Last week, the Mujahideen Military Command Council of Chechnya confirmed the death of Commander Arbi Barev, one of the Ummah's most distinguished Mujahideen and a champion of Jihad for the sake of Allah.
Brother Arbi was martyred on Saturday while fighting Russian occupation forces in the southwestern Chechen village of Alkhan Kala; twenty other Mujahideen were martyred with him during the battle.
At just 27 years of age, Arbi Baraev had become one of the Ummah's most distinguished modern military commanders. His accolades include leading Mujahideen in more than 250 combat actions, including a series of major battles that led to the defeat of the Russian army during the fist Chechen war (1994-1996).
In February, Baraev emerged from the besieged Chechen capital Grozny and attacked Russian forces at Yarmaluk. Within 40 minutes, his units had destroyed 34 Russian armored vehicles and killed more than 200 enemy troops. The victory at Yarmaluk sparked a series of attacks that punctured enemy lines, eventually allowing 3,000 besieged Mujahideen to withdraw from Grozny and to set up new bases in the southern Chechen mountains. From the snowy peaks of the southern Caucuses, the Mujahideen launched a devastating war of attrition, Afghan-style, that is, slowly but surely chipping away at Russian occupation forces.
As recently as June 11, Baraev's units destroyed a Russian military train that was carrying an entire armed battalion; many of the enemy battalion's 400 soldiers and 40 armored vehicles were destroyed. The attack was one of many led by Baraev; the Russian military grew to fear him early on, and understood that if they ever harmed innocent civilians in any part of Chechnya, Arbi Baraev would waste no time in exacting the revenge of Allah upon Russian troops. The simple mention of his name struck fear into the hearts of his enemies, and pride in the hearts of the Muslims.
His military success remains but a small part of his excellent character; across the Caucuses, Arbi Baraev was know for his love of Allah and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. He was a soldier of Islam, a student of Dawa and an exemplar of humility, self-accountability and sacrifice. He was reserved and quiet, and, despite being a brilliant and powerful military commander, he never exploited his position for personal gain. He despised self-glorification and rarely accepted being photographed or interviewed; this combination of taqwa and jihad elevated him to near-mythic proportions among his own people, and among his enemies.
Our appreciation for the rewards of martyrdom help console our sorrow for losing brother Arbi Baraev; inhsaa Allah, he is seated next to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, in Firdous - the highest level of Paradise. What remains inconsolable, however, is the fact that many Muslims have never heard of Arbi Barev, nor have they heard of his sacrifices for Muslims everywhere.
We all recognize the heroes of our past; they are glorified in an endless line of books and movies that perpetually rehash ancient victories - but what of our heroes of today? Why do we stand idly by when Arbi Baraev, Jawhar Dudayev, Abdallah Azzam and Sayid Qutub are killed at the hands of our enemies without receiving a smidgen of support from their Ummah? Why do they die as relative unknowns, and why do we recognize their sacrifices only after they are gone?
As with Arbi Baraev, and the hundreds of others like him who sacrifice on the fields of Jihad every day, we tend to forget those who are truly making a difference for our Ummah. Our enemies however, do not forget those Muslims who fight for Allah. AFP reports on Arbi Baraev's death: "Russian television devoted most of its news bulletins to the announcement, casting it as a possible turning point in the war. Acquiring almost mythical status in Moscow, Barayev -- like other rebel commanders -- had been reported killed by the Russian media on several occasions, only to emerge unscathed and engage federal troops in a new round of brutal guerrilla warfare. "This was a great success," said the Kremlin's top spokesman on the Chechen war, Sergei Yastrzhembsky. "He was one of the most maniacal rebels, and it will be tough for them to compensate for the loss."
The senior Russian commander in Chechnya also could hardly hide his delight. RTR state television showed the bruised and battered body of a man it identified as Barayev and who later be handed over the his relatives. The federal command had come under increasing pressure for failing to nab any of the senior rebel field commanders nearly two years into the second Chechen war, while losing at least 3,000 troops -- although a committee of soldiers' mothers estimates the true figure is three times higher. Barayev's death meant that his fellow rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Khattab were next, warned the acting Russian commander in Chechnya, General Vladimir Moltenskoi."
By the Grace of Allah, Arabi Baraev will be honored for eternity, even though he was forgotten by our Ummah. Let us however learn from our mistake of not supporting him in life by changing our ways and recognizing the faces of our brothers who sacrifice every day on our behalf. Let us start changing our ways by recognizing the faces of our heroes, not only those who are dead, but more importantly, those who are alive.
Abu Hamid is a free-lance writer on Chechen affairs.