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The Most Beautiful Body: The Physical Dimension in Martyrdom Narratives

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Within the vast bibliography devoted to martyrdom in Islam the issue of the martyr’s corporeity has received comparatively little attention.This article focuses on the exceptional features medieval texts ascribed to martyrs’ bodies, especially after their death on the battlefield. It examines a set of topoi through which Islamic religious literature differentiated these martyrs from other dead, using a sublimate and extraordinary corporeity as a sign of their spiritual excellence. Finally, the article takes into account some extreme developments of this attitude, well-represented in a ḥadīṯ (collected in Ibn al-Mubārak’s Kitāb al-ǧihād) stating that the martyr will be given a new, most beautiful, body immediately after death.In the conclusion the article raises the question of the relevance of these themes to contemporary representations of martyrdom where images of martyrs’ bodies play a central role in the quest for legitimacy of religious, national or political communities.

Affiliations: 1: Università degli studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”


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