chanting in IS Martyrdom Videos

Alexandra Dick


This article addresses the various functions of chants and chanting in the context of jihadi martyrdom. Through the examples of IS martyrdom videos, I will identify three different categories: first, live chanting performed by a collective (ḥudā), second, live chanting performed by a professional nashīd singer (inshād) and third, recorded and post-produced chants (anāshīd). In IS martyrdom videos, these sounds convey ritualistic meanings: Ḥudāʾ serves as a rite of separation that often takes place at martyrdom ceremonies to mark the transition from a collective of mujahidin to an individual martyrdom seeker (istishhādī), who will soon carry out a martyrdom operation. To complement this rite of passage, anāshīd serve as posthumous rites of incorporation to integrate the deceased in the hereafter through references to Qurʾanic verses and hadith excerpts mentioning paradise and the rewards for martyrs therein. Sounds thus help to perpetuate the cycle of jihadi martyrdom by promoting this theologically framed concept.